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Ancient Grains



Ancient grains is a marketing term used to describe a category of grains and pseudocereals that are purported to have been minimally changed by selective breeding over recent millennia, as opposed to more widespread cereals such as corn, rice and modern varieties of wheat, which are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding. Ancient grains are often marketed as being more nutritious than modern grains, though their health benefits over modern varieties have been disputed by some nutritionists.


While there’s no official definition of ancient grains, many will categorize them as grains with indigenous origins grown using the same techniques for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some use the terms “ancient” and “heirloom” grains synonymously, while others believe that there’s a distinct difference between the two—with heirloom or heritage grains being those brought to the West by immigrants (versus those grown indigenously in the West and Americas). Given those definitions, some ancient grains will, of course, also be heirloom or heritage grains. 

A general rule of thumb to understand what sets ancient grains apart from their conventionally raised counterparts (like modern wheat) seen around every corner in our food supply is that ancient grains are never, and have never, been modified in any way. So you’ll never find a GMO ancient grain (thank goodness). 


  Common Ancient Grains to Know—and Their Top Health Benefits  

While there are dozens of varieties of ancient grains, we’ll highlight some of the most common ones (plus a few unique choices) and the nutrition facts associated with each. You’ll see many through lines between the nutrition profiles of these grains, and they all contain many different types of plant compounds, or phytochemicals. These bioactive compounds are antioxidants with potent anti-inflammatory benefits that can help to ward off chronic disease. And then each grain also comes with its own unique benefits to love.


  Amaranth  

This ancient grain is one that is slowly leaving its niche shadow behind and becoming more mainstream. Naturally gluten-free, amaranth is full of protein and fiber and also boasts impressive levels of manganese, iron, and magnesium. Iron is key to healthy blood cell formation while magnesium supports healthy sleep, digestion, and muscle and nerve function. Manganese is a mineral that is linked to strong bones as well as blood and hormone formation.


  Quinoa  

Similar to chia, quinoa is also technically a seed. It’s often referred to as a pseudo-grain because this gluten-free option is prepared using the same methods as rice and other grains. Quinoa is one of the few plant-based complete protein sources, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary to build strong muscle and tissue throughout the body. It’s also full of manganese and magnesium, alongside phosphorus, folate, and zinc. Phosphorus is a key player in healthy bone formation while folate helps to build healthy cells and is vital for neural tube development in growing babies in utero. Meanwhile, zinc is a well-known mineral due to its ability to boost our immune systems.


 

  Kamut (Khorasan Wheat)  

Kamut is a kind of wheat often referenced in the conversation about ancient grains. Kamut offers all the health benefits of whole wheat, and then some: loaded with fiber, zinc, niacin, and 100 percent of your daily selenium needs in just one cup (cooked).3 Niacin is super beneficial to digestive, skin, and nervous system health.


  Wild Rice  

To many midwesterners, this history-rich pseudo-grain is a staple in the classic recipe chicken and wild rice soup—a creamy broth paired with chicken, veggies, and the satisfyingly chewy texture of wild rice. Naturally gluten-free and higher in protein than white and brown rice, wild rice also offers fiber, zinc, manganese, and phosphorus.


  Teff  

A lesser-known grain to most, teff is a gluten-free ancient grain with origins in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it remains a staple food to this day. And it’s no wonder it’s such a cornerstone in the diet of these countries as in only 100 grams of uncooked teff you’ll find over 400 percent of your daily manganese needs, nearly 100 percent of your daily vitamin C and copper needs, plus tons of fiber magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.4 This unique combination of nutrients lends itself to supporting nearly every body system.


  Kamut (Khorasan Wheat)  

Kamut is a kind of wheat often referenced in the conversation about ancient grains. Kamut offers all the health benefits of whole wheat, and then some: loaded with fiber, zinc, niacin, and 100 percent of your daily selenium needs in just one cup (cooked). Niacin is super beneficial to digestive, skin, and nervous system health.




If you are looking for more information like this, join our site and have a look at our archives with hundreds of posts from the past. Cheers, and have yourself a great week!

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