Whole Grain and Whole Wheat: What’s the Difference?

It can be hard to know which items to purchase while trying to make healthier choices for you and your family.

Grain and wheat products are known for their properties that promote health, such as better heart health, regulation of blood sugar, and weight management.

However, you can question if you should buy whole grain or whole wheat products with so many products on the market and false advertisement statements, as well as whether there's even a lot of difference.


The type of grain being used is the main difference between whole grain and whole wheat.

The three components of a grain kernel, also known as caryopsis, are found in both whole grain and whole wheat products. These include:

Bran: This is the kernel's fibrous outer layer rich in B vitamins and other minerals.

Germ: A number of nutrients, such as healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, and antioxidants, are rich in this reproductive portion of the kernel.

Endosperm: Starchy carbs represent the largest portion of the grain kernel. In most cases, endosperm is mainly made of white flour.

A manufacturer can legally use the word whole grain or whole wheat when the whole kernel is used, depending on the type of grain used.

The term whole wheat is used exclusively for products which use only the whole kernel of wheat in their products. Whole wheat bread, for example, contains only whole wheat flour, and uses the whole kernel of wheat.

In comparison, whole grains, such as amaranth, barley, maize, millet, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, and even wheat, are used when other grains are added to the product. The whole kernels of these grains are used in all instances.

Since wheat is a type of grain, it also falls under the whole grain category. All whole wheat products are basically whole grain, but not all whole grain products are whole wheat.

Which one is healthier?

Considering that the entire kernel includes both whole grain and whole wheat products, they are similarly nutritious.

It's important to eat more whole grain or whole wheat products when it comes to grain products, as they contain the most nutrients. Refined flours have had their germ and bran removed, which takes away many nutrients and fiber, unlike whole grains.

The nutrition, healthy fats, and nutrients found inside the germ and bran of the grain kernel provide much of the research that points to the health benefits of grains.

In addition, a diet rich in whole grains has been related to a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and premature death in several studies.

On the other hand, due to their low nutrient and fiber content, processed grains that have had their bran and germ extracted are not related to the same health benefits. Therefore, where possible, aim to consume mostly whole grain or whole wheat products.

Gluten-Free Grains That Are Super Healthy

A protein found in wheat, barley, and rye is gluten. It gives elasticity, enables bread to grow, and gives a chewy texture to foods.

While for most people, gluten is not a concern, some may not tolerate it well.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes gluten to induce an immune response. Eating gluten can cause symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain for those with this disease or gluten sensitivity.

Many of the grains that are most widely eaten contain gluten. There are plenty of nutritious gluten-free grains also available, however.

Here are 9 super healthy gluten free grains.


Several studies have shown that sorghum is high in plant compounds and may help reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels.


Quinoa contains a good amount of antioxidants. It’s also one of the few plant foods containing all the essential amino acids.


Oats contain beta-glucan, which may decrease blood cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar levels.


Buckwheat is rich in antioxidants and has been associated with reductions in heart disease risk factors, such as blood cholesterol levels.


Some studies show that amaranth may reduce inflammation and several risk factors for heart disease.


Teff is one of the smallest grains in the world but high in fiber and protein. Both of these nutrients are essential to your health and come with many benefits.


Corn is high in fiber and a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are associated with a decreased risk of eye disease.

Brown rice

Brown rice is high in fiber and associated with decreased risks of diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease when used in place of white rice.

To Sum It Up

The three components of the grain kernel are found in both whole wheat and whole grains and are similarly nutritious.

The key distinction between the two is that whole wheat is reserved in its whole form for goods using the whole wheat kernel, while whole grain is an umbrella term for all grain forms.

During processing, processed grain goods typically have the nutritious bran and germ extracted, making them less nutritious choices.

Choose products that are called "100 percent whole grain" or "100 percent whole wheat" for the most health benefits and have no refined grains in the list of ingredients.

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