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The Truth About Whole Grains

Author: Cara Walsh

September 22, 2014

The Truth About Whole Grains

Author: Cara Walsh

September 22, 2014


Especially in the weight loss world, carbohydrates, bread and grains often get a bad rap. They are seen as the culprit of weight gain. But the truth is, there is a huge difference between whole grains and the white, processed, high sugar/fat carbohydrates that many of us consume. Foods such as pastries, bagels, cakes, crackers and chips have little nutritional value and are very high in calories. They usually provide a blood sugar spike and a ‘crashing’ feeling later. However, none of this is true regarding whole, or sometimes referred to as intact grains.

There is an important difference between whole grains and whole wheat. Whole grains contain 100% of the bran, germ and endosperm. This provides antioxidants, B vitamins, proteins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats. Whole wheat products have the bran and endosperm removed during processing. When shopping in the grocery store, look for the 100% whole grain stamp on the products you choose. It is important to note, that most whole grains are still processed, but they are minimally changed. Some healthy examples include, steel cut oats, cracked wheat and stone ground whole wheat. Try to choose products that are as closest to their natural state as possible as they will provide the most health benefits!


Hulled barley is considered an intact grain, and pearl barley is not as it has the hull and bran have been removed. Barley has a nutty chewy flavor and consistency that provides 13 g of fiber per cup and is high in selenium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Barley is a great substitute for rice, quinoa or couscous. Pearled barley can be cooked immediately, with a 1 to 2 ratio of barley to water. Bring water and barley to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until water is absorbed. If purchasing hulled barley, soak overnight in water, rinse and prepare using 1 cup barley for 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes.


All oats are a good source of fiber, manganese, selenium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. Oat groats, steel cut oats, old fashioned oats, and quick cooking oats are all examples of intact grains. When purchasing in the grocery store, be sure to buy plain oats and add your own fruit and nuts. The flavored instant oatmeal packets often have too much sugar or other additives.

Brown Rice

During processing, the hull of the rice kernel is removed, which is the least detrimental to its nutritional value.  Brown rice is a good source of fiber, manganese, selenium, and magnesium. Brown rice cooks for about 45 minutes with a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice.


Recently hailed the latest super food, quinoa is a versatile grain that is actually a seed. Quinoa is considered a complete protein as it contains both lysine and isoleucine. This seed is unique from other grains because it contains heart healthy fats, which are not found in other grains. It is a good source of folate, copper and phosphorus. Quinoa can be substituted in any dish that calls for rice. It is also a great breakfast food, it can be made into nutritious ‘cereal bars’ or eaten as you would oatmeal. Quinoa can be eaten hot or cold and can easily be tossed on a salad to add extra protein. When cooking, rinse first and add 2 cups of water for every one cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. To add a little extra flavor, substitute one cup water for one cup low sodium vegetable broth.


Millet is a gluten free grain or seed that is a good source of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and provides 4 g of protein per ½ cup. It can be used in place of any grain. To produce a similar consistency to rice, cook 1 cup of millet with 2 ½ cups water for 25 minutes.


Buckwheat is a gluten free grain that contains flavonoids that help lower blood lipids. It has 8 essential amino acids and contains 20% daily value of magnesium. You can purchase buckwheat raw or pre-toasted—which is called kasha. To cook raw buckwheat, first toast it in a pan until browned (about 5 minutes) and then use 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of buckwheat. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.

Source: Lund, Melinda, RD. “Intact Grains.” Today’s Dietitian 15.10 (2013): 38-42. Print.

Barley, Butternut Squash, Pistachios and Pomegranate Seeds


  1. 1 Small butternut squash (peeled and diced)
  2. 1 cup Pearled barley
  3. ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  4. 1/3 cup pistachios


  1. Peel and dice butternut squash, spray lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper and any spices. Place in oven at 425 for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  2. Rinse 1 cup barley and place in a pot with 2 cups of water (or substitute one cup of low sodium vegetable broth for a more intense flavor). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed. Add more water if barley is still not fully cooked through.
  3. Combine butternut squash and barley, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and pistachios when ready to serve.

Makes 6 servings

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine.

About the Author:

Cara Walsh
Counselor at The Carmel Mountain Ranch Medifast Weight Control Center
Cara Walsh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Weight Control Counselor. Cara received her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from San Diego State University and completed her dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian through the Utah State University. Cara is currently completing her Masters in Dietetic Administration through Utah State University. Cara has always had a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She loves to focus on how food can heal and provide nutrition-while tasting delicious. Cara thrives on helping others reach their full potential nutritionally. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to Pilates and running the boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean with her son and husband.

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