Experimenting with Ancient Grains

Sara Kelly, RD, LD
Hy-Vee, West Circle Rochester

Sara Kelly - DietitianWith winter fast approaching, it’s a great time to experiment with different grains.  Although they have been around for centuries, many people have never tried most of the “ancient grains.” While there is no official definition of an “ancient grain,” the term is usually meant to refer to grains that have been largely unchanged over hundreds of years.  Some examples of ancient grains are quinoa, chia, farro, freekeh and teff. Each grain is unique in its nutritional qualities.

Quinoa has become very popular in recent years and is easy to find. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It is simple to prepare, similar to rice. It should be rinsed prior to cooking, and then boiled in water until a “tail” is present. It is great mixed with vegetables or can also be used in place of oatmeal for breakfast.

Chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Unlike flax seeds (which are also high in Omega-3s), chia seeds do not have to be ground before consuming. Since they form a gel when mixed with water, they can be used to make puddings and jellies. They can also easily be incorporated into baked goods and smoothies.

Farro is a nutty tasting grain whose origins go back to ancient Rome. Many consider it to be one of the world’s oldest grains.  It is still eaten regularly in Italy, often in soups and salads. It is a good source of protein, iron and fiber. Whole-grain farro should be soaked overnight, but pearled farro can be prepared similar to rice.

Freekeh (pronounced freak-eh) is made from young durum wheat. It has more fiber than most grains – twice as much as quinoa and three times as much as brown rice.  This makes freekeh great for weight loss and bowel health. It tastes great hot or cold. Try using freekeh in place of rice in a pilaf or risotto.

Teff is a tiny brown grain that is consumed widely in Ethiopia due to its ability to grow in difficult climates. It can be used as a thickener in gravies, soups, stews and puddings. It is naturally gluten-free and high in calcium and protein. It is commonly ground to make breads or boiled to make porridge.

All five of these grains can be found in the HealthMarket at your local Hy-Vee! 

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