14 healthy whole grains and how to eat them



etienne voss

This ancient nutty grain is (surprise!) actually a seed, like quinoa, and is native to South America. It’s nutritionally dense: rich in iron, bone-strengthening calcium, and fiber, which is key to healthy digestion. Research also shows that it may have anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties. To serve, it is It can be easily prepared in a thick-bottomed saucepan like popcorn, cooked as a porridge, or boiled or steamed like other grains like rice. Maintains a slight crunch when cooked.



van Tonder, Hein

This ancient grain is another derivative of durum wheat and, when cooked as rice, has a complex, earthy and nutty flavor. Like other whole grains, it is high in protein and fiber, but also includes key minerals, such as manganese, which helps vitamin K in the blood clotting process, and zinc, which is important for maintaining a healthy sense of smell and taste.

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Sergi Escribano

Barley is an ancient grain and the fourth most popular grain grown worldwide. While it is often used in beer production, it is a useful grain to add to your diet, as one cup of hulled barley provides over 6 mg of iron, important for healthy blood clotting, as well as a dose of vitamin B6. It is a perfect grain to add to salads once boiled as it adds a slight chew. Barley also shines when simmered in soups! Keep an eye out for pearled barley, which cooks faster than the hulled variety, although both are nutritionally beneficial grains.

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black rice

black rice
Harold Walker


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Integral rice

cooked brown rice

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There are several varieties of this small, round, gluten-free grain that you can see in stores, such as fonio, pearl, and finger. One cup of millet also provides 25% of the daily value of phosphorus for women over 19 years of age, which, along with calcium, helps maintain healthy, strong bones and teeth. Studies have shown that consuming millet can help prevent chronic diseases in those who enjoy it regularly. Enjoy a bowl of millet in a delicious breakfast porridge, which will start your day with 11 grams of protein.



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Bulgur is a type of cracked wheat, often made from durum wheat (so it is not gluten-free). One cup provides a whopping 17 grams of plant-based protein, plus more than half of your daily magnesium, which in addition to aiding muscle and nerve function, also plays a key role in bone health. It’s easy to find various sizes of bulgur grain, including fine, medium, coarse, and extra coarse, and finer grains don’t need to be boiled to cook them completely. Simply add hot water and let sit, then fluff with a fork.



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This chewy whole grain is available in different varieties. Brands sell quick-cooking or instant farro that can be ready in 10 minutes, while regular farro can take much longer to prepare. Farro is particularly rich in niacin (20% of your daily value in 1/4 cup), a B vitamin that boosts the skin and helps the digestive system. “Try batch cooking quinoa or farro to easily make hearty grain bowls. Just add fresh or roasted vegetables, hummus or other spreads, tofu, or other proteins you like,” says Moore.

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maksim kulikov

Quinoa is technically a seed, rather than a grain, native to Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, and is naturally gluten-free, making it an excellent base for those avoiding gluten due to allergy or intolerance. It’s packed with important nutrients: one cup provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Steamed, boiled or cooked into porridge, it will maintain a pleasant bite. Or fold it into a frittata with roasted red peppers and manchego for a winning breakfast!


Whole oats


This on-the-go breakfast is a staple for good reason. “Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control,” says Moore. Oats are also rich in fiber and studies show that their fiber content, as well as other nutrients, help stimulate the gut microbiome, which aids the immune system and digestion.



sorghum grains

Popular in Indian and West African cuisine, sorghum is less common to find in the supermarket (but is easy to order online!). Sorghum is an impressive whole grain for both its health and environmental benefits. Scientists have explored this crop as one that can grow extremely well in drought conditions, making it a potentially popular choice as climate change continues to warm the planet and cause more widespread droughts.

Like other grains, sorghum is rich in protein and fiber. Studies also show that sorghum is high in polyphenols, which may help prevent cancer and oxidative stress, which can accelerate aging. To prepare it, cook it as you would quinoa or place it on the stove as you would popcorn.

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Also known as dinkel or hulled wheat, spelled is often found ground into flour and added to bread doughs. This nutty kernel is a decent source of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron and phosphorus, as well as thiamine, a B vitamin that is important for cellular function and healthy metabolism. Spelled benefits from an overnight soak before cooking to cook it faster, or a simmer in a slow cooker to ensure it is tender.

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Marek Uliasz

Find this small grain whole or ground into flour, the main ingredient in injera, a staple flatbread in Ethiopian cuisine. It is a plant native to Eritrea and Ethiopia. “Teff is high in protein, more iron than most other grains, and a powerhouse of fiber containing 12 grams in just 3.5 ounces!” Moore says. This mild, slightly sweet selection is also rich in minerals such as copper, phosphorus and magnesium, key to normal muscle and nerve function.

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Becca Miller (she/her) has been working at Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen since 2018, where she researches and writes about tasty recipes, food trends, and the best kitchen tools. She graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts focused on creative writing. She makes incredible scrambled eggs, enjoys a glass of unoaked chardonnay, and takes pride in her love of reality TV.

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