Getting to Know: Ancient Whole Grains

Getting to Know: Ancient Whole Grains


By Stephanie Perruzza MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

Although September was National Whole Grain month, you should still enjoy them all-year long.  Whole grains are not only delicious, but they allow you to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy and maintain your weight.

Whole Grains: The Whole Truth
Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel making them a better source of protein, fiber and other important nutrients.  Studies have shown eating a diet rich in whole grains helps prevent your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

5 Ancient Varieties
The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggests making half your daily grains whole. Think outside the brown rice box and add these ancient varieties to your whole grain repertoire.

#1 Quinoa
This gluten free “grain” is actually a seed! Quinoa is high in fiber and one of the few whole grains that’s a complete protein source, containing all your essential amino acids.

Ways to enjoy:

  • Add cooked quinoa into your breakfast staples like oatmeal or yogurt parfaits
  • Bake into pancakes and waffles for added crunch
  • Go meatless and use quinoa as a base for meatballs or burgers


#2 Wheat Berries
These little guys are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels and look similar to brown rice.  They contain a rich amount of fiber with about 4 grams per ½ cup cooked!

Ways to enjoy:

  • Add to homemade soups, stews or chili
  • Serve cold sprinkled on top of salads
  • Bake into breads and muffins for added texture


#3 Freekeh
This newly popular grain is harvested when it’s still young and green, then roasted.  It’s an excellent source of manganese containing 70% of your recommended daily amount per ½ cup cooked.

Ways to enjoy:

  • Use freekeh instead of rice in burritos or stir fry dishes
  • Experiment in veggie patties for a breadcrumb consistency
  • Cook with veggies and cheese to make stuffed


#4 Farro
Italians have been eating this whole grain for more than 2,000 years!  Also referred to as emmer wheat, this grain is a rich source of niacin providing 20% of your recommended daily amount and good source of zinc providing 15% of your recommended daily amount per ½ cup cooked.

Ways to enjoy:

  • It’s soft texture works great in homemade soups
  • Mix with chopped veggies for an omelet filling
  • Add honey and fruit on top for a sweet, tangy snack


#5 Kasha
Kasha, or toasted hulled buckwheat groats, is from a buckwheat plant making it gluten-free.  These grains are a rich source of magnesium containing 21% of your recommended daily amount per 1 cup cooked.

Ways to enjoy:

  • Mix with warm milk and use as breakfast oatmeal alternative
  • Substitute soba noodles in place of regular pasta dishes
  • Mix into tuna or chicken salads served in a wrap for a tasty lunch


How to Store
It’s important to store whole grains in a dry, cool place in an airtight container. Whole grains can be stored up to 6 months in a cool pantry or up to 1 year frozen.


SO TELL ME: How you do make half your grains whole?

1 Comment
  • Kathryn
    Posted at 12:08h, 14 October Reply

    I add cooked quinoa to my smoothies in the morning in lieu of greek yogurt (because I have lactose issues). My smoothies may not be quite a creamy but I feel a little virtuous knowing I eat quinoa every day.

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