Ancient Grains – Why Bother?

Ancient Grains – Why Bother

We eat a lot of wheat—pounds and pounds a year per person, mostly in the form of bread, pasta and pizza. Another favourite grain, of course, is rice. In recent years, many “ancient grains”—sometimes called heritage grains or hyped as super grains— have been rediscovered but remain much less familiar. Some (such as farro) are types of wheat or are related to wheat; others are technically seeds (quinoa) but are often referred to as grains, since they are cooked and eaten like cereal grains. All are worth trying because, by and large, they’re more nutritious than the more common grains, plus they add variety to your diet.

The grains described below are good, sometimes excellent, sources of protein and fibre. They also provide minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, along with phenols (antioxidants) and other potentially beneficial compounds; some are rich in vitamin E and B vitamins. In contrast to most of the wheat and rice we eat, these grains tend to come in their “whole” form, with their bran, germ and endosperm intact, which makes them more nutritious, just as whole wheat and brown rice are more nutritious than their refined counterparts. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, another advantage is that several of these grains—including amaranth, quinoa and teff—are gluten free. A downside is their higher cost.

You can prepare these grains as salads or use them in soups and stews (just boil as you would rice). Some, such as amaranth, teff and wheat berries, cook up well as hot cereals. You can also substitute their flours for wheat flour to increase the nutritional value of breads, muffins and other baked goods. An increasing number of packaged foods— breakfast cereals, pastas, breads and pancake mixes—contain these interesting grains, too, though sometimes in small amounts.


Amaranth. – gluten free, protein, calcium.
Native to both Mesoamerica and the Andes and a major food crop of the Aztecs and Incas, respectively, this tiny grain resembles fine couscous and has a nutty, sometimes peppery, flavor. Popped amaranth is a popular street snack in South America. For a grain, it’s relatively rich in calcium—with about 60 milligrams per 4 ounces, cooked. Because amaranth (like quinoa, see below) contains a good balance of essential amino acids and is particularly high in lysine, it is considered more of a “complete” protein than most grains (and plant foods in general).
Amaranth is almost always whole, since the grains are too small to easily refine. Be sure not to overcook it since it will become sticky.

Farro (or emmer wheat).
Also called Pharaoh’s wheat, this chewy, nutty-tasting grain is a relative of modern wheat that originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. It’s said to have been widely consumed by the Roman legions, and in Italy today it’s a common ingredient in soups and is used as a substitute for arborio rice in risotto dishes (called farrotto). Many pasta lovers prefer pasta made from farro to pasta made from durum wheat. Look for “whole farro” on labels; if it’s “pearled,” it’s not a whole grain because the bran has been removed.

Freekeh (or farik).
Common in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, freekeh refers to a harvesting process rather than an actual grain. The grain, typically wheat, is harvested when it is young, yellow, and soft—at its peak nutrition—and then roasted. Similar in texture to bulgur, it tends to have a smoky, nutty flavor. Though freekeh is being billed as the hottest new ancient grain, it’s still not widely available in stores. You might find it in Middle Eastern or other specialty markets; it’s also sold online.

Quinoa (keen-nyeewah) Gluten free, protein.
Called the “mother of all grains” by the Incas, who considered it sacred, quinoa from the Andes is known for being rich in high-quality protein. There are over 120 varieties, in many different colors. Pale yellow quinoa is most common, though red quinoa contains significantly more phenols and has higher antioxidant activity. Quinoa cooks up fluffy with a nutty flavor. Because the seeds are naturally coated with bitter compounds (saponins, which defend against insects), they must be washed before cooking. Even if the package says the seeds were washed, it’s a good idea to rinse them to remove any remaining bitterness. Kañiwa (kah-nyeewah), quinoa’s smaller and lesser-known red cousin, doesn’t need to be rinsed before cooking because it doesn’t have the bitter compounds.

Teff. Gluten Free. Calcium.
Originating in Ethiopia more than 2,500 years ago, teff (sometimes called taf) remains a staple there, where it’s mostly used to make a spongy sourdough bread. It is one of the smallest grains in the world—so tiny (like poppy seeds) that its bran germ, and endosperm cannot be separated, so it can be consumed only as a whole grain.
According to the Whole Grains Council, there are about 3,000 teff grains in just one gram (1/28th of an ounce). Like amaranth, teff has about 60 milligrams of calcium per four ounces, cooked. Teff is slightly sweet, with white varieties mildest in flavour; darker varieties taste earthier, even chocolate-like.


Wheat berries.
These are the whole kernels of the wheat plant, from which all wheat products, including wheat flour, are made; only the inedible outer husks are removed. Available in red and white varieties, they resemble short-grain brown rice. When boiled, they have a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Since they are the least processed form of wheat, wheat berries can be even richer in nutrients and fibre than whole-wheat flour. That’s because the processing of whole-wheat flour, even if less extreme than for refined wheat flour, can still degrade some of the kernels’ healthful components.

Are They SUPER?
Labeling these grains as “super”—the latest trend—is over stating their place in a healthy diet. I tend not to label any clean food a ‘Super-food’ we all need a wide variety of foods for health. All whole grains are healthful, each in its own way. Besides the ones listed here, there are other healthful options, including barley (a cereal grain that helps lower blood cholesterol), spelt (an ancient wheat species), millet (a food staple in Africa and Asia), buckwheat (not related to wheat), khorasan wheat (Kamut is the registered brand name) and a variety of pigmented rices, such as Thai black rice (which get their dark colours from antioxidants called anthocyanins). If your regular supermarket doesn’t carry them, look for them at health food stores, specialty markets and on the Internet.

There are many recipe ideas for exchanging modern, processed, nutrient sparse grains with these nutrient dense, unprocessed, whole, ancient alternatives.

Eat Clean. Stay Active. Feel Great


10 Practical Tips For Real Fat Loss

So you think you are really eating healthily?

Clients tell me all the time that they are already eating ‘healthy’…but when we look at their eating choices I can point out some not so obvious foods they should exclude.

Think about this…… if you think ‘breakfast cereal’ is a good idea then you really need to read this list and find out the other 9 you should avoid.

10 Foods you MUST avoid to Lose Belly Fat

To build a lean, curvy, sexy figure you need to make sure that around 90% of your diet consists of whole unprocessed foods –
basically avoid anything that comes out of a box most of the time – instead go for lean meats, veggies, eggs, fruits, etc.

If you are eating 5-6 meals each day (and most of you should be) that leaves room for about 4 junk/convenience meals each week.
Be sure your diet contains plenty of protein too!

When it comes to building your best body, maybe you’re not eating as healthy as you think.

Here are 10 foods you may think are good
for you, but in reality are not, and can be very detrimental in your efforts at building the body you desire.

#1. Breakfast Cereals. Cereals are labeled low fat, healthy and recommended for weight loss. Cereals naturally don’t contain lots of fat. Most boxed breakfast cereals are extraordinarily high in sugar. Always check the label to see where sugar (or anything that ends in ‘ose’) is on the ingredient list. The closer it is to the top, the more sugar it contains.

If you’re serious about your health you’ll be cutting as much sugar as you can OUT of your food.

CHALLENGE: don’t buy any food with sugar in the top 4 or 5 ingredients. (even yoghurt). Let me know how you get on!

Meal Tip: Traditional oatmeal or Weetabix.

#2. Muesli/Granola Bars.
Muesli bars contain some healthy ingredients
such as oats, nuts and seeds but they’re glued together with things like corn syrup, honey and just plain sugar, which send your blood sugar levels through the roof. Some bars also contain chocolate chips, chunks of dried fruits making
them not much better than a Mars Bar or Snickers!
Basically they are a low protein, high fat and high sugar, body fat storing treat!

Meal Tip: Homemade protein bars/cakes:

Mix 1 cup oats (dry) + 2 scoops vanilla protein powder + 1-1.5 cup water
+ vanilla, sweetener to taste (ie Stevia), cinnamon +
– shredded carrots OR
-1 heaped cup of blueberries OR
-1 cup pumpkin

Then pour into a shallow baking tray and bake for around 45min at 180 C (350 F)

#3. Low Fat Yogurt.

Fat free doesn’t mean healthy. Low fat yoghurts usually contain a lot of sugar, approximately 7 teaspoons per 200g container! Add a piece of fruit and your blood sugar (and insulin)
levels will skyrocket again – are you seeing a picture building?
You had cereal for breakfast, at coffee break you avoided the biscuits and cake and chose a ‘healthy’ yoghurt – sadly you’ve had just as much sugar which in turn keeps your blood sugar level high and your body just doesn’t need to use any of your stored body fat for energy!

Meal Tip: plain unflavoured yogurt or Greek yoghurt (My absolute favourite- healthy fats and dairy) add fruit, seeds and protein powder for a nutritious sweet treat. Add sweet chilli sauce to make a quick, tasty dressing to replace mayo.

#4. Fat Free Muffins
Convenient and taste good, but nowhere near
as healthy as you think. Usually massive in size, they are high in processed carbs, sugar and calories – a dieter’s nightmare! Avoid these like the plague!

Meal Tip: As for point #3, homemade protein bars/cakes or just chose a couple of pieces of whole fresh fruit and a handful of raw nuts!!

#5. Sandwiches, panini, baguettes purchased from cafés and supermarkets. Have you read the ingredients list of these things?
They often contain sugar laden dressings, little veggies and not enough protein, and way too much bread. Just open them up and have a look at the tiny amount of filling.

Meal Tip: make a bowl of salad instead, or even better cook extra food in the evening and pack it for lunch the next day.

6. Fruit Juice
. Even 100% fruit juice is high in sugar – it doesn’t matter if it’s natural or not. Fresh fruit juice is not a fat loss favourite.
When you consider how many apples/oranges (or your choice of fruit) is required to make a cup of juice you can probably understand my point on this one. Too many calories and an overload of sugar will not do your physique any favours.
Juices deprive you of beneficial fibre and other nutrients it brings.

Meal Tip: choose smoothies mixed with protein powder instead.

7. Cheese and crackers. A popular snack, but
are highly processed, usually wheat or grain based (many people have wheat intolerance
and should reduce the amount of wheat they consume) and are highly processed. The combination of highly processed carbohydrates (crackers) and fat (cheese) can be a dangerous one for fat loss. If you watched he recent programme on Sugar and Fat on the BBC – you’ll see that cheese and crackers are exactly what they were talking about! The carbs in the crackers (sugars) and the fat in the cheese give this half and half combo which guarantees fat storage!

Meal Tip: Brown rice cakes and cottage cheese, or even cottage cheese and fresh fruit are a much better fat loss alternative.

8. Sport Drinks. Supposed to help you replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates.
They’re actually just sugar water, with up to 40g of sugar per bottle.
If fat loss is your goal a post training shake to assist your recovery (provided you have trained intensely for over 25 mins). Post workout for example you could add 20- 30g whey protein to a bottle of Gatorade.

Meal Tip: Drink plain water during your workout, and fast absorbing protein + carbohydrates within 45minutes of your workout.

9. Fast Food Salads. Contain sugar-laden salad dressings hiding preservatives and hidden fat.

Meal Tip: stick to a garden type tossed salad and add the dressing or not, or grow and make your own salad from a window box or two!

10. Frozen Meals. Frozen fruits and vegetables are great for you, But a TV dinner type meal is NOT! They’re processed, high in sugar and carbs, usually low in protein and have added sauces and lots of sodium. The quality of the ingredients is often Not the best. Avoid if possible.

Meal Tip: cook your own – if time is an issue, have a ‘cook up’ day or two each week and freeze your own home cooked meals ready to ‘grab and go.
You can get disposable ‘take-away’ tubs easily now, so you can batch cook your favourites and fill your freezer with healthy meals.

Follow these tips and you’ll feel better, lose stored fat and have plenty of energy.
More important – you’ll keep your enthusiasm for your healthy eating plan!

Let me know how you get on…
Do you have any recipes or tricks that work for you?
Share them here…..

Eat Clean. Train Hard. Feel Great!