Increased intake of whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer (source). Most individuals are aware of the health-promoting benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables including phytochemicals and antioxidants; however, most individuals are largely aware of the fact that 100% whole grains also deliver many of the same powerful health benefits. As always, towards the bottom of this page you will find a photo gallery containing additional posters and charts.
- Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats, sorghum, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, millet, teff, quinoa, and kañiwa.
- Quinoa, amaranth, and kañiwa are considered pseudo-cereals.
- Examples of whole wheat include wheat berries, freekeh, bulgur, durum, einkorn, emmer, spelt, farina, graham, kamut, and semolina.
I commonly hear people use the terms “whole grain” and “whole wheat” interchangeably and this is inaccurate. Whole wheat falls under the umbrella of whole grains (just like carrots fall under the vegetable category). Whole wheat is a type of whole grain, but there are a lot of different whole grains including wild rice and quinoa. When it comes to nutrition, whole wheat is a nutrient powerhouse. In fact, the protein found in whole wheat gluten — has a higher the protein digestibility score than both egg and fish (source).
Gluten is the protein found in some whole grains. Most gluten-free products are ultra-processed and refined (e.g., made from corn and potato flour). If you have an intolerance to gluten, it would be best to stick with 100% whole grains that are naturally gluten-free rather than consuming ultra-processed corn and potato products.
- The gluten-free grains include sorghum, brown rice, corn, wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, teff, quinoa, oats, and kañiwa.
- Oats are also inherently gluten-free, but they are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing or processing. Bob’s Red Mill sells multiple gluten-free oat products.
In general, whole grain products (e.g., whole grain bread) are far more nutrient-dense than gluten-free products. Below you can view the ingredients and nutrition profile of Food for Life’s gluten-free and whole grain bread. As you will see, the gluten-free bread is higher in carbohydrates, added sugar, and salt, while lower in protein. Not to mention, contains a variety of different ultra-processed food ingredients (e.g., agave syrup and “vegetable gum”). My point is, unless you have Celiac disease or a documented intolerance to gluten, gluten-free products provide little — if any — nutritional benefit.
Buckwheat is another nutritional powerhouse. According to Purdue University, buckwheat has an amino acid composition that is nutritionally superior to all cereals, including oats. Buckwheat protein is particularly rich (6%) in the limiting amino acid lysine. Buckwheat can be consumed as groats or flakes (shown below). Buckwheat groats are prepared much like steel cut oats.
Quinoa is one of nature’s superfoods. This ancient grain is high protein and low carbohydrate, versatile and quick to cook with a light, fluffy, and friendly flavor. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwin-OH-a) is considered a gluten-free whole grain; however, it is not technically a (cereal) grain at all, but is instead what we call a “pseudo-cereal” – our name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains. Quinoa has an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel. Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure. Sprouting quinoa increases vitamin content and activates natural enzymes.
Whole Grain Shopping Tips
Choose 100% Whole Grains
- Whenever possible, choose organic 100% whole grains.
- Choose single-ingredient whole grains (e.g. quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats). As opposed to a whole grain product with 10 different ingredients.
- If possible, opt for sprouted whole grains.
- These products are usually found in the frozen section of the grocery store. For your convenience, I have included several photos of the whole grain products I purchase on occasion; however, as always this is not an endorsement and I Have no conflict (financial or otherwise) to report.
- You can view additional photos of my grub by visiting the page titled My Grub.
Ignore Health Claims
- Ignore all health claims on the health package (e.g. “made with whole grains”) and go straight to the ingredient list. If this first ingredient isn’t a 100% whole grain, put it back.
- Health claims like “Made from Whole Grains” does not mean 100% whole grain.
Avoid Ultra-Processed Grains
- Most ready-to-eat products made from grains are often ultra-processed and/or refined.
- Not to mention, contain less fiber, vitamins, minerals, while being higher in sugar and fat.
Soak Your Grains
- In general, soaking whole grains prior to cooking increases nutrient bioavailability. To soak whole grains, soak the grains overnight in filtered water at room temperature. After soaking, rinse the grains with filtered water and then cook per the instructions. Germinated brown rice is a known source of the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); which, has been reported to reduce risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. See the soaking and sprouting charts in the photo gallery towards the bottom of this page.
Eat Ancient Grains
- Be a rebel foodie and experiment with ancient whole grains. For example, farro, spelt, teff, amaranth, kamut, freekeh, and buckwheat.
Switch It Out
- Consider substituting processed grains like white rice or pasta with heartier grains like quinoa, wheat berries, and brown rice in your favorite dishes (e.g. soups, casseroles, and burritos).
- Enjoy different grains for breakfast. My personal favorite breakfast grain is wheat berries with cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, and coconut milk. Even quinoa can be used to create a hearty breakfast porridge!
To learn more about my lifestyle, visit the page titled Rebel Lifestyle.
To view photos of my grub, check out the page titled Rebel Grub.
To view meal planning information, head over to the page Meal Planning.
To view shopping lists, visit the page titled Shopping Lists.
Posters and Charts
To view my posters and charts, hit up the page titled Posters.
Pinterest and Facebook
Posters and Charts
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