Center for Young Women's Health




  • Grains are high in carbohydrates.
  • Whole grains contain nutrients from all parts of the grain.
  • Grains provide nutrients and energy to your brain and muscles.

What are grains?

Foods such as wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or products made from these foods are considered grains. Grains are high in carbohydrates which provide energy to your brain and muscles. Not all grains are created equally in terms of nutritional benefits. The health benefits of a grain depend on the form of the grain you actually eat. There are two types of grains: whole grains and refined grains. When you eat a whole grain, your body is getting nutrients found in all parts of the grain. Whole grain foods include oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Refined grains have been processed and are missing some of these nutrients. Refined grain foods include white bread, white rice, and many kinds of pasta. When you eat grains, try having whole grains as much as possible.


What are some different kinds of grains?

There are many different types of great tasting and good for you grains. Add variety to your diet by trying some of the grains listed below. These grains can be added to stews and soups, served as a side dish, or eaten as a hot cereal.


Barley is a large, brown grain. You can find it in stores sold either as "pearled" or “unhulled.” Pearled barley is processed, while unhulled barley is a whole grain and has more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Barley can be added to soups, stews, hot cereals, and casseroles. You can also try adding barley to salads or stuffing. Barley
Buckwheat is a reddish-brown plant seed, which can be eaten whole, cracked (broken), hulled (processed), or toasted. Kasha is made from buckwheat and can be used in pilafs, burgers, or in casseroles. Buckwheat
Corn is a grain that grows on a cob with the kernels enclosed in a leafy husk. Corn can be eaten whole or ground into cornmeal, which can be made into foods such as bread or tortillas. Corn (unless it is “degerminated”) is a whole grain. Many people are surprised to learn that popcorn is a whole grain. Corn
Millet is a small, yellow, and bead-like whole grain. Millet has a mild, nutty flavor and can be eaten in salads, pilafs, or mixed with pasta. Millet
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a small, disk-shaped seed with a light flavor and texture. Quinoa is a great source of protein and can be cooked and used in salads, soups, stews, pilafs, and as a substitute for rice. Quinoa
Rice comes in many different varieties and is popular world-wide. Brown rice is a whole grain and contains more vitamins and minerals than white rice, which has the outer part removed. When cooked, long-grain rice is fluffier while short-grain rice is stickier. Rice
Wheat is a commonly eaten grain that comes is different forms. Whole wheat kernels (such as bulgur and wheat berries) can be eaten on their own as a side dish or in a salad. Look for versions of these products that contain “whole wheat”. Wheat


Nutrition Facts for Grains
½ Cup Serving
Barley, pearled 3 grams
Brown Rice 2 grams
Buckwheat (kasha) 3 grams
Bulgur 4 grams
Corn 2 grams
Millet 1 grams
Quinoa 3 grams
White Rice 0.3 grams

How do I cook grains?

Rinse 1 cup of grains in cold water and then drain. To cook grains, put 2 cups of cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the drained grains to boiling water and cover pot. Turn down the heat so the water is boiling lightly, or simmering. Cook until there is no water left and grains are slightly chewy. Do not stir or uncover the pot while the grains are cooking.


Cooking tips:

Here are two easy recipes to try:


Veggie Rice Pilaf



1 ½ cups cooked brown rice (or other grain)

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 clove garlic, cut-up

1 medium carrot, sliced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

½ cup chickpeas

1 egg, beaten

1/8 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Black pepper and soy sauce to taste



  1. Heat butter or margarine in a frying pan.
  2. Add onions. Stir onions and cook until soft.
  3. Add carrots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 more minutes.
  5. Add garbanzo beans and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add egg and stir until the egg is cooked.
  7. Remove from heat and add parsley or cilantro, pepper, and cooked brown rice.
  8. Add soy sauce, if desired, and serve.




1 cup bulgur

2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped

3 green onions with tops, diced

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup lemon juice

1/3 cup fresh mint

2/3 cup olive oil



  1. Place bulgur in bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water.
  2. Soak for 30 minutes. Then drain and squeeze out excess water.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, parsley, mint, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  4. Mix and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
  5. Mix again and serve.

Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 12/27/2012


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