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When you think of grains, it’s likely the first thing you think of is corn, oats and rice. But if you follow a wholefoods diet, it’s possible that you’ve heard of these things called “ancient grains”. If you have ever tried to clean up your diet and eat healthier, I’m certain that you’ve tried to switch from white bread to brown bread, maybe even whole grain if you are feeling courageous. “Ancient Grains” as we call them, are grains that have been unchanged for hundreds of years with no manipulation by modern man and they still contain all of their natural nutritional value. Modern wheat is definitely not an ancient grain as it is constantly being changed and bred. Spelt, kamut, millet, amaranth and quinoa are examples of grains that have been around for hundreds of years that come from seeds and are not genetically modified.
Modern wheat is quite simply making people sick. People are starting to go “gluten-free” in an attempt to fix digestion issues. There have been many cases of individuals with a so-called gluten intolerance that ate spelt or kamut and it makes them feel better. They are always surprised to learn that both spelt and kamut have gluten. Gluten is not the problem. It’s the way modern man grows grains, produces grains and eats grains that is the main problem. Even the very grain itself. For thousands of years’ individuals refined wheat, milled it and consumed it. It nourished everyone and caused very little problems. Mechanical technology arrived, because let’s face it, it is easier and in the end they could make more grains and more money. Technology to genetically and chemically enhance our food also arrived, and shortly after, digestive issues arrived and this gluten-free craze began.
So why are ancient grains a better choice then refined grains? Refined grains have been processed to produce a finer texture and give a longer shelf-life. In the processing of these grains, the nutrients are also stripped. Refined grains are very common to find in your grocery store, you can find them everywhere from cereal to pasta to crackers. Sometimes manufacturers supplement the refined grains, by adding back in some of the nutrients that were stripped in the first place. Some vitamins can be re-added but fibre cannot.
We don’t need to invite foods with this processing system, chemical fertilizers and pesticides into our body, Mother nature knows best and she has given us some amazing grains to work with that don’t need to be stripped and changed. Ancient grains are high in fibre with rich mineral content as well. I’m confident that by now, with all the knowledge available for us, that most of you know the nutritional benefits from eating a natural wholefoods diet. If you want to feel great and energized, feel healthy and strong as well as have a balanced digestive system and save money and time on healthcare in the future, it starts right now, with what you are putting into your body. So let’s take a look at some ancient grains that you can easily start introducing to your diet.
This is one of the earliest known plant foods and it is highly nutritious, gluten-free and has a complete form of vegetable protein. Amaranth is a good source of all amino acids and it is renowned for its ability to strengthen the lungs, especially important for athletes. One cup provides 10grams of protein and it is higher in calcium and magnesium then cow’s milk. Amaranth is the only grain documented that contains Vitamin C. It is traditionally eaten as a breakfast porridge with 6 cups of water per 1 cup of amaranth. You gently boil for about 15 minutes then rinse and fluff. Sometimes I even use amaranth instead of brown rice or quinoa with vegetables or stir-fries. I have found sprouted Amaranth with the brown rice and quinoa at healthfood stores.
Probably the most well known ancient grain, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. Quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is also rich in iron, magnesium and potassium, high in calcium and it is gluten-free and easy to digest. It is prepared very easily and can be made into a variety of dishes. It cooks on the stove like rice and you’ll want about 2 cups of water per 1 cup of quinoa. I make quinoa salads with mixed fruits and lime and lemon juice, quinoa casseroles, quinoa breakfast bowls, quinoa flour in baking and quinoa porridge. Your options are really limitless with this ancient grain.
Millet is another gluten-free seed with very high nutritional value. It is a staple food in China and India, but sadly in North America, we find it more commonly in bird seed, than on our dinner plate. It is very high in magnesium, B-Vitamins and antioxidants, making it helpful in controlling diabetes and inflammation. Millet supports the digestive system and provides sustainable energy to the body. Millet has a mildly sweet, nut-like flavour and it is cooked with 2.5 cups of water to 1 cup of millet. Boil and let it sit in place for about 20-25 minutes. Millet can be used as a side dish, made into a salad or added to soups and stews. Millet is NOT a complete protein.
Spelt was originally grown in Iran 6000 years B.C. and it’s only been grown in North America for the past 100 years. Spelt contains gluten but it is easier to digest and better tolerated then wheat. Many people with wheat intolerance have digested and tolerated spelt very well. Spelt contains a lot of protein, manganese, iron, and selenium. It is also a very high source of fibre. My favourite way to use spelt is in baking and breads. Spelt is a complex carb and has immune boosting benefits making it a good source of fuel for athletes looking for sustainable energy, and the fact that it is easily digestible helps a great deal. You can also find pasta made from spelt flour at most health-food stores.
Kamut is another good alternative to traditional wheat. There is a great amount of selenium in kamut giving it strong antioxidant properties. Kamut has a natural sweetness which makes it a good grain to grind into flour for baking. When cooking with Kamut, you have to soak it overnight, then with 3 cups of water to 1 cup of kamut you bring to a boil and reduce the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes, maybe a bit longer. Kamut also provides phytochemicals, which are natural occurring plant chemicals that offer protection against disease such as heart disease and cancer. Kamut is NOT a complete protein.
Buckwheat is actually not wheat; it comes from a fruit seed. Buckwheat has been providing essential nutrients for individuals for over 8,000 years! Buckwheat packs a big punch of magnesium, which helps to lower blood pressure and regulated insulin levels. It also provides a lot of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and protein. Because buckwheat is digested slower then other carbs, it can leave you feeling fuller for a longer period of time and improve your glucose tolerance. Buckwheat groats are commonly used in hot cereals, and I like to soak my groats overnight and then rinse them, add one cup of buckwheat with some almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup and vanilla into the Vitamix and make a cold breakfast porridge. (Recipe shared on my Facebook page: Click Here)
Buy organic 100% whole grains
Choose single-ingredient whole grains as opposed to a whole grain with 5-10 added ingredients
If it’s a possibility, get sprouted grains
Ignore the label “100% whole grains” and please read the ingredient list. If the first ingredient isn’t a 100% whole grain, do not buy it!