Ancient Grains, Modern Health Benefits

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of eating whole grains – those that have been minimally processed and are void of added sugars and preservatives. You also may be hearing about Ancient Grains. For clarity, most grains have been around since the dawn of time. What makes a whole grain an “ancient” grain is the fact that they have remained unchanged, i.e. have not been genetically modified by humans, over centuries. Modern wheat, then, is not an Ancient Grain. 

There are many types of Ancient Grains and none are native plants of North America, though these “supergrains” are gaining popularity for their unique flavors and specific nutrient profile. Here are a few:

Amaranth is gluten-free, rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, iron and protein (9 grams per cup). It’s often prepared like oatmeal or can be prepared like rice. Amaranth flour is often used in baking bread.

Farro is a form of wheat (so it contains gluten), rich in B-vitamins, protein, and high in fiber but low in calories. It’s great to use in risotto style dishes.

Kamut packs 11 grams of protein in a cup. It contains gluten and resembles whole grain rice, but is more nutrient rich, containing fiber, polyphenols, and minerals.

Millet is a gluten-free yellow grain that resembles cous-cous (which is not gluten-free). Packed with magnesium, it can be steamed like rice or prepared the same as a pastina.

Teff is gluten-free, often used in making polenta. The grain is tiny, like poppy seeds, but more nutrient dense, containing iron, fiber, and calcium.

To learn more about the varieties of Ancient Grains, including those that are gluten-free, visit these resources:

The Whole Grain Council: Ancient Grains

The Whole Grain Goodness of Modern and Ancient Grains (Harvard Health) 

9 Gluten-free Ancient Grains

References

Creamy Chicken and Kamut Casserole

Kamut? It might sound like it, but it’s not the name of a new Muppet. Pronounced KAH-moot, it is the name of a wonderful Ancient Grain that adds great flavor and texture to this recipe – a unique spin on a basic chicken and rice casserole. Kamut is slightly larger than rice and a bit chewier, with a mild nutty taste. Packed with protein, you can easily use kamut with meatless dishes. It takes a bit longer to cook than long-grain brown rice, but the taste is so worth the wait!

Ingredients

• 2 cups cooked kamut (1 cup uncooked, about 180g; see note for cooking)
• 1 1/2 cups (355ml) cashew milk (or a dairy-free milk of your choice)
• 3 Tbsp all-purpose gluten-free flour
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 1 tsp fresh thyme
• 1 1/2 Tbsp sunflower oil
• 8 oz (225g) chicken breast, chopped into small pieces
• 1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 large red pepper, chopped
• 4 cups chopped collard greens, about 6 large leaves

Preparation

1) Whisk milk, flour, salt, and thyme together until there are almost no clumps left. Set aside.
2) Heat the oil in a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and stir constantly. Let them cook for about a minute. Add the chicken and cook it for 5-6 minutes.
3) Add red pepper and collard greens and let cook for a few minutes, until the collard greens have wilted.
4 ) Stir the milk mixture into the skillet and reduce the heat slightly (about a medium-low). Cook for a minute or two, until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. Be sure to stir frequently because the sauce will start to burn at the bottom.
5) Turn off the heat and mix in the kamut. Enjoy warm.

References

The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.