Ancient Grains have grown in popularity thanks to the organic manner they are grown in. Most of them are also gluten-free, which makes them very popular with those who follow a gluten-free diet. What sets apart ancient grains from other grains, is the fact that they are significantly less refined, due to their very small size, which makes it difficult, and even impossible at times, to separate the outer bran from the inner germ. This is the reason why ancient grains are able to keep their many health benefits and the vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and antioxidants they provide.
As the name implies, these grains have originated in ancient times, all the way back in the Neolithic Revolution, about 10.000 years ago, when our ancestors transitioned from hunters to farmers. Many of these grains were praised and worshiped by our ancestral civilizations, from Aztecs all the way to the Greeks and Egyptians. For example, Quinoa was considered the 'mother of all grains' by the Incas. Amaranth was sacred to the Aztecs, and Farro grains are even mentioned in the Old Testament.
Health Benefits of Ancient Grains
They are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and packed with antioxidants. Amaranth, teff, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa are also gluten-free, which makes them a great, healthy choice for gluten-free enthusiasts. People who eat ancient grains have generally lower cholesterol levels, decreased risk of diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer. It also reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
1. Polenta (8.1g of protein per serving)
Polenta is made from ground corn that has the germ removed and it is a staple in Northern Italian cooking. This complex carbohydrate is gluten-free and has more protein than a large egg. It's a great substitute for bread an pasta in many delicious dishes. One serving of polenta provides you with 6% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A and 10% of your RDI of Vitamin C. Additionally, it provides you healthy amounts of iron, zinc, thiamin, phosphorous, and magnesium. It is great as a side dish, either backed or boiled.
2. Bulgur (18.3g of protein per serving)
Often used in the Middle Eastern cuisine, bulgur is a great alternative to rice or couscous and it is often used in soups and salads. It is high in fiber and manganese. And it contains 26% of your RDI of niacin, 14% of your RDI of iron, and 17% of your RDI of vitamin B-6. Bulgur easily blends with toasted nuts, such as walnuts and pecans, and it is great sauteed with veggies that make for a healthy side dish.
3. Amaranth (9g of protein per serving)
This old South American grain is a great alternative to rice. It is both gluten-and wheat-free, and it is packed with protein. Additionally, it is rich in amino acids that help build brain cells, such as lysine, cysteine, and methionine. One serving of amaranth provides you with 7% vitamin C, 42% iron, and 16% calcium for your RDI of these nutrients. Its nutty flavor makes it perfect for a breakfast with dried fruit, milk, and nuts.
4. Farro (6g of protein per serving)
Also known as emmer, was famous from Egypt to Rome back in the day. It is high in fiber, protein and provides you with 20% niacin, and 15% zinc and magnesium for your RDI of these nutrients. Farro is very popular in Italy, where it's used in soups, pasta, risotto, and salads. You can find it in whole bread and baked goods. Just make sure that the label says 'whole farro!
5. Spelt (6g of protein per serving)
This ancient grain was very common in medieval times. It is also popular nowadays with people who have wheat intolerance. It is high in fiber, protein, and provides you with 14% magnesium and zinc, and 25% iron for your RDI of these nutrients. It works as an alternative to rice, pasta, oatmeal, and you can use it to make waffles, pancakes, muffins, and bread.
6. Millet (6g of protein per serving)
This small, whole grain food is very popular in Asian and African countries. It protects against cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and helps decrease the risk of stomach ulcer. It is rich in protein, fiber, it has only 3mg of sodium per serving, and it is gluten- and cholesterol-free. You can mix it with your veggies and meats for more flavor.
7. Quinoa (8g of protein per serving)
Found in the Andes Mountains, quinoa was considered the 'mother of all grains' by the Incas. It is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids, and it boosts your immunity, improves muscle quality, and regulates hormone production. It is rich in protein, fiber, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin, which help boost your metabolism. Additionally, it provides you with 20% iron and phosphorus, 2% calcium, and 9% potassium for your RDI of these nutrients. It is a delicious alternative to rice, couscous, and even served fresh with various salads.
8. Teff (26g of protein per serving)
The world's smallest grain, teff originated in Ethiopia. It is gluten-free and packed with quality carbs, protein, minerals, and fiber. Additionally, it is rich in calcium, iron, and thiamin. You can use it to bake cakes, bread, or muffins. It is also great for soups and stews, thanks to its ability to work as a thickening agent.
Ancient Grains often called super grains or heritage grains, are still planted and harvested in the same way they were several thousands of years ago. Our ancestors loved the positive qualities of these grains, even if they weren’t aware of the scientific facts behind them. Follow in their footsteps, and incorporate these ancient grain into your diet for a kick of extra protein that comes with additional health benefits. Ancient grains are grown organically and are the least refined grains you can find.
If you want a healthy alternative to white carbs, you can use these ancient grains for your meals. You can even use them to bake healthy bread, muffins, pancakes, or make couscous and sauteed side dishes. Just give them a try, and they will definitely help you meet your fat-loss and muscle building goals!