What Are Whole Grain Foods
Grains are the seeds of grass-like plants called cereals. Some of the most common varieties are corn, rice, and wheat. Whole-grain kernels have three parts(1): The bran is the hard outer shell that contains many minerals antioxidants and fiber, the endosperm which is mostly carbs, and the germ, the inside of the grain, which has many vitamins minerals, proteins, and plant compounds.(2) (3)
Even if you roll, crush, or crack whole grains, as long as these three parts are present in their original proportion, they’re considered whole grains.
Because the difference between refined grains and whole grains is the presence of the germ and the bran. They only have the endosperm and are not as nutritious.
Here are some important tips for choosing the right product, storing them and how to handle them to get the most out of your grains, and avoid wastage and spoilage.
1. Check the label.
What does the packaging say? Don’t be misled by claims that hint at being wholesome but aren’t actually backed up. 100% Stone Ground, Multigrain, Whole Wheat, Honey Wheat, Wheat Bread, Cracked Wheat etc. are not necessarily 100% whole grain foods. Be sure to inspect the package. Pay attention to the ingredients and the nutrition facts rather than the stamps or advertising.
Specifically, checking the fiber content also offers insight into whether a food is truly made with whole grains. The amount of fiber per serving of whole-grain food should be at least two grams. Check the ingredients. In whole-grain foods, the first item should always be whole grain. Think whole wheat, whole rye, whole corn, oats, or brown rice. There will be tips below on what to avoid. Be wary of nutritional claims because brands may be allowed claims after reaching a threshold of the content of ingredients, for example, foods that contain at least 51 percent whole grains may make a claim about that food’s role in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.(6)
Things to avoid on the label
Some things are just on the label to appeal to conscientious shoppers or mislead ignorant shoppers without really having an impact on their nutritional value. Sometimes it can be misleading to buyers so let’s check what you need to look out for.
“Multigrain” and “Made with whole grains” are vague terms lacking any real definition. , if the label alone doesn’t specify what grains are contained, it would be difficult to know the amounts of which, you are better off buying the grains that you actually want. This label doesn’t set any threshold for how much of the grain is whole, so it could be just trace amounts.
“Stone-ground” or “organic”doesn’t really speak to its quality or nutritional value, it speaks to its farming, production, and preparation. It doesn’t tell you if it’s whole grain or not. (7)
Certain additional words and phrases are a tipoff that the product is not whole grain: “wheat flour” without the word “whole” in front of it; “enriched flour”; or, when an ingredient indicates that one of the main parts of the grain is missing, such as “de-germinated corn meal.”
2. Check the package.
Buy whole-grain products that are tightly packaged and well-sealed. Make sure they are not stale and the packaging has no holes in them. When you open the package, the grains should always look and smell fresh. Don’t forget to check the expiration date and storage guidelines on the package.
Buy grains that are well packaged and sealed tightly. Check the expiration or “sell by” date and choose the newest one. If you’re buying whole grains from bulk bins, be sure the turnover at the retailer is high and only the freshest grains are available. You’ll want to take into consideration how long the grains might have been sitting on the store shelves before purchasing.
3. Store in the right temperature.
Storing grains at the right temperature is important in order to keep their freshness. Be especially mindful of the temperature in your home in the winter. Keep things kept in a cool and dry place. Having too much moisture can encourage mold growth and degrade the whole grains, barley, corn, millets, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat are all susceptible to this. Bacteria can also grow when the moisture is high. Concrete tends to retain moisture so avoid placing your containers on top of bare concrete. Inspect your grains for insects and for molds.
4. Use the right types of containers.
Heat, air, and moisture are the enemies of whole grains. Keep them in a cool, dry place in your pantry or kitchen. Store them in airtight containers. The type of container is a matter of preference. Glass, plastic, and aluminum canisters or zip-top plastic bags can all be successfully used, the important thing is that they are airtight. The seal helps to maintain freshness and will keep the grains from absorbing moisture, odors, and ﬂavors from other foods.
When storing whole grains from bulk bins, use containers with tight-fitting lids and keep in a cool, dry location. Sealing the container is important for maintaining freshness and reducing bug infestations.
Whole-grain bread is best stored at room temperature in its original packaging, tightly closed with a quick-lock or twist tie. The refrigerator will cause bread to lose moisture quickly and become stale. Properly wrapped bread will store well in the freezer.
Whole grains must be stored a bit more carefully than their reﬁned counterparts since the healthy oils found largely in the germ of whole grains can be negatively aﬀected by heat, light, and moisture.
Store your whole grain containers where it is visible and easily accessible in your pantry or kitchen.
Out of sight, out of mind is a phrase so oft-repeated but taken-for-granted. Keep your containers of whole grains within easy reach. Easily accessible, eye-level to waist level so that you don’t have to tip-toe to reach it, or have to crouch. Making them easily accessible is critical if you actually want to make it part of your diet.
5. Mark the purchase dates on your whole grains.
This helps you track their freshness the next time you want to use them. Use a marker and some tape if you are keeping them in their package. If you are using the right kind of container, your whole grains should last for as long as they are able to. Whole grains last longer than their ground-up counterparts.
Keeping track is important to avoid freshness and is a good reminder to use your whole grains.
6. Know the shelf life!
Since the oil in various whole-grain flours are all different, their shelf lives vary as well.
Whole grain barley could be stored in the pantry for the duration of 6 months and in the freezer for 6. Whole grain barley flour can be stored in the pantry for 3 months and in the freezer for 6 months. Pot and pearl barley can be found in most grocery stores near the dried beans section. If you can’t find whole-grain barley, barley flakes, or barley flour at the grocery store, try a bulk or health food store.
Uncooked barley should be stored in an airtight container. It will keep in a cool, dry place such as a pantry for up to one year.
Once cooked, barley should be stored in an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for one month.
Whole Grain Wheat can be stored in a pantry for 6 months and in a freezer for up to a year. Whole grain wheat flour can be stored in the pantry for 3 months and in the freezer for 6.
Whole wheat means that the bread is made from the entire wheat kernel. Whole grain means that the bread can be made of any whole-grain kernel. That grain may be wheat or it could be another grain like spelt, oats, or barley.
Buckwheat can be stored in the pantry for 2 months and in the freezer for 4 months. Buckwheat flour or meal can be stored for 1 month in the pantry and 2 months in the freezer.
Rye can be stored in the pantry for 6 months up to a year if stored in the freezer. Rye flakes, flour, or Rye meal can be kept in the pantry for 3 months and in the freezer for 6 months. When made into bread, and properly stored, rye bread will last for about 4 to 5 days at normal room temperature.
The vitamins, minerals, and fiber in rye flakes can benefit your health in many ways. Rye is rich in potassium, which your body needs to produce the energy that powers your nerves and muscles. Potassium also helps to strengthen bones and prevent kidney stones. (8)
Brown Rice can be stored in the pantry for 6 months and in the freezer for 1 month. Rice flour or meal can be stored for 3 months in the pantry and 6 months in the freezer. Cooked brown rice can be stored, covered tightly, in a shallow container in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Brown rice is whole grain rice with the inedible outer hull removed. This kind of rice sheds its outer hull or husk but the bran and germ layer remain on, constituting the brown or tan color of rice.
Wild rice can be stored in the pantry for 4 months and in the freezer for 8 months. Wild rice flour and meal can be stored for 2 months in the pantry and 4 months in the freezer.
Wild rice is slightly higher in protein than most other whole grains and is a good source of ﬁber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin. Research on the health beneﬁts of wild rice is scarce, as the grain comprises such a small part of our food supply.
Corn can be stored in the pantry for 6 months and in the freezer for 12 months. Cornflour or meal can be stored for 3 months in the pantry and 6 months in the freezer.
Corn is whole grain if the bran, germ, and endosperm are all left intact, just like whole wheat. If the corn is milled or degermed to remove the bran and germ, then it is a refined grain.
When buying products made with corn, such as corn tortillas, taco shells, or cornmeal, be sure to look for words in the ingredient list like ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’ to identify that it is a whole grain. Another way to identify whole grains is to look for the whole grain stamp that was created by the Whole Grains Council and is found on many whole grain products.
Millet can be stored in the pantry for 2 months and in the freezer for 4 months. Properly stored, cooked millet will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Millet is an ancient grain that absolutely deserves a spot in our modern diets. While it’s often overshadowed by more popular grains like quinoa, oatmeal, or barley, this corn-like seed grain is packed with nutrition (we’re talking awesome amounts of fiber).
Farrow can be stored in the pantry for 6 months and in the freezer for 12 months. Farrow meals can be stored for 6 months in the pantry and 12 months in the freezer. Store pearled farro in the freezer for up to six months after opening; whole-grain farro will keep in a cupboard almost indefinitely. Cooked farro will keep in the refrigerator for five days; reheat it in broth or water.
Farro is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. It’s high in protein, fiber, and several nutrients. Farro may have several health benefits, including protection against heart disease and benefits for weight loss.
Oats can be stored in the pantry for 4 months and in the freezer for 8 months. Oat flour and meal can be stored for 2 months in the pantry and 4 months in the freezer.
Oats are a whole-grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa. Oat groats, the most intact and whole form of oats, take a long time to cook. For this reason, most people prefer rolled, crushed, or steel-cut oats. Instant (quick) oats are the most highly processed variety.
Once you’ve prepared oatmeal, you’ll want to ensure that it is properly stored in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after being cooked. After preparing your oatmeal, pour the leftovers into an airtight container that will help keep moisture and bacteria out.
Quinoa can be stored in the pantry for 4 months and in the freezer for 8 months. Quinoa flour and meal can be stored for 2 months in the pantry and 4 months in the freezer.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a type of edible seed that comes in various colors including black, red, yellow, and white. Quinoa has achieved some popularity over the years. When cooked and stored properly in an air-tight container it will last up to 7 days in the fridge.
Teff can be stored in the pantry for 4 months and in the freezer for 8 months. Teff flour and meal can be stored for 2 months in the pantry and 4 months in the freezer. Cooked teff keeps in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for up to five days.
Teﬀ is, however, high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary ﬁber that can beneﬁt blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teﬀ are resistant starches. A gluten-free grain with a mild ﬂavor, teﬀ is a healthy and versatile ingredient for many gluten-free products.
Sorghum can be stored in the pantry for 4 months and in the freezer for 8 months. Sorghum flour and meal can be stored for 2 months in the pantry and 4 months in the freezer. The cooked grain can be kept in a closed container in the fridge for up to 7 days. You can also freeze sorghum in individual portions.
This Arabic grain is a low-carb form of ancient wheat that has up to four times more dietary fiber than brown or white rice. Freekeh kernels are harvested while they’re young and then roasted. They contain more vitamins and minerals, such as immune-boosting selenium, than other grains. (9)