Whole Grain Foods

Whole grain foods include whole wheat bread, brown rice, and other unrefined grains. Whole grains are considerably more nutritious than refined grains.

Refining removes most vitamins and minerals and all the fiber.

White flour, used for most bread and other wheat-based products, is what is left after "whole wheat" is refined. It has nearly empty calories! (When white flour is "enriched," a few select synthetic vitamins are added back.) 

White rice is refined brown rice that has lost vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

So how can we eat more whole grain foods? And a greater variety, instead of just wheat and corn?

Cereal Grains and Alternative Grains

Cereal grains are technically only wheat, rice, corn, and their close relatives. 

Alternative grains are those unrelated to wheat, rice, and corn.

Curious about your choices? See this list of grains.



Popcorn is a whole grain! Make your own on the stovetop: How to make popcorn 

Brown Rice

Brown rice is one of the best of the whole grain foods. It is available in many varieties in the bulk section of the natural food store, or in bags. When I first cooked brown rice, I recognized its taste from dishes in good restaurants. Don't bother with precooked brown rice--its taste is very unsatisfactory.

Here's how to cook brown rice.


Oatmeal is a healthy whole-grain breakfast or snack. Check out other whole-grain hot cereals.

Bread and Pasta

Whole Grain Bread

Whole-Grain Breads
Whole-grain breads of all types can be found at gourmet and natural food stores. Try a loaf to replace white bread and see how you like it.

Sourdough Bread
Traditionally-made sourdough bread has a gourmet taste. The natural leavening of sourdough improves the nutritive value of the bread.

Sprouted-Grain Bread
Breads, rolls, and tortillas made from sprouted grains are refrigerated in natural food stores. These are very tasty and digestible.

Whole-Grain Pasta
Natural food stores have a great selection of whole-grain pastas, made from whole wheat, brown rice, corn, and alternative grains such as quinoa.

Cracked Wheat

Try tabouli: a Middle Eastern salad based on cracked wheat, mixed with oil, onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables and herbs. Look for it in Middle Eastern restaurants, gourmet, and natural food stores.

Bulk Grains

Explore the bulk section of the natural food store. This is where grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit, and other storable healthy foods are sold from bins. There will be a choice of whole grains, flours, pastas, and granola.

Alternative Grains

Try an uncommon whole grain, from the bulk bins at the natural food store or as sold in a box. You cook them like rice or hot cereal; cooking instructions will be available at the natural food store (you may have to ask).

  • Millet: a mild-tasting, gluten-free relative of wheat, enjoyed around the world
  • Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa): a high-protein seed unrelated to wheat, grown at high altitudes in Peru
  • Amaranth: a high-protein seed originating in Mexico

Related Books

Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way

Guide to whole grains plus recipes.