What is the Difference Between Whole Grain and Whole Wheat?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

When it comes to the differences between whole grain products and whole wheat products, there may be some confusion among consumers. While there are many similarities between whole wheat and grain products, there are a few differences that could be very important.

Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).

One of the main differences between whole wheat and whole grain is the process that is used to prepare the grain flour. With whole-wheat flour, the grain has gone through a refining process that has removed some of the nutritional value from the end product. By contrast, whole-grain flour does not go through this refining process, and thus maintains the natural level of nutrients.

Barley, a type of grain.
Barley, a type of grain.

In appearance, whole wheat and whole grain products may look very similar. For example, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a cereal made with whole grains and a similar product made from whole wheat. The difference is sometimes easier to taste. Whole grain will have a slightly richer flavor than whole wheat, although both are very pleasing, and more tasty and nutritious than bleached flour products.

Whole wheat and whole grain bread can look very similar.
Whole wheat and whole grain bread can look very similar.

Whole grain breads are also different from their whole wheat counterparts. Generally, whole wheat loaves will be lighter in texture, almost as light as a loaf of bread made with bleached flour. Whole grain loaves of bread will have a denser texture, and often are considered more filling. The additional nutrients and fiber content often make it possible to consume less bread and still feel satisfied at the end of the meal.

Whole wheat flour undergoes a refining process that removes some of the nutritional value.
Whole wheat flour undergoes a refining process that removes some of the nutritional value.

Whole grain bread may have health benefits that are particularly important to persons who struggle with blood glucose levels. For people who are in a prediabetic state or are managing Type 2 diabetes with diet, products with whole grains may be a sensible source of complex carbohydrates. While containing as many carbohydrates as whole wheat or bleached bread, these products tend to create less of a spike in blood glucose levels, and absorb into the system with greater ease. While this is not universally true for all persons dealing with blood glucose issues, choosing a slice of whole grain bread over other bread options has proven helpful in managing a balanced diet while still watching blood sugar levels.

Whole grain breads are typically low fat, cholesterol free, and high in fiber.
Whole grain breads are typically low fat, cholesterol free, and high in fiber.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Where can I buy whole grain breads with low sodium? What supermarket or market sells this? Every known affordable super market does not sell whole grain breads, low in sodium.


It appears to me that the comparison being made is like comparing "apples to oranges" or to be more precise, apples to fruit. Grain is a more generic term than wheat. There are a number of types of grain including wheat, barley, millet, quinoa, etc. Therefore, there does not have to be any difference between whole wheat and whole grain. It is my opinion that trying to differentiate whole wheat from whole grain is like saying what is the difference between an apple and a fruit.

In fact, according to the U.S. government definitions for food labeling, "Whole wheat flour... is the food prepared by so grinding cleaned wheat ... The proportions of the natural constituents of such wheat, other than moisture, remain unaltered." 21 CFR 137.200(a).


OK people, look. This is quite obvious.

The article clearly defines the difference between whole wheat and whole grain.

The reason the difference needs to be defined is because people like us may not know, however, it should be clearly marked on any product if it is whole wheat or whole grain.

I would be skeptical of the stone ground products, because if it truly wasn't put through any refining process would it not be labeled whole grain? I personally believe it would be if it were, and because it is not labeled as such, I would treat it as regular whole wheat.

Now this is where the corporations start throwing everybody curveballs.

Take the pretzels for example. The company is allowed to call the pretzels whole grain as long as they contain some whole grain. This does not mean that it won't contain refined whole wheat or enriched bleached flour, but simply that it does contain whole grain.

The same is absolutely true of all whole wheat products. (Going back to the stone ground -- if it could be passed off as whole grain, I am sure it would be.)

Read your labels! Make sure it says 100 percent whole grain (or 100 percent whole wheat, but why would you want that now that you the difference?)

100 percent whole grain. Otherwise, it could be 99 percent white bread and 1 percent whole grain and still be labeled super healthy whole grain bread. Be vigilant.


Trader Joe's sells a "Whole Grain" pretzel product with the words whole grain huge on the package. However, in the ingredients list, the product is made from whole wheat flour and nothing is said about whole grain.

Your page seems to confirm that there is a difference between whole wheat flour and whole wheat flour that is also whole grain, eg. whole grain whole wheat flour?

It doesn't look like you are answering questions, which is what I am after.


how do you tell whole grain from whole wheat when you read the label?


When we come to the nutritional value, whole grain is much more nutritious than whole wheat due to the refining process.

No, we can't say that whole wheat is refined after stone ground. Brent, Oat Roller


Is whole wheat considered refined if it is stoneground?

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