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Are ancient grains the new health food?

What are ancient grains? Are they better for me than modern grains?

Updated: 2020-07-15

Answer Section

Ancient grains are grains that have changed little over the past several hundred years. Ancient grains in the wheat family include farro and spelt. Some other ancient grains are amaranth, millet, quinoa, teff and sorghum.

One benefit of ancient grains over modern grains is that most ancient grains are whole grains. All whole grains are energy packed and contain fiber. In addition, many of the ancient grains are higher in protein. Each grain has its own unique profile of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron.

Ancient grains are gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. Chefs use ancient grains to bring different textures, colors and flavors to dishes. Consumers are looking for "health foods" and some are looking for alternatives to wheat or other gluten-containing grains.

If you're interested in adding ancient grains to your diet, here are some tips:

  • Mix several grains together for a hearty hot or cold cereal.
  • Mix with vegetables for a salad or main dish. Dress with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add basil, parsley or cilantro, and a sprinkle of feta or Parmesan cheese.
  • Use in place of rice in casseroles or soups.

Some ancient grains take longer to cook. Don't let this get in your way of including them in your meals. Batch cook them and then refrigerate or freeze for later use.