Grains: the dissected truth that sets them apart :whole grain, whole wheat, multigrain, brown, white, quinoa…what’s the difference?

Ever wondered what the difference is between whole grain, whole wheat, multigrain, brown or white? Well I have. So here’s the difference – explained & dissected by me.



Which is better? Whole grain > whole wheat > multigrain > white ... but why?

Whole grain flour: as the name suggests this is the purest form which contains all its innate nutritional value which is mostly found in the wheat germ (which is the “embryo of the seed”). This flour doesn’t undergo the refining process. After reading this article your brain should associate “refining” with “removal of nutrition.”

Whole wheat flour: goes through a limited refining process that removes some of the nutritional value from the whole grain – usually about half of it! (This means you are not only losing half of the fiber, but a lot of vitamins and minerals as well).

However, both whole grain and whole wheat flours have lower glycemic indexes due to its higher fiber content when compared to white flour. (More on this later on…)

White flour: devoid of the bran and germ which allows the flour to take on a white appearance. This alters the way that this type of flour is absorbed by the body. Instead of being absorbed as a grain it is absorbed as a starch. So this additional and unnecessary processing not only strips the flour from its nutrition, but also increases its glycemic index making it a high sugar/starchy source with little to no nutrition. This is why you’ll find that most white flours are “enriched” – but careful….enriched doesn’t mean nutritious. It just means that the flour was altered.  (More on this later on…)

Multigrain: has other grains incorporated into the flour. However this doesn’t mean that they are healthy whole grains. Some multi-grains can even contain white flour. So be sure to read that ingredient list! Good additions to multigrain include: wheat germ, chia seeds, and flax seeds amongst others.

So how can you tell the difference? Well it’s not as easy as looking at them. You should always read the labels. White flour is obviously white – you’ll have no problem there… the problem arises with flours that are “whole”. Whole grain and whole wheat look very similar. Most people cannot tell the difference between the two without tasting them. Whole grain has a richer taste & a denser texture than whole wheat does. Some whole wheat flour may look brown deceivingly by containing an artificial coloring called “caramel color.” This additive has been proven to be a carcinogen. Look out for this dangerous substance in whole wheat products. It used to be a key ingredient in Coca-Cola, but its discovery forced this powerful industry into changing its traditional recipe about 1-2 years ago.

So..what are your alternatives to enriched white flour? Try replacing this flour with whole grain flour, oat flour, rye flour, almond meal, brown rice flour, sprouted flour or millet flour. What are these? Natural, unrefined, more nutritious flour options with numerous health benefits. Additionally consider that carbohydrates should come from unrefined sources – like fresh fruits and vegetables – not from something that’s been processed, bleached, and treated with synthetic nutrients. The later is what happens when whole grain flour is converted into white enriched flour.


Rice undergoes similar processes comparable in certain aspects to flours. The more processed the whiter it is and the less nutritional value it has. The same principle extends to sugar. White sugar has undergone lots of processing and is loaded with chemicals and additives that make natural brown cane sugar become fine white sugar.

Benefits of brown rice: it has a low glycemic index, it’s high in fiber, considered antioxidant rich, it’s a whole GRAIN, promotes weight loss, etc…bottom line it’s both healthy and nutritious vs. the white rice which is NEITHER. White rice has a high glycemic index which means it’s a big source of carbohydrate which will turn into a pile of sugar when you eat it…What does this mean? Your body will react by releasing insulin – a hormone which helps regulate your glucose levels in the body by lowering it. Type II Diabetes may develop as a consequence of eating lots of “refined” sugar and carbohydrates. Your body can’t keep up with the high insulin demand, and although it keeps producing it, your cells  can’t respond to it anymore. Hence your blood sugar levels remain elevated. This process is called insulin resistance. This is why you should keep refined white flour to a minimum in your diet. I would suggest eliminating it if you have a family history of diabetes but the problem is that eating refined flour is inevitable when you eat out. Most restaurants will serve you white rice and white pasta – unless you go to health conscious restaurants. When the option is available ALWAYS choose WHOLE GRAIN over WHITE.

More on white rice … Brown rice is essentially what almost all forms of white rice looks like before it has been put through a refining process. This refining process devoids white rice of its fiber, proteins, calcium, magnesium, & potassium. Consequently an effort has been made to “enrich” white rice by adding unnatural fortifications and additives. What does this mean? Basically they are trying to add what they removed. The FDA however sets a limit to how much they can add because excess additives can become TOXIC.

So when it comes to flour, rice, & sugar: the whiter it looks, the most devoid of nutrients and the more processed. But don’t quote me on this, because science is a field that is always evolving. However, up to today, this should be your take home message: when it comes to grains, choose brown over white. 

Last but not least…I know this is a long post but I think you can change your life immensely by educating yourself; especially learning about everything you put into your body and it’s negative or positive consequences. So finally I want to talk to you about QUINOA. Most people eat it and think of it as a grain but it actually is not! Yet it was dubbed by Forbes magazine “the supergrain of the future”…Here’s why:


1-Although it is cooked and eaten like a grain, quinoa is technically a seed and is related to spinach, chard, and beets. Let me repeat that – it is related to SPINACH, CHARD, AND BEETS!! Imagine its nutrition! Quinoa is a good source of Iron, Manganese, Riboflavin (vit. B2), and Magnesium. These help with circulation, energy production, and tissue repair amongst other important health benefits.

2- It’s a vegan wonder since it is plant derived yet a complete source of protein. And by complete I mean it contains all of the amino acids necessary for your bodily functions. For those who are not that into science – amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and proteins a one of the major foundations of the body.

3- It has a low glycemic index – which means it won’t create a sugar spike in your bloodstream, therefore being suitable for diabetics. Additionally eating quinoa instead of other meat or protein sources – supports weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease.

4- It’s a gluten free, protein-rich substitute for wheat, rye, and barley. Which makes it perfect for those who are intolerant to gluten.

5- Quinoa contains 2x as much fiber as most other grains. This means it can help you avoid constipation & hemorrhoids, reduce high blood pressure, and help control Diabetes.

It’s a protein than looks like a grain! Which makes it easy to add to salads, to other whole grains, to veggie burgers, pancakes, cupcakes or other baked breakfast goods. It will provide you with more nutrition, more energy, keep your blood sugar levels more stable, & keep you feeling fuller longer! So eat up!

Hope this post was helpful….any quinoa recipe you would like to share with me? Please post links below.


5 thoughts on “Grains: the dissected truth that sets them apart :whole grain, whole wheat, multigrain, brown, white, quinoa…what’s the difference?

  1. Black bean, quinoa and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette

    Serves 4-6.
    1 cup quinoa
    1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans
    1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced
    1 tsp minced jalapeño (optional)
    1 scallion, finely chopped
    2 tsp honey or agave nectar
    Juice of 1/2 lime
    2 tsp rice vinegar
    2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
    Pinch of salt, or as needed

    Place quinoa in a rice cooker with 2 cups of water; turn the cooker on and let it do its thing until it switches to “warm”, approximately 20 minutes. Or, place quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

    Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, red pepper, jalapeño and chopped scallion.

    In a small jar, combine honey, lime juice, rice vinegar and canola oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (it should be a bit tart), and pour on the quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute the dressing evenly.

    If you’re not serving right away, toss the salad again before serving, and adjust seasoning (the dressing will absorb into the quinoa, and the salad might need an additional bit of moisture if it sits for a while).

  2. It definitely frustrates me when restaurants offer multigrain bread a the only “healthy” alternative. It’s often nutritionally the same as white bread! Drives me nuts.

  3. Pingback: {Meatless Monday: Quinoa with mushrooms, mozzarella & chives} | Healthy, Happy & Whole

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