What is Whole Grain

Whole Grains by,
Marisa Hammond Olivares
Whole grain foods are highly nutritious.
 In general terms, a whole grain contains 100% of its germ and endosperm, basically the entire grain seed. Even if a grain is processed it can be considered to be whole grain if the entire seed (grain) is used.
Examples of processed whole grains are terms such as:
  • cooked
  • cracked
  • crushed
  • rolled

Types of Grains: Gluten Free and Gluten

First, a bit of a lesson on gluten. Gluten is the latin term for glue. Gluten is a form of protein found primarily in wheat and is also in barley and rye. Gluten is also found in triticale and oats. Now, oats do not usually have gluten. The problem arises with the preparation and manufacturers. Oats are usually prepared in the same facilities as grains with gluten. The gluten inadvertently becomes packaged with oats. Suggestion: read the labels for true gluten free oats.
Gluten Free Grains
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Oats (check the manufacturer for processing with gluten related grains)
  • Polenta
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
Other Grains
  • Barley
  • Cracked Wheat
  • Rye

Species: Amaranthus tricolor

Species: Amaranthus tricolor


Amaranth history takes us back to ancient Mexico and South America. It was a featured crop of the Aztec civilization. Although amaranth is technically not a grain, it is commonly presented as such. Amaranth is very high in protein and is also an excellent source of lysine (amino acid), magnesiumcalcium and fiber.
How is amaranth used? Amaranth is commonly ground to a flour and is used for baking breads, cakes, cereals and pastas.


Buckwheat is very rich in protein and has a wonderful nutty and hearty flavor. Buckwheat can be included in pilafs or ground to a flour for pancakes and other baked goods. It is also used to create soba noodles and crepes. According to the whole Grains Council, buckwheat appeared as a cultivated crop in 400 B.C. in the Balkan region of Europe.
Nutrition and Buckwheat: contains significant levels of:
  • zinc
  • copper
  • manganese
  • potassium
  • soluble fiber
Interesting Research Findings for Buckwheat:
  • Decreases blood pressure and reduces oxidative damage in the aorta.Phytotherapy Research, July 2009; 23(7):993–998. Epub January 12, 2009.
  • Promising studies in the reduction of blood glucose levels with the consumption of buckwheatJournal of Jilin Agricultural University, 2009; 31(1):102-4


Millet is another high protein grain and heart healthy too. Millet works great in tabouli style dishes and some cultures serve millet as a delicious hot breakfast cereal. Millet is also rich in antioxidants and the mineral magnesium.
There are four types of common millet around the world:
  • Finger (known as ragi in India and used to make a common flatbread known as roti)
  • Foxtail
  • Pearl
  • Proso (also known as hog or broom corn)
Interesting Fact: Millet is a common ingredient in birdseed.


On a humorous note:
Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary defined oats as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people." The Scotsman's retort to this was, "That's why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!" Whole Grains Council
Oats are the same despite processing:
Rolled Oats: Whole oats, which are rolled flat.
Steel Cut Oats: Whole oats cut into small chunks.
Quick Oats: Rolled oats, which are ground a bit more than regular rolled oats for quicker cooking times.
Nutrients in Oats:
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • phosphorous
  • fiber
  • magnesium
  • zinc
Cholesterol: Oats are known for lowering cholesterol levels, there are several studies pointing to this heart healthy fact. The main reason for this is due to the oat fiber found in oats.
Antioxidants: A unique antioxidant identified as avenanthramides have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce damage to LDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
In addition, oats have been found to be beneficial in reducing arteriosclerosis, childhood asthma, controlled blood sugar and a reduced risk of some cancers. A variety of studies are showing promising results and conclusions.


Polenta is basically a course cornmeal. The name polenta comes from Italian origin and basically is a derivative for the word hulled.
Polenta can be prepared as a lightly seasoned mush or as a breading for fried foods.


The word "quinoa" is pronounced "KEEN-wah"
History dates quinoa as far back as 3000BC and appears to be native to the Andes mountains and regions of South America. Quinoa is touted to have the most protein of all the grains. One quarter cup of quinoa contains about 6 grams of protein.
Nutrients in Quinoa:
Quinoa is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Like other grains, quinoa is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


Types of Rice: Long and Short Grain
Brown rice is the healthiest variety of rice as it contains the bran. Brown rice studies have concluded the following benefits:
  • reduce diabetic risk
  • reduce cholesterol levels
  • supports healthy weight
Rice is a wonderful staple and is quite versatile. Rice also has many benefits, remember, the darker the healthier:
  • low in sodium
  • cholesterol free
  • energy source
  • rich in nutrients


Origin: Most sites identify the origin of sorghum as Africa and Egypt.
Sorghum is a common ingredient in today's popular gluten-free products due to it being a great substitute for wheat flour.


Contain Gluten:
Cracked Wheat


Hulled Barley: The husk is removed and the bran is not. This type of barley is commonly used in soups.
Pearled Barley: Both the husk and the bran are removed. Pearled barley can be boiled and is frequently served in grain and vegetable salads.
Barley is used for malting and is used for creating both beer and whisky products.
Barley and Nutrition
Barley contains eight essential amino acids and is a great source of fiber. It is also especially high in magnesium, vitamin B6, phosphorus and zinc. Barley even has the minerals potassium and calcium and in addition to the B6 has a variety of other complex B vitamins.

Cracked Wheat

Cracked is basically made from whole raw wheat kernels which are cut (or crushed) into smaller pieces. Cracked wheat is highly nutritious as it contains the whole kernel. Cracked wheat is usually found in breads and some cereal or protein bars.
Cracked wheat is rich in protein, fiber and iron. Cracked wheat is also a great source of magnesium, zinc, copper, niacin and a variety of B vitamins.

Marisa Hammond Olivares
All Rights Reserved
Copyright Protected 2013
Originally published on 9/30/12 at HubPages.com


  1. Did you move this over from HP? It's a great article! I hope you have a wonderful gluten-free day! ;)

    1. Hi Cyndi, yes I did, I thought I'd give it a try on my blog. I might move a couple more over. Thanks for stopping by!