What, Exactly, Is a Whole Grain?

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

It’s a term you hear all the time now: whole grain. But what, exactly, does it mean?

When a food is labeled whole grain, it means that the wheat (or other cereal grain, such as oats, rice or corn) included in the product has not been refined, or stripped of its nutrient-rich bran and germ portions. Instead, the whole kernel was used to make the bread, baked good, cereal or other food you’re enjoying.


With processed grain, these nutrient-rich portions are removed to create a light, powdery flour that makes fluffy breads and other prepared goods. Stripping them away makes for easier chewing and digesting, while also extending the shelf life of the flour (as oils in the germ can go bad, spoiling the grain more quickly). But the nutritional content is poor.

Whole grain foods offer more fiber, vitamins and minerals than processed-grain products. They are usually darker, denser and a little tougher to chew, but the nutrient content makes the choice worth it. And bakers and manufacturers continue to find ways to make whole grain products more pleasant, improving flavor, texture and other aspects of these foods.

Besides wheat, other grains such as spelt, buckwheat, bulgur, barley and quinoa are becoming more popular. When advised to eat “more whole grains,” experts aren’t talking about just whole wheat. It’s a great idea to incorporate all sorts of grains into your diet to experience the greatest health benefits.

Vitacost.com carries a wide variety of whole grain products, including flours, bread and muffin mixes, cereals, crackers, baby food and more. To view our full selection, just type “whole grain” in the Search Box on our home page.

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