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Whole grains (or foods made from them) contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire grain seed. This includes the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. But, with all the terms used to describe foods made from wheat, it can be confusing to decide which choices are best. Here are a few common terms on packages and what they mean:

What’s on the package:

  • Whole grain [name of grain], whole wheat, whole white wheat, whole [other grain], stoneground whole [grain], brown rice, wild rice, oats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal), wheat berries, [name of grain] groats, bulgur, cracked or crushed wheat, hulled or hull-less barley

What it means:

  • These terms indicate the food contains all parts (and nutrients) of the whole grain

What’s on the package:

  • Flour, wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat, organic flour, multigrain (may describe several whole grains or several refined grains, or a mix of both), unbleached, multigrain, stoneground

What it means:

  • These terms indicate that some of the parts of the grain MAY be missing—and you’ll likely miss the benefits of whole grains

What’s on the package:

  • Enriched flour, degerminated (on corn meal), bran, wheat germ, pearled barley, grits, hominy, farina

What it means:

  • These terms never describe whole grains, so you will not get the nutritional benefits


When in doubt, choose “whole”—especially if it’s listed as the first ingredient. The less processed the grain, the better it is for you!

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