It’s misleading, if not impossible, to rank grains. Their relative value depends on what nutrients you are looking for. Is one nutrient more important than another? Is fiber more important than protein? Maybe, if you’re a senior citizen, but not if you’re a child. Do you judge nutritional value by nutrients per ounce, or nutrients per calorie? When you see any rating system for food, take it with a grain of salt and remember that variety is an important key to healthy eating.
In spite of these difficulties, we decided to give it a try and rate the twelve most common grains according to the following nutrients: protein, fiber, iron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and calcium. If you assign one point for each of these nutrients, the ratings come out as follows:
|Total Nutrient Points (highest to lowest)||Fiber Content (grams per serving)||Protein (grams per serving)|
The grains highest in calcium, ranked in order are: amaranth, quinoa, oats, barley, rye, and whole wheat. Gluten-free grains are: corn, rice, soy. (Buckwheat may contain a small amount of gluten.) The top five grains for iron are: quinoa, amaranth, oats, enriched rice, millet and barley. The top grains for zinc (an important immune-booster) are: wild rice, rye, amaranth, oats, and quinoa. The top grains for folic acid are: millet, wild rice, rye, amaranth, and oats.
Even though nutritionally amaranth would rank as the greatest grain, overall the top grain in our book is whole wheat. Even though other grains may have slightly more nutrients, wheat is a whole lot more useful in a whole lot more foods. Whole wheat comes out as top grain.