Tired of Quinoa? 5 Other Whole Grains You’ll Love

Farro, millet and more fiber-rich, good-for-you grains you should be eating.

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While healthy eating plans vary from person to person, whole grains are widely recommended—yet many people aren’t exactly sure what this type of food actually is and why these good carbs are essential for overall well-being. The Oldways Whole Grains Council defines whole grains as a grain in its most natural state that contains its three original parts: the bran, germ and endosperm.

“Whole grains are seeds, usually from certain grasses, and their grains contain vitamins, minerals and fiber while having no cholesterol and being low in fat,” says certified nutritionist Kimberly Snyder who co-authored Radical Beauty: How to Transform Yourself From The Inside Out with Deepak Chopra, MD.

Read on to learn about the numerous health benefits of these grains with advice on how to determine if you’re eating the recommended daily amount. Plus, we’ve highlighted a handful of newer, heartier whole grain options (take a seat, whole wheat bread!) with delicious, easy-to-make recipes.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

A Grain Above the Rest

2 / 11 A Grain Above the Rest

Eating whole grains has been linked to numerous health benefits. For one, eating a healthy diet that incorporates whole grains can help reduce heart disease risk. Snyder quotes a report from the Harvard School of Public Health, which states that whole grain consumption “substantially lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels.”

Also, a meta-analysis that consisted of 45 studies suggests that whole grains intake is associated with a reduced risk of total cancer and mortality from all causes, as well as respiratory diseases, infectious diseases and diabetes, along with all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes. Tufts University also conducted two studies in 2017 and concluded that whole grain foods may boost metabolism and calorie loss by reducing calories retained during digestion, as well as possibly improve healthy gut microbiota and certain immune responses.

Why You Should Run Away From Refined Grains

3 / 11 Why You Should Run Away From Refined Grains

On the other hand, refined grains (a.k.a. white foods, like white pasta, white bread and white rice, as well as other foods made with white flour) have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ in order to give food a longer shelf life. However, it also takes away most of the nutrients.

In the refining process, the B vitamins, like niacin and folic acid, as well as vitamin E, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals from the bran and germ are diminished, leaving the carbohydrates and protein from the endosperm for consumption, continues Snyder. You’re left with empty calories and fewer health benefits, says Snyder.

Your Daily Grain Intake

4 / 11 Your Daily Grain Intake

When it comes to the total number of whole grains you should consume each day, the answer is—it depends. “There is no specific one-size-fits-all recommendation as everyone’s body, genetic profile and constitution and activity levels are different,” says Snyder. The United States Department of Agriculture concurs and adds that the suggested amounts indicated on their site, Choose My Plate, are based on individuals (boys, girls, women and men) who do not engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.

“I personally eat whole grains every day—I feel energized from them and I easily maintain my weight,” adds Snyder. “However, I also don’t eat large amounts of fat with them. Experiment with your own body to see the right amount for you.”


5 / 11 Quinoa

One of Snyder’s favorite whole grains is the superfood quinoa (even though it’s actually a seed, it’s placed in this category). While there are more than 120 varieties of this gluten-free, high-protein food that has a slightly nutty flavor and a similar texture to couscous, quinoa can usually be found in either white, red or black varieties. Quinoa flakes and quinoa flour have recently become readily available as well.

This fiber-rich protein is one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. “One of the reasons I absolutely love quinoa is how you can toss it into just about anything—it’s super easy to make and picks up the flavors of any dressing and seasonings,” says Snyder.

Looking for a protein-packed salad option that promises to leave you full and satisfied? Try Snyder’s Quinoa, Kale and Tomato Salad recipe.


6 / 11 Bulgur

This affordable quick-cooking grain derives from kernels of wheat that have been pre-cooked and broken into tiny pieces. The staple ingredient in the traditional Middle Eastern vegetarian salad tabbouleh, bulgur is high in fiber and rich in iron. It’s also loaded with the mineral phosphorus, which plays a vital role in a number of biological processes, including bone mineralization and energy production. Bulgur also contains magnesium, which helps regulates multiple functions in the body, such as blood pressure, blood glucose control and nerve function.

For a hearty salad with Middle Eastern flavor, try this recipe for Bulgur Salad with Green Lentils and Walnuts.


7 / 11 Millet

According to the Whole Grains Council, millet is the world’s sixth most important grain. Not only is it versatile—it can be used in breakfast cereals and pilafs, popped like corn and tossed into breads, stews or salads—this mild-flavored, high-fiber grain is gluten-free and considered a healthy source of plant-based protein. Snyder says it is packed with numerous minerals, such as magnesium and manganese (which helps promote antioxidant function, metabolism function, bone development and wound healing) and also contains omega-fatty acids and vitamin B1, which supports energy levels.

Looking to try out this versatile grain? Snyder recommends this recipe for a Greek-Inspired Millet Salad.


8 / 11 Farro

This hearty grain has been a favorite in Italy for centuries; in fact, some believe it is the key ingredient for making the ideal pasta. Today, farro is added to soups, casseroles, salads and pilafs and can be swapped for rice in risotto, thanks to its rich, nutty flavor. Nutritionally speaking, this complex carbohydrate provides protein, fiber, iron and calcium.

Got about 30 minutes? Try creating this delicious recipe for Mediterranean Mussels With Farro and White Wine.


9 / 11 Buckwheat

This gluten-free, pyramid-shaped grain is a pseudo-cereal crop from a plant related to the rhubarb family that has been around for nearly 8,000 years. A valuable ingredient in traditional Eastern European dishes kasha varnishkes and potato knish, buckwheat is a complete protein with a mild, nutty flavor that can be added to salads and soups, along with being used to make hot porridge, pilafs, casseroles and any recipe that requires whole grains.

If you’re eating on the go, Snyder’s recipe for Raw Sprouted Buckwheat Granola is a must have travel snack.

Wheat Berries

10 / 11 Wheat Berries

While it may sound like a small fruit, hard, red wheat berries are simply whole wheat kernels with a robust, full flavor and a super-high amount of protein of fiber—one cup provides almost 30g of protein and 23g of fiber. Also loaded with vitamins (like folate, choline, thiamin, niacin), minerals (potassium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium) and omega-3 fatty acids, hard, red wheat berries can be enjoyed as a hot breakfast cereal, substituted for rice in various dishes and milled into flour.

Try out these tasty kernels by whipping up this crowd-pleasing recipe for Roast Chicken With Fruit-Studded Wheat Berries.

How to Monitor Your Progress

11 / 11 How to Monitor Your Progress

Keep in mind that adding more whole grains to your diet will further increase your chances of achieving more “green days” on Sharecare for iOS and Andriod. This program tracks your daily health habits—including diet, fitness, sleep, stress, to name a few—in order to determine how all of these components contribute to your RealAge—a test created by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen that combines your lifestyle choices and medical history to figure out your body’s physical age.

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