Do you remember the low-carb craze? Funny to think that carbs were once “banned” as healthy foods and now some are considered a superfood! Get the lowdown on the six superfood grains you should be incorporating into your diet, plus a roundup of healthy and delicious recipes featuring these nutrient superstars!
Who here remembers the low-carb craze and the rising popularity of the Atkins diet? I can specifically remember the Atkins diet book being one of the few diet books that my parents had on their bookshelves. Starting in high school, I started getting really interested in nutrition and would frequently pick up these books out of curiosity.
I remember it clear as day. As I was beginning to learn more about nutrition and shaping what healthy meant to me, I thought that surely carbs and fats have no place in a nutritious diet. Problem is, you reach for “low fat” and “low carb” items at the grocery store, and those nutrients are often replaced with unhealthy ingredients, such as added sodium and sugars.
During this time, I was also finding my passion for running, and I specifically remember one of my coaches teaching me about the importance of complex carbs in fueling for long runs. In my mind, I thought “Okay. Wild rice = complex carbs. Got it.” It was all about that rice back then… ha!
It’s been a few (ahem) years since then, and as the nation strives to get healthier, there are increasing research studies done to show the nutritious benefits of various foods, and I believe there has been a shift in focus from diet crazes to finding a healthy lifestyle that works for you (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, etc.).
When it comes to whole grains, it’s not just about being labeled a “complex carbohydrate” and people are left wondering what that means. There are some that are now being thought of as a superfood, meaning you are getting the most nutritional bang for your buck. And you know me, I’m all about those superfoods, or should I say “supergrains”!
Today, I want to touch on 6 ancient (superfood) grains that you should be incorporating into your diet.
Amaranth <Gluten Free>
Want to know a secret? Amaranth isn’t a true whole grain, or so I hear. It is derived from a different plant species than most, but has a similar nutrient profile to it’s grain cousins. This ancient grain (seed) dates all the way back to the Aztecs and wasn’t just grown for consumption; it was also used in their religious practices.
For something to be considered a superfood, it’s got to have an impressive nutrient profile, and the amaranth grain does not disappoint! It contains more than three times the average amount of calcium, is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and is the only grain documented to contain vitamin C. It is also considered a complete protein, which a rarity in the grain family!
Want to give Amaranth a try? Check out these recipes!
Cinnamon Amaranth with Berries by The Whole Serving
Amaranth Kale Bowl by Stefanie Gold Marie
Crunchy Chocolate Seed Bark by Nutrition Stripped
Amaranth Cakes w/ Lentils, Kale & Chipotle Aioli by Feasting at Home
Mung Beans & Amaranth Crunchy Asian Salad by The Flexitarian
Buckwheat <Gluten Free>
Who else associates buckwheat with pancake mix? Back in high school, I used to pick up these mixes, as I knew they were a healthier alternative to mix made with all-purpose flour and can distinctively remember its earthy, nutty flavor. You may commonly see buckwheat groats or flour on the shelf, which is used for things such as morning porridge or baked goods.
Buckwheat is incredibly high in zinc, copper and manganese, as well as protein. It’s important to note that some studies have shown that buckwheat can be difficult to digest for those with digestive tract issues or among children. However, it is a great whole grain for those with diabetes, as it is high in soluble fiber, which slows down the rate of glucose absorption.
Want to give buckwheat a try? Check out these recipes!
No Sugar Added Apple Cinnamon Granola by Healthy Helper
Buckwheat Persimmon Salad by Two Purple Figs
Toasted Coconut Cinnamon Raisin Oat Bran Pancakes by Running to the Kitchen
Bean and Buckwheat Chili with Dark Chocolate by Heavenlynn Healthy
Coconut Buckwheat Granola by Breakfast for Dinner
I recently wrote about this ancient grain here. Farro is similar to in texture to rice and has a nutty flavor, making it a great grain to use in warm salads or risotto. It is often found in two forms: whole and semi-pearled (which requires less cooking time). Unlike several of the grains listed here, farro is not gluten-free and should be avoided if you have gluten sensitivities!
Like many of the other ancient grains, farro is an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein, dishing up 7 grams of protein per serving! Farro is also high in antioxidants and has been found to reduce inflammation in the body.
Want to give farro a try? Check out these recipes!
Sweet and Spicy Harissa Farro by Love Me, Feed Me
Kale Salad with Almonds, Feta and Cherries by Fine Fit Day
Farro Mushroom Risotto by Simple Medicine
Creamy Stuffed Peppers with Farro, Mushrooms and Asparagus by Bucket List Tummy
Have you heard of Freekah? I hadn’t until recently, and after trying it, it is very similar in taste and texture to farro. It is similar to brown rice, but has up to three times the amount of fiber and protein, making this grain a true supergrain! It’s also high in iron, an important nutrient for all of my ladies out there.
Freekah is a young, green wheat that has been toasted and cracked, giving it the depth of flavor and nuttiness it’s known for.
Want to give freekah a try? Check out these recipes!
Red Pepper & Basil Shallot Freekah Salad by The Clean Eating Couple
Thai Tempeh Buddha Bowl by Fit Mitten Kitchen
Sundried Tomato & Feta Freekah Burgers by This Mama Runs for Cupcakes
Warm Coconut Peach Breakfast Freekah by In Fitness and In Health
Millet <Gluten Free>
Have you ever made homemade bird seed? If you have, then you might be familiar with the ancient grain, millet! Have no fear – millet is good for more than just bird seed. It has a similar appearance to couscous and is creamy and fluffy when cooked. I personally have not cooked with this grain yet, but have a bag sitting in my pantry and can’t wait to try it!
Millet is an excellent source of B-vitamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and essential fats (the good for you kind). Despite it’s impressive nutrient profile, millet may not be recommended for those with thyroid issues, as it is contains groitogens, which suppresses thyroid activity.
Want to give millet a try? Check out these recipes!
Chickpea, Millet and Sundried Tomato Burger by Thoroughly Nourished Life
Strawberry Vanilla Sorghum Parfait by Nutrition Starring You
Buckwheat and Hazelnut Granola with Millet, Dried Currants and Seeds by My Little Expat Kitchen
Millet Stuffed Delicata Squash by Vegan Does It
Warm Sorghum Salad with Kohlrabi, Apple & Fennel by Strength & Sunshine
I saved the best for last! Quinoa is definitely the grain that I am most comfortable with and cook with most often. It is so versatile and I’ve found myself using this grain as a base for salads, adding it to stir fry and even granola!
This superfood grain is gluten-free and is a great source of iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium. It is also considered one of the few plant-based complete proteins, and the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is impressive for a grain! Here’s a little cooking tip: quinoa contains a natural pesticide on the outer layer which can be hard to digest, so it’s best to rinse and drain just before cooking!
Want to give quinoa a try? Check out these recipes!
Vegan Quinoa & Spicy Tofu Bowl by Apollo & Luna
Quinoa Breakfast Bars by The Lean Green Bean
Banana Bread Quinoa Bowl by rachLmansfield