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Healthy Foods

Ancient Grains

Why choose Ancient Grains?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, at least half of all grains eaten each day should be whole (that is, intact, ground, cracked or flaked). Most of us limit our grains to barley, corn, oats, rice and wheat, but you can add variety to your diet by including some ancient grains. Ancient grains are definitely worth exploring. High in fibre and rich in mineral content, these tasty whole grain options are definitely here to stay and can be a wonderful addition to your diet.

Amaranth

One of the earliest known food plants, Amaranth was cultivated by the Aztecs and the Incas. (One of the best-known varieties is called Inca wheat.) It is often called a "pseudo-grain" and has been referred to as both an herb and a vegetable.

Amaranth is a highly nutritious and gluten free grain, and is unusual in that it offers a complete form of vegetable protein. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, calcium and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Amaranth is a good source of all essential amino acids, in particular lysine, and has a strengthening, toning effect on the body.

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. Traditionally eaten as a breakfast porridge, Amaranth can also be added to soups, salads and stir-fries, and amaranth flour can be used in baking.

Buckwheat

Don't be fooled! Buckwheat is not actually a type of wheat, it is a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. The triangular seeds it produces are known as buckwheat groats, are the hulled grains of buckwheat; they are three-sided in shape and resemble grains of wheat, oats, or rye. Buckwheat has been providing essential nutrients, vitamins, energy, and fiber to humanity for approximately 8,000 years. Its first starring role as a cultivated crop appears circa 4000 B.C. in the Balkan region of Europe.

The protein in buckwheat contains the eight essential amino acids and is also high in lysine. Buckwheat is also rich in many B vitamins as well as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.it provides lots of protein as well as calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc. A 1995 study from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute showed that eating 30 grams of buckwheat daily can lower blood pressure. And because buckwheat grain is digested more slowly than other carbohydrates it can leave you feeling fuller longer and improve glucose tolerance among the carbohydrate sensitive.

Buckwheat groats are used whole in hot cereals and soups. Kasha is a traditional porridge made from buckwheat groats.

Kamut

Kamut® Khorasan wheat is distant relative to modern wheat believed to have originated in the time of King Tut. It is a non-hybridized grain that has eight out of nine minerals, and contains up to 65% more amino acids. Kamut® Khorasan wheat is also higher in lipid and protein. The protein content is significantly higher and it also has a high amount of selenium, giving this grain strong antioxidant properties, which help protect the immune system.

Kamut is known to have a natural sweetness, which makes it a great grain for baking. When cooking kamut, it is best to soak the grain overnight. Use three parts water for one part kamut. Once the water has come to a boil, reduce the heat and allow the grain to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the tenderness you prefer.

Millet

One of the earliest cultivated crops, it is a staple in Africa, China and India. High in magnesium, whole cooked millet can be served as a side dish or added to soups. When popped, it can be eaten as a snack. Millet flour can be used in baking.

Millet is another gluten-free seed with high nutritional value. It is an excellent source of protein and is high in fibre and B vitamins. Millet is also particularly high in magnesium, giving the seed heart-protecting properties.
 
Millet has a mildly sweet, nut-like flavour. Depending on the cooking style, the texture can range from fluffy to creamy. When cooking millet, you will need one part millet to two-and-a-half parts boiling water. Once the water has come to a boil, lower the heat and let the millet simmer for 25 minutes with the lid in place.

Quinoa

Quinoa (Pronounced "keen-wah") plants have been cultivated at altitudes of well over 10,000 feet and have been considered a superfood for at least a few millennia. First cultivated more than 5,000 years ago, quinoa, along with corn and potatoes was one of the three foods considered the centerpiece of the Andean diet. Its immense popularity was due to several reasons: It was one of few crops that could survive in such high altitudes (10,000 – 20,000 feet above sea level). It could withstand frost, intense sun and the often drought conditions that characterized the Andean climate.

Quinoa is stocked with life-sustaining nutrients all across the board, including all eight essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Quinoa is also rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium; a good source of dietary fiber, a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

It was for this reason that it was dubbed “mother of all grains” by the Incas, so much so that it came to have spiritual significance for them. Many traditions and ceremonies surrounded the cultivation, harvest and consumption of quinoa.

Quinoa may require a thorough rinse before cooking to wash off its naturally bitter coating, called saponin. It cooks in about 15 minutes and Like cooking rice in a stove top pot, you’ll want almost 2 cups of water per one part quinoa but be careful not to pour too much water in the pot, otherwise it will take even longer. It can be served as a side dish or added to soups and salads.

Spelt

The official name of is Triticum aestivum var. spelta. It was originally grown in Iran around 5000 to 6000 B.C., but it has been grown in Europe for over 300 years, and in North America for just over 100 years. 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. Spelt is a tasty whole grain with a nutty flavour. You can use spelt flour in baking, and the grain can be found in a variety of products, including cereals, breads, pasta and crackers.