Why do whole grains offer more nutritional benefits than refined grains?

Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The benefits of using whole grains in meals are that they have not been processed or refined. If they have been processed (i.e. cracked or rolled), they must still by definition have all the parts of the grain, including the bran, germ and endosperm. This means they contain more nutrients than refined grains, including more fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins. In my opinion, whole grains also have a more interesting, delicious flavor than their refined counterparts. 
Many people are afraid of the long cooking time that many whole grains require. You can try quinoa, which only takes 15 minutes to cook and is really versatile. You can also make a big batch of whole grains and then use them in different ways all week, or freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. Either way, have fun and experiment! The Whole Grains Council has a ton of information on using whole grains at
The grain group can be broken down even further into whole grain or refined grain. A grain, let's take wheat for example, contains three parts: bran, germ, and endosperm.

The bran is the outer hard shell of the grain. It is the part of the grain that provides the most fiber and most of the B vitamins and minerals. The germ is the next layer and is packed with nutrients including essential fatty acids and vitamin E. The endosperm is the soft part in the center of the grain. It contains the starch. Whole grain means that the entire grain kernel is in the food.

If you eat a whole grain food, it contains the bran, germ, and endosperm so you get all of the nutrients that whole grains have to offer. If you eat a refined grain food, it contains only the endosperm or the starchy part so you miss out on a lot of vitamins and minerals. Because whole grains contain the entire grain, they are much more nutritious than refined grains.

Continue Learning about Nutrition

Healthy Replacements for Your Favorite Unhealthy Meals
Healthy Replacements for Your Favorite Unhealthy Meals
Movies about food are as common as indigestion after a greasy meal. Some, like Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs, make it clear that when unhealthy fo...
Read More
Who should see a registered dietitian (RD)?
Sarah WordenSarah Worden
Great question! Anyone can benefit from seeing a registered dietitian. Dietitians can provide nutrit...
More Answers
What is food's glycemic index (GI)?
Michael T. Murray, NDMichael T. Murray, ND
How quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food is an effect referred to ...
More Answers
What Is the Role of Copper in my Body?
What Is the Role of Copper in my Body?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.