How to Choose Whole Grains

food - field speltThere are many types of whole grains to choose from and each one provides a different set of nutrients, texture and taste to your meals. Here are some “common” whole grains that you can find at your local grocery store. Don’t be afraid to try different whole grains until you find a few different types that your family enjoys. Whole grains should account for approximately one quarter of your plate at every meal.

Barley. Barley is an excellent source of fiber and selenium. It also serves as a good source of the minerals phosphorous, copper and manganese. One of the unique properties of barley is its ability to actually “scour” cholesterol out of the body.

  • Food BarleyPearl barley is readily available in most supermarkets and may be found next to dry beans, rice and lentils. Pearl barley can be added to soups, stews and casseroles for a rich nutty taste.
  • Barley flakes are made from barley kernels that have been steamed, rolled and dried. Barley flakes may be cooked as a hot cereal or used as an ingredient in baked goods. They may be found in the bulk foods sections of some supermarkets.
  • Barley flour may be found in some supermarkets with other packaged flour products or in bulk containers. Barley flour may be used to add fiber to baked goods.
  • Barley is also used as an ingredient in commercially prepared foods, such as: ready-to-eat cereals, hot cereals, cereal bars, canned soups and pilaf mixes.
Food - Bran


Bran. Bran is the hard outer layer of cereal grains. Along with germ, it is an integral part of whole grains, and is often produced as a by-product of milling in the production of refined grains. When bran is removed from grains, they lose a portion of their nutritional value. Bran is present in and may be milled from any cereal grain, including rice, wheat, maize, oats, and millet.

Bran is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-6. Bran is at its best when used in baking.

Buckwheat. Buckwheat is an excellent source of magnesium, and a good source of copper and fiber. Buckwheat is not actually a whole grain, though it has many properties of whole grains. Buckwheat is, actually, the seed of a plant related to rhubarb. The whole form, minus the hull, is called groats. When dry roasted, groats become kasha. Kasha can be steamed or it can be used as a breakfast cereal and has a hearty, earthy flavor. Buckwheat can also be made into flour and used in pancakes or baked goods.



Bulghur. Bulghur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried, ground into particles and sifted into distinct sizes. The result is a nutritious, versatile wheat product with a pleasant, nut-like flavor and an extended shelf-life that allows it to be stored for long periods. Bulgar is a good source of iron and magnesium and is best served like rice in soups or as a side dish.

Corn (Cornmeal, Grits, Hominy and Polenta). Corn is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-6. Whole grain cornmeal can be used in pancakes, bread and muffins. Grits, hominy and polenta can be used as side dish for breakfast or dinner.

Food - couscous


Couscous. Similar to rice, pasta, or bread, couscous is an inexpensive and highly nutritous product made from wheat or other cereals (barley, sorghum, corn, millet, or minor grains). A good source of fiber, it’s also a versatile dish that can be mixed with vegetables, legumes, meat or fish, or it can be eaten with butter or fresh fruit.

Millet. Millet looks like birdseed but it has a mild flavor and crunchy texture. Cook millet for breakfast and serve with oatmeal or use as a side dish with savory herbs, add to meatloaf or use in stir-fry.

Oats. Oats and oatmeal are an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, thiamin and folate. Oats are outstanding as cereal, for baking and as a gravy or soup thickener. Be sure not to use the one-minute variety. The longer it takes to cook the better it is for you – 5 minutes minimum.

Quinoa. Quinoa is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, thiamin and riboflavin. When cooked it has a mild taste, light fluffy texture and pleasing crunch. Makes unique side dishes and is great with salads and soups. Quinoa is so  nutritious the UN named it food of the year in 2013.

Rice (Brown, Red, Black). White rice has all the nutrients refined out of it so choose one of the other varieties. They can be used as a side dish, for stuffing, stir fry, or any way that you would normally eat white rice.

Wheat Germ. Wheat Germ is a good source of vitamin C and fiber. It can be eaten raw and is great sprinkled over yogurt or hot cereal or mixed with breads or muffins.