Ancient Grains for Your Health

Hearty Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Grains have been a huge part of people’s diets for centuries and have provided excellent health benefits throughout the years.  By now you probably know that it is better to eat whole grains such as whole wheat pastas, cereals, brown rice, and oatmeal, than refined grains.  But have you ventured into trying some of the ancient grains that have been around for centuries such as bulgur, quinoa, couscous and amaranth that provide great health benefits?

Here’s a rundown of a few; consider one of them as a side dish with your dinner tonight!

Bulgur Wheat is a staple food in the Middle Eastern diet.  It is a form of whole wheat and is easy to cook, requiring only soaking in boiling water for at least 30 minutes (2 cups liquid to 1 cup bulgur).  Its robust flavor makes it a healthy change from rice or potatoes.  It is an excellent source of insoluble fiber, promoting regularity and preventing constipation.  There are 3 types of bulgur: Course bulgur used as a substitute for rice, Medium bulgur used for cereal, and Fine bulgur used in Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh salad.

Quinoa was a staple food of the Incas over 5,000 years ago, and was believed to give them power and stamina for fighting their warriors.  Today it still holds true to be a healthy grain, containing quite a bit of protein, equivalent to that in milk.  It has a light, delicate taste and cooks quickly to a fluffy texture.  Quinoa should be rinsed under cold, running water and drained before cooking to remove any residue.  First, toast the grain in a dry skillet for 5 minutes, then add 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the germ spirals out from each grain.  Quinoa can replace rice in pilaf dishes.

Couscous originated in Morocco and is made of small balls of dried semolina dough.  It is a good source of protein; one cup contains 12% of the daily value.  It also contains an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium.  Significant sources of selenium are hard to find in food products, however a cup of couscous provides 61 percent of the recommended amount.

Amaranth is another high protein containing grain.  The whole seeds can produce an oatmeal-like porridge.  It is best to cook amaranth with rice or buckwheat to enhance the taste.  Amaranth can be popped like popcorn for a healthy snack.


What’s your favorite recipe using ancient grains?

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