Hungry Haley

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Whole Wheat vs. Whole Grain vs. Gluten-Free

Haley HansenComment

With all the confusion about which name we want written on our bread/pasta/cereal labels, it seemed necessary to open up this section of my blog with a little help regarding whole wheat vs. whole grain vs. gluten-free. I've purchased products under each category, and some purchases have left me happier than others. Since then, I've researched and discovered tons of information, and I'm ready to share it with you guys! 

Whole-grain - 

  • Includes: quinoa, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, oats, wheat, cornmeal, popcorn, etc. 
  • What does it mean? When a product is labeled "whole-grain", that simply means that the grains used to make it have not been refined. In other words, the kernel is left whole and includes the bran, germ, and endosperm.
  • Should I eat it? Go for it! Since the grain is left completely, well, whole, all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals are still packed inside. Depending on the grain used, it might even be gluten-free! Of course, the best whole-grain products are the grains themselves, like the ones listed above, but some whole-grain pastas, tortillas, and breads are good purchases, too. My favorite whole-grain brand is Food For Life Baking Co. - I buy their bread (cinnamon raisin has my heart), tortillas, and english muffins, and lovvvvvve them! 
  • Click here for Whole Foods Market's guide to everything whole-grain.

Whole-wheat - 

  • Includes: buckwheat, farro, wheat berries, bulgur, barley, rye
  • What does it mean? This label means that the wheat kernel has not been stripped of its beneficial nutrients, but unlike some whole-grain products, whole-wheat products are not gluten-free.
  • Should I eat it? I do, sometimes, because my stomach can tolerate it without sending me to the hospital. I always aim for whole-grain products, but whole-wheat is the next best thing. Wheat products are a treat for me - desserts, especially - mostly because I get freaked out by the talk about what gluten can do to my body
  • This is my favorite buckwheat pancake mix, and one of my favorite chocolate-chip pancake recipes!

Gluten-free - 

  • Includes: any wheat-containing product that has been stripped of the protein gluten
  • What does it mean? And this is where things can become a little foggy. Just because a product is labeled "gluten-free" does not mean it's healthier than its gluten-containing counterpart. For example, gluten-free packaged cookies, unless otherwise labeled, are only gluten-free because of a more intense manufacturing process that pulls the gluten out of the wheat kernel. Basically, they've been processed even further than the regular cookies - just look at all the ingredients... scary stuff. 
  • Should I eat it? Well, no. When a product must be labeled GF, it typically means that it's been more processed to remove the gluten. As a result, more vitamins and nutrients are lost, too. Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free, like quinoa, brown rice, and uncontaminated oats. If your body doesn't hint to you that it can't handle gluten, then it's up to you if you'd like to avoid it or not. Tons of studies dissect what gluten is, what its effects are, and whether or not we should eat it