What Exactly Are Whole Grains?
Plus, how to eat them for breakfast
There’s no doubt about it: Healthier, more nutrient-dense breakfast foods are so trendy they’re becoming mainstream. While I may roll my eyes at the carefully curated cauliflower-and-blueberry smoothie bowls on Instagram, there are definitely a few foods I’ll pass on a Pop-Tart to enjoy. A thick slice of 7-grain toast smeared with almond butter, for example. A warm bowl of brown rice porridge with smashed blackberries will grab my attention, and a homemade oatmeal-chocolate chunk breakfast cookie full-on stops me in my tracks. These breakfasts have more in common than tasting amazing; they’re all made with whole grains.
You’re probably familiar with the term, but what exactly are whole grains? And why are they so much better than other grains? Technically, whole grains are grains that still contain the germ, endosperm, and bran of the grain. Unlike refined grains, which leave only the endosperm intact, whole grains are packed with nutrients.
“The bran and germ are the nutritional powerhouses of the grain,” says Bob Moore, Founder and CEO of Bob’s Red Mill, which produces an immense variety of whole grains, as well as flours and beans. “The bran and germ are full of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals like iron, all of which we need to feel our best.”
Common whole grains are known as cereals. They can be from the wheat family, like farro and spelt, or wheat-free, like rice, oats, and barley. The term “whole grain” also applies to things like quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, which are called pseudocereals.
While there are plenty of ways to get a dose of whole grains in the morning, Moore definitely has a favorite. “Nothing beats a bowl of hot whole grain cereal for breakfast,” he says. “Do it my way and add some sliced banana and flaxseed meal, and you will be all set until lunch."
Not in the mood for hot cereal? You could opt for a simple slice of whole-grain toast, but if you’re in the mood for more ideas, here are a few:
For the on-the-go breakfaster: These no-bake granola bars are made with plenty of oats and peanut butter (though you could use any nut butter you like), plus, unlike the refined sugar-filled packaged versions, these are sweetened with honey.
For the sweet breakfast-hater: A grain bowl with ¼ cup of whatever cooked grain you have on hand (farro and rice work especially well, as the grains are a bit larger and won’t get buried under greens), a poached egg, sausage, and leafy greens is the only breakfast you’ll want to eat.
For the leisurely breakfast fan: Cheesy quinoa grits are just begging to be topped with sauteed mushrooms and a fried egg.