What Is Whole Grain?

Discover what whole grains are and learn how to identify whole grains foods at the shops

Identifying whole grain - a simple rule of thumb

Most of us know we should eat more of it – but what is whole grain? Examples of foods that may be made from whole grains are: flour, bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, cous cous, biscuits and cakes.

If a product’s packaging, ingredients list or name mentions ‘whole’ before a grain (e.g. ‘whole wheat’), then it contains whole grains.

There are exceptions to this rule (aren’t there always!), for example oats and wild rice are both whole grains but don’t usually mention the word ‘whole’, so for a bit of extra help, below is a useful list of whole grains to look out for. Click to learn more about each one.

Whole Wheat

Whole Wheat

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Oats

Oats

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Whole Barley

Whole Barley

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Rye

Rye

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Popcorn

Popcorn

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Whole grain rice

Whole Grain Rice

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Quinoa

Quinoa

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Whole Teff

Whole Teff

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Millet

Millet

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Amaranth

Amaranth

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Triticale

Triticale

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Sorghum

Sorghum

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3 tips to ensure you're getting the real deal

  1. Always check the ingredients list, as even though a product may look the part, it might not contain whole grains.
  2. Choose products rich in whole grain by picking those that have whole grains at the top of the ingredients list, as ingredients are listed in weight order.
  3. Small changes make a big difference, so even choosing more foods containing smaller amounts of whole grain can make a significant contribution to improving your total whole grain intake.

The DNA of Whole Grain

Whole grains are simply grains such as wheat, oats or barley that have had all the edible parts of the grains used when processed to make food. If some of the edible parts of grains are removed when processed for food use, these foods are known as ‘white’ or ‘refined’ e.g. white bread, pasta etc.

There are three edible parts in a grain and each part has different beneficial nutrients. When the 'whole' of 'grains' are used, you get all of the goodness they have to offer.

Whole Grain Goodness
  • 1. Bran

    The fibre-rich outer layer (that protects what’s inside the grain)

  • 2. Endosperm

    The starchy middle that provides energy

  • 3. Germ

    The nutrient-packed inner (and the part of the grain that sprouts into a new plant)