5 ancient grains that are good for you

If you want to make a healthy change to your diet, opt for ancient grains. Our guide describes five types of ancient grains and how to use each one: spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet and kamut.

By Dr. Joey Shulman, DC, RNCP

Properties of spelt and amaranth
©iStockphoto.com/aluxum
There has been a rise in the popularity of ancient grains in recent years, due largely to heightened food sensitivities and the population’s desire to become healthier. Much to my delight, it’s now possible to find quinoa dishes, spelt pizza crusts and brown rice pasta at many restaurants and fast food establishments in our local neighbourhoods.
 
In addition to offering a higher amount of nutrients and protein than other grains, ancient grains (also called heritage grains) are delicious in taste and can be added to a variety of meals.
 
Some of the most popular ancient grains include: 
 
1. Spelt
Also known as triticum spelta, spelt is a tasty whole grain with a nutty flavour. This distant cousin of wheat contains gluten and is therefore not suitable for those who have gluten intolerance, though it does tend to be easier to digest than wheat and may be better tolerated by those who have wheat sensitivity.
 
Spelt contains a wider variety of nutrients than wheat, including more protein, folate, magnesium and selenium. Spelt is also a high source of fibre, with ½ cup of the whole grain containing 4 grams of fibre. You can use spelt flour in baking, and the grain can be found in a variety of products, including cereals, breads, pasta and crackers.
 
2. Amaranth
Amaranth is often called a "pseudo-grain" and has been referred to as both an herb and a vegetable. However you classify it, amaranth is gluten free and has an impressive nutritional profile, being high in both protein and the amino acid lysine (which is often found in only low amounts in cereal grains). It is also high in fibre and has been shown to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol.
 
You will need quite a bit of water when cooking amaranth: 6 cups (1.5 L) of water for 1 cup (250 mL) of amaranth. Gently boil the amaranth for 15 to 20 minutes, rinse and then fluff it. Amaranth can be added to soups, salads and stir-fries, and amaranth flour can be used in baking.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn about the benefits of quinoa, millet and kamut on page 2


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