Whole Grains: Oats

Whole Grains Oats

Oats are a wonderful grain. They’re a Canadian crop, extremely versatile, and very nutritious. There are quite a few types of oats and oat products found in the grocery store, all with their own best uses. Here we will explain the differences between them and what you can use each type for.


It’s important to remember the differences in oats have to do with how they are processed before they end up in their packaging in the store. Just like other grains, a whole oat has an endosperm, germ, bran, and outer hull. However, unlike other grains, processing doesn’t remove most these items but rather modifies the oat as a whole while removing the inedible hull.

Large Flake Oats

Large flake oats are made by taking the whole oat and rolling it flat. They take a little longer to cook than an ‘instant’ oat variety, but they contain more insoluble fibre (the rough stuff) and more beta-glucans which are an insoluble fibre that helps your GI tract maintain it’s beautiful flora! They are very versatile, can be used in many different recipes, and retain their shape during the cooking process.

Instant Oats

Instant oats have been rolled flat like the large flake oats, but then they’ve been beaten up by way of being chopped up. This ‘chopping’ causes them to soak up by water much quicker during cooking than their intact large flake friends which allows them to cook much quicker. They have a more flaky consistency than the large flake oats.

Instant oats can be used almost anywhere a large flake can be used but they aren’t providing as much of a fibrous punch because the oats are in smaller pieces.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats (or Irish oats) are made by taking the whole oat and chopping it up. This is different from the chopped up instant oats because the instant ones were rolled flat first, these ones are not. Steel cut oats take quite a bit longer to cook because they are still very enclosed in their outer fibrous layer, but they also pack a nice fibre punch.



I’ve mentioned before that oats contain a lot of fibre – two types to be precise! They contain the rough stuff, or soluble fibre as well as beta-glucans (just like barley), which is an insoluble fibre. There is also a health claim about oat fibre content in Canada where: “Oat fibre helps reduce/lower cholesterol.”

Oats do not contain gluten however the harvesting and processing of oats may lead to cross contamination. If you have celiac disease be sure to read labels carefully to find a brand of oats that is gluten free.


Large flake oats can be used in many dishes including bulking up burgers or meatloaf or in desserts like apple crisp. They add extra nutrition and texture compared to their ‘instant’ counterparts. We prefer large flake oats over instant oats when making oatmeal because they have a bit more of a bite to them than instant oats. However, instant oats are great for a bowl of oatmeal when you only have a few minutes.

Steel Cut oats can be made a head of time and served in the morning topped with your favourite nuts, seeds, and fruit. You can also freeze them into pucks in a large muffin tin for perfect individual portions.

Other oat products include: Oat bran (can replace wheat bran in a pinch) and oat flour.

Continue Reading

Cranberry Almond Granola Bars

This easy granola bar recipe lends itself well to many flavour combinations and variations.  Feel free to add any variety of nuts, seeds, and chocolate chips, along with any spices, that you like.

For example, instead of almonds and cranberries, try:

Pecan-Cranberry – add 1/3 cup chopped pecans and 1/3 cup dried cranberries to the dry ingredients, along with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.

Chocolate-Cranberry  add 1/3 cup dried cranberries to the dry ingredients; once they are coated with the sugar mixture, allow to cool slightly and add 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips.

Chocolate-Almond – add 1/3 cup dried cranberries to the dry ingredients; once they are coated with the sugar mixture, allow to cool slightly and add 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips.

NOTE: We tested the following recipe with both creamed honey and liquid honey.  The bars from the liquid honey did not stick together as nicely as the bars with creamed honey.



Print Recipe
Cranberry Almond Granola Bars
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
9x13 pan
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
9x13 pan
  1. Line with parchment, or grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, rice crispies, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine and let it come to a boil. Once the whole pot is boiling, cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour butter mixture over dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are well coated.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan and press firmly. Place pan in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Cut into desired sizes.
Share this Recipe
Continue Reading

Whole Grains: Barley

Whole Grains Barley

Barley is a versatile and nutritious whole grain Canadian crop making it a staple in our kitchens.

Types of Barley

There are two types of barley, that are commonly available: pot barley and pearl barley. Pot and Pearl barley are very similar. In fact they only differ in how long they have gone through a pearling process, with pearl barley going though longer. This pearling process removes the outer bran, therefore removing some of the fibre. But don’t worry – the beneficial soluble fibre is found throughout the barley grain! Pot and pearl barley cook in about the time amount of time.

Barley flour can also be found in the grocery store and is a great supplement to regular wheat flours. It contains a lot of soluble and insoluble fibres but not a lot of gluten so it shouldn’t be substituted 1:1. Finally, barley flakes are available but you may only find them in health and bulk food stores.


You may not know this, but in Canada barley carries a health claim: Barley can reduce blood cholesterol. This health claim is based on the beta-glucans in barley, a type of soluble fibre. The claim is that 3 grams per day of beta-glucans from barley can help to lower blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

On top of this health claim, the fibre in barley helps you to feel fuller, longer and gives it a great texture. Barley also contains a wide variety of nutrients including B vitamins and is low in sodium and fat.

Barley and barley products do contain gluten, which is something to avoid if you have celiac disease.


Barley is very versatile and can be used as an alternative to rice or quinoa, eaten as a pilaf, or a salad.

Barley flour can be substituted for part of the wheat flour in your recipe but should not be used to replace all of it.

For barley recipes and more information visit our Recipe Page and GoBarley.

Continue Reading

Whole Grain Storage

Whole Grains Storage

Whole grain storage methods are important to consider to best minimize spoilage and food waste. The bags that most flours and dry goods come in aren’t suitable for longer term storage. Your best bet is to transfer your product into more air tight containers. Dry goods such as rice and oats should also be stored in air tight containers in a cool dry place to maximize their shelf life and minimize food waste and spoilage.

OatsHow should your store whole grains?

Store your whole grains in air tight containers in a cool dry place. This may mean pouring flour from the bags you buy them into new plastic or glass containers. Flours and meals will last 1-3 months in your pantry or up to 6 months in the freezer. Whole intact grains will keep for 6 months in your pantry or up to a year in the freezer.

Great storage options: Large Rubbermaid, Tupperware, or other plastic food storage containers, glass mason jars, OXO Pop-Top containers.

Do I have to store whole grains in the fridge or freezer?

No! As long as you keep your whole grains in air tight containers and in a cool dry place they should be just fine. The only exception to this rule is wheat germ, which should be kept in the fridge once it has been opened.

Check out our Resources Page for more information about whole grains and our Recipe Page for fun ways to add more whole grains into your diet.

Continue Reading

Whole Grains: Wheat

Whole Grains: Wheat

A single grain of wheat consists of three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.

Wheat Kernel

Combining these different parts creates different flours:

White flour: is made up of only the endosperm.

Whole wheat flour: is made up of the endosperm and the bran.

Whole grain flour: is made up of all three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.


Each part has different nutritional value and contributes something different to our health, making the anatomy of a wheat kernel very important:

Endosperm: makes up most of the grain and is the plant’s primary source of energy.  It is also considered a simple sugar and is digested and metabolized very quickly in our bodies.

The bran: is the second largest part of the grain kernel and holds the majority of the fibre in a wheat kernel.  The bran also contains a variety of essential fatty acids, which also makes it susceptible to rancidity.  To prevent it from going rancid too quickly, you can store it in the fridge.

The germ: is the smallest part of the grain, and contains the living part of the grain.  You can buy and bake with wheat germ to add more nutritional value.

Both the germ and the bran are separated from the endosperm during wheat processing and then added back in to create different flours.  Removal of the germ and the bran dramatically changes the nutritional value of the grain.


All parts of the wheat kernel can be used in a variety of ways:

All varieties of wheat flour can be used in baking and white flour is used in some cooking applications as well.  Wheat bran and germ by themselves can be added to cereals to give additional nutritional value. They can also be used in baking, by substituting part of the white flour measurement with wheat bran or wheat germ.

White flour is most popular and provides the best tasting end product, in most cases.  Anything from cookies to cakes to breads and doughs will have more palatable end products with white flour.  Adding whole wheat flour in place of some all purpose flour in a recipe may add a little more nutrition to some recipes, without affecting the taste too much.   Whole grain flour is probably the most difficult flour to incorporate, however, it does make a very hearty loaf of bread!

Continue Reading