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.

 

 

Best Fall Harvested Foods to Keep You Healthy

Because of frozen food availability and genetic modification, we’ve become accustomed to having any type of produce, all year long. Freshly harvested, organic foods, however, are distinctly available at certain times of the year. Here are some samples of delicious, healthy produce ready for pickin’ and consumption right about now.

The Usual Suspect

Pumpkins are synonymous with autumn and holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Often pumpkin is used in pies or other sweet desserts. But, there are alternate ways to eat this vitamin-rich food without packing on the pounds.

You can add cooked, cooled pumpkin chunks into smoothies. Sautee slices with other coarse veggies like carrots and then spice with turmeric, garlic, and pepper. You can puree pumpkin (add cinnamon) and spread it on toast or as part of a sandwich. Don’t forget the seeds! They can be roasted in the oven and lightly sprinkled with sea salt to make a yummy snack or as a topping for salads.

Pumpkins and their seeds offer a significant amount of fiber to your diet. High fiber lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. What’s great is that it keeps digestions flowing, but it also makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time. It’s rich in Vitamin A, which is beneficial for vision and eye health. Evidently, the seeds contain tryptophan, which helps the body relax and encourages a good night’s sleep.

Other Fall Produce Worth Incorporating into Your Diet

Rutabaga. This is a root veggie that can be sweet-ish or bland depending on how it’s prepared. It’s a cross between a turnip and cabbage, but its flesh can be potato-like. They can be pureed, made into a soup, roasted, and I’ve even seen recipes adding it to caramelized onion and apple dishes.

The rutabaga is popular in Sweden and is a great source of vitamin C and fiber.

Dates. Here’s a sweet fruit that is highly nutritious; it’s packed with fiber, vitamins (especially potassium), minerals, and low fat. They can be eaten straight up, sliced and topped with cream cheese, or chopped and added to cookies and other treats.

Dates aid in stomach and intestinal processes. In Middle Eastern countries where fasting can be common, dates are often the first food eaten after breaking the fast. They help resist overeating, satisfy hunger, and deliver glucose and beneficial vitamins rapidly.

Brussels Sprouts. These are edible buds from a member of the cabbage family. If prepared properly, they can be incredibly delicious. Many people prepare them with bacon or garlic. They can be a tad bitter, so a groovy sauce that’s either tangy or cheesy can go a long way. Roasting them can be preferred to steaming.

Brussels sprouts are an amazing source of iron and folate (vitamin B9), which is excellent for your blood and DNA reproduction. They also contain vitamin K, which helps build strong bones and aids in heart disease prevention.

Winter squash is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A. It’s yummy prepared with butter, ginger, and cinnamon.

Parsnips look a little like carrots and are a tad sweeter. They add great flavor to soups, and some like to puree them and add to mashed potatoes for a nutty-ish flavor. They’re fiber-filled and offer lots of potassium, too.

Everybody’s Favorite

Of course there are sweet potatoes, which is also a headliner at fall and winter holiday tables. Whichever seasonal fall foods you choose, know that organic and fresh will help keep your body at its peak nutritional health.

For more articles on healthy foods, check out www.GetThrive.com

 

Can Soy Protect Against Cancer?

For a while there were concerns about soy being linked as a cause of breast cancer. Those rumors have been put to rest and found to be invalid. Now, however, research is showing that soy is not only safe, but it may help protect against particular types of cancer.

The Soy Debates

One of the great things about soy is that it’s one of the very few plant-based foods that provides protein. It also contains a wealth of amino acids that contribute to supporting a body’s vital functions. The confusion with soy’s safety emerged because it is also found to contain phytoestrogens.

Isoflavones (a group of phytoestrogens) are similar to estrogen—but not the same. Breast cancer has been linked to high estrogen levels. The significant truth is that plant-based estrogen is not the same as human. Soy isn’t a hormonal food.

Estrogens, the types that encourage cell growth, are only found in animals.

New Research on Protection

In the March 2017 edition of the journal Cancer, the results of a 10-year study on soy and breast cancer survivors were reported. The study involved over 6,200 participants. The women who ate the most soy products over the course of the research had a 21% lower risk of death—from all causes.

Other current, relevant studies have also shown that soy is safe for breast cancer survivors. It’s also been revealed that soy can actually protect breast health and heart health in females who ate it during puberty. That very same phytoestrogen ingredient actually blocks the negative action of animal or human estrogen.

In some Asian countries, low rates of breast and prostate cancer may be due to a diet that welcomes phytoestrogens and soy.

What Soy Can Positively Do

As mentioned, this plant-based food provides protein, amino acids, and a wealth of other nutrients. Some are: potassium, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin K. Most importantly, it is full of fiber. This is extremely important for healthy and proper digestion.

Nutritionists recommend moderate amounts, which would be approximately three servings daily. This may include a bowl of miso soup, some edamame, and a glass of soy milk. Tofu is also a common soy-based food.

Soy also contains:

  • Saponins, which are compounds that may lower cholesterol and protect against cancer
  • Phytic acid, which acts as an antioxidant
  • Sphingolipids, which help regulate cell growth and deter abnormal cells from replicating

Overall Healthy Diet

One the largest problems in the U.S. is the amount of processed and genetically modified foods (GMOs) we consume. A diet that includes these types of foods is not a real healthy one. Whole foods and organic are recommended for clean eating. This pertains to soy as well.

In this country, 92% of the soybeans grown here are genetically modified. That’s a staggering figure. So, again, try and check out whole and organic sources. Additionally, beware of the ingredient “isolated soy protein”, which basically means only the protein is extracted from the food and all the other nutrients are tossed aside. Isolated soy protein is listed on many snack, workout, or energy bars and shakes.

For more current health and wellness news, check out GetThrive!

Sources:

https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/september-2014/soy-cancer.html

http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/soy.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/treatment/survivorship/survival-strategies/soy-safe-for-cancer-survivors.html

https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/22342/cancer-information/cancer-risk-and-prevention/healthy-weight-diet-and-exercise/soy-foods/#y0KI0czhGGVze0rs.99

 

Say “Yes” to Beet Juice!

Every week there’s a new trendy Superfood advertised in markets or on social media. Beets, however, specifically red beetroots, have been a prominent health veggie for generations. It’s more recent that the many powerful benefits of drinking the juice have come to light.

Beet-ween You and I

Beets are an incredibly nutrient-dense vegetable. My Polish grandmother boiled them in with many of her cultural dishes. Our Russian neighbor made the most delicious Borsht soup. It was a tad sour, but she added a bit of bacon into the bowl, and that made it more appealing and flavorful. Beets can also be roasted, which tends to bring out more of their sweetness.

But if you want the vitamins and nutritional benefits from the red beetroot without the cooking hassle, perhaps the best form is juicing. In fact, beet juice has shown to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, decrease inflammation, and even improve athletic performance when ingested as a liquid supplement.

Skipping a Beat

Nitrates are chemicals that naturally occur in certain foods—beets being one of them. In truth, the highest nitrate levels are found in spinach, celery, lettuce, and beets! Nitrates convert into nitric oxide when they’re consumed.

Nitric oxide increases oxygen levels in our blood. It also helps open our blood vessels, which allows for improved blood flow. When our blood is oxygen-rich and flowing freely, our circulatory and respiratory systems can function at their peak. Think about what this could mean to an athlete. Or, imagine how this could positively affect your workouts?

If more oxygen is being fed to your muscles, your endurance can be increased. Skipping rope for two minutes won’t be as taxing if you drink some beet juice a couple of hours before.

Research from studies showing the effects of beet juice as a nutritional athletic supplement offer these suggestions:

  • 2 cups of red beetroot juice is a healthy dose
  • Drink your supplement approximately 120 minutes before engaging in your workout

Beet the Odds

Today’s environment requires that people take special note to eat nutritionally, exercise, but also to detoxify. Pollutions in all forms enter our bodies, regardless of how “clean” we live. Beets are natural detoxifiers.

Beets are high in vitamin C and K, folate, potassium, manganese, and fiber. They also contain betaine (a nutrient that helps protect cells), pectin, and assist the liver with its cleansing process. They are a rich source of antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and risk of disease. As mentioned, the nitrate level in beet juice helps decrease hypertension—that makes it a heart-healthy beverage.

No matter how you slice it, beets are the bomb! Before your next stroll or workout, think about toasting with a glass of beet juice.

Sources:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-roast-beets-in-the-oven-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-172827

https://www.verywell.com/how-does-beet-juice-improve-athletic-performance-4123855