What's The Difference: Whole Wheat, Whole Grain, And Multigrain Bread

These are not the same kinds of bread.

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ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

When it comes to bread, there's so much more than your usual pandesal and white bread loaves. For those who love bread, they know that there is also the whole wheat bread which is commonly distinguished by its light brown or tan color versus the pure white bread of the common sandwich slice. 

However, a quick visit to the "Bread" section of your local supermarket can reveal a startling range of different kinds of bread, a few of which with terms that seem like the same thing. 

Guess what? "Whole wheat bread" is not the same as whole grain bread. "Whole grain bread" is not the same as "multigrain bread" either. 

If none of these are the same kinds of bread, what are they? Here's what you should know: 

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1 "Whole wheat" can be whole grain but only contains whole wheat kernels.  

Is that confusing? Wheat is the kind of grain that wheat flour is made from. In the case of whole wheat bread, it uses whole wheat flour which is made of the finely ground up wheat kernel or the wheat seed to make the flour. These are the parts of the whole wheat kernel:

  • • The bran is the protective outer shell or skin that protects the germ and the endosperm. This is what is also known as wheat bran. 
  • • The germ or wheat germ is the part of the kernel that becomes the sprout and then the adult plant when planted. 
  • • The endosperm makes up the biggest part of the seed. 
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If you're having a hard time visualizing what the kernel looks like using these terms, think of it like an egg: the bran is the shell, the germ is the yolk, and the endosperm is the egg white.

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In white bread or bread that uses white flour, only the endosperm is used in making the flour. In whole wheat flour, the entire kernel includes the brown-colored bran which is why it's a little tan in color. All this means is that bread made with whole wheat flour is more nutritious since the bran and the germ are included in the flour. This also makes whole wheat flour spoil faster than white flour since the fat in the germ (aka the yolk of the wheat kernel) spoils more readily. 

2 "Whole grain" contains the "whole wheat" kernel but it can be made with another kind of grain.  

Whole grain bread can sound equally confusing but it's more basic. It may not be wheat. It's similar to whole wheat bread in the sense that it uses the whole grain when the flour is made, but what makes it different is that it can be made from wheat or it can be made from something else. In fact, wheat may or may not be the only kind of grain that the bread contains. 

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If you have ever eaten rye bread, you are probably eating whole grain bread. That's because rye is a different kind of grain. Oats are another kind of grain that can be used to make whole grain bread. This is where gluten-free flour comes in since gluten is found in wheat but not in oats. 

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3 "Multigrain" can contain two, three, or more kinds of different grains. 

Did you know there are many kinds of grains that can be made into flour? This is where "multigrain" comes in. You can have bread made from two, three, or even more different kinds of grains. The flour can be a combination of different flours made from different grains to create a unique flavor and texture that you can only get from mixing different grains together. 

The "multigrain" tag is like an umbrella term for different kinds of grains, which include these: 

  • • barley
  • • buckwheat
  • • corn
  • • millet
  • • oats
  • • quinoa
  • • rice
  • • rye
  • • sorghum (also called milo)

Any of these grains can be made into flour and can be included in your multigrain bread. These grains are commonly used as a topping of your multigrain bread so you know what you're eating. 

Whether you're a fan of whole wheat or prefer a different kind of grain for your bread, you know you're eating a delicious kind of bread. 

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