In this post we will be taking a look at 19 whole grains that you should be eating but you more than likely haven’t heard of.
But before we start…
What are whole grains?
There are many definitions to what a whole grain consists of, and they get scientific very fast. So to keep it quite simple:
Grains are made up of 3 parts. The bran, the germ and the endosperm and as long as these 3 parts are kept intact that food can be called a whole grain. If one of the parts are removed then it no longer is allowed to be called a whole grain.
So why are whole grains important?
Studies have shown that consuming three servings of whole grains per day can have a huge effect on reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
With that in mind, I have created this post on 19 whole grains that you should be eating, and after this article, you should have more options to choose from than just quinoa.
Let’s get started!
This ancient grain has been a staple in certain parts of the world for thousands of years, yet we are only slowly adding it to our diets in the western world.
Amaranth is rising in popularity due to its brilliant nutritional values. In just one cup of cooked amaranth (250grams) you can expect the following nutrients:
- Calories 250
- Protein 9.5 grams
- Carbs 46 grams
- Fat 5.5 grams
You can also expect to hit your daily recommended dose of Magnese (105% RDI) which is very important for preserving brain function, especially when getting older. (source)
One serving also provides 40% of your Magnesium RDI, 29% of your Iron RDI and 18% of your Copper RDI. Getting amaranth into your diet can help increase your iron intake and as a result, help your body produce more blood and help with your bone health.
If you like a tipple (alcoholic drink) on the weekend or weeknight (no one is judging) you will be glad to know amaranth has been shown to help protect the liver against alcohol poisoning. (ok this study was in rats but it gives us weekend offenders some hope)
Have a gluten intolerance? Amaranth is gluten-free! You can enjoy it as a cereal in the morning, use it in baking and even batter a fish with it.
The next benefit of amaranth is a bit of an old wives tale, but it could be worth a try to some of my readers.
If you’re going bald then many users swear by eating it to slow down the effects of hair loss. Others also use the leaves to wash into their hair and swear by its effectiveness of calming their wiry hair down. If you try this please let me know how you get on with it (my twitter is at the end of this post), before and after pictures would be great too!
One of the main benefits of the amaranth grain, in my opinion, is that it contains way more protein than other grains. Some benefits of a high protein diet include:
- Appetite Suppressing
- Burn more calories
- Maintain lean mass, burn more fat
(Want to learn more about the benefits of a high protein diet, check this article from Kcal Life)
2) Kamut whole grain
(pronounced ka-moot) is the brand name of the grain Khorasan. Kamut is synonymous with the grain so from this point we will just refer to it as the Kamut grain.
Kamut has a great taste (buttery and rich), great texture and once again great nutritional values. Like bulgar wheat, Kamut is easily digested, yet it has more proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
When grown Kamut doesn’t need any artificial fertilisers or pesticides as it can thrive in diverse conditions, so a great grain for the environment conscious amoung us.
One serving of Kamut(250g) provides us with the following:
- Calories 250
- Protein 11 grams
- Carbs 52 grams (0 sugar)
- Fats 2 grams
Like amaranth, Kamut is high in magnese (104% RDI), Iron (19% RDI), Zinc (20% RDI) and Copper (21% RDI).
The University of Maryland carried out a study where they found that the combination of calcium, zinc, copper and magnese (all found in Kamut) helped lessen spinal bone loss in post-menopausal women.
For healthy bones, Kamut is an excellent choice to add to your diet. If you’re stuck for some ideas on how to cook Kamut here is a great recipe from chowhound
Millet is used in the US as bird feed, but it’s slowly starting to be used in the western world for human consumption. It’s mainly grown in developing countries and the crop just like Kamut can survive in harsh environments.
If you’re still with me and not frightened to try something new you could be in for a treat. The nutritional values of millet are great and in one serving (200g) you can expect:
- Calories 750
- Protein 85 grams
- Carbs 600 grams
- Fats 70 grams
Once again high in Magnese (163% RDI), Copper (75% RDI) and Phosphorus (57% RDI). Eating millet can help some diabetics and alcoholics improve the levels of phosphorus in their bodies. Eating too much phosphorus can be just as bad as eating too little though and can cause medical complications such as:
- Heart Disease
- Joint pain
Phosphorus is very important and plays several roles in keeping us healthy. It is used to help in making energy, keeping your bones strong and keeps our muscles moving smoothly.
The Linus Pauling Institute recommends the following daily intake of phosphorus (one serving of millet gives you around 500 grams):
- adults (19 years and older): 700 mg
- children (9 to 18 years): 1,250 mg
- children (4 to 8 years): 500 mg
- children (1 to 3 years): 460 mg
- infants (7 to 12 months): 275 mg
- infants (0 to 6 months): 100 mg
If you want to learn how to cook the perfect millet every time check out this article from kitchn
4) Teff – The Ethiopian superfood
Teff is around the size of a poppy seed and comes in a variety of colours (red, white, brown) and is originally from Ethiopia. But like the mentioned grains above it is slowly being introduced into the western diet.
According to Ancient Grains Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their protein consumption from Teff. One small serving of Teff can give us roughly 25% of our RDI of Protein. Not bad for a tiny grain.
Like most grains, Teff is also high in magnesium, it’s gluten-free and is a good source of dietary fiber. But the main benefit of adding teff to your diet, in my opinion, is that it contains so much calcium.
One serving of teff contains 123mg of calcium which is almost 5 times as much as other whole grains. 1 cup of teff can provide your body with 28 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber.
Is teff good for diabetes management?
People with diabetes will be happy to know that Teff is a resistant starch. What this means is that it’s slowly digested and slowly gets released into the bloodstream which helps raise blood sugar levels slowly. As a result, it can help aid in the management of diabetes control.
Where to buy Teff?
Freekeh (pronounced free-kah) can be prepared in a similar way to a brown rice or a risotto but contains up to four times the amount of protein than rice. It has a lush smoky flavor and is quite different in taste to what you’re used to with grains.
Like teff, freekeh is low on the GI scale so can help those with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Sadly freekeh is not gluten-free so if you suffer from intolerances with gluten you are better off eating quinoa, but if gluten isn’t a problem then this is a great alternative to quinoa.
If you have a problem with staying full, Freekah is a great grain to consume. As touched on above it consists of a high protein makeup and has double the amount of protein of quinoa.
a 200g serving of Freekeh contains:
- Calories 700
- Protein 30 grams
- Carbs 120 grams
- Fats 4 grams
It also has 400% RDI of zinc, 340% RDI of Iron, 340% RDI of Copper, and 74% RDI of calcium.
Freekeh, in my opinion, is a great grain to eat when you want to lose weight. It’s high in fiber and protein and will keep you feeling full for longer. When I eat Freekeh I have noticed the effects and can go most of the day without feeling hungry.
High fiber foods have been known to help people lose weight. Annals did a study on 240 adults where they were subjected to a high fiber diet over the space of 12 months compared to a diet without high fiber. The results showed that the high fiber group lost more weight.
Where can you buy freekeh?
In America, this whole grain is known as emmer, in Italy its known as faro. Whatever the location this is a grain that you should try, after all if it was good enough to feed the Roman soldiers I’m sure a bowl of this is good enough for you.
Emmer/Faro has fewer calories than quinoa and has more fiber per serving, so it’s great for those wanting to lose weight and stay fuller for longer.
Although emmer has gluten, if prepared correctly it can be tolerable to those with a gluten sensitivity. Exercise caution though, you know your body and if you think this may cause you some problems then leave it but I feel its a good grain to include in this whole grain list.
Whole grains such as emmer have amazing health benefits and have been shown to reduce stroke by 30%, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%, reduce the risk of asthma and prevent obesity. Not bad for a little grain.
Ok, maybe you have heard of barley, but I bet you didn’t know that one cup of barley provides you with a quarter of your dietary fiber needs. Barley also makes the list because it’s versatile and can be used in a wide range of recipes.
Here are a few barley recipes you can try: Eating Well
8) Bulgur wheat
This is another wheat that you may have slightly heard of but haven’t tried. Or maybe you have tried and here are some benefits of why you should keep eating bulgar wheat.
Bulgur wheat is once again high in fiber and has more fiber per gram than quinoa, oats, millet and corn. a 200g serving of bulgur wheat contains:
- Calories 680
- Protein 24 grams
- Carbs 150 grams
- Fats 2.5 grams
Bulgur wheat is a great addition to your diet if you have high blood pressure as it contains a high amount of potassium which is a vasodilator and can reduce the strain on the blood vessels, arteries and lower blood pressure.
Bulgur wheat according to the Journal of Nutrition can act as a natural cancer cure and is tied to a reduced risk for colon and breast cancer.
Bulgur wheat can be found at most supermarkets.
Want better hair, nails and skin? This next grain could be for you. Fonio is quite similar to millet in nutritional makeup and also provides us with a range of amino acids.
These amino acids help the liver process fat. Fonio can also help remove toxins from the liver and brain.
Just like with all diets it is advisable to consult with a doctor first as Fonio and other types of millet have been linked to hypothyroidism and the possible development of autism in children whose mothers ate too much during pregnancy. With that said more studies are needed to show a clear link but if there’s a possible risk (especially if you are pregnant) then avoid this one.
Fonio is low in carbs and high in fiber and has around 50% to 60% more fiber per gram than brown rice and oatmeal. a 200gram serving of fonio will provide an adult with 20% of their recommended daily intake of fiber.
Fonio being low on the glycemic index makes it a great cereal for those wanting to stay fuller for longer, if you’re looking to lose weight or diabetic fonio can be a great cereal replacement.
Sorghum is the next grain to make our list of healthy grains you should be eating.
Sorghum, is an ancient grain that has been used as a cereal in Indian and throughout Africa. It’s gluten-free and has some amazing health benefits.
The versatility of sorghum is what I love the most about it. It can be used as a flour, added to porridge or even used as an alternative and healthy version of popcorn.
The wholegrain council have also found a link between sorghum consumption and a decrease in colon and skin cancer.
Sorghum is more well known than some of the other grains on this list but I still don’t think we eat enough of it. If you want to add sorghum to your diet then here are a few recipes from Care 2
11) Spelt wheat
If you’re looking to add more protein to your diet and can’t fit in another piece of chicken or can’t fathom the thought of eating more eggs then Spelt maybe a great whole grain to add to your diet.
Spelt is a wheat high in protein and a small cup will give you around 11 grams of protein.
If you suffer from celiac disease or have a gluten intolerance then I would recommend staying away from spelt. Some say that you can add it to your diet while others say to avoid it. Personally, I’m on the side of avoiding it.
Some good spelt recipes can be found on Sharpham Park and you can buy spelt from them.
Triticale is a combination of wheat and rye and has some impressive health benefits. It has been shown to improve digestion, improve your heart health, increase your metabolic rate (great for losing weight), protect you against asthma and improve bone health
If you are a fan of rye and wheat then this combination will have you head over heels. The combination of both grains helps triticale have more fiber, protein, and minerals than its parents.
Because triticale contains wheat and rye it is not suitable for those who suffer from celiacs disease or gluten intolerances.
Another gluten-free seed that is growing in popularity in the UK, US and Canada. Buckwheat isn’t a whole grain at all (so its kind of cheating to be on this list) it’s actually a seed.
Buckwheat is high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. Buckweat is packed with so many antioxidants that many class it as a superfood.
Per 200 gram serving buckwheat provides you with the following nutrition:
- Calories 184
- Protein 7 grams
- Carbs 40 grams
- Fats 1.5 grams
One of the main reasons why Buckwheat was added to this post is the health benefits you get from eating it concerning the heart. Clinical studies have shown that buckwheat can help lower inflammation, unhealthy cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. (Source)
Buckwheat and diabetes
Like some of the other grains mentioned above, buckwheat is low on the glycemic index meaning that the complex carbs found in buckwheat break down slowly which doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Studies have shown (in rats) that buckwheat has been used to significantly lower blood glucose levels. The study shows that the rats’ blood sugar levels were reduced around 12% to 19% when fed buckwheat.
You can purchase buckwheat from Wholefoods online
14) Red rice – Whaaattt?
Everyone has heard about brown and white rice but red? not so many. In fact, there are over 40,000 types of rice. Some of them not so good for your health, red on the other hand has some excellent health benefits.
The main reason this rice is red is it contains something called anthocyanin (try saying that in the middle of a squat). This natural colourant gives the rice its colour but that’s not all it does. Anthocyanin acts as an anti-oxidant and has been shown to reduce the spread of cancer cells and inhibit tumor formation. (Source)
Getting old before your time? then red rice can help. Apparently, red rice can slow down aging and can prevent wrinkles and sun damaged skin, however, I haven’t been able to find research that shows this but it’s worth a shot!
If you want to give red rice a try you can buy it from sous chef
15) Montina (indian rice grass)
Before the arrival of corn, rice grass was used by the native Americans. Its high in fiber, protein and it’s another gluten-free grain that packs great health benefits.
Very hard to get in the UK, but if you spot it on your travels it may be worth picking up.
16) Rye Berries
Rye berries are a great addition to your diet if you want to lose weight.
Rye berries are often considered a far more superior grain than wheat or barley in terms of its weight loss properties. The reason why rye is great for weight loss is due to its unique binding process with water molocules. A small bit of rye can keep you feeling full for hours.
Science direct found that incorporating rye into your diet can help lessen the severity of gallstones and can also stop them from developing in the first place.
You can purchase rye grain from Hay Meadow Farm
How could we make a list of grains you should be eating without including oats. I know, totally justified right. Ok, here’s why you should be eating oats:
Oats contain something called beta-glucan and that is shown to reduce the bad type of cholesterol in your body without touching the good stuff.
Beta-glucan has also been shown to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and lower blood sugar levels (source)
Fed up of eating oats? You don’t have to be, check out this great article on the 50 best oatmeal recipes by fit foodie finds.
Maize (AKA corn) is one of the most popular cereal grains consumed worldwide, so you maybe already eating it, but after hearing its health benefits you may want to eat more.
Maize is high in fiber and two carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin. Now to you and me, they may sound like something out of a science journal but the reason why these are important is that studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin can benefit your eyes. They can reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration which can cause eyesight loss in older people.
You can buy maize from Shop n Smile
19) Brown Rice
We have had red rice, now it’s time for brown.
Brown rice is considered boring by some and if I had to eat it every meal I would agree, thankfully I don’t have to so I have included it in this list.
Brown rice comes from the same grain as white, but it hasn’t had its bran or germ removed (like white rice) and because of this, it has more fiber and micronutrients per gram than its white equivalent.
Brown rice is also gluten-free and high in magnesium which can help with the control of blood sugar levels (source), allowing you to function for longer without having a crash in energy.
Brown rice also contains lignans which have been shown to reduce the amount of fat in the blood, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation of the arteries (source)
You can get brown rice from all major supermarkets.
Firstly thank you for making it this far, I know reading through lignans and molecules can be a little daunting but I think its worth it. Studies have shown that eating 2.5 servings of whole grains a day can reduce your chance of heart disease by a massive 25%. I think that alone makes it worth incorporating these grains into your diet.
If you liked this article please give it a share on social media. You can also drop me a message on Twitter with any recipe ideas with the grains above.
Thank you, Toby King the personal trainer in Cardiff