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Cereals are eaten almost every day around the world, but are now also demonized by many people. But hardly anyone is really familiar with this topic and could answer the following questions correctly from their own knowledge. What counts as grain, which varieties are gluten-free and which can be dangerous for allergy sufferers? We explain the common types of grain and their use.

The most common grains and their uses


  • bot.Triticum
  • no or very short awns, short, thick, reddish grains, with upright growth, dense, angular spikes
  • most commonly used grain for baking, used as white and whole grain flour
  • equally important feed in livestock farming
  • is one of the oldest types of grain
winter wheat

subspecies of wheat

durum wheat

  • bot. triticum durum
  • boil and bite resistant structure
  • therefore the main component of original Italian pasta, semolina

soft wheat

  • bot. Triticum aestivum
  • low gluten
  • used for example as flour, baked goods, malt and as animal feed


  • bot. Triticum monococcum
  • precursor of spelled
  • high protein content
  • but high gluten content


  • bot. Triticum spelta
  • Original form of wheat, however, cultivation as an intensive crop with high yields is not possible
  • is used like modern wheat, but is often better tolerated

Green spelled

  • bot. Triticum aestivum ssp. now
  • Spelled harvested and dried when milk is ripe
  • for baking like normal wheat, as patties
  • at the same time very special intensive taste of the baked goods due to roasted aromas


  • bot. Hordeum vulgare
  • very long awns ending at the same height, thick, tapering grains, very easy to recognize (“undulating cornfield”)
  • one of the most important feed grains, the main ingredient in brewing beer, rarely used in baking
  • next to wheat, the oldest type of grain
  • however, contains only a small amount of gluten
  • is also considered a medicinal food
  • Special brewery barley is grown for brewing beer
Winter barley


  • bot. avena
  • no awns, panicles instead of ears
  • important animal feed, used in the kitchen mainly in the form of oatmeal, oatmeal (porridge)
  • No gluten protein, therefore limited use when baking (only in connection with cereals containing gluten such as wheat or spelt)
  • nutty flavor
  • high in fat and nutritious
  • was considered the daily meal of poor people until the 19th century
Flight Oats, Avena fatua


  • bot. Zea mays
  • Small, mostly yellow grains in thick cobs with green bracts, strong stems up to three meters long, colorful varieties also possible (orange, red, blue, black)
  • Use: important animal feed worldwide, generation of energy in biogas plants, in the kitchen, for example as flour, semolina, corn starch and whole grains for cooking, popcorn, grilled corn on the cob
  • contains no gluten, therefore requires additional leavening agents (e.g. eggs, baking powder) when baking
  • one of the world's most important types of grain, is gaining ground more and more


  • bot. Oryza
  • 20 to 30 culms per plant, mostly grows in water, many small spikes on individual panicles
  • also one of the world's most important cereals
  • Staple food in Asia, mostly used as a side dish, but also as rice milk, rice vinegar, rice wine or arrack (fermented rice mash)


  • Secale cereale
  • awns of medium length, oblong gray-yellow grains, spikes in two rows
  • low gluten content, high mineral content, very dark endosperm
  • mainly used for baking long-life bread, e.g. B. for pumpernickel and black bread
  • different degrees of grinding of the flour possible
winter rye


  • bot. triticosecale
  • A cross between rye and wheat, is becoming increasingly important in German agriculture
  • mainly used as feed grain and for energy production in biogas plants, but increasingly also for human nutrition (beer, porridge, baked goods)
  • However, baking properties are not as good as with wheat

pseudo grain

What is pseudo grain?

Pseudo-cereals are plants that are similar in appearance and use to cereals, but do not belong to the sweet grasses like these. Because they form grains and have similar ingredients as grains, namely protein, fiber, minerals and amino acids. However, since they do not contain gluten, they are particularly interesting for people with allergies and gluten intolerance. The most important pseudocereals at a glance:


  • bot. Amaranthus caudatus
  • Plants up to three meters high, seeds only about 1 mm in size
  • Flour and grist for baking, whole grains for popcorn, for cooking, as a filling, in muesli
  • young leaves can be cooked like spinach
  • nutty, slightly bitter taste
  • was considered sacred by the Aztecs
  • Staple food in much of Asia, Central and South America
  • is considered a medicinal plant


  • bot. fagopyrum
  • Knotweed, triangular seeds
  • for example as flakes in muesli, flour for baking
  • no gluten, so add gluten-containing flour when baking
  • best-known product made from buckwheat flour: Lower Saxony buckwheat cake


  • bot. cannabis
  • one of the oldest useful plants on earth, can grow up to five meters high
  • easily recognizable by its appearance due to the palmate leaves
  • for example in muesli or yoghurt, as an ingredient for spreads, oil in salads, flour as a baking ingredient
  • Leaves and flowers as a tea
  • Rich in minerals and vitamins


  • bot. Panicum miliaceum
  • Grains 4 to 5 mm in size, 10 to 60 cm long panicles with small spikes on them
  • for example for preparing porridge, for baking, for brewing traditional African beers
  • very rich in minerals
  • staple food in large parts of Africa
  • but also used as animal feed


  • bot. Chenopodium quinoa
  • brown small grains
  • Goosefoot family, therefore related to beetroot, chard and spinach
  • Seeds, young shoots and leaves are used
  • as a rice substitute, also in soups, sauces, muesli and salads
  • an important staple food in South America
red quinoa

summer and winter cereals

What is the difference?

The terms summer and winter grain, on the other hand, do not refer to any types of grain, but only to them time of sowing and growth. Winter grain is sown in the autumn before the harvest year and then germinates before winter. As a result, the growing season is relatively long and the grain is ready for harvest earlier than summer grain. This will only be sown from March. All cereals can be grown as summer cereals. The only winter cereals are barley, rye, triticale and wheat.


Do all grains contain gluten?

All varieties except rice and corn contain gluten, a special one gluten protein. This ensures that the flour combined with water forms a sticky but also elastic dough that holds together well after baking and does not crumble. Wheat and its subspecies contain a particularly large amount of gluten. You will find relatively little of it in barley and oats, so barley and oat flours are less suitable for baking or only together with other flours.

The gluten protein is also responsible for the celiac disease. This autoimmune disease is chronic. Eating foods containing gluten causes the intestines to become inflamed. If those affected do not change their diet and eat gluten-free in the future, then the intestinal mucosa will be permanently damaged and malnutrition will result. The symptoms of celiac disease are similar to those of an allergic reaction, but they are separate diseases that can also occur at the same time. This does not mean, however, that all sensitive people should follow a gluten-free diet and avoid grains.

Gluten-free cereals

  • rice
  • Corn
  • all kinds of pseudocereals

What should allergy sufferers pay attention to when consuming cereals?

Allergy sufferers should avoid all foods that they cannot tolerate, in the case of a grain allergy also the corresponding types of grain. In principle, however, all varieties can contain allergens. However, grain allergies are not very common, wheat allergies are the most common. Although spelt, unripe spelt and kamut are subspecies of wheat, they are generally better tolerated by many allergy sufferers than modern types of wheat.

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