Beyond Quinoa: 5 Healthy Whole Grains You’ve Never Heard of

Main 5 whole grains demystified

Evidence abounds that whole grains and other less-processed sources of carbohydrates offer tremendous health benefits—like lowering cholesterol and the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, aiding digestive health, and promoting longevity, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

You know the mainstream varieties—oats, quinoa—but what the heck is sorghum and freekeh? With the help of The Whole Grains Council, we’ve broken down the need-to-know info on both, plus three other healthy varietes you should add to your diet. Plus, they’re all popping up in packaged snacks these days too, so we’ll tell you where you can find them. 

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Sorghum is naturally gluten-free. What’s more, the ancient cereal grain is eaten with its outer layers intact, so it retains most of its nutrients. These waxy outer layers are loaded with compounds called policosanols that may prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, according to research. Sorghum is also high in antioxidants believed to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and some neurological diseases. Its mild, sometimes sweet flavor make it an easy sub-in for dishes, and its low glycemic index helps keep you full. 

You’ll find it in KIND’s newest line: KIND Healthy Grains Popped. Popped to toasty perfection, sorghum adds a popcorn-like crunch and taste. Look out for their new line—flavors include Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt—which launches this May.





Amaranth is another gluten-free whole grain; though, unlike sorghum, it’s classified as a pseudo-cereal, meaning it’s actually a seed. Like quinoa, it’s a source of complete protein because it contains lysine, an amino acid, which is thought to build muscle mass, especially when combined Arginine (another amino acid), according to research. Compared to other grains, amaranth has three times the average amount of calcium, contains high levels of protein, and is loaded with other essential vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Note: when cooking, make sure you use 6 cups of water for every cup of amaranth—it absorbs that much water, according to The Whole Grains Council. 

You’ll find it in Van’s Simply Delicious Gluten Free Fire-Roasted Veggie Crackers. These snacks boast 16 grams of whole grains (amaranth, brown rice, oats, millet and quinoa).

Buckwheat – Healthy Grains

Buckwheat is actually a seed, too. And it’s a standout when it comes to biological protein (the measure of absorbed protein and how readily the digested protein can be used in the body). One cup of cooked buckwheat contains 5.7 grams of protein, according to Calorie Counter. Like amaranth, buckwheat is rich in lysine, amino acids, vitamins and minerals like potassium, zinc and copper. 

You’ll find it in Journey Bars. The brand’s savory line of snacks (with flavors like Pizza Marinara and Coconut Curry) all have a whole grain and seed base made from gluten-free oats, organic buckwheat, and sesame seeds.  



Before you mess it up, it’s pronounced “free-kah,” and it’s derived from wheat, meaning it’s not gluten-free. It is, however, high in protein and fiber—trumping quinoa—and has low glycemic index levels. 

You can substitute it anywhere you’d use whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, farro, bulgur, or steel cut oats. It’s the perfect base for sweet or savory dishes. Try Freekeh Foods packaged frekkeh in Original, Tamari and Rosemary Sage varieties. 


This one’s pronounced “trih-tih-KAY-lee,” and it’s a hybrid of wheat and rye, combining the benefits of both grains, according to The Whole Grains Council. Like rye, triticale is rich in dietary fiber and arabinoxylan fiber (a byproduct of wheat flour, and one of the main components of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, shown to have strong antioxidant activity). Triticale is also composed of acids and compounds that may help moderate insulin levels, weight management, and help improve satiety.  

You’ll find it in Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Triticale Flakes—a great substitute for oatmeal. You can also purchase their Triticale flour, which can be subbed in for the regular stuff in baking and cooking recipes. 


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