How to Understand Whole Grain Labels

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Do you often feel confused when it comes to dealing with nutrition labels? Well, you’re definitely not alone on that one.

Did you know added sugar has over 50 different names, making it tricky for you to decipher what exactly you’re looking at when you’re buying groceries?

The same is true when it comes to carbohydrates such as whole grains.  

We all know carbohydrates are a vital nutrient that the body always needs for energy, but that doesn’t mean all carbs are created equal.

Whole grains are important when it comes to your diet – they give you the widest variety of healthy nutrients out of most carbohydrate types. They’re not like refined grains, for example, that have been processed to remove all the iron, dietary fiber, and other nutrients from the grains.

And not only is fiber an essential part of your entire digestive process, but it also feeds the healthy bacteria inside your gut and lowers cholesterol. Some whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and farro include rich combinations of magnesium, thiamin, niacin, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and tons of other health-charging nutrients.

But even if you are actively seeking out whole grains because you know they’re healthy, it can still be super difficult to find products that aren’t just pretending to be whole grains.

That’s why today, we’re taking a look at how to decode the whole grain labels, so you know you’re getting the highest bang for your carbohydrate buck:


According to the FDA, this is the only label that actually means the product is made only with whole grains. But this still doesn’t mean they’re the only ingredient. You can still find a ton of added oils, salt, sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives, and other ingredients inside.

Even though that’s not always a bad thing, make sure when you’re choosing a product with a label that says “100% whole grain,” you’re not buying something with a ton of added sugar or saturated fat along with it on the label.


The organic label is regulated by the USDA, or the United States Department of Agriculture. To get this label, whole grains must have at least 95 percent of their product come from organic sources. This means it could be produced in line with standards that limit the amount of pesticides or similar substances that are used, as well as producing them in line with certain environmentally friendly practices.

And still, just because a grain product is organic, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier. Make sure you’re looking for the 100% whole grain label here because just because a product is organic, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a whole grain.


This label is, for the most part, meaningless. When it comes to the actual nutritional profile of a product, every product that contains even the slightest amount of whole grains can be considered made with whole grains. That being said, most of it could still be made up of refined grains or other poor ingredients.

Please understand there’s nothing wrong with refined grains some of the time – you need everything in moderation – but if you are actually looking for whole-grain ingredients because of their richer nutrient profile, this isn’t one of the labels for you.


If you see a product that’s labeled whole wheat, this means it’s made up of a minimum 51 percent whole grains by total weight. The other 49 percent (or less) are distributed among refined grains, added oils, salt, sweeteners, and more. If the label says “whole wheat, that 51 percent comes from wheat. If it’s whole grain, it could either come from one grain or a combination of a couple of whole grains.

Whole wheat and whole grain products are usually not as nutritious as 100% whole-grain options, but they’re still not a bad choice.


A whole-grain product with a label like this should contain at least 5 grams/100 of fiber, about 20 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Products like these are, for the most part, great whole grains, but still, check to make sure you’re not running into a situation like the one with 100% whole grains.


This is a product made with more than one type of grain. But it doesn’t mean all of those grains are whole grains. More often than not, it’s close to none. The same goes for labels such as 15-grain or 10-grain. Just because grains are in the product, doesn’t mean whole grains are an ingredient at all, let alone one of the main ingredients.

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