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The Astounding Health Benefits of 5 Ancient Grains

At least half of the grains you eat each day should be whole grains, which have more health benefits than refined grains, but that doesn’t mean you need to stick to whole wheat bread or oatmeal. Here’s how ancient grains can add a healthful boost to your diet.


Amaranth is packed with protein

Carb lovers, rejoice! Amaranth is a grain that not only provides a hearty combo of fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, and other minerals, it also packs a serious punch of protein—one cup cooked contains a whopping nine grams, far greater than most other grains. Prepare it like you would oatmeal, toss it with fresh veggies and herbs for a light grain salad, or use as a coating on chicken or fish and bake in the oven for guilt-free crispiness. You can even bake with it in its flour form to add a sneaky helping of vitamins, protein, and minerals to your bread or pizza dough. Smart Flour Foods makes frozen pizza crust out of three ancient grains (including amaranth) that you can add your own toppings to and pop in the oven, as well as pre-made ancient grains pizzas that are ready in minutes.


Kamut acts like an antioxidant

If you really want to give your body a boost, add kamut to your meal. This whole grain wheat is bursting with selenium, a mineral that supports a healthy immune system, as well as anti-inflammatory properties that are thought to have a positive effect on cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and more. “One study found that kamut significantly reduced inflammation in the gut in people with irritable bowel syndrome, which then reduced the pain and other symptoms associated with IBS,” says John Douillard, DC, CAP, an expert in natural health, Ayurveda, and sports medicine and author of Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back Into Your Diet. Plus, it’s high in protein, fiber, calcium, and plenty of other vitamins and minerals. Kamut cooks up like a cross between brown rice and barley; try using it as a substitute grain next time you whip up a stir-fry.


Millet protects your heart

Millet is a tiny ancient grain that looks like birdseed but tastes much better. While it contains a good amount of protein and fiber, magnesium is millet’s shining star because of its heart healthy properties, including reducing blood pressure, and its potential to prevent or treat migraines. Cook it into a creamy couscous or pop it in a pan for a nutritious snack. These are signs your diet could use more magnesium.


Teff is mighty in minerals

Teff is a tiny mineral monster, with high levels of calcium and iron packed into tiny bulbs about the size of poppy seeds. “Whole grains contain the endosperm, which is what contains all the nutrients. This is removed when a grain is refined,” says Dr. Douillard. It also contains dietary fiber and is gluten-free, making it a good baking option. Try using Teff flour in bread, pancakes, or cookies. Turn Teff into polenta and top with a hearty stew, or add it to a mixture of other ancient grains and make healthier version of pilaf.


Sorghum keeps you full

Sorghum is a vegetarian’s dream when it comes to fulfilling the daily allotment of protein and fiber: 1/2 cup contains 10 grams of protein and 16 grams of dietary fiber. Cook it up like couscous or try popping it in a pan like popcorn. Here are more good sources of plant-based protein.

Alyssa Jung
Alyssa Jung is a writer and editor with extensive experience creating health and wellness content that resonates with readers. She freelanced for local publications in Upstate New York and spent three years as a newspaper reporter before moving to New York City to pursue a career in magazines. She is currently Senior Associate Editor at Prevention magazine and a contributor to Previously she worked at Reader's Digest as an editor, writer, and health fact checker.

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