What are Whole Grains? 11 Types of Whole Grains

Numerous studies show the benefits of eating a diet high in fiber and what better place to get that fiber than with healthy whole grains? Here is a list of different types of whole grains you can incorporate into your diet. Want to learn more? Next, find out what you need to know about ancient grains and discover which grains are gluten-free grains!

  • 01 of 11
    Bag of Teff

    Teff is considered to be an "ancient grain" that has been eaten in parts of the world for generations and has recently made its way into American grocery stores and home kitchens. Like quinoa, teff is gluten-free, but because of its small size, it tends to be a little less versatile. 

  • 02 of 11
    Quinoa in bowl
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    Quinoa is my all-time favorite whole grain for a few reasons. First, it's much quicker-cooking than other whole grains. Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook, and quinoa flakes cook in just a few minutes. Second, it's high in protein with 18 grams per cup, cooked, making it perfect vegetarians and vegans. And third, I love the taste! It has a chewy, mildly nutty flavor similar to pasta which makes it perfect for soaking up stir-fry sauces or salad dressings. If you haven't already, try this popular whole grain. It might just top the list of your favorite whole grains, too!

  • 03 of 11
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    It looks like barley, it tastes like barley, it cooks like barley, but it's not barley: it's farro! Farro is an ancient grain which has long been part of traditional Italian meals. Try farro in an easy ​tabbouleh farro with kale recipe.   

  • 04 of 11
    Kaniwa Whole Grain

    While it seems like every grain has, at one time or another, been declared "the new quinoa", kaniwa, a close relative of quinoa, might actually be it. With nearly as much protein as quinoa and an excellent boost of iron, kaniwa is a smart choice for vegetarians and vegans. 

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  • 05 of 11
    Bulgar Wheat
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    Most people have heard of bulgur wheat since it's the main ingredient in a traditional Middle Eastern tabouli salad, but for most of us, that's probably the only way we've ever tried it. But why stop at just tabouli? Bulgur wheat is high in heart-healthy fiber, and instant bulgur, also called fine-grain bulgur, cooks in just five minutes. There's no excuse not to give this whole grain a try! Use it instead of rice in a rice salad or rice pilaf recipe, and you'll probably never go back to plain white rice again.

  • 06 of 11
    Millet Whole Grain

    If you like cooking with whole grains, try using millet! Although it may be most widely used a birdseed, millet is a whole grain that can be used like rice in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. Learn more and try out a few whole grain millet recipes.

  • 07 of 11
    Andrew Currie/Flickr/CC 2.0

    The latest grain to join the "ancient grain" trend is freekeh, which is gaining popularity, thanks in part to its promotion by the Queen of all media, Oprah herself. Long eaten in the Middle East, freekeh is whole wheat that has been harvested while still green and young, then roasted and cracked. It's incredibly high in fiber and, since it's high in protein, it's a perfect choice for vegetarians and vegans. Try adding a bit to a salad or soup for a nutritional boost. It just might be your new favorite type of whole grain. Learn more about freekeh here.

  • 08 of 11
    Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Chewy and nutty, barley may be more widely enjoyed as an ingredient in beer than in its whole grain state, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try! Like many whole grains, barley has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol, particularly in men, and in as little as five weeks. If you're looking to eat more whole grains to reduce your cholesterol, barley may be the best one to try. It'll really stick to your ribs and fill you up, too. Toasted barley is often used as a coffee substitute, but I like my barley in soup with plenty of mushrooms. Learn more about barley and try a barley recipe or two.

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  • 09 of 11
    Israeli couscous
    Lew Robertson / Getty Images

    If you haven't already added Israeli couscous to your whole grains list, you just might have a new favorite. With a larger shape, like barley, but rounder, Israeli couscous is characterized by a bit of a nutty, savory flavor, and a chewy texture. Because Israeli couscous is made from semolina flour, it is not technically a whole grain. However, keep an eye out for whole grain Israeli couscous, which is made from 100% whole wheat flour, toasted, and nothing else. See also: 11 Ways to Cook Israeli Couscous

  • 10 of 11
    Sprouted Wheat Berries
    Mattie Hagedorn/Flickr/CC 2.0

    Although everyone's probably heard of whole wheat bread and whole wheat products, very few people have ever actually eaten wheat berries - which are whole kernel wheat grains. They take quite a bit of time to cook, but they're high in fiber and well worth the effort if you've got time to simmer them on the stovetop for a while. Try adding a handful to a favorite soup or chili recipe, in order to add extra fiber and nutrition, or pair it with a vegetable stir-fry as you would with rice. 

  • 11 of 11
    Sergey Chushkin / Getty Images

    Buckwheat is not technically a whole grain, but it's used much like other grains and is just as healthy. It's actually a healthy high-protein gluten-free seed. If you've ever had Japanese soba noodles, you've probably had buckwheat, since these noodles are usually made from buckwheat flour. The health benefits of including buckwheat in your diet are well documented - it's been shown to strengthen capillary walls, relieve some symptoms of Type 2 diabetes and even high blood pressure. Convinced? Learn more about buckwheat and try a few buckwheat recipes.