Following is the official definition of whole grains, approved and endorsed by the Whole Grains Council in May 2004:

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.

This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.

List of whole grains

The following, when consumed in a form including the bran, germ and endosperm, are examples* of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours. Click here to learn more about each one.

* Note: This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but to include those grains most familiar to consumers. Other cereal grasses from the Poaceae (or Gramineous) family, such as canary seed, Job’s tears, Montina, Timothy, fonio, etc. are also whole grains when consumed with all of their bran, germ and endosperm.

Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat are not in the Poaceae botanical family, but these “pseudo-grains” are normally included with true cereal grains because their nutritional profile, preparation, and use are so similar.

Oilseeds and legumes (such as flax, chia, sunflower seeds, soy, chickpeas, etc.) are not considered whole grains by the WGC, the AACC International, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).