Types of Grains: Whole, Refined, and Gluten Free

types of grainThere are two types of grains: cereal and legume. Within those are even more types of grains, each with their own unique health benefits and even disadvantages for those sensitive to wheat.

Read on for information on the various types of grains and grain products, and some healthy alternatives for the gluten free. For some great cooking recipes, check out this every day gourmet food course.

Cereal Grains

Within the cereal grains group are two sub-categories: whole grains and refined grains. These are the foods most people think of when they think grain. Find an extensive list of each below.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a type of grain that is harvested with the entire kernel in tact, including the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Because the grain’s kernel is not removed, whole grains contain more protein and fiber, but can also contain a bit more fat. Even so, they are generally considered more healthy than their refined grain counterparts. Take note that even though the bran is required for a product to be considered whole grain, a bran only product does not constitute whole grain.

Whole grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Emmer
  • Farro
  • Flaxseed
  • Grano
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Rolled oats
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat berries
  • Whole grain barley
  • Whole rye
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Wild rice

Rice is a popular grain for its versatility in the kitchen, and because it’s gluten free even when processed. Check out this guide on basmati rice nutrition for more information.

Refined Grains

Because most of the nutrition is removed in the milling process, refined grains are often not as healthy as whole grains. The milling process does have its purposes though. By removing the bran, germ, and endosperm, the grain is granted a longer shelf life. This, in exchange for less dietary fiber, protein, iron, and vitamins, makes it somewhat of a pro and a con. Which one is more important is up to you.

Refined grains include:

  • Corn bread
  • Corn flakes
  • Couscous
  • Crackers
  • Flour tortillas
  • Grits
  • Noodles
  • Pita
  • Pretzels
  • Spaghetti
  • White bread
  • White rice

Legume Grains

Legume grains are the seeds or pulses harvested from plants.  Beans, lentils, peas, and nuts are types of legume grains. These include black beans, green peas, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, split peas, soybeans, mung beans, azuki red beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, white beans, and more. This type of grain is high in iron, folic acid, B vitamins, and protein.

Gluten Free Grains

Celiac’s disease, wheat allergies, and other forms of gluten tolerance, ranging from mild to severe, are debilitating autoimmune disorders that put a lot of healthy foods off the table for an estimated 2% of the population. How can folks with gluten intolerance reap the benefits of grains? Well, many types of whole grains are gluten free! Check the list below for some examples.

Gluten Free Grains

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Wild rice

Grains Containing Gluten

  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

But wait – why are oats on both the gluten free list and the list of grains containing gluten? While oats are naturally gluten free, they are usually “contaminated” with gluten while being grown or processed. It’s best to research the company you’re purchasing the oats from to see if they offer purely gluten free grains. There are also some qualms about whether or not spelt is gluten free. Find out in this guide.

Despite confusions like this, being gluten intolerant doesn’t have to be hard. Check out this gluten free made easy course for tips on how to maintain a gluten free diet.

How to Prepare Grains

One of the most obvious ways to prepare grains is to bake! Flour is a refined grain type that can be used to bake bread, pastries, and bread-based dishes. Check out this professional baking course, and this guide on eight must-know baking tips to get started. Are pastries more your specialty? Check out this online pastry school for some useful lessons, and this guide on essential baking ingredients.

Pasta is also a popular refined grain. Check out this course on Italian cooking to get started.

Gluten intolerant? Check out this gluten free online break baking course.

If you’re trying to get started with cooking, learning about the different types of grains and other foods is the first step. The more types of foods you understand, the more you can do with them. Go beyond that with these cooking tips for beginners, and this course on healthy cooking fundamentals.