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Ancient Grains: The Top 10 And Their Health Benefits

What’s nutrient-rich, vegan-friendly, and super-versatile? If you guessed ancient grains, you’re absolutely correct. There are so many reasons why incorporating these foods into your diet can prove healthful. Nourishing your physical body is just as important as nourishing your mind, and these grains will help you do precisely that. 

Whether you’re just beginning to explore different health foods or you’ve been following a plant-based diet for years, there’s plenty to learn about all the abundant food Mother Earth provides for us. Ancient grains are a solid place to begin.

If you haven’t heard of ancient grains or are a little murky on the details, don’t worry. Our team at Kinder Beauty is here to help you get in the know. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert about all-things ancient grains. 

What are ancient grains?

If you’re looking for a definition for ancient grains, you might be surprised to know that there really isn’t one. In a way, you can correctly label all whole grains as “ancient,” meaning that they trace their roots back to the beginning of time (or at least to the beginning of agriculture). 

There is, however, a loose definition, so we’ll go with that. Ancient grains are generally those that have remained largely unchanged throughout the last several hundred years. As a result, they still have all their nutritious goodness intact.

You might be wondering if modern wheat, a popular option, qualifies as an ancient grain. Unfortunately, because it has been bred and altered over the years, it doesn’t fall under the ancient grain category. But don’t worry; there are plenty of equally tasty options that do. 

One reason ancient grains are a fabulous choice is that they offer more nutrients than refined grain products such as white flour. Ancient grains typically thrive when they have fewer pesticides (those chemicals you probably don’t want on your food), fertilizers, and irrigation. This means that if, like us, you shop with your carbon footprint in mind, you’re in luck. 

There are several different types of ancient grains, so to ensure that you’re soaking up all the nutrients nature has available, incorporate different grain foods into your diet. Remember: each ancient grain has something unique to offer. Embrace it! 

#1. Quinoa

Chances are, you’ve heard of this so-called superfood. In recent years, this fabled seed (that’s right—it’s not actually a grain!) from South America has exploded in popularity. One reason this particular seed is famous is that it’s packed with protein, making it a stellar option for those who follow a vegan diet. 

Are you gluten-free? If so, quinoa is safe for you to eat. With an impressive eight grams of protein per cup and no gluten in sight, you can seamlessly incorporate quinoa into your diet. 

There are innumerable ways you can prepare quinoa. You can use it in the place of pasta, couscous, or oats—for a toasty cereal breakfast. If you haven’t already, try it. You’ll thank us later. 

#2. Amaranth

This ancient grain that’s native to Mexico and Central America is entirely gluten-free. And what it lacks in gluten, it certainly makes up for in other essential nutrients. This product is packed with fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium. It even has more protein per cup than quinoa—nine whole grams. 

While it may not be as popular in the United States as quinoa, there are many ways you can prep amaranth. Eat it like oatmeal, or toss it in with veggies for a healthful salad. Did we mention you can also make gluten-free breads and pizza dough with amaranth flour? 

#3. Millet

Appearance-wise, millet might look a bit like birdseed, but we promise it tastes much better. This grain has a significant amount of magnesium and is known for supporting heart health. In addition, it can support blood pressure health and blood vessel function. 

Again, you’ve got a world of options if you want to eat this powerful grain. It can be tossed on top of a salad, cooked like couscous, or even steamed how you would rice.

#4. Spelt

This ancient grain originated in Iran. Spelt flour is a fantastic substitute for either regular or whole wheat flour. It has a robust 5.5 grains of protein and 3.8 grams of fiber in just a half-cup serving. Tastewise, you can expect spelt to be sweet and slightly nutty. Cook some up while watching your fave feel-good Netflix show and enjoy the unique flavor. 

#5. Farro

This ancient grain is a staple in the Mediterranian diet, and you can thank Italy for that. Italians have been enjoying farro for over 2,000 years. This is another grain that has plenty of protein. 

What makes it unique? Farro offers you more dietary fiber than both brown rice and quinoa. Dense, chewy, and rich with B vitamins, you can use this grain as a substitute in a rice dish like the Italian classic: risotto (we recommend preparing it fully vegan). 

#6. Kamut

Kamut is nothing if not versatile. You can find this grain tossed atop salads, casseroles, or even in energy bars. It’s richer in polyphenols than modern wheat and has a significant amount of fatty acids. This grain also supports immune health as it contains selenium. 

But that’s not where kamut’s benefits end. It’s also rich in antioxidants and can reduce gut inflammation. Now that’s a win-win-win. 

#7. Sorghum

Only one variety of sorghum plants is harvested for humans to consume, but that one variety sure is powerful. If you don’t get enough fiber, this might be the grain for you. Just a serving has almost half your daily recommended intake. This means it’s super supportive of digestive health and keeping you … ahem, regular. 

#8. Teff

Up next, we have teff, which can be cooked or ground into flour. If you choose to do the latter, you have the perfect base for gluten-free bread and baked goods. (Don’t forget to drop us an invite if you bake those, BTW). Teff contains fiber and other nutrients that support proper circulation. 

#9. Freekeh

If you’re on the search for a grain with a chewy, slightly smoky taste, freekeh is the one for you. This product is wheat that got harvested while it was still youthful and green. It originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. While you can purchase it whole, if you get the “cracked” version, you’re looking at a fraction of the cooking time. Toss it on salads, in soups, or eat it as a toasty cereal for breakfast. 

#10. Bulgur

Last but certainly not least, we have a staple from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets: bulgur. This is essentially whole wheat that has been pre-cooked, dried, and finally, crushed. There are two varieties: red and white wheat. Both are fluffy, light, and excellent for a flavorful herb salad. 

In summary

As you can tell, ancient grains truly offer something for everyone. By including these powerful grains in your diet, you’re giving your overall wellbeing a boost. It really is that simple. We at Kinder Beauty know how important it is to be kind to your body, and ancient grains are excellent for that. We can’t wait to see all the fresh recipes you cook up with these tried-and-true grains! 

 

Sources:

Ancient Grains | The Whole Grain Council

Healthy Ancient Grains to Switch Up Your Healthy Carbs | Shape 

Ancient Grains and Their Benefits | Lifespan