Whole Grains 101 (A Complete List & How Much)

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

You’ve probably heard a lot about how good for you whole grains can be. But do you really know how much you should eat? And what options do you have?

A grain is considered “whole” when all three parts are present.

  • Bran – The outer shell
  • Germ – Where it sprouts
  • Endosperm – Supplies energy for the seed

Most people know that fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, but many do not realize that whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients. In fact, whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of these antioxidants and vitamins are found in the germ and the bran of a grain, not endosperm.

Whole Grains A to Z

Common Types:

Less Common Types :

  • Amaranth
  • Bulgar
  • Farro
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Triticale

Health Benefits of Whole Grains

Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood coagulation. They have also been found to reduce the risks of many types of cancer. They may also help regulate blood glucose in people with diabetes. Other studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less.

Recommended Daily Servings of Whole Grains

Since 2005, the US government has been advocating eating more whole grains in our diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 was the first official guideline that clearly recommended a specific daily serving for whole grains. Since then, it has been recommended that all adults eat half their grains as whole grains – that’s at least 3 servings a day.

One serving of whole grain is:

  • One slice of whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 whole wheat English muffin
  • 1/2 whole wheat pita
  • 1/2 cup of cooked grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta
  • 1 cup of cold cereal
  • 3 cups of popcorn

An easy way to increase whole grain intake is to replace some of your refined-grain products with whole grain products. For instance,

  • replace white bread with whole wheat bread
  • choose whole grain breakfast cereal in the morning
  • substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes
  • add brown rice, wild rice or barley in your vegetable soup
  • snack on popcorn instead of chips on movie nights

Label Reading

Read labels carefully! Foods labelled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products. Color is also not an indication of a whole grain. Brown does not necessary mean whole wheat or whole grain! Some brown bread has brown coloring added to achieve the brown color!

Whole Grain Stamps

When determining if a packaged food product contains whole grain or not, look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list. Also look for the Whole Grain Stamps. A “100%” stamp means all grains in the product are whole, while a “50%” stamp contains half.


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2 thoughts on “Whole Grains 101 (A Complete List & How Much)”

  1. Thanks for a clear and concise write up. I’ve sent it on to friends. I appreciate your work and insights.


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