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The Glossary of Whole Grains

Whole grain foods, including wheat, barley, brown rice, corn, oats and rye, are a healthy and delicious addition to your diet.


Whole grain foods, and incorporating whole grains into recipes, is a healthy and delicious choice for your nutrition plan. To be classified as a whole grain, the food item must contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.

Below are some examples of whole grains and a guide for cooking common grains:

Timetable for Cooking Common Grains
Check packages of products for additional information
Type of Grain (1 cup) Amount of Water in Cups Cooking Directions Yield in Cups
Barley, Regular 4 Simmer for 45 to 50 minutes. 4
Barley, Quick-Cooking 2 Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. 3
Bulgur 3 Bring water to boil, then add bulgur; cover and remove from the heat. Let stand 30 to 60 minutes. Drain if needed. Or cook as directed on package. 3
2 Bring water to boil, then add Kasha; cover and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Drain if needed. Or cook as directed on package. 4

Millet 2 1/2 Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. 4
Oats, Steel-Cut
4 Bring water to boil, then add oats. Simmer uncovered 25 to 30 minutes. 1
Quinoa 2 Simmer for 15 minutes. 3 to 4
Wheat Berries 2 1/2 Simmer for 50 to 60 minutes. 2 3/4 to 3

Examples of whole grains:

Amaranth: High in protein and gluten-free, it's used in baked goods.

Barley: Pearled barley has some of the hull removed, so it isn't considered a whole grain, like hulled barley. Substitute rolled barley flakes for old-fashioned oats.

Try: Barley-Vegetable Sauté

Buckwheat: High in protein and gluten free, ideal for people who struggle with wheat allergies and can't tolerate gluten.

Cornmeal: Ground whole-grain, whole corn kernels. Available in white, yellow, and blue forms. 

Flaxseed: While not actually a grain, its nutritional profile is similar to that of whole grains. Add to baked goods.

Kamut®: Trademarked name of organically grown grain resembling wheat kernels.

Kasha: Generic for any crushed grain, commonly buckwheat kernels.

Millet: Mild-flavored, mixes well with other foods and is delicious toasted.

Try: Savory Millet and Potato Stew

Oats: Oats are a healthful grain with several types available. 

  • Quick-Cooking and Old-Fashioned Oats: Both are whole grain with bran and germ still intact.
  • Oat Groats: Whole oats (before being steamed and rolled), so they have the highest nutritional value of all oat products.
  • Steel-Cut Oats: Groats cut into smaller pieces, they are chewier and nuttier than quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats.

Try: Baked Apple-Raisin Oatmeal

Quinoa: Quick-cooking grain perfet for a light, fluffy side dish or to add to soups and salads.

Try: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Rye: Fibrous grain with a deep, rich flavor. Substitute rolled rye flakes for old-fashioned oats.

Try: Old-World Rye Bread

Spelt: Nutty-flavored, higher protein variety of wheat.

Teff: A whole grain with a sweet, molasses-like flavor typically used to make Ethiopia's spongy flabread injera.

Wheat Berries: Chewy, nutty, whole wheat kernels for main or side dishes or for adding to salads.

Try: Wheat Berry, Roasted Corn and Spinach SaladBulgur and Orange Salad , "Healthified" Greek Chicken Pizza or Whole Wheat Waffles

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