The Truth About Ancient Grains Might Stun You Into Trying Them

ancient grainsYou may have noticed something at the grocery store lately: What's old is new again. "Ancient grains" are all the rage. We're seeing them in breakfast cereals, breads, and even in our pasta. So what exactly are ancient grains, and why are they suddenly going into everything?

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Ancient grains go way back. This is an umbrella term used for several different grains and grain-like foods that haven't changed much over the past 1,000 years. In contrast, corn and wheat have been cultivated and even genetically modified for millennia and bear little resemblance to their ancestors.

1. You've probably already eaten ancient grains. The most popular of the bunch is quinoa. There's also teff, amaranth, chia spelt, buckwheat, farro, freekeh, and Kamut.

2. Ancient grains aren't all grains. Grains are foods from grasses, technically. Amaranth and quinoa don't come from grasses. Chia are seeds.

3. They're considered superfoods. Ancient grains are loaded with fiber and antioxidants. They can prevent cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. And most have high-quality protein. But you'll get more of these benefits if you eat these grains whole rather than processed into flours.

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4. Kamut is a new name for an old grain. It's actually the trademark name for khorasan wheat, which is higher in protein and minerals than regular wheat. Here's a recipe for a kamut salad with carrots.

5. Amaranth is super high in protein. It also has lysine, an amino acid not typically found in grains, and it's loaded with calcium and other minerals. It even has a bit of vitamin C. You can make a tabbouleh-style salad with amaranth.

6. Millet is high in iron. It also has B vitamins and calcium. To cook millet, toast a cup to bring out the nutty flavors, then add 2 cups of water and salt to taste, bring to a boil, and let simmer for about 15 minutes without stirring too much.

7. Teff has the most calcium of all grains. It's also high in resistant fiber and vitamin C. Ethiopians use it to make injera bread, a spongy flatbread. But for a more familiar taste, you can use it to make banana almond porridge for breakfast.

8. Not all ancient grains are gluten-free. Spelt and Kamut are NOT safe for celiacs and gluten-sensitive people. Beware! Only amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and teff are. Even so, many foods labeled "ancient grains" are mixed with wheat, so always read the labels carefully.

Have you tried any ancient grains? Which do you like?

 

Image © iStock.com/clemarca

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