Ancient grains are enjoying a moment in the spotlight. From sorghum and teff to amaranth and freekeh, these superfoods are loaded with more fibre and protein than everyday grains, and come with a huge helping of vitamins, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants to boot (many are gluten-free too). The only question you should be asking is why WOULDN'T you give them a go?
Eat for vit C
Amaranth: This favourite of the Aztecs springs from a different plant species than most grains, but has similar nutrients. Gluten-free, it holds more than six times the calcium of average grains, is high in iron and magnesium, and is one of the rare grains containing vitamin C (it’s also one of the few that’s a complete protein). Used as a cereal or ground into flour, it cooks much more quickly than many grains.
Eat for antioxidants
Sorghum: The fifth most-produced grain in the world, sorghum’s free from gluten, and bursting with vitamins and minerals. It boasts more antioxidants than superfoods such as pomegranates and blueberries (yes, really!) and contains high levels of magnesium, which helps with calcium absorption – which is vital for keeping bones and teeth in tip-top condition.
Eat to help regulate blood sugar
Buckwheat: Forget the name – buckwheat’s related to rhubarb (not wheat, those cheeky monkies…) and it’s 100 per cent gluten-free. It’s from the seeds of a flowering plant, which are pounded down to make buckwheat flour. High in copper, manganese and protein, this is a great wholegrain if you’re managing sugar levels, thanks to its high soluble fibre, slowing down the rate at which you take in glucose. Like amaranth, this is another one of those complete proteins, as it’s packed with all the amino acids too.
Eat to raise energy levels
Chia: Chia seeds were another one of the Aztecs’ BFs – they even considered it more valuable than gold! Its Mayan name means “strength”, and it’s loved by athletes, as the Tarahumara (a Mexican tribe of the world’s greatest long-distance runners) swear by it for their success. Chia’s a fantastic source of nutrition for vegan, gluten-free and fully raw diets, as it’s one of the best-known non-animal sources of protein and omega-3.
Eat to boost immunity
Farro: Like many of the other ancient grains, farro is an excellent source of fibre, and plant-based protein – twice the amount as quinoa, to be precise. It’s not gluten-free, but is high in antioxidants and it’s suggested it may help boost immunity, lower inflammation, and regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Farro was even discovered in the tombs of Egyptian royalty (well, if it’s good enough for them…).
Eat for a happier gut
Freekeh: This Biblical grain is similar to brown rice, but has up to three times the level of protein and fibre – a super grain indeed! It’s also high in calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. Wholegrain freekeh has a low GI-level which is great for anyone trying to keep their blood sugar steady. To top it off, it’s thought to boost the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Time to get your freekeh on, we say.
Eat for stronger bones
Teff: This Ethiopian favourite is super-rich in calcium, boasting the highest level of any grain. Teff is also a good source of iron, manganese, thiamine and vitamin B6. Gluten-free, it’s packed with niacin and thiamin. It’s also full of essential amino acids and high in resistant starch, which can help blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health.
Time to think cereal-ously about switching to ancient grains.
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