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Understanding Whole Grains


Updated May 21, 2014

Understanding your whole grain choices
Jan Tyler Collection/Photodisc/Getty Images

Whole grains have intact outer coverings, or hulls, while refined grains have had the hulls removed. They appear to be better for your health, but many people still prefer the flavor and texture of refined grains in breads, cereals, pastries, other baked goods and pasta.

We usually think of wheat as the most common whole grain, but there are others. Brown rice is considered a whole grain. Quinoa, bulger, corn, buckwheat, oats, whole spelt and wild rice are all whole grains. Wild rice, corn and quinoa are not technically grains either (they're seeds), but they get lumped into the grains and cereals category with the true grains.

Choose More Whole Grains

There are a number of ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Brown and wild rice can be eaten as side dishes, and oats can be eaten as oatmeal or used to make granola.

Quinoa can be served as a hot cereal or as a side dish. Spelt flour can be used to make spelt bread. Corn can be a vegetable, ground into cornmeal or popped as popcorn.

Whole Grain Recipes

Whole Grain Vs. Whole Wheat

There isn't much of a nutritional difference between 100-percent whole wheat bread and 100-percent whole grain bread so you can choose whichever version you think tastes better.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one slice of whole grain bread and one slice of whole wheat bread have almost identical nutritional values. One slice of whole grain bread has about 70 calories, 2.0 grams fiber, 27 milligrams calcium, 20 milligrams magnesium, 0.65 milligrams iron, and 1.1 milligrams niacin (a B-complex vitamin).


United States Department of Agriculture. "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." Accessed October 5, 2011. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.


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