Nutrition: Whole Grain vs Multi-Grain

Grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which our body needs to survive. Many people get those grains in the form of bread from the bread aisle in the grocery store. That aisle can become difficult to navigate when each loaf of bread uses different healthy sounding words like, “enriched,” “multigrain,” “12-grain,” or “whole-wheat.” Many runners know their body needs quality whole grains, but the abundance of labels can stand between them and good health. Here’s how to sift the wheat from the tares. Also, take a look here for more on nutrition.


Enriched is the furthest away from whole wheat bread can be without being white. Enriched means the bread is made with white wheat flour and then nutrients are added. It is a refined loaf of bread with synthetic nutrients added to substitute those natural nutrients lost in the milling process. “Enriched” never describes whole grains.

Wheat Flour

“Wheat flour” is a vague term that eludes to being whole grain, but again is likely far from it. Wheat flour is made by grinding the wheat grain. The grain includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. In the milling process, the bran and germ are removed to create white flour. In items labeled “wheat flour” some of either the germ or bran may be used, but it will not include the whole grain.


Multigrain refers to the number of grains used in a bread and does not actually describe the grain. A bread with a multigrain label may contain multiple grains, none of which are whole grains. Additionally, it may include multiple grains but only some of them are whole grains. In the latter situation, the label can be misleading because it may list for example, “Enriched white flour, whole wheat flour, whole millet” suggesting it is mostly whole grain. However, it could contain 80 percent enriched white flour and only 20 percent whole grains.

Whole Wheat

“Whole wheat” indicates the bran, germ, and endosperm have been included and the flour is, therefore, whole grain. This is the ideal ingredient and it should be listed as the first ingredient for a loaf of bread. The 100% Whole Grain Stamp makes it easier to find a whole grain loaf.
Other whole grains are also desirable. For example, brown rice, oatmeal, and corn flour.
Whole-grain foods are important for health because they contain nutrients, fiber and other healthy plant compounds found naturally in the grain. Healthy adults should eat at least three 1-ounce equivalents of whole grains a day as part of a balanced diet.
Of course, eating right won’t do much without proper exercise, so don’t forget about that treadmill either.