Benefits Of Ancient Grains

nutrition

July / September 2017

By Puja Kapoor, MS, RD, LD

We hear a lot these days about whole wheat and whole grains; now we’re also hearing about ancient grains. Ancient grains are a group of grains that have remained closest to the original form over time. This means they’ll have more fiber and protein compared to the refined grains because they’re less processed. The benefits of additional fiber and protein are vast, but to name a few, they aid in the regulation of blood glucose levels and lead to increased satiety, which is a factor in healthy weight management.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that half of our daily intake of grains should be whole grains. Including ancient grains in your diet also gives you the opportunity to add a variety of whole grains to your meals. These grains come from all over the world—Ethiopia, Mexico, South America, Far East, India, Italy, and the Middle East! Including them in your diet will allow you to try a variety of spices, flavors, and cooking methods.

These grains also work great for batch cooking and can be modified to fit into a variety of meals. Pair them with a side of fruits, vegetables, and protein, and you’re on your way to creating a balanced meal—you may even have enough for leftovers!

The following table gives more details about the nutrition profile of each ancient grain. While you’re experimenting with these grains, remember to be conscious of your cooking method. If you’re monitoring your sodium intake, try to use garlic, oregano, or pepper for flavor instead of salt.

Teff

  • Gluten-free
  • Excellent source of magnesium and iron
  • Good source of fiber, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B6
  • Can be used to thicken soups or stews, or served as its own side dish

Amaranth

  • Gluten-free
  • High fiber
  • Excellent source of iron and magnesium
  • Good source of folate, vitamin B6, and zinc
  • Complete protein

Quinoa

  • High fiber
  • Excellent source of protein, phosphorus, iron, and zinc
  • Great substitute for rice or pasta
  • Versatile product—from burger patties to salad toppings
  • Complete protein

Millet

  • Good source of fiber and magnesium
  • Gluten-free
  • Mild, sweet flavor
  • Cooks quickly
  • Easy to digest

Sorghum

  • Gluten-free
  • Contains 51 grams of whole grains per serving
  • High fiber

Spelt

  • Good source of fiber, protein and iron
  • Excellent source of manganese and phosphorus
  • Recommend rinsing and soaking for eight hours prior to cooking

Farro

  • High fiber and protein
  • Excellent source of phosphorus and zinc
  • Great substitute for rice or pasta

Kamut

  • Good source of fiber
  • Commonly said to have a nutty or buttery taste
  • Contains more nutrients than traditional wheat

Freekeh

  • Good source of fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus
  • Excellent source of manganese (mineral for optimal bone health)