A Guide to Whole Grains: What They Are, and the Benefits They Offer

PLUS: A quick reference guide for gluten-free whole grains.

Grain: Spelt (dinkel wheat)

What it is: A type of hulled cousin to wheat
Origin: Ancient Greece and Rome and medieval Europe
Benefit: High in manganese, vitamin B2, niacin, thiamin and copper; reduces LDL
Gluten-free? No

Grain: Khorasan wheat (Kamut is the brand name)

What it is: A type of wheat
Origin: Unknown. Some say Egypt or Asia
Benefit: High in selenium, zinc, manganese and magnesium.
Gluten-free? No

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Grain: Emmer wheat (farro)

What it is: A type of hard wheat
Origin: Western Asia (popular in Italy)
Benefit: Rich in magnesium and B vitamins
Gluten-free? No

Grain: Buckwheat (kasha once toasted)

What it is: A fruit seed from a plant related to rhubarb and sorrel that’s rarely consumed in whole grain form
Origin: Southeast Asia to the Middle East and then Europe
Benefit: High in rutin, a flavonoid that strengthens capillaries, and magnesium
Gluten-free? Yes

Grain: Amaranth

What it is: Perennial plant with densely packed flowers
Origin: Ancient Mexico, Guatemala and Peru
Benefit: High in the amino acids lysine and methionine, as well as iron, calcium and fiber
Gluten-free? Yes

Grain: Barley

What it is: From the grass family, barley comes pearled and hulled, the true form
Origin: Western Asia, Northern Africa
Benefit: An insoluble fiber, it’s good for the digestive system.
Gluten-free? No

Grain: Quinoa

What it is: Seed from a broadleaf plant related to spinach
Origin: The Andes
Benefit: High in magnesium and a good source of manganese, calcium iron, copper, phosphorous, vitamin B2 and protein.
Gluten-free? Yes

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Grain: Wheat berries (bulgur)

What it is: Raw kernals of wheat stripped of the inedible hull; bulgur is precooked wheat berries that have been dried and broken up
Origin: Middle East, Mediterranean 
Benefit: Rich in folate, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, iron, vitamin E and many B vitamins
Gluten-free? No

Grain: Millet

What it is: Small-seeded grass grown for human and animal use
Origin: Africa, India, Asia
Benefit: Good source of manganese, magnesium and phosphorous
Gluten-free? Yes

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» For more about grains, click here. 

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