A useful list of what is a grain, and what is NOT a grain. It doesn’t include everything. But it’s a good start.
Grains – containing gluten:
- Barley, including barley malt
- Graham flour (wheat)
- Cornflour made from wheat
- Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
Grains – gluten-free:
- Cornflour made from corn
- Wild Rice (this one is open to debate – some people swear it is a grain, some people swear it isn’t and is, in fact, another one of the grain-like seeds. I treat it as a grain myself but you are welcome to decide otherwise. Same applies to Millet)
- Montina flour
- Oats (if certified gluten-free)
So anything made from these products would also contain grains – like cakes, biscuits, pizzas, bread, pasta, bread crumbs, spaghetti, sauces, soy sauce, sauces or processed drinks etc, beer, glucose made from wheat, commercially made stock: like chicken, beef or vegetable stock in either powder or liquid usually contains some kind of grain.
Pseudo-Cereals – gluten-free grain-like seeds:
These foods are “gray area grain free”, they are technically considered seeds but are treated as and considered grains by many people. They are not allowed on Paleo, GAPS, AIP, SCD but are allowed on Body Ecology and some healthcare practitioners do allow them.
- Amaranth – is a grain-like seed, from the broadleaf (dicot) plant family. (OK for Body Ecology, or if tolerated, not paleo or GAPS). Is generally treated as a grain when discussing due to being cooked and used much the same way as cereal grains, but is in class Magnoliopsida, while the cereal grain family Poaceae stems from class Liliopsida.
- Buckwheat also called Kasha – is a grain-like seed, related to rhubarb, from the broadleaf (dicot) plant family. (OK for Body Ecology, or if tolerated, not paleo or GAPS). Is generally treated as a grain when discussing due to being cooked and used much the same way as cereal grains, but is in class Magnoliopsida, while family Poaceae stems from class Liliopsida.
- Quinoa – is a grain-like seed, from the broadleaf (dicot) plant family. (OK for Body Ecology, or if tolerated, not paleo or GAPS). Is generally treated as a grain when discussing due to being cooked and used much the same way as cereal grains, but is in class Magnoliopsida, while family Poaceae stems from class Liliopsida.
- Millet – The Body Ecology diet says it is a pseudo-cereal, a gluten-free grain-like seed. However, it is a member of the plant family Poaceae, of which the other cereal grasses belong and is generally recognized as a grain in most sources I have checked. Because of this, I have listed it on the gray area grain list and it is up to your own research/opinion as to whether you choose to treat it as a grain or not.
In reviewing this list, it may be helpful for you to also view the following articles that give good discussions on how to define a grain:“Not All Seeds are Grains” by herbologist Roy CollinsWikipedia entry for “Food Grain”Grains vs Seeds from the Wholegrains Council
Foods that are grain free, even though they are often used as a flour or look a bit like a grain are:
- Almond meal or any other nut meal. (OK for paleo, GAPS or SCD)
- Chickpeas (made into flour, not paleo, AIP, GAPS or SCD)
- Coconut (used in flours) (OK for paleo, GAPS or SCD)
- Fava bean
- Flaxseed (OK for paleo, GAPS or SCD)
- Gram flour (chickpea, not paleo, AIP, GAPS or SCD)
- Potato Starch/Flour
- Sesame – seed
- Sunflower seed flour
- Taro flour
- Soy flour
- Glucose made from tapioca
- Plantain flour (can get at African grocers)
- Yam (iyan) flour (can get at African grocers)
- Mesquite flour
- Sweet potato flour
- Banana flour
So anything made from these products would be technically grain-free (but not necessarily ok to consume – for many people they would still cause problems for various reasons). For example, bread, cakes or pasta made from grain-free flours do not contain grains. Reading ingredients is important!
Grain free foods are also automatically gluten-free.
Just because something is “technically” not a grain, doesn’t make it automatically ok for many people. Paleo peeps or GAPS-diet folk wouldn’t touch any of the grain-like seeds or most of the starchy grain free alternatives in the above “not a grain list”. It’s really just the nuts and seeds for them. For my family, they do ok on soaked & sprouted quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet, so I cook them sometimes, although not every day. For myself, I stick to the paleo versions: cassava flour, plantains, sweet potato flour, coconut flour, tapioca and possibly nut and seed flours like almond meal and ground up seeds.
Dairy products or anything from an animal like milk, cheese, butter or meat do not contain grains.
All fruits and vegetables are not grains, (except for corn, which is a grain).
Original List Published Sep 9, 2009
Last updated April 2017.