The Wholly Grail on Whole Grains

August 26, 2013

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Trying to get more whole grains in your diet? The surest way to know that you’re eating whole grains is to cook a dish containing the unadulterated whole grain yourself: an entrée made with brown rice, a side of hulled barley, a bowl of oatmeal, or bread baked with only whole grain flours.

There’s a lot of confusion, though, about what constitutes a whole grain. The 2014 Old Farmer’s Almanac is here to help by taking the guesswork out of identifying the different types of whole grains.

The Wholly Grail of Whole Grains

True Grits:

Berries (wheat, rye), groats (oats, buckwheat), and kernels (corn) are all terms for grains in whole seed form (minus the hull).

Grits are any coarsely ground whole or refined grain. (Cracked wheat and polenta are grits.)

Meals and flours are grains that have been ground; meal is generally considered the coarser one. “Refined” or “degerminated” means that part or all of the bran and germ have been removed.

Rolled or flaked grains are whole grains that have been cooked, rolled flat, and baked, losing minimal amounts of nutrients and fiber in the process. They are considered whole grains. Do not confuse them with dry-cereal flakes, which may or may not be 100 percent whole grain.

Wheat 14 Ways:

Bulgur is whole wheat berries that have been steamed, roasted, and crushed. It qualifies as a whole grain.

Couscous, not a grain but a form of wheat pasta, is available in both refined and whole grain forms.

Cracked wheat is simply coarsely crushed whole wheat berries. It qualifies as a whole grain but beware of products with “cracked wheat” as part of their name (“cracked-wheat bread”), which may contain only a small amount of cracked wheat, with the rest refined flour.

Cream of wheat, farina, and semolina are refined wheat products. Wheatena, a hot cereal product developed in 1879, is considered a whole grain.

Einkorn, emmer, farro, kamut, and spelt are ancient strains of wheat finding their way into modern specialty markets because of their unusual (and, some say, superior) cooking, flavor, or nutritional characteristics.

Triticale is a whole grain hybrid of wheat and rye.

Whole white wheat sounds like a contradiction, but it is a true whole grain. White wheats are albino species that lack the genes that give other wheats their brown color. White wheat has a milder flavor a bit closer to that of refined white flours.

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