Whole Grain vs. Whole Wheat: What’s the Difference?

Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
Whole Grain vs. Whole Wheat: What's the Difference
Learn about the difference between whole grain and whole wheat products

Whole foods have become increasingly popular when it comes to eating. But with so many products claiming to be made with whole grains or whole wheat, it can be easy to be confused about the two terms and whether there is any difference.

Both whole grain and whole wheat products are known for their health-promoting properties, such as improved heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management. But are there any differences between both in terms of nutritional content and health benefits?

Learn about the difference between whole grain and whole wheat products.

What is the main difference between whole grain and whole wheat products?

The main difference between whole grain and whole wheat is the type of grain being used.

  • Products labeled whole grain can be made of any whole grain kernel such as spelt, corn, rye, oats, barley, or wheat.
  • Products labeled whole wheat exclusively refer to the use of wheat grain kernels, which have not been altered, stripped, or mixed with any other grains.

Because wheat is a type of grain, it is considered a whole grain. Essentially, all whole wheat products are whole grains, but not vice versa.

The term “whole grain” means the entire grain kernel is used. Every grain contains the bran, endosperm, and germ in their complete form:

  • Bran: Fibrous outer layer of the kernel that is rich in B vitamins and minerals
  • Germ: Middle part of the kernel that is rich in a variety of nutrients, such as healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytochemicals, and antioxidants
  • Endosperm: Largest component of the grain kernel that consists of starchy carbs, some protein, and a lower amount of vitamins and minerals

What are the differences between whole grain and whole wheat?

Table. Whole grain vs. whole wheat characteristics
Differentiating factors Whole grain Whole wheat
Content Made from entire grain kernel (bran, endosperm, and germ) Made from entire wheat kernel (bran, endosperm, and germ)
Flavor Depends on the grains used Rich, nutty
Texture Generally denser Lighter
Nutrients More minerals and fiber than whole wheat Fewer minerals and fiber than other whole grains
Fat content Many grains have lower fat content than whole wheat Higher than other whole grains
Price Slightly more expensive than whole wheat Slightly less expensive than other whole grain

Which is healthier?

Because both whole grain and whole wheat products contain the entire grain kernel, they are equally nutritious. However, each grain present in a whole grain product will change the composition and amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat).

Diets rich in whole grains are linked to a lower risk of chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Unlike whole grains, refined grains are stripped of the germ and bran during processing, which minimizes their nutrient and fiber content.

For people who are allergic to wheat, have celiac disease, or are gluten-sensitive, there are several gluten-free grains and whole grain products to choose from that are free of wheat and gluten.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

What are the health benefits of whole grains?

  • Reduces the risk of chronic disease: Whole grains are associated with reducing the risk of obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer —major health conditions responsible for millions of deaths each year.
  • Helps regulate blood sugar: Studies have reported that daily consumption of about 2-3 servings of whole grains (30-45 grams) can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes due to the presence of magnesium and chromium.
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease: Studies have shown that eating whole grains regularly lowers total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol, in turn reducing the risk for heart disease.
  • Prevents certain types of cancer: Studies have suggested that people who eat whole grains have a reduced risk of colorectal cancer than those who eat refined grains. 
  • Aids weight management: Research studies have reported that people who consume more whole grains tend to have lower body mass, more ideal body fat percentages, and less abdominal obesity.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
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What's Better: Whole Wheat or Whole Grain? Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/What-s-Better-Whole-Wheat-or-Whole-Grain#:~:text=Whole%20wheat%20means%20that%20the,mixture%20of%20different%20whole%20grains.

Which Bread Is Best For You- Whole –Grain, Multigrain, or Whole Wheat? Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/bread-best-whole-grain-multigrain-whole-wheat/’

Whole Grains. Harvard T.H. Chan: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/