Okay, so you’ve finally made the switch from white bread to whole-wheat bread. Now, all of a sudden, the term whole grain is making its way around. What’s the story?

If a grain has gone through processing, it is a refined grain, an enriched grain, or both. A refined grain has some of the germ and brain removed, leaving the endosperm so that you are left with mostly carbohydrates and some protein1. An enriched grain has vitamins and minerals re-added back due to loss during storage, transport and processing. In Canada, white flour is enriched with iron and vitamins but is missing fibre as well as phytochemicals, which protect against some chronic diseases1.

Whole wheat is considered superior to white breads and pastas because of its fibre content. For the most part however, it is considered a refined grain as most of the germ and some of the bran is removed.

Whole grains are grains that have undergone minimal processing, thereby preserving all 3 components and nutrients of the grain1:

  1. Bran – outer layer of the grain and provides the most fibre of the three parts, contains B vitamins, minerals and some protein (there is 13g of dietary fibre in 1/3 cup of All-Bran Buds!2)
  2. Endosperm – largest part of the whole grain that contains carbohydrates and protein and provides some vitamins and minerals
  3. Germ – smallest part but provides lots of B vitamins, Vitamin E, minerals and fats

In the United States, whole grain products are regulated and easily identified by the Whole Grain Stamp3. Surprisingly, in Canada, we don’t have regulations and so we have to be able to distinguish if it is in fact a whole grain despite what the label says. Make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain. Look for words like “whole grain wheat flour”, “whole oat” or “oatmeal”, “whole corn”, “whole barley”1.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends making at least half your grain choices whole grain ones. A little confused with how to choose a whole grain? Here are some examples that you may be familiar with and some that you may never have heard of4:

  • Brown rice                                  
  • Wild rice
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Spelt
  • Triticale

Here’s a chart from Eat Right Ontario, to guide your preparation of these whole grains as the water to grain ratio is different from what you may be used to4:

Whole grain

(1 cup)

Amount of water Bring to a boil, then simmer for Cooked amount
Amaranth 2 cups 20-25 minutes 3 ½ cups
Bulgur 2 cups 10-12 minutes 3 cups
Mill, hulled 2 ½ cups 25-35 minute 4 cups
Quinoa 2 cups 12-15 minute 3 + cups
Spelt 4 cups Soak overnight then cook 45-60 minutes 3 cups
Triticale, flaked 2 cups 12-15 minutes 2+ cups

Now that you know the whole story, get into whole grains!

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian


  1. Dietitians of Canada. Choosing whole grain facts. In Eat right ontario. Retrieved from https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Food-guides/Choosing-Whole-Grains-FAQs.aspx
  2. Kelloggs. Kellogg’s All Bran Bran Buds Cereal. Retrieved http://www.all-bran.com/products/bran-buds.html
  3. Whole Grains Council. Identifying whole grain products. In Whole grains council. Retrieved from http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/identifying-whole-grain-products
  4. Dietitians of Canada. All about whole grains. In Eat right ontario. Retrieved from https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-Food-Preparation/Cooking-with-Whole-Grains.aspx

Monday, February 12, 2018 in
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