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March 6, 2016 | | Nutrition

Ancient Grains

It’s time to amp up your grain game! The latest Really, Truly Fit podcast is going back in time to discuss ancient grains. Tune in and listen to Jim and Jess discuss the most popular ancient grains, the nutritional benefits and tips for adding to your daily diet.

What is an Ancient Grain? When a grain has gone unchanged over the course of time.


  • Contains minimal amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation.
  • Packed with tons of nutritional value such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and also fibres and antioxidant.
  • Most are gluten free, making it easier to digest in the body due to their genetic building blocks and water soluble gluten levels.
  • Linked to the reduction of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, along with weight maintenance.


1. Farro

  • Origin: Italy
  • Contains 7 grams of both protein and fiber, accompanied by 10% iron, and a substantial amount of selenium. 3 Different Grains: Farro Piccolo (Einkorn), Farro Medio (Emmer), and Farro Grande (Spelt).
  • Cooking: boiling water, ~30 minutes
  • Prepare with fruits, yogurts, toss in salads, soups. Useful if immersed in liquids because of the resilient texture.

2. Teff

  • Origin: Ethiopia, Eritrea
  • Fine grain, with a mild nutty texture. In its traditional state, Teff is ground up in flour to make injera, an edible serving plate of sorts used in Ethiopian eateries. Colors range from white-dark brown.
  • In one typical serving- ¼ cup dry: it contains 10% daily needs for calcium for an average adult, great source of iron (20%), as well as 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.
  • Cooking: Once water is brought to a boil, add teff in pot for 15-20 minutes to simmer. The longer it’s cooked in its natural state the more it will transform from a dry grain to a creamier product.
  • Preparation: In the U.S. it is served especially in gluten free foods and becoming more popular to find it in pancakes, cereals, and breads. Great for veggie burgers, stews, and salads.

3. Amaranth

  • Origin: Peru
  • Nutrition: With 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, it is very comparable to quinoa. Amaranth is naturally gluten free and is high in potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus; and the only grain documented to have Vitamin C.
  • Small beads, pale in color, very similar size and shape to quinoa but cooks differently. It releases starches creating a creamy texture with a bit of a slight crunch, not fluffy like quinoa, but more texture.
  • Cooking: Takes about 15-20 minutes to cook, but never fully loses its crunch.
  • Preparation: Use instead of corn or grits. Also great for an oatmeal porridge substitute. It is also sold as puffed cereal in some stores, as well as amaranth flour for baking.

4. Quinoa

  • Origin: Andean region (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile)
  • Similar to amaranth, it is cultivated as a seed and is fairly small. After harvest the outer layer of saponin is removed for a more palatable taste. Quinoa unravels underlying layer when cooked fully. 
  • Nutrition: Packed with 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 12% iron, about 30% magnesium and 19% folate per daily needs substantial amount amount of calcium and phosphorous, and heart-healthy essential omega 3 fatty acids. It’s also a complete protein providing all nine essential amino acids necessary for good health, perfect for vegetarians.
  • Cooking: Like rice, for every 1 cup of Quinoa, 2 cups of a liquid should be added, brought to a boil, simmered, fluffed, and served! Only takes about 15 minutes.
  • Preparation: With a mild yet tasteful flavor, it often serves as a gluten free base for pasta and cereals, among other things. Absorbs like a sponge so it is recommended to put broths, spice, and seasonings into water as to get a more flavorful starting dish. Serve as you would rice or mix with vegetables, legumes, and toss in lemon juice for a fresh side.

5. Barley

  • Origin: Ethiopia and Southeast Asia
  • Barley is a larger grain with pasta like consistency, with crunchy and nutty-like texture.
  • Nutrition: With 7.8 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein you should be almost set for a full meal. Unlike the fibers in most grains, 17% of barley is fiber due to the fact that it runs throughout the grain and not just on the outer bran layer. Containing beta-glucan, a highly fermentable soluble fiber, Barley is linked to many health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol, improving immune functions, controlling blood sugar levels, and improving healthy colon health.
  • Cooking: Barley can take up 50 to 60 minutes to do such and can be found in soups, breads, and even cookies.
  • Preparation: Great used as a cold vegetable mixed, warm mix like pilaf.

6. Spelt

  • Origin: Central Europe, northern Spain
  • Grains are small and chewier, very similar to a nut texture.
  • Nutrition: Composed of 58% carbohydrates, high in several minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus.
  • Cooking: Soak grains overnight. Cook 1 cup spelt berries to 3 cups of water, reduced heat for 30-40 minutes after a boil.
  • Preparation: Whole grain spelt is great for casserole additions or to be used as a topping for salds. Great alternative for a nutrient dense baking flour as it will not compromise too much texture as many other grains will. Aside from baking needs, spelt is also found in cereals, pastas, and bread.

7. Buckwheat

  • Origin: South-east Asia
  • Description: Grain like seed, not grass like wheat.
  • Nutrition: Per ¼ cup dry serving buckwheat has 5 grams of protein and fiber. Rich in iron, zinc, and selenium.
  • Cooking: Buckwheat can be cooked in about 25 minutes, with a 1:2 cups ratio of grain to water.
  • Preparation: Buckwheat is primarily important in Japan for the purpose of soba noodles. Buckwheat pasta and flours such as breads and pancake mixes are becoming popular in the U.S. Buckwheat as a whole grain is paired well with leafy green, legumes, onions, and mushrooms because of the earthy and hearty texture. It is paired well with warm dishes or a pilaf with warm spices.

8. Kamut Wheat

  • Origin: Egypt
  • Description: Twice the size of modern wheat with a nutty crunch.
  • Nutrition: Provides vitamin B, E, and A and a great basis of minerals for your daily needs, including 17% iron, 21% magnesium, 25% phosphorous and zinc. 
  • Cooking: 3 cups of water per cup of grain. Boiling, then simmer included is roughly 1 hour of cooking time.
  • Preparation: Sold as a puffed cereal also used in breads, pastas, beers, cookies, and baked goods.

 9. Wheat berry:

  • Origin: Italy
  • Description: Both soft and hard short grain varieties, they make up the whole wheat kernel without the husk, with a earthly, chewy bite.
  • Nutrition: Great source of iron as well as vitamins B1 and B3, minerals magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, copper, manganese. Wheat berry includes 6 grams of fiber and protein per serving of ¼ cup dry.
  • Cooking: Boiling water, cooking reduced heat for about 1 hour. With harder wheat berry varieties it is recommended to soak overnight in order to reduce cooking time.
  • Preparation: These berries are a great texture addition in a pilaf such as brown rice and couscous. Sprouting these berries will make them sweeter, as harder ones may be cracked. They also serve as great substitutes for salad toppings. 

10. Freekeh

  • Origin: Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Israel, Egypt
  • Harvested when the plant is immature and green and sold in split pieces for quick cooking. Dry roasted gives this grain a chewy nutty texture, similar in nutritional value of durum wheat- derived from.
  • Nutrition: 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per 140 calories (¼ cup dry.) Packed with lutein and zeaxanthin which is associated with the prevention macular degeneration. Enhances healthy bacteria in the digestive tract so it’s viewed as a prebiotic.
  • Cooking: Stovetop is suggested for most flavorful risotto inspired dishes (40-50 minutes), or microwave for 30-35 minutes.
  • Preparation: Use freekeh as a risotto substitute, pilaf, or taboulie. Pairs well with any type of flavors. Hearty grains paired with warm spices and diverse textures is a great way to get started.

Or try out this Jim White Approved recipe below.


Broccoli + Freekah Aoli E Olio

Serves 4-6 


  •  1-1/2 cups cooked whole grain freekah
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • 5 cloves sliced garlic
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary


  • To cook the freekah: Place 1 1/2 cups of freekah and 4 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain any remaining water. Place in a dish and set to the side.
  • Heat oil until it glistens. Add garlic, rosemary and basil. Cover and cook on medium for 5 minutes. Uncover, add broccoli and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender to your desire. Remove from the heat and add to cooked freekah. Add salt and better to taste. Enjoy!

Go on and get your grain on!