Move over couscous, pasta and rice. There are some new grains in town, and they not only taste amazing, but they are WAY healthier for you too. From quinoa to freekeh to farro, we're sharing 5 ancient grains that you should start eating today:
Farro is a grain which is quite new to North American cooking, however it has been used for centuries in Italian cooking. Earthy and nutty, it is a fantastic addition to soups, salads and stews. A 1-cup serving of farro has about 8 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber. That's four times as much as white rich and more than brown rice which has 5 g. Whole grains, like farro are chock full of minerals, including magnesium, which may relieve stress and tension and even menstrual cramps.
Toss it in - Quickly gaining in popularity to to its taste and healthy benefits, farro can be added to soups, stews, salads and can even be used to make risotto or oatmeal.
Heralded for it's many health perks as well as it's crunchy texture and nutty flavour, we're loving quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) these days. What many people do not know is that quinoa is actually a seed derived from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. But when cooked, quinoa becomes similar in granular texture to both couscous and bulgur. Super easy to prepare, it not only packs 8 grams of high-quality protein and 5 grams of fiber per 1-cup serving, it’s also one of the few plant foods that is considered a complete protein (which means it contains all the essential amino acids your body can’t naturally produce.)
Quinoa is coated with a toxic chemical called saponin, therefore it's very important to rinse it thoroughly before cooking (under cool running water), and it's best to consume it only 2 to 3 times/week. Although not commonly thought of as an allergenic food, quinoa does contain oxalates, which puts it on the caution list for an oxalate-restricted diet. But the best part about quinoa is that it's gluten-free. So, if you're gluten intolerant or just trying to avoid wheat-containing foods, quinoa is a great alternative to both couscous and bulgur.
Toss it in - Quinoa is the perfect base for salads and it's a great addition to wraps and soups. It can also be used in combination with oats to make a healthy protein-packed oatmeal or (cooked) it can be blended into smoothies for a gluten-free protein boost!
Unlike the name implies wheat berries are in fact a grain and are the whole kernels produced by wheat. Many people can mistake them for brown rice as they are very similar in appearance. Wheat berries can be prepared and eaten like rice and they have a pleasing chewiness and almost nutty flavour. They are earthier tasting than rice and many people will actually use wheat berries to grind their own home made whole wheat flour. They can be used in salads, as a side dish or as a hearty breakfast. You can also add water to wheat berries in order to grow your own delicious wheat sprouts for garnishes to add to salads or sandwiches.
Toss it in - Wheat berries are very versatile and can be used the same way you would any other grain. You can boil them in salted water until they are al dente and then use them as a side dish such as a pilaf or with additional ingredients such as sautéed mushrooms. They are nutty and flavourful and make lovely salads and are also the perfect whole grain breakfast cereal served warm. Wheat berries are also packed with whole grain goodness offering you an excellent source of fibre, protein and iron. Many people are starting to grind their own flours and wheat berries produce an excellent whole wheat flour lovely for preparing home made breads.
Bulgur is making a comeback. Made from cracked wheat, it's the perfect addition to salads, pilafs, tabboulehs, vegetarian burgers, soups, stews and stuffings. Bulgur wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked (therefore making it quick to cook.) As a whole grain, it's naturally high-fiber, low-fat, low-calorie, vegetarian and even vegan. However bulgur wheat, unlike quinoa, is not suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. Different types of bulgur wheat require different cooking times, so it's best to check your package instructions for proper cooking instructions. One advantage of using bulgur wheat is that it has already been partially cooked, so it is super quick and easy to prepare at home. A very healthy grain, one cup of cooked bulgur wheat provides 151 calories, 0.4 grams of fat, 8.2 grams of dietary fiber, 5.6 grams of protein and is naturally cholesterol-free.
Toss it in - Bulgur is the perfect addition to salads, pilafs, vegetarian burgers, tabboulehs and stuffings. It can also be tossed into soups and stews to add depth and body.
Just when you got used to pronouncing Quinoa (Keen-wa), there's a new superfood grain that's getting us all tongue tied. Freekeh (pronounced Freak-eh) is wheat, but it's a wheat that has been harvested when it's still young and green, and then it gets roasted. The flavor is similar to bulgur wheat, but it has a lighter, grassier note to it. The grain on the inside is too young and moist to burn, so what you're left with is a firm, slightly chewy grain with a distinct flavor that's earthy, nutty, and slightly smoky. We like to think of freekeh as a “new” ancient grain. Though, it's been a staple in Middle Eastern diets for centuries. It's loaded with nutritional benefits surpassing those of Quinoa and many other ancient grains. It's low in fat and high in protein and fiber. Serving for serving, freekeh has more protein and twice as much fiber as quinoa. This means freekeh keeps you feeling full long after you've eaten it, so it's a smart option for anyone focused on weight loss. The icing on the cake? This power- house of a grain is also low on the glycemic index scale, good for those managing diabetes, high in iron, calcium, and zinc, and acts like a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in your digestive system.
Toss it in - You can use freekah just as you would brown rice or barley to make dishes like pilafs, risottos and salads. We love using cracked freekeh in tabbouleh. With its chewy texture, whole cooked freekeh is also really nice paired with yogurt and fruit in an oatmeal or parfait.