Go Whole Grain

Most Canadians know that whole grains are a healthy choice. However, many remain confused about what constitutes a whole grain and how to find whole grains in the grocery store.

Types of grains

Whole grains are composed of three parts:

  • Bran – protective shell that contains fibre, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, phytonutrients and protein
  • Endosperm – inner seed that contains carbohydrates, and protein
  • Germ – nourishment for the seed that contains B vitamins, unsaturated fat, vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients

Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, which causes a loss of many nutrients.

Enriched grains refer to refined grains that have some vitamins and minerals (but not fibre) added back to levels close to what was found in the whole grain. Most refined grains are enriched.

Grain products with added fibre, like pasta, typically refers to enriched grains with added inulin, which is a type of dietary fibre. Grain products with added fibre are not whole grain, but are still a healthy choice since they offer more fibre than refined grains.


  1. False. The fibre content of whole grains varies. For example, 100 grams of brown rice has 3.4 grams of fibre while 100 grams of whole wheat has 12.2 grams of fibre. Additionally, many high fibre foods, such as bran cereal, are not whole grain.
  2. False. Look for the words “whole grain” followed by the name of the grain as the first ingredient to ensure you are choosing a whole grain product. Some products also have a whole grain symbol on the package.
  3. True. Many studies support the contribution whole grains make to maintaining weight and preventing chronic disease.

Tips to increase whole grains in your diet

  • Have oatmeal or whole grain cereals for breakfast.
  • Choose whole grain bread products (ie. bread, pita, tortillas).
  • Use whole grain pasta and brown rice or mix them half and half with white versions.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in baking.
  • Try less common whole grains like bulgur or quinoa.

Article revised July 2015

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on May 17, 2011

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