What Are Ancient Grains?

We read cereal boxes, snack labels, and hear about these “Ancient Grains” all over the place these days. But, what exactly are they? And, are they as good for us as these sources are claiming?

Ancient Grain Overview

There is a collection of unrefined whole grains that fit into this “ancient” category. Basically, these are grains whose roots trace back to before we kept track of time. Ancient grains have not been mutated, bred, refined, and have been left greatly unchanged over the centuries.

Many ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Egyptians, and the Aztecs used (and worshipped) these grains. The Incas considered quinoa sacred and actually named it “the mother of all grains.” Some say faro was mentioned in the Old Testament.

Not all ancient grains are gluten-free, but fortunately, most are.

Gluten-free grains include amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, freekeh, millet, and teff. (Oats, spelt, einkorn, faro, and Khorasan wheat “Kamut” contain gluten.)

Are Ancients Better?

It depends on how one defines better. If we’re discussing the environment, then the answer is yes, ancient grains are better. Many of them thrive with less fertilizer and irrigation, as well as lower levels of pesticides in comparison to the modern, hybrid, selectively-bred grains, like wheat.

Various health experts will debate whether ancient grains compose a healthier diet than other whole grains. Many nutritionists, however, assert that ancients provide more vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

The Grains, Legumes, and Nutrition Council, leading experts in this aspect of health, explains that all the whole grains are similar. However, some ancient grains are considered pseudo-cereal grains because they’re actually derived from plant seeds, and not prepared or use like “true” grains.

Are they healthier? At the very least, the benefits range from superior levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a high omega-3 content. They are also an excellent form of complex carbohydrates. For the benefits and list of complex carbs click here.

Quick Guide To Ancient Grains

1) Teff. GF (Gluten-free). It’s so tiny, it can’t be processed, which is great. One cup packs in over 100mg of calcium. It’s starch resistant, high in fiber, and can help if you’re trying to shed pounds.

2) Quinoa. GF. Can be prepared in a rice-cooker. Comes in red, black, or white, and can be eaten cold like a traditional pasta salad, or warm with veggies and a lean protein. Extremely nutritious.

3) Millet. GF. It’s rich in magnesium and used in many “bread” products. It also hydrates the colon. Comes in red, white, gray, and yellow whole. Can be used whole or crushed into flour.

4) Amaranth. GF. It’s high in protein and can be used in desserts like cookies and cakes.

5) Sorghum. GF. It grows and thrives without much water. It can be utilized from a flour or syrup base, and can be used to make bread, desserts, and even beer.

6) Freekeh. GF. It’s harvested young so it tends to provide high amounts of nutrients. It’s also low in sugar carbs.

Other ancient grains include spelt, faro (also called emmer), Khorasan (also known as Kamut), and Einkorn. Sometimes these too are considered ancient grains: black barley, buckwheat, blue corn, black rice, and wild rice. (Remember, these are not all gluten-free!)

Hope this brief article on ancient grains helped answer some of your questions about this mysterious-and-healthy, old-yet-trendy food. Check back with Get Thrive soon for some delicious recipes using ancient grains, along with other healthy food tips.

 

 

Doctors “Prescribing” Fresh Foods From Food Banks

Food Banks in the US are stocking more nutritious foods for their clientele.

These organizations across America help the homeless and those with low incomes to eat affordably or for free. Food banks, in association with local farmers, are offering more fresh produce these days. And doctors are collaborating with food banks, prescribing fruits and vegetables to improve overall health.

Feeding America

Feeding America is a nonprofit organization who took a survey of 200 food banks. They discovered that one-third of households participating in food banks have at least one member who is diabetic. More than 50 percent have a member with high blood pressure.

When questioned, 55 percent of the families responded that they would love to have fruits and veggies, but felt they couldn’t afford them. They may get their wish soon. Over 30 food banks in the Midwest refuse to accept “sweets” into their supplies. They are trying to carry healthier foods like lean proteins and produce as opposed to grains and empty-calorie foods.

Doctors Partnering

Chicago-area clinics, for example, have hosted events where truckloads of fresh foods are brought in. The Chicago Food Depository provided over 100,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables over the past year. This helped feed over 3,000 families.

Doctors in Idaho with low-income patients are beginning to add pantries in their clinic. They can “prescribe” fresh foods on the spot. In Delaware, a family can get up to 25 pounds a month from the local food bank with their doctor’s prescription.

Cost-Worthy

Food banks get their food from sources that they’d otherwise throw in the trash. (It’s perfectly fresh, but it may not look the “right” color or shape for commercial sale.) Additionally, money received from donations help purchase food for the facility. Nutritious foods can cost more, but researchers are examining the benefits of preventative spending. A family who eats better (so it’s hoped) will have fewer medical bills and less work-loss due to illness.

Currently, a clinical study is underway measuring if proper nutrition offered at food banks can help those with diabetes. In five years, the amount of fresh produce that’s become available in food banks has doubled. From July 2015 through June 2016, over one-billion pounds were distributed throughout the US.

It looks as if we’re heading in the right direction—food-wise and health-wise.

For more info on nutrition, best health practices, and current medical studies, check out www.GetThrive.com

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