"Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it..."—Ezekiel 4:9
Ancient grains have been making a comeback to replace the typical American staples: oats, barley, wheat, corn, and soy. More people are being diagnosed with food allergies and Celiac disease while others are looking for affordable sources of plant protein.
Not all ‘ancient grains’ are actually grains or grasses. Spelt, Kamut, and wheat are grains while quinoa and amaranth ended up thrown in the pot.
Other ancient grains include mullet, teff, rye, farro, and freekeh
This cousin of wheat is not gluten-free but contains less gluten than wheat. It contains
manganese, copper, zinc and is a good source of protein.
These kernels require an overnight soak but are good for the novice in the kitchen as they are difficult to overcook. Additional nutrients are: Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-6, B-9, C and E.
Quinoa is gluten-free and also a source of protein making it perfect for fueling the vegetarian or vegan athlete. It contains magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and manganese.
Once an ancient grain of the Aztecs now is a staple in gluten-free diets. It has the highest amount of protein of the ancient grains and also contains calcium.
The Chinese have been using millet before rice. It looks like bird seed and can be eaten raw or cooked, best of all, it’s gluten-free.
This gluten-free grain is one of the smallest on earth. Ethiopians ground it into a flour for bread and it can be cooked and used as a thickening agent.
Another gluten-free grain, this cousin of the wheat berry has a nutty taste.
This grain comes right from Italy and was originally used in the American South to cycle in rice crop rotations during the Civil War. Its been marketed towards diabetics for making less impact on blood sugar when compared to other whole grains.
Freekeh can be wheat or durum that is toasted and has a smoky flavor. It has not been declared as gluten-free but because of the heating process it undergoes some research states that the gluten in freekeh is denatured. Freekeh has more fiber, protein, and B vitamins than regular whole wheat.
Gina Lesako RD, LDN, registered dietitian, writer/blogger. Follow Gina on Twitter @glesako;