Whole Wheat vs Whole Grain…What’s the Difference?

This week’s blog post answers a reader’s question:

“I have a question about whole wheat vs. whole grain. What the dish is the difference? Hehe like what I do there? Also, where do you find these magical unicorns of whole grain loaves of bread?”

In a previous post in February, I talked a little bit about whole grains and how to choose them. In answering this week’s question, I’ll go into a little more detail.

A whole grain product is a food that contains all three parts of the grain kernel: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. The bran is the outer layer of the grain kernel. It is rich in fibre, B vitamins and minerals. The endosperm is the part of the grain seed that lies just under the bran. It is the largest part of the grain kernel and is rich in carbohydrate and protein, essential nutrients needed for good health. The germ is found in the centre of the grain kernel. It is a rich source of vitamin E, B vitamins, and some minerals. Some examples of whole grains are brown rice and rolled oats.

Adapted from Whole Wheat, Whole Grains, and Refined Grains: What’s the Difference?, http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/nutrition/page14676.aspx

A whole wheat product is not a whole grain product. Whole wheat products do not contain all three parts of the grain kernel. During the making of whole wheat flour, some of the kernel is removed and the germ is lost.

Some whole wheat flours are made in a way that maintains the kernel. These flours are considered whole grains. Foods made with these flours will be labelled as “whole grain, whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour with added germ”.

The verdict: whole grain foods are more nutritious than whole wheat foods.

Whole wheat bread is made with whole wheat flour. Since we know that whole wheat flour is not whole grain, it is not your best whole grain food choice. However, it is still a healthier choice than white bread as it provides dietary fibre. Something to note: grain products that are labelled “multigrain”, are also not necessarily whole grain, depending on the flour or grains the product is made with.

When looking for whole grain bread products, look for “100% whole grain” on food labels or “whole” in front of the type of grain on the ingredient list, such as whole grain whole wheat or whole grain barley. Some other examples of whole grains that don’t need the word “whole” in front of them because they are only used as whole grains in foods are: brown rice, buckwheat, cornmeal, millet, oatmeal and quinoa.

Remember: Not all of your grain product choices have to be whole grain, but try and aim for at least 50%.
Do you choose whole grain products at least 50% of the time? What is your favorite whole grain? Email me at [email protected].
If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!