What are whole grains?
Discover what whole grains are and learn how to identify whole grain foods
Identifying whole grain - a rule of thumb
One way of increasing our fibre intake, in order to achieve the government’s recommendation of 30g per day, is to increase the amount of whole grains we eat. But what are whole grains and in what foods can we find them?
Whole grains include: whole wheat, oats, barley, rye, spelt, quinoa, brown, red and wild rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, millet and corn. Examples of foods that may be made from whole grains are: bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, oatmeal and couscous.
If a product’s packaging, ingredients list or name mentions ‘whole’ before a grain (e.g. ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole barley’), then it should contain whole grains.
There are some exceptions to this rule (aren’t there always). For example, oats and brown or wild rice are whole grains but don’t necessarily mention the word ‘whole’, so for a bit of extra help, here’s a useful list of some whole grains to look out for. Click to learn more about each one where you can (we’ll add to this over time).
3 tips to ensure you're getting whole grains
- Always check the ingredients list, as even though a product may look as though it contains whole grains, it might not.
- Choose products rich in whole grains by selecting those that have whole grains at the top of the ingredients list, as ingredients are listed in weight order.
- Small changes can make a big difference, so even choosing foods containing smaller amounts of whole grain can make a significant contribution to improving your total whole grain intake.
What is Whole Grain?
Whole grains are simply cereal grains such as wheat, oats or barley that contain all the edible parts (i.e. the bran, endosperm and germ) when processed to make food. If some of the edible parts are removed (e.g. the bran or the germ), they are known as 'refined' grains. Examples of foods made with refined grains are white rice, white bread and white pasta. Whole grain foods contain more fibre than white or refined starchy foods, and often more of other nutrients too.
There are three edible parts in a cereal grain - the bran, endosperm and germ - and each part contains different types and amounts of nutrients. When the 'whole' of 'grains' are used, you get all of the goodness each part has to offer.
Click the numbers to learn more about each part:
The outer layer that protects what's inside. Contains fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins.
The starchy middle contains energy, protein and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The nutrient-packed inner; would sprout into a new plant if fertilised. Contains vitamins E and B.