Are you missing out on these 10 Ancient Grains you should be eating? Bring these wholesome, nutrient-packed ancient grains back to the modern kitchen!
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Bored of the same old grains you normally eat, such as traditional wheat or rice? Why not try ancient grains?! Ancient grains are one of the hot nutrition trends in 2015, and for good reason! They are showing up in all sorts of food products, from Cheerios to granola and even chips! They were the staples of many ancient civilizations and boast numerous health benefits. There are a variety of ancient grains out there waiting to become a kitchen staple in today’s modern world.
Check out the list I’ve compiled below of 10 ancient grains you should be eating. And plus, if you make these for your friends or family they will be oooh’ed and aaah’ed at your ancient grain wisdom and nutritional insight. (Or maybe they’ll just think it’s delicious…). Either way, these ancient grains are sure to be a great conversation piece and tasty addition to any dinner (or breakfast!) table.
A staple food of the Aztecs, Amaranth comes from an herb plant. The tiny yellow spheres are high in protein and have a mellow peppery flavor. Amaranth is jam-packed with calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C.
Very little research has been conducted on amaranth’s beneficial health properties, but the studies that been conducted showcase amaranth’s role in a healthy diet because it’s very high in protein (about 13-14%), it has been shown to reduce cholesterol, and it’s naturally gluten-free! Amaranth can be cooked as a breakfast porridge or can be eaten “puffed”, like popped corn. Either way, it’s sure to be a great addition to your diet! For more ideas, check out these 10 dietitian approved amaranth recipes!
Barley offers many of the same healthy vitamins and minerals as other whole grains, but is the highest in fiber of almost all the whole grains. Studies have shown barley provides many health benefits, including reducing the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease.
For all of you thinking, “But barley is boring…all you can eat it in is soup,” I have news for you: barley is not just for soups! You can cook it as a side dish, bake it in bread, eat it as a breakfast porridge, or grind it to use as flour to bake cookies. Barley may take longer to cook (about 50-60 minutes), but it freezes well, so cook a big batch at one time and freeze the extra for later. To get inspired, hop on over and check out these 20 healthy barley recipes!
Bulgur, sometimes called cracked wheat, is made from wheat (most often durum wheat). Bulgur has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn. Because bulgur is precooked and dried, it cooks in about the same time as pasta, making it a great option for fast meals.
Bulgur’s best-known traditional use is in tabbouleh, a popular Middle Eastern salad containing vegetables, olive oil and spices. If you are a newbie to whole grain cooking, then bulgur is an excellent option to start out with because of it’s mild flavor and quick cooking time. See these 10 RDN created bulgur recipes to get you started!
Farro, also known as Emmer, is an ancient strain of wheat and the oldest cultivated grain in the world. It is the traditional grain of the Mediterranean. It is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein. Farro is coming back into popularity, showing up in many gourmet specialty dishes. But don’t let that scare you away! It is easy to prepare, yet exotic enough to impress your friends and family. Farro puffs like rice when cooked but is still slightly chewy. Check out these 20 healthy dietitian approved farro recipes now!
A traditional grain of the Middle East and Northeastern Africa, Freekeh, aka “Green Wheat”, is made from roasted young wheat. It is high in protein and fiber, and low in available carbohydrates (making it low on the glycemic index). Freekeh’s flavor is nutty and chewy, and it takes about 20 minutes to cook – making it a great addition to pilafs, soups and stews. Find 15 RDN created Freekeh recipes here!Are you missing out on these 10 Ancient Grains You Should Be Eating? Click To Tweet
Kamut® Khorasan grain is an ancient Egyptian variety of wheat, now called just Kamut® (an ancient Egyptian word for wheat). It is rich and buttery-tasting. The Kamut® grain (pronounced kah-moot) has more protein and Vitamin E than common wheat and is a good source of fiber.
It takes a little bit longer to cook than some other whole grains, but you can soak the grains overnight to reduce cooking time. You can also make big batches and freeze it, using when needed on busy nights. Kamut® is a great addition to pilafs, soups, and cold salads. Any way you choose to eat them, these ancient grains are worth trying! Give these 8 dietitian approved Kamut® recipes a shot!
Before rice was widely consumed in Asia, it’s thought that different forms of millet were the staple grain in this region, dating back to 5000 B.C.E. Today, India is the world’s largest producer of millet, with eight African countries and China making up the rest of the top ten producers. Millet is gluten-free and high in antioxidants and magnesium, which makes it helpful in controlling diabetes and inflammation. Millet grains are usually small and yellowish in color and have a light flavor. Like most other whole grains I’ve mentioned, millet can be eaten as a pilaf, breakfast cereal, or added to breads, soups or stews. It can also be popped like corn and eaten as a whole grain snack! Try one of these 10 healthy millet recipes from registered dietitians.
In Incan culture, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) was believed to increase strength and stamina. This nutty, gluten-free grain is actually a “pseudo-grain”—a seed, that contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of quinoa. Another advantage of quinoa is that it cooks quickly, in about 15 minutes! You can tell it’s done when the little white tail– the germ of the kernel – is sticking out. Quinoa can be substituted anywhere whole grains are used, and is a great addition to pilafs, soups, breads, and salads. I compiled the ultimate list of healthy RD approved quinoa recipes for you!
Spelt is a variety of wheat and the traditional grain of Germany, cultivated and grown during the middle ages. Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat, is high in fiber and is a good source of iron and manganese. Some people who are sensitive to wheat report being able to more easily digest and tolerate spelt, but no reliable medical studies have addressed that issue (spelt is NOT gluten-free). With it’s chewy texture and sweet, nutlike flavor, spelt in it’s whole grain form (spelt berries) is a great option as a hot cereal or for use in pilafs, soups or salads. Spelt flour works great for bread, pasta and baked goods.
Teff is a tiny whole grain, traditional to Ethiopia. It can grow where many other crops won’t thrive, cultivated in very diverse areas. It has three times the calcium than other grains, is high in iron and dietary fiber, and is naturally gluten-free. And if you want to run like an Ethiopian, you should definitely consider adding teff to your diet – many of Ethiopia’s famed long-distance runners attribute their energy and health to teff. (Disclaimer: teff alone will not make you run like an Ethiopoian. 😉 A general healthy diet and exercise is also needed). Teff’s mild flavor is sweet and molasses-like. It is very versatile and can be cooked as porridge or polenta, or added to stews or baked goods.
So there you have it! 10 ancient grains you should be eating. Let me know which one’s you’ve tried or which one is your favorite in the comments below. In the future, I’ll be posting recipes featuring some of these ancient grains – so keep on the lookout for them!
To learn more about these ancient grains, or other whole grains visit the Whole Grains Council.
VIDEO: 10 Ancient Grains You Should Be Eating