How to Buy & Cook Whole Grains

Whole grains are delicious, nutritious and versatile. This guide shows you how to buy and cook whole grains, and outlines the health benefits for you and your family.

Whole Grains 101

The Canada Food Guide recommends that whole grains should make up at least half of your daily intake of grain products. And most health experts agree that whole grains such as wheat, corn, rice, oats and barley are a necessary part of a healthy diet. But those aren’t the only reasons to eat whole grains. They also taste great and give you a satisfied, full feeling, so you're less likely to overeat. It’s easier than you may think to get your recommended serving of whole grains. You can enjoy them in store-bought sandwich breads, tortillas, breakfast cereals and granola bars. Or you can pull out your recipe book and whip up delicious offerings like baked meatballs with oatmeal, stir-fries with rice or enchiladas with corn.

Types of Whole Grains


Wheat Berries

Wheat is eaten more than any other whole grain, and it's a standard ingredient in pastas, breads, baked goods and breakfast cereals. To get the most nutritional value from wheat, try cooking with wheat berries, which are whole wheat kernels. You'll need to boil them first, and you'll get the best result if you soak them ahead of time. Cracked wheat cooks faster because the berries have been crushed or sliced into pieces.
To cook: add 1 cup of wheat berries to 3 cups of water and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (do not salt).


This nutty flavoured grain comes from wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried and cracked. Popular in Middle Eastern dishes, bulgur is high in fibre and protein. Bulgur cooks quickly, so it's good to have on hand for occasions when your meal-preparation time is limited. Try using it in salads or as a substitute for rice in dishes such as stir-fries. You can also mix bulgur with olive oil, garlic, mint, parsley, paprika and lemon to make tabbouleh.
To cook: add 1 cup of bulgur to 2 cups water and simmer for 5 minutes.


This ancient grain is a great addition to soups, salads and baked goods. Small and similar in appearance to a sesame seed, quinoa is crunchy in its raw state but turns light and fluffy once cooked. There are many varieties of quinoa, but the three most widely cultivated are the red, purple and black varieties. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids necessary for good health.
To cook: add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes.


Oats have a slightly sweet taste and contain plenty of fibre to fill you up, making them popular at the breakfast table in cereals such as porridge and granola. During processing, oats are usually steamed and flattened to make the different varieties sold in stores. The more oats are flattened, the quicker they cook and softer they become. Steel-cut oats retain the entire oat kernel and require a longer cooking time.
To cook: add 1 cup of oats to 3 cups of water and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (20 for steel-cut oats).

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a delicious whole grain with a mild nutty flavour and a chewy texture. Brown rice differs from white rice in that only the outermost layer is removed during processing, leaving most of the nutrients in place. It's low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in manganese. The short-grain variety is sticky, which works well in puddings and layered vegetable dishes. Medium-grain rice is popular in Korean, Japanese, and Italian dishes. Use long-grain rice for stews, curries, paellas, and salads.
To cook: add 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water and simmer for 40 to 60 minutes.


Barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavour, similar to brown rice. Once cooked, barley has a pasta-like consistency that is well suited to soups, such as beef barley and vegetable barley. The fibre found in whole grain barley can help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Barley is high in protein and virtually fat-free.
To cook: add 1 cup of barley to 3–1/2 cups of water and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes.


When harvested, rye has an inedible hull that is removed before milling or eating. Whole rye kernels vary in colour from yellowish-brown to greyish-green and are often referred to as "rye berries." Rye is also available as a cracked grain, flakes, flour and meal. Rye contains a fibre that promotes a feeling of fullness, which makes it a common choice for people trying to lose weight.
To cook: add 1 cup of rye to 4 cups of water and simmer for 45-60 minutes.


Although not technically a grain, buckwheat has a nutty taste and nutrient profile similar to that of whole grains. Your family may enjoy it as a flavourful substitute for rice or an energy-filled breakfast cereal or porridge. Buckwheat's triangular seeds can be ground into flour for making noodles and crepes. Buckwheat is gluten-free and high in the antioxidant rutin, which can improve circulation and lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol.
To cook: 1 cup of buckwheat to 2 cups water and simmer for 20 minutes.

Whole Wheat Couscous

Whole wheat couscous is made from whole grain durum flour. This flour is better for you than white flour because it retains the bran and germ of the wheat berry after processing. Whole wheat couscous cooks quickly, so it's good to have on hand for those last-minute meals. It goes well with herbs and spices and adds substance to dishes featuring meat, seafood and vegetables.
To cook: add 1 cup of couscous to 1–1/2 cups water and simmer for 5 minutes.


Freekeh is wheat harvested in its young, green stage and then roasted. High in fibre, protein and many essential nutrients, including selenium, potassium and magnesium, freekeh is available in both whole and cracked forms. You can use it as a substitute for brown rice or barley to make tasty salads or risottos or add it to a parfait along with yogurt and fruit.
To cook: add 1 cup of freekeh to 2-1/2 cups of water and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes.

Whole Grain Storage Tips:

• Whole grains, as well as flours and meals made from whole grains, should be stored in airtight containers
• Intact whole grains such as brown rice will keep for up to 6 months in a cool, dry pantry, and up to 1 year in a freezer
• Flours and meals made from whole grain will keep for 1 to 3 months in a cool, dry pantry and 2 to 6 months in a freezer

Whole Grain Buying Tips:

• If whole grains are the main ingredient in a product, they should appear at the beginning of the ingredient list. Look for ingredient names to start with the word "whole," as in "whole grain whole wheat flour", "whole rye" or "whole oat."
• If buying packaged whole grains, ensure the packaging is well sealed
• Check the expiration date of packaged whole grains
• Whole grains will go bad more quickly when sold at a bulk-bin retailer, so be sure be sure to check for freshness
• Fresh grains should smell faintly sweet or have no aroma; a musty or oily scent means the grains have spoiled and should be discarded
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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