12 Healthy Ancient Grains

Ancient cereals are a group of cereals and pseudocereals (seeds eaten like grains) that have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years.

They are a staple food in many parts of the world, such as China, India, Africa and the Middle East. Nowadays, ancient grains are becoming more and more popular in Western countries.

This is because they tend to be less processed and contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than a wider range of grains such as corn, rice, and modern wheat.

In addition, studies have linked ancient grain consumption to health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, better blood sugar control, and improved digestion (1, 2).

Here are 12 healthy ancient grains.

12 Healthy Ancient Grains

1. Amaranth

Amaranth is a nutrient-dense, gluten-free grain that has been cultivated for over 8,000 years (3).

One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains (4 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 251

  • Carbohydrates: 46 grams

  • Protein: 9 grams

  • Fat: 4 grams

  • Fiber: 5 grams — 20% of the Daily Value (DV)

  • Manganese: 91% of DV

  • Magnesium: 38% of DV

  • Iron: 29% of DV

Due to its impressive nutrient profile, amaranth has been linked to many benefits, including reduced heart disease risk and inflammation (5, 6).

For example, one animal study found that diets high in amaranth significantly reduced total cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels compared to other diets high in grains (6).

Amaranth red can easily replace rice, couscous, and quinoa. Alternatively, you can add amaranth to soups or stews to add volume and thickness.

2. Millet

Millet is widely known as an ingredient in bird food, but it is an ancient fake grain rich in nutrients that is considered a staple food in China, India, Africa, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

One cup (174 grams) of cooked millet has (7 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 174

  • Carbohydrates: 41 grams

  • Protein: 6 grams

  • Fat: 2 grams

  • Fiber: 2 grams — 8% of DV

  • Manganese: 21% of DV

  • Magnesium: 19% of DV

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) 15% of :D V

Millet contains a variety of nutrients associated with lower inflammation, lower heart disease risk, and improved blood sugar control (8 sources, 9 sources).

For example, a study in 105 people with type 2 diabetes found that replacing rice with millet with meals reduced postprandial blood sugar levels by 27% (10).

Xiaomi is versatile and gluten-free. It can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal or as a substitute for other grains such as rice, couscous, and quinoa.

If you can't find Xiaomi at your local grocery store, you can easily buy it online.

3. Khorasan wheat (kamut)

Khorasan wheat, also known as kamut, is a high-fiber, nutrient-dense grain with health benefits.

One cup (172 grams) of cooked kamut offers (11 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 227

  • Carbohydrates: 48 grams

  • Protein: 10 grams

  • Fat: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 7 grams — 30% of DV

  • Selenium: 100% of DV

  • Zinc: 29% of DV

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) 25% of :D V

Kamut may be particularly beneficial for lowering blood sugar levels and heart disease risk factors like LDL (bad) cholesterol (12).

A 4-week study in 22 people found that a Kamu diet-based diet suppressed hormones that promote inflammation and reduced total cholesterol by 4%, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 8%, and blood sugar levels by 4% compared to a half-diet. Whole grain diet (13 trusted sources).

This grain contains gluten, so it is not suitable for people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy.

Kamut has a chewy nutty texture with grains two to three times larger than wheat grains. It's a great addition to soups, stews, casseroles, and summer salads.

You can find it in specialty stores and online.

4. Sorghum

Sorghum is the fifth most consumed grain in the world and an important source of nutrients (14).

Every 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of uncooked sorghum provides (15):

  • Calories: 329

  • Carbohydrates: 72 grams

  • Protein: 11 grams

  • Fat: 3 grams

  • Fiber: 7 grams — 27% of DV

  • Manganese: 70% of DV

  • Magnesium: 39% of DV

  • Copper: 32% of DV

  • Selenium: 22% of DV

Not only is sorghum highly nutritious, but it's also a good source of potent polyphenolic plant compounds, including anthocyanins and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants in the body (16).

Antioxidants can neutralize potentially harmful molecules called free radicals, which can cause cellular damage and increase disease risk when they build up in your body (17).

Unlike many other grains, sorghum is naturally gluten-free and can be easily ground into flour for gluten-free baking. Its mild taste makes it very versatile.

5. Teff

Trush is the smallest grain in the world, about 0.7–1% of the size of a wheat grain (18).

Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), uncooked thrush contains (19 Trusted Sources, 20 Trusted Sources):

  • Calories: 367

  • Carbohydrates: 73 grams

  • Protein: 13.3 grams

  • Fat: 2 grams

  • Fiber: 8 grams — 32% of DV

  • Manganese: 402% of DV

  • Copper: 90% of DV

  • Vitamin C: 98% of DV

  • Magnesium: 44% of DV

  • Iron: 42% of DV

  • Phosphorus: 34% of DV

  • Zinc: 33% of DV

Although thrush pellets are small, they are rich in important nutrients like iron and magnesium. They're also one of the few grains rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that's essential for immunity and bone health (20).

Conditions such as iron deficiency anemia are very rare in Ethiopia, likely due to the country's high consumption of thrush cereals (21).

For example, a study in 592 pregnant Ethiopian women found that daily consumption of thrush was associated with a significantly lower risk of anaemia compared to infrequent consumption (22).

Thrush is also gluten-free and can be used in porridge, soups, stews, and gluten-free baked goods. It is available online and in some stores.

6. Freekeh

Freekeh is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. Made from green durum wheat, it contains a variety of nutrients and powerful carotenoid compounds (23).

Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), Uncooked Freekeh Supplies (24 Trusted Sources):

  • Calories: 325

  • Carbohydrates: 65 grams

  • Protein: 20 grams

  • Fat: 2.5 grams

  • Fiber: 10 grams — 40% of DV

  • Iron: 20% of DV

In particular, Freekeh is a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Consuming more of these compounds has been linked to a reduced risk of degenerative eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (25, 26).

Since freekeh contains gluten, people with celiac disease and other gluten-related conditions should avoid it.

Freekeh has an earthy, nutty flavor with a chewy texture like brown rice. As a versatile cereal, it makes a great addition to soups, stews, casseroles, and summer salads.

If it's hard to find at your usual grocery store, buy it online.

7. Farro

Farro is an ancient wheat grain that is now growing in popularity.

Two uncooked faro packets per 3.5 oz (100 g) (27 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 362

  • Carbohydrates: 72 grams

  • Protein: 13 grams

  • Fat: 2 grams

  • Fiber: 11 grams — 42% of DV

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) 53% of :D V

  • Zinc: 44% of DV

  • Magnesium: 31% of DV

In addition to the nutrients listed above, Faro is rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, carotenoids, and plant sterols, which may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases like heart disease and certain cancers (28, 29, 30).

Additionally, farro is particularly high in protein and fiber, which can help maintain a healthy weight by suppressing appetite and keeping you feeling full after meals (31, 32).

This gluten-containing grain is easy to include in your diet and can be consumed like any other grain. You can add it to dishes like salads and soups.

You can find Faro in specialty food stores and online.

8. Barley

Barley is highly nutritious and one of the most widely consumed ancient grains in the American diet.

One cup (157 grams) of cooked barley provides (33 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 193

  • Carbohydrates: 44 grams

  • Protein: 4 grams

  • Fat: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 6 grams — 24% of DV

  • Selenium: 25% of DV

  • Iron: 12% of DV

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) 11% of :D V

Barley is rich in β glucan, a soluble fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the intestine. β Dextran has also been linked to heart health (34 sources, 35 sources, 36 trusted sources).

For example, a review of 14 studies including 615 people reported that diets higher in barley β dextran significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels compared to control diets (37).

Barley is affordable, ubiquitous, and easy to eat. However, it is not gluten-free.

It can be eaten as a side dish in place of other grains or added to soups, fillings, and salads.

9. Quinoa

Quinoa is a popular gluten-free ancient grain with impressive health benefits.

One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa (38 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 222

  • Carbohydrates: 39 grams

  • Protein: 8 grams

  • Fat: 4 grams

  • Fiber: 5 grams — 21% of DV

  • Manganese: 51% of DV

  • Magnesium: 28% of DV

  • Phosphorus: 23% of DV

  • Folate: 19% of DV

  • Zinc: 18% of DV

Quinoa contains strong cell reinforcements, for example, quercetin and kaempferol, which creature studies have displayed to have mitigating and anticancer properties (39 sources, 40 sources, 41 confided in sources).

In addition, this grain is a magnificent wellspring of plant-based protein, with 185 grams for each 8 grams (1 gram) of protein. Protein is the most probable macronutrient to feel full, and adding more protein-rich food varieties to your eating regimen might assist with managing hunger and advance weight reduction (42).

Because of its prevalence, quinoa is ubiquita in general stores and wellbeing food stores. It tastes really gentle and mixes effectively into breakfast bowls, snacks, and meals.

10. Bulgur (cracked wheat)

12 Healthy Ancient Grains

Bulgur, also known as ground wheat, is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.

One cup (182 grams) of cooked wheat (43 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 151

  • Carbohydrates: 34 grams

  • Protein: 6 grams

  • Fat: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 8 grams — 33% of DV

  • Manganese: 48% of DV

  • Copper: 15% of DV

  • Magnesium: 14% of DV

Bulgur is generally produced using squashed durum wheat and is frequently added to servings of mixed greens like tabuler servings of mixed greens or fill in for rice in dishes like pilaf.

Its high fiber content might advance heart wellbeing, great assimilation, glucose control, and weight reduction (32, 44).

Despite the fact that wheat is smart for the vast majority, it is a wheat item, so individuals who can't endure gluten or wheat ought to keep away from it.

Bulgur is generally sold in a semi-cooked (somewhat cooked) structure, and that implies it very well may be arranged rapidly.

11. Rye

Rye is a popular ancient grain that is a member of the wheat family. However, rye contains fewer carbohydrates and more vitamins and minerals than wheat.

Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of uncooked rye cereal packets (45 trusted sources):

  • Calories: 338

  • Carbohydrates: 76 grams

  • Protein: 10 grams

  • Fat: 2 grams

  • Fiber: 15 grams — 60% of DV

  • Manganese: 112% of DV

  • Copper: 41% of DV

  • Phosphorus: 27% of DV

  • Magnesium: 26% of DV\

Because of their high fiber content, rye and rye-based items might be more powerful at easing stoppage than wheat-based items and intestinal medicines (46).

Likewise, consuming more fiber-rich entire grains, for example, rye, has been connected to a decreased gamble of specific malignant growths, including bosom and colorectal disease (47, 48, 49).

Despite the fact that rye is exceptionally solid, quite important it's anything but a without gluten grain.

12. Fonio

Fonio is a millet that is widely consumed in West African countries. The two most common varieties are white Digitaria exilis and black Digitaria iburu.

Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), Uncooked Forneo provides (50 Trusted Sources, 51 Trusted Sources):

  • Calories: 378

  • Carbohydrates: 87 grams

  • Protein: 4 grams

  • Fat: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 2 grams — 9% of DV

  • Iron: 9% of DV

Fonio likewise has a lot of magnesium, copper, and zinc.

It might contain safe starch, which goes through your gastrointestinal system without being separated and takes care of your solid stomach microorganisms (52).

These microbes separate safe starch into short-chain unsaturated fats (SCFAs), which might assist with bringing down glucose and irritation, among different advantages (53, 54).

Fonio isn't generally accessible in the US, however can be bought online. It can be ground into a heavenly sans gluten flour for baking or cooking for a cushy, couscous-like surface.


Popular in West African countries, Forneo is believed to contain resistant starch, which has been linked to many health benefits.

The bottom line

Conventional grains have become progressively well known as of late in light of the fact that they will generally be less handled and have more nutrients, minerals, and fiber than ordinary grains.

Consumes less calories high in antiquated grains have been connected to medical advantages, for example, further developed glucose and decreased irritation, as well as coronary illness and disease chances.

Numerous antiquated grains are additionally without gluten, for example, quinoa, millet, forneo natural product, sorghum, amaranth, and thrush. These are reasonable for individuals who can't endure gluten or wheat.

Take a stab at integrating a portion of these old grains into your eating routine to receive their wellbeing rewards.

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