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Health Food Store Tour: Whole Grains

April 26, 2012

Hi there! I’m Christy Goldfeder, Health Coach and IIN Graduate, Class of 2006. Join me on IIN’s virtual Health Food Store Tour, where I’ll give you weekly tips on how to shop healthfully. Come back each week as we stroll through the aisles to discover which foods are the healthiest.

Whole grains are a staple food in many cultures – rice in Asia, amaranth, corn and quinoa in the Americas, couscous and teff in Africa, wheat and buckwheat in Europe. However, grains are not right for everyone. According to the blood type diet, people with type O blood do better by limiting grain. And those with celiac or gluten sensitivity must be careful to keep glutinous grains out of their diets.

This is what I tell my clients to look out for when shopping for whole grains:

Unrefined – If you’re going to eat grain, eat it whole. Unrefined means that it’s not ground up and made into another product (like bread, pasta, cookies or pastries). You should be able to recognize the grain.

Don’t get tricked by slick packaging claiming that the food contains whole grains. Sure, it might be partially whole, but if it just says "wheat flour," it’s probably made with white flour – it must specify that it’s "whole wheat."

Bulk – Buying your grains in bulk helps the environment and will save you money (you’re not paying extra for the packaging). Shop in the bulk aisle whenever possible.

Organic and non-GMO – Organic grains are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Non-genetically modified organism grains ensure that they have not Frankenstein’ed.

Here are some grains to experiment with:


Amaranth – this comes from a broadleaf plant and is a “pseudocereal” (true grains come from grasses). Amaranth is gluten free, and known for having more protein than most non-glutinous grains. It is also rich in B vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium and iron. Try this tasty creamy millet and amaranth recipe.


Buckwheat – this is actually a fruit seed closely related to rhubarb and sorrel. The pyramid shaped grain can be found raw or toasted (as Kasha) in health food stores. Buckwheat can help prevent gallstones and promote cardiovascular health, and it is rich in manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, fiber, and copper. Try it out with this very Russian buckwheat recipe.

brown rice

Brown rice – unlike its polished white version, brown rice is a highly nutritious grain. It protects against colon cancer, gallstones, and heart disease with its high fiber content, manganese, selenium, and magnesium. It’s also fairly easy to find in your local supermarket as well as your health food store. Try this delicious coconut brown rice recipe.


Corn – a staple in the Americas, corn is renown for its diverse antioxidant content that can help lower the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. Its high-fiber content can also help support digestive health. Try this basic polenta recipe


Millet – Frequently found in birdseed, but not just for the birds, the phosphorous in millet helps with fat metabolism, body tissue repair and creating energy. It’s also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3), which can help lower cholesterol. Try out millet with this tasty millet mash recipe.


Quinoa – this protein-rich seed is a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. As a good source of magnesium, it is known to help relieve migraine sufferers. Try this easy quinoa tabouleh recipe.

What are your favorite whole grains? Please share your recipes!