Diet & Nutrition

Amazing Ancient Grains

Those trendy "new" grains at the market? Most of them have been around a lot longer than you think

The Aztecs were known to deliver chia seeds as tribute. Spelt was sufficiently important to the Greeks that they gave it as an offering to their gods. Farro was even mentioned in the Bible. And yet, as little as 10 years ago, it was almost impossible to find these historical grains on store shelves. That’s changed, however, as there has been a huge resurgence of modern interest in these ancient grains.

Chia Seeds

These gluten-free seeds were a linchpin of Aztec civilization. Packed with omega-3s, protein, and fiber, chia seeds are also an excellent source of calcium, manganese, and phosphorus. Their neutral flavor makes them a perfect addition to all sorts of foods-smoothies, cereals, baked goods, salads, and more.


A distant cousin to wheat, spelt offers a wider spectrum of nutrients than its modern relative, providing a generous dose of protein, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and zinc. Spelt has a robust nutty flavor and chewy texture. Breads and pasta made from spelt flour are denser and slightly sweeter than those made from white flour.


Similar in texture and taste to spelt, farro provides a complete protein when paired with legumes, and its lignans offer antioxidant benefits. Resembling a plumper barley grain, it is excellent in pilafs, salads,


Known as a high-energy wheat due to its complex carbohydrates and protein content, kamut is also packed with vitamins and minerals, and it maintains most of its nutrition when processed thanks to its low oxidation levels.

Of course, these are just a few options for increasing your grain intake and widening your culinary horizons. Also consider the gluten-free grains millet, sorghum, and amaranth-and don’t neglect the ubiquitous quinoa. So head down to your local health food store and get your grain on!

Mixing Grains Together

Take some of your old favorites-rice pilaf, tabbouleh, couscous-and shake ’em up with some different grains. Cook up some millet with saffron, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds for an exciting new version of couscous. Transform a pilaf with spelt in place of brown rice. Or combine plump nutty farro with chopped parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, and mint for a spectacular twist on traditional tabbouleh.

Ancient Grain Recipes