Health News
Amazing Avocadoes Aid Weight Loss, Not Weight Gain! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Saturday, June 04, 2016

Avocados are high in fat, but they're not fattening.  In fact, avocadoes are one of the best foods for weight loss because they contain key nutrients that help stabilize blood sugar, lower the secretion of insulin, and increase metabolism.

Here's a summary of the scientific findings about the virtues of avocados and how eating them can help you lose weight:

  • Although 90 percent of the calories in avocados come from fat, the fat is the healthy unprocessed monounsaturated type, which speeds up the basal metabolic rate and helps you to burn more energy (calories).  Monounsaturated fat also helps lower bad cholesterol.
  • The fats in avocados are part of a "perfect package" food, accompanied by essential nutrients that help our body better absorb the fats and use them for energy. 
  • Research clearly indicates that monounsaturated fat exerts beneficial effects on how your body uses blood sugar.  Keeping blood sugar stable is the key to weight loss. High blood sugar leads to diabetes and obesity.
  • In addition to its fat, avocado contains a unique weight loss friendly carbohydrate called mannoheptulose, which reduces the amount of insulin the body produces.  When the body produces too much insulin, it creates insulin resistance, which forces the body to store blood sugar as fat rather than using it for energy.  Avocados are the only known food to contain mannoheptulose.
  • Avocados contain the vitamins and minerals of green vegetables and the protein of meat.  They contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including vitamin A (the potent antioxidant), B vitamins including folate, lutein (a phytonutrient important for the eyes), magnesium, and 60 percent more potassium than bananas.
  • One medium-size avocado contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber, making it one of the most fiber-rich fruits on the planet. Diets high in fiber also help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which aids in weight loss.
  • Avocados are high in a phytochemical called beta-sitosterol, that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from foods, so despite its high fat content, the avocado is an excellent cholesterol buster.
  • According to a study in Brisbane, Australia, eating avocados daily for three weeks improved blood cholesterol levels and reduced weight in middle-aged women better than a low-fat diet did. The daily amount of avocado ranged from ½ avocado for small women to 1½ for large women. Including avocadoes daily reduced total cholesterol by 8 percent and improved the women's good HDL-cholesterol ratio by 15 percent. The Australian study not only reported that eating either half or a whole avocado per day for a month succeeded in lowering cholesterol levels, but at the same time most people in the study lost weight.

Avocados are wonderful in salads, but they can also be mashed into guacamole dip for veggies, and used in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches and in tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad. Avocados can also be a great addition to smoothies, and you can even use them to make a creamy chocolate mousse!


Sources:

The Avocado and Human Nutrition, Bob Bergh Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, http://www.regenerativenutrition.com/content.asp?id=443

All-About-Lowering-Cholesterol.com, "Lowering Cholesterol with Avocado
Fat" http://www.all-about-lowering-cholesterol.com/avocado-cholesterol-and
-avocado-fat.html

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Amazing Tepary Beans PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Tepary-Beans1Of all the commonly consumed plant foods eaten worldwide, no other food has a more health-supportive nutrient profile than beans.  They contain nearly equal amounts of both protein and fiber—a unique combination rarely found in other plant foods. This magical protein-fiber combination, coupled with beans’ high antioxidant content, has been shown to be a very powerful food weapon against many of today’s common diseases.

But there is one bean that rises above the rest.  The Tepary Bean (pronounced TEP-AR-EE) is highly superior in nutritional content and disease fighting powers than other beans.  They have been featured as a key dietary component in diabetes research on Native American populations whose incidence of type 2 diabetes is the highest in the nation.  Also, recent studies from the U.S. and Mexico suggest that tepary beans are useful for treating cancer, and they could be ten times more effective than chemotherapy.1  

Almost Extinct

 

You may have never heard of a Tepary bean.  Neither had I up until about 8 years ago.  That’s because it’s an ancient variety of bean that almost became extinct.  Tepary beans were once an important part of the traditional diet of the Native American Indians of the southwest.  Just before WWII, the federal government re-routed the water supply away from their land toward the farms and homes of white settlers. As a result they had no way to grow their own traditional foods (beans, squash, watermelon, pumpkins, wheat, and other plant foods). Their fields dried up, so the government stepped in and provided them with sacks of white flour, sugar, lard, canned foods, peanut butter and other commercially processed foods.   During that time, tepary beans vanished from their culture.

But recently, tepary beans and other native foods have been reintroduced into the southwestern Arizona Native American diets as researchers have discovered that they have unique qualities for combating diabetes that other beans don’t have.  Tepary beans have a higher protein content than common beans such as pinto, kidney, and navy, as well as higher levels of oil, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium.

 

Superior Health Benefits

 

The benefits, which are also found in a few more familiar foods like oat bran and okra, stem primarily from two characteristics: their high content of soluble fibers that form edible gels, gums and mucilages, and a type of starch called amylose that is digested very slowly. The combined effect is to prevent wide swings in blood sugar, slow down the digestive process and promote satiety. Because of their fiber, tepary beans have the lowest glycemic index (the rate at which a food raises blood sugar levels) of all beans.  The pinto beans that the federal government gives to the Indians (along with lard, refined wheat flour, sugar, coffee and processed cereals) are far more rapidly digested than tepary beans. 

 

Several Versatile Varieties

 

There are two main varieties of tepary beans: the brown tepary bean has a rich, earthy flavor, while the white beans have a slightly sweet flavor. The beans look a little like a flattened black-eyed pea. The white ones cook up creamy. The brown ones are best simmered like pinto beans. They go beautifully with cumin, and with garlic and coconut oil and chilies as well as with pungent herbs such as sage, bay, oregano and thyme. Basically, they go best with the seasonings indigenous to the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. 

 

Basic Cooking Instructions

 

Tepary beans take about 3 hours to cook after soaking them for about 8 hours. They can be used in bean salad, pureed for dips, used in cassoulets or stews or in place of any other dry bean.

Tepary beans are typically available at Farmer’s markets throughout southern Arizona, however they can also be purchased online at www.nativeseeds.org.

To cook, rinse beans with water, pick out an discard any stones or broken pieces, place beans in a large pot and cover with water (8 cups of water of one cup of beans) and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Partially cover and cook until tender, about two to four hours. Once cooked, they will double in volume. The cooked beans can be frozen and store well in the refrigerator for up to one week  (leave them in the cooking liquid). Delicious in bean salads, chili and dips.

 

Crock Pot Instructions

 

Tepary beans are perfect for the crock pot. The long slow cooking brings out the sweetness of the bean and makes a delicious broth. Pick through the beans removing any stones or cracked pieces. Rinse in water to remove any dust. Add the 2 cups of dried beans and 1 teaspoon of salt and fill your crock pot with water almost to the top. Cover and cook on high approximately 8 to 12 hours or until the beans are soft but not falling apart. Yields about 4 cups of cooked beans.

 

Sources:

1 Josue López-Martinez, Ana Luisa Castañeda-Cuevas, Lorena Yllescas-Gasca, et al, Cytotoxic Effect of a Tepary Bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) Lectin on Human Cancer Cell Lines, The Journal of the Federation of American Societies, 2008;22:1136.4., http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/22/1_MeetingAbstracts/1136.4

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The Most Important Food Fight of Our Time PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Saturday, May 28, 2016

nogmovideoimage

CLICK ON THE ABOVE VIDEO FOR A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF WHY IT IS OUR RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT'S IN OUR FOOD

GMO Labeling – Your Right to Know

GMO Label RallyIn November, California voters have a powerful decision to make.  It could be one of the most important decisions in history regarding our health and the health of future generations.   If passed, California Proposition 37 will require food manufacturers to clearly label food and drinks containing ingredients that derive from genetically engineered, or genetically modified organisms (called GMOs).  GMOs are plants or animals whose DNA has been manipulated by scientists in an effort to speed up growth or make plants more resistant to pests.

According to official surveys, more than 90 percent of Americans support mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.  Food activists have been fighting for twenty years to get U.S food companies to do this.  Why?  Because we have a basic right to know what’s in our food.  But the more important reason is that GMOs are scary.  They have changed the very essence of real whole natural foods, and have turned them into substances that are foreign to our bodies.  What’s even more scary is that they have never been tested for human safety. 

If you’ve ever wondered why so many people suffer from food sensitivities and allergies, it’s because our food supply has undergone a recent radical change.  In the mid-1990’s, new food proteins were engineered and introduced into our food supply, unannounced and untested on humans and animals. In an effort to increase production and profits for food manufacturers, scientists articifially insert bacteria, viruses and other genes into the  DNA of soy, corn, canola, and many other foods. A genetically engineered growth hormone, rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is used on dairy cows. 

 

These unlabeled genetically modified foods carry a high risk of triggering life-threatening allergic  reactions, and evidence collected over the past decade now suggests that they are contributing to higher allergy rates. Milk is the number one food allergen in the U.S.  Soy and corn allergies rank right behind it.  GMOs have been linked to the alarming increases in allergies, A.D.H.D, cancer, asthma and obesity.

 

An allergic reaction to food occurs when your body reacts to a food protein as a foreign invader (just like a virus or bacteria), which triggers an inflammatory response.  GMOs contain foreign proteins that have never been in our foods prior to the mid 1990’s.  That explains why adults who never had food allergies when they were younger, now have them.  And it explains why one out of seventeen children now have some form of food allergy.

 

In 1991, there was overwhelming consensus among scientists at the FDA that GMO foods were substantially different and could create unpredictable, unsafe, and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, diseases, and nutritional problems. The scientists urged the agency to require long-term safety studies, including human studies, to protect the public.

But in spite of the protests, the warnings were not heeded by the FDA, which was under orders by the White House to promote biotechnology. As a result, GMOs—such as soybeans, corn, cottonseed, and rapeseeds (canola) that have had bacterial genes forced into their DNA—entered our foods without any required safety evaluations.

 

GMO Crops percentageAs crazy as it sounds, there have never been any human clinical trials on the effects of GMOs on our health, and not many long-term animal-feeding studies either, so we are largely in the dark about their effect on living creatures.

 

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.

Has your doctor ever told you to avoid GMO foods??  Probably not.  That’s why California’s Proposition 37 is so important.

Because GMOs have never been tested to determine their safety, and because so many health issues have arisen since their introduction, more than 40 of the world’s wealthiest countries, including Japan, China, and a host of European countries already label genetically engineered foods. GMOs are deeply unpopular in Europe, which has banned many genetically engineered crops and has strict labeling rules for those that are used.  India’s government is the most recent to come on board: beginning in January 2013, food products containing genetically modified ingredients will be required to carry a “GM” tag.  The United States and Canada are the only two developed countries in the world that do not require labeling of GMO foods.

 

GMOlabelingmap

Processed foods in general can contribute to allergies for a number of different reasons. Most processed foods contain a variety of food colorings, flavors, preservatives, and other additives can have powerful and unforeseen chemical reactions in our body. But those chemicals are clearly listed on ingredient labels, and if you’re tying to avoid them, all you have to do is become a devoted ingredient list reader. GMOs are a more insidious heaUSDAOrganicLogo green and whitelth hazard because therNonGMOProjectseale are no labeling requirements in this country.

Good News: Organic is Not GMO and some Companies Voluntarily Label their Products

The USDA National Organic Program strictly prohibits the use of GMOs in any food carrying the USDA Organic Seal.  So if your food carries the organic seal, you know it’s not made with GMOs.  Organic growers and many other food companies have begun to take matters into their own hands, and are voluntarily labeling their products with a Non-GMO Project seal verifying that their foods do not contain genetically modified ingredients.  But all food companies should be required to let us know about GMO ingredients.

GMO Top FoodsWhere do GMO’s show up?

 

 Everywhere! It is estimated that genetically modified ingredients are found in 80 percent of the U.S. food supply.  They’re in non-organic foods that contain the following:

Sugar: if the product is made in North America and lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GMO sugar beets.

Dairy Products:  if the milk comes from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone, then it’s GMO.  This means milk, cheese, yogurt, whey, ice cream and food ingredients that come from GMO milk.    If it’s not labeled organic, or Non-GMO Project verified, look for labels stating No rbGH, rbST, or artificial hormones.

Corn, Soy, Canola, Cottonseed:These are the four major GMO crops.  Soy shows up in protein bars, meal replacement shakes, baby food, infant formula, soy mik and dairy alternatives.  Corn is used to make foods additives, sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, and even the “natural” sweeteners erythritol and xylitol.  It is also used to make xanthan gum, MSG  and artificial sweeteners.  Canola oil  and soybean oil are used in thousands of foods, including salad dressings, margarines, snack foods, and frozen foods. Many vitamins and supplements use corn and soy derivatives.

 

 

A Fight Worth FightingGMO prop37-poster

Real-food activists have been fighting for two decades to force U.S. Food companies to tell consumers when their products are made with genetically modified organisms.  This California ballot initiative is potentially their most promising offensive to date.  If Proposition 37 passes, California would become the first state in the nation to require GMO labeling on a host of food products commonly found on grocery store shelves, from breakfast cereals to baby food, sodas and tofu.

 

But the company that has the patents on the GMO seeds (Monsanto), and the food manufacturers that use GMO ingredients are fighting back hard.  Very hard.  Foodmakers, like carmakers, know that what starts in California has a fair chance of becoming the national law, or at least the national norm.

 

This has become a very big food fight.  It’s a people’s movement against big corporations, and it’s one of the most important food fights of our time. 

 

Those who want to see the measure passed are people like you and me who are passionate about healthy and organic food.  The big and small natural food companies that you have come to trust to provide you with high quality food products are also behind the initiative. To date they have raised $2.8 million on campaign efforts. Scores of individuals have made $100 donations, but most of the money is coming from organic businesses such as Nature's Path Foods and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. Dr. Joseph Mercola, the controversial holistic health activist from Illinois (and one of my heroes), has kicked in $800,000!  Yay Dr. Mercola!

But opponents to the measure have raised $25 million, about nine times as much. Almost all of the nearly $25 million has come from a variety of chemical, seed and processed-food companies, including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, and PepsiCo. General Mills alone has given $500,000, and Monsanto, the leading producer of GMO seeds, has given $4.2 million, the largest donation.  They’re still gathering donations, and could reach up to $50 million.

 

An Unfortunate Predicament

 

There’s something else that upsetting to me, and may be to you also.  Some of the natural food companies that you have come to know and love, are actually owned by big processed food companies.  One of my favorites, Larabar, is one of them. A few years back, Larabar was acquired by General Mills. Now General Mills is giving big bucks to fight against what Larabar-type people stand for. Some of my other favorites—Muir Glen, Cascadian Farms, and Santa Cruz Organic have also been bought out by the opposition in recent years.

This has left me in a quandary.  I stand against GMOs and I support GMO labeling. These companies that I have recommended and supported in the past are now on the side of food manufacturers who want to continue to keep consumers in the dark.

I am sure that the people at Larabar and Muir Glen would certainly want GMO’s labeled, but when they assimilated into a larger company that didn’t share their ideals, the possibility for this quandary arose.  They made their decision, and now I can’t support them.  I won’t be buying their products anymore.  It’s a difficult decision to make, but I have the right to know if GMO’s are in my food, and I can’t support any company that is fighting against that basic right.

We Can’t Wait For Legislation, We Have to Act Now

 

 Even if you don’t live in California and won’t have the opportunity to vote on this important proposition, you and those you love will be affected.  Because “As Goes in California, As Goes the Nation.”  We will either be given the freedom to know what’s in our foods so we can make educated choices, or we will continue to be silently poisoned by the food industry.

Whether you have food sensitivities or not, avoiding processed and GMO foods should be a priority.  We can’t wait for legislation.  We must begin to act in our own self interest.  You can begin by signing our petition asking the FDA to ban the most egregious food additives—many of which are made from GMO ingredients.

Also, an organization called JustLabelIt.org has already gathered over one million signatures on their petition asking the FDA to label GMO foods.  Theirs is a separate effort from the California proposition, and one of the ways you can act if you’re not a Californian.  To make your voice heard, click here.

If you don't already have a copy of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, please print one out and refer to it often. It can help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Also remember to look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.

 

When possible, buy your fresh produce and meat from local farmers who have committed to using non-GMO seeds and avoid processed non-organic foods as much as possible, as again these are virtually 100-percent guaranteed to contain GMO ingredients.

It may sound exaggerated, but genetically modified foods are, from my perception, one of the most significant health threats of our time.  We are living in a food experiment and we are all the guinea pigs.  The experiment is not going well, and is threatening the very sustainability of the human race. Everything you can do to avoid GMOs is a step toward saving humankind.

If you want to learn more about GMO's, you can read my three-part article on GMOs (Just Say No to GMO's part 1, part 2, and part 3).

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Fat Burnin’ Foods in Place of a Low-Fat Diet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jennifer Lowe   
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

 

 

 

Back in the 90’s slimmers everywhere were raving about the low-fat diet. From low-fat cookies to low-fat shakes – the fad paved the way for the low-fat-everything that lines the shelves of our supermarkets today. On the face of it, it all seemed to make sense back then. Lower fat food equalled less fat in our bellies - right? Well, not necessarily. It wasn’t until 2006 when Harvard University unleashed the results of their eight-year long study into low-fat diets. The study, in which 49,000 women participated, concluded that low-fat diets didn’t make us slimmer at all - In fact, it could do quite the opposite. What’s more, the low-fat diet didn’t even lower the risk of heart disease, breast cancer or colorectal cancer as first claimed, either.

healthyimage

 

The Low-Fat Flop

The low-fat diet, which emphasizes whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables (with a daily calorie intake consisting of about 20% from fat, 60% from carbohydrates, and 20% from protein) was found to significantly slow metabolism (the body’s fat-burning furnace, of course); with more recent studies also noting its adverse effect on both lipids and insulin resistance. Furthermore, because low-fat diets are high in carbohydrates (most of which come in the form of quickly digested foods, such as flour, rice, potatoes) the diet can also increase hunger - meaning it has the potential to be a particularly torturous experience for anyone who struggles with dietary discipline. Add to that the link between obesity, heart disease and additives (which are commonly used in low-fat foods as a substitute for flavour, after fats have been artificially removed) the low-fat diet isn’t as good an option as it might at first seem - especially for those of us who don't consume processed foods.

The Good Fats

Granted, avoiding the ‘bad fats’ (primarily trans fats) can help your lose weight; but in order to do so any budding ‘loser’ must acknowledge the good, healthy fats too – and not put them aside like the low-fat diet encourages. According to research, monounsaturated fats can actually prevent abdominal fat, along with providing a whole host of other health benefits; such as raising good cholesterol, lowering the bad and keeping your arteries plaque free. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats shouldn’t be overlooked either. Found within Omega-3 and Omega-6, they also contribute to overall well being. Omega-3 (found within fish, such as salmon or mackerel) improves brain function, mood and immune system; whilst Omega-6 (found within corn and beef) keeps skin and eyes healthy when consumed in moderation. Consequently, avoiding all fat isn’t necessarily a wise move when you’re in pursuit of a slimmer figure.

Foods That Boost Fat Burning Hormones

Aside from exercise, or in conjunction with it, altering your diet to stimulate fat burning hormones is an ideal way to lose excess weight. And unlike the low-fat diet, it makes scientific sense. Fat burning hormones are present in all of us; testosterone, HGH, Leptin and thyroxine, for example, all play a part in burning fat, and their efficiency and influence on the metabolic rate can be boosted by eating the right foods.

Seafood

Seafood is fantastic when it comes to giving those fat burning hormones a kick in the rear. Oily fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids offer many benefits (as noted above) but also stimulate the production of leptin. The leptin hormone regulates and controls metabolism, therefore when your leptim levels rise, your metabolism speeds up and you feel less hungry - which is especially good news for those wanting to lose weight. 

Nuts

HGH (aka Human Growth Hormone) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which does many useful things; including boosting energy, keeping bones strong, retaining muscle and of course burning fat - even whilst we’re asleep. Amino acids stimulate HGH, and can be found in nuts. Therefore Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds can all contribute towards burning fat and weight loss.

Vitamin C Foods

Citrus fruits that contain vitamin C are fantastic for diluting fat, and helping to remove it from the body faster. Oranges, tangerines, limes (and perhaps the occasional margarita?) are all very useful in weight loss. As well as being packed with vitamins and all that good stuff you’d want anyway, they also give your metabolism a kick.

Foods that boost Metabolism

As well as the larger groups, there are plenty of individual metabolism-boosting foods that can contribute towards losing weight when integrated within your diet. Many of them stimulate positive fat-burning hormones, and some counter the negative ones, making them all pretty useful. Here’s just a handful.

Hot Peppers – are great for giving your metabolism a kick. Even a pinch of cayenne in your meal is shown to increase your metabolism by 25% for three hours after you’ve eaten.

Milk (raw organic milk is best) – Calcium is wonderful for the metabolism - it’s also recommended you have a daily intake of 1,200 – 1,300mg for your general health anyway.

Eggs (oragnic) – As well as stimulating metabolism, eggs are full of Vitamin B12; which contributes to breaking down fat.

Ginger – Great for both metabolism, and circulation.

Organic Dark Chocolate – Stress hormones can cause the body to store fat. Dark chocolate counters this, reducing cortisol levels.

Lean Protein – Lean protein is great for both energy and metabolism. When it comes to weight loss, protein helps you lose fat, as opposed to muscle. This can lead to a higher lean muscle mass, which in turn leads to burning more calories on a daily basis - further aiding weight control.

And of course, there are many, many more.

The Big Fat Truth

With obesity ever on the rise, fatty food is on everyone’s lips. There is a huge emphasis on what we shouldn’t eat, rather than what we should. With relatively recent studies like Harvard’s, turning out such dramatic revelations, perhaps we should see through the fog of dud diets, flimsy fads, metabolism myths, and celebrity weight loss sagas; instead turning our attention onto what science actually tells us. And what science tells us is that there’s a whole host of wonderful fat-burning hormones waiting to be triggered by good, non-processed, natural food. Therefore, eating yourself skinny is not as far-fetched as it might seem!

 

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Ancient Grains for Modern Meals PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Sunday, May 22, 2016

 

ancient-grains-you-may-have-never-triedTraditionally hailing from the fertile crescent in Egypt and Israel, as well as other parts of the world such as Central America, South America, and Asia, an “ancient grain” refers to species of whole grains and seeds that have been part of the human diet for 10,000 years, but haven’t been modified over time by plant science, as opposed to more widespread cereal grains such as corn, rice and modern varieties of wheat, which are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding.

For many years, archaeologists have reported finding the remains of these grains in ancient sites. For example, researchers in China found the remains of charred wheat and millet in Yunnan that are thought to be nearly 4,000 years old, and in 1991 archeologists discovered the body of Ötzi the Iceman protruding from a melting glacier in the Italian Alps that had been preserved in ice for over 5,000 years. His last meal was preserved, examined and found to include einkorn wheat!

However, the term “ancient grain” doesn't mean just a 5,000-year-old grain found in ice. It refers to the ancient types of grains that have only recently been “discovered” by the West. These heritage grains have been grown by different societies all over the world for thousands of years.

These include Einkorn, Emmer (Farro), Spelt (the original unhybridized wheat species of 10,000 years ago), Freekeh, and Kamut, and non-wheat grains such as Quinoa, Red and Black rice, Blue Corn, Buckwheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Amaranth, and Millet.  These grains retain their original high quality nutrition, distinctive rich nutty flavors, and are less allergenic than modern hybridized and genetically modified grains.

“Modern grains” such as wheat, corn, and rice have been extensively cross-bred to make them easier to grow and process into flours and starches that are used in breads, cereals, pastas and baked goods. “Modern wheat” is a hybrid descendant of the three ancient wheat varieties.  Because of the changes modern grains have undergone over time, they have less nutrition and some people have developed allergies to the cross-bred, genetically altered proteins in the grains.

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

The research shows that many ancient grains are higher in protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than modern grains.  All grains can be cooked similar to rice—add 1 cup grain to 2 cups liquid, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and let cook until the grains are tender and chewy.  The dried grains can also be ground into flour to make breads and other baked goods.  Here are a few “new” ancient grains to try.

Ancient Wheat and Gluten Grains (there are anecdotal reports that some people who are sensitive to wheat can tolerate the ancient species of wheat, but that is on an individual basis):

ancient grains2 Einkorn is nature’s original wheat, the most ancient grain grown by the first farmers of the Fertile Crescent more than 10,000 years ago. Einkorn is very different from other varieties of wheat because it is the only wheat species never to be hybridized. And this difference is clearly visible. Einkorn grows very tall, as wheat did long ago; each einkorn kernel is a third of the size of today’s modern wheat.

Einkorn does not contain the type of gluten that is a problem for those with celiac disease and although it is still not recommended for celiacs, it may be okay for those with more mild gluten intolerance. Einkorn flour can be substituted for whole wheat flour in most recipes. Whether you’re baking sweet or savory you’ll get great results.

Farro (or emmer wheat), also called Pharaoh’s wheat, is a chewy, nutty-tasting grain 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.

Spelt: Spelt was also an important grain in ancient Greece and Rome.  In Italy today, spelt is known as farro grande, or "big farro." It is higher in protein than common wheat and is rich in vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, thiamin, and copper. It's said to help people with migraine headaches, atherosclerosis or diabetes.  It has a nutty flavor and can be used in place of modern wheat in most recipes.

Note: Look for the words “whole spelt” on spelt products, because some spelt products contain refined spelt.

 Freekeh (pronounced free-kah), also called or farik, traces its roots back several thousand years to ancient Egypt and surrounding areas. It is common in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.  Freekeh refers to a harvesting process rather than an actual grain. The grain, typically farro or spelt, is harvested when it is young, yellow, and soft—at its peak nutrition—and then roasted and rubbed. This unique process gives freekeh its signature distinct flavor that's earthy, nutty, and slightly smoky. Similar to the type of bulgur wheat used to make tabbouleh, freekeh is often sold cracked into smaller, quicker cooking pieces.  Freekeh cooks quickly in about 20-25 minutes.

Try it in pilafs or savory salads, or cook it into a delicious porridge.

Kamut® is an ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Brought back as a souvenir said to be from an Egyptian tomb, this ancient wheat variety was introduced to modern farmers at the Montana State Fair in 1960 as “King Tut’s Wheat” but was largely ignored and has remained unused in farming until recently.  Today, millions of pounds of this rich, buttery-tasting wheat are grown on organic farms and made into over 450 whole-grain products around the world, such as pasta, flour and bread.

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Egyptians buried mummies with necklaces of barley.  Ancient Greeks and Romans revered barley and used it extensively in their training diets. Ancient Roman gladiators were sometimes known as hordearii, which can literally be translated to “eaters of barley.”  Along with other grains, barley is a good source of the complex of nutrients and minerals that make strong bones so they can resist breaking.  Barley contains much more cholesterol-lowering fiber than oats. A cup of barley gives you 13.6 grams of fiber, whereas oatmeal provides 3.98 grams per cup.

When buying barley, you need to know that not all barley is not the same. The pearl barley that you may see in the supermarket is highly processed to remove the outer bran layer that contains most of the fiber, as well as much of the inner endosperm layer, which contains many of the other nutrients. Pearl barley is processed and is not considered a whole grain. Look for hulled barley (also called dehulled barley), which has only the tough, inedible outermost hull removed. You’ll have to rinse this type of barley and cook it a bit longer, but the nutrient content and richer flavor make it worthwhile.

Rye is a grain related to wheat and barley.  Archeological evidence suggests that it was probably a weed that mixed with wheat to create a natural hybrid grain. It was first grown around 1800-1500 BC in Central and Eastern Europe and remains the main bread grain in those regions. Rye flour is used for bread and crackers, while whole rye berries can be cooked like other grains and eaten as breakfast porridge and side dishes.  When buying rye breads or crackers, be sure they are made from whole rye or rye berries. Just because it’s called rye bread doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain processed white flour.

 Gluten-Free Ancient Grains:

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") was cultivated in the Andes mountains in South America by the Inca who called it “mother of all grains”  because it gave strength to their warriors. It has been a staple food in South America for more than 5,000 years.  While it is often referred to as a grain, quinoa is technically the seed of a plant from the same plant family as Swiss chard and beets. When cooked, it resembles a cross between couscous and brown rice.  It is small, light and fluffy and cooks in about 10-12 minutes.

While the most popular varieties of quinoa are transparent yellow and red, other varieties are orange, pink, purple, or black.  Quinoa makes a great side dish alternative to rice or pasta, and can also be eaten as a warm breakfast porridge.  Like other grains, quinoa can be ground into flour and made into pasta.

Black Rice is one of several species of the rice family—rice is one of the oldest grains ever grown for human consumption as early as 6,000 BC.  Also known as Forbidden Rice, black rice is an ancient grain that was once eaten exclusively by the Emperors of China. It is treasured for its delicious roasted nutty taste, soft texture and beautiful deep purple color. Black Rice contains a class of antioxidants called anthocyanins which lend purple and red colors to foods and have strong anti-inflammatory properties that protect our body against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers and more.

Black rice comes from the same plant family as other colored rice and includes several varieties, such as Indonesian black rice and Thai jasmine black rice. The different types of black rice contain very similar health benefits and all have a mild, nutty taste which is similar to the taste of more familiar brown rice.  Because it is unrefined and denser than white rice, black rice takes longer to cook. The best results can be achieved by first soaking your black rice for at least one hour before cooking it, but preferably for several hours. Drain and rinse the rice before adding fresh water for cooking.

Red Rice has many of the same health benefits of its cousin black rice, owing to the anthocyanins that lend their red color to the grain. Red rice has a rusty-brown color and is an unrefined, short-grain rice. It has a distinct nutty taste and a firm, slightly chewy texture. Red rice is often labeled as “Bhutanese red rice” or “cargo rice.” Its strong, earthy flavour makes it ideal to serve with poultry and meats or cold in colorful rice salads. 

Blue Corn is an older, less hybridized form of corn than the modern yellow and white varieties.  Also known as maize, sweetcorn, and Indian corn, corn is native to the Americas, growing wild in what is now southern Mexico as long as 70,000 years ago. The anthocyanins in blue corn are the same type of antioxidants found in other bluish foods such as blueberries, blackberries, grapes and raisins.  Blue corn is sold in the form of blue corn flour, blue corn tortillas, and blue corn chips and taco shells. It can be used to make cornbread and corn muffins.

Buckwheat is not a part of the wheat family, despite its name. It is actually a seed related to the rhubarb. When the seeds are ground, it makes a dense, dark colored flour with a nutty taste.  Many products are made solely from buckwheat, such as soba noodles and kasha. Buckwheat is the only grain known to have high levels of an antioxidant called rutin, and studies show that it improves circulation and prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol from blocking blood vessels.

Oats probably originated in the greater region of northern Germany, and were particularly favored in Scotland and other Celtic lands.  Some archaeologists claim that oats did not enter cultivation until the 1st century, others assert that oats were being grown in Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland by 1000 B.C. and perhaps even earlier. Although both the ancient Greeks and Romans knew of oats, they used this grain sparingly, and oats never established firm roots in the Mediterranean region. Oats would not have been known to the peoples of the Bible.

Oats are generally available in a few different forms: as oat groats, which are whole kernels that can be cooked like rice; steel-cut oats, which are groats that have been sliced lengthwise and so require longer cooking times, and rolled oats, which are flattened kernels that cook relatively quickly. Oat bran, the outer layer of oat groats, is also available in bulk or as a cereal. While oat bran has fewer calories than whole oats, it has more dietary fiber and higher concentrations of minerals.

Oats are one of the main ingredients in granola and muesli. Groats can be prepared like a pilaf and resemble the taste of wheatberries; they can be added to steamed or grilled vegetables, soups, stews, stuffings, poultry or fish breadings, whole wheat breads and muffins, cookies, cakes, and even pancakes.
If grown and packaged separately from wheat, oats do not contain gluten and so constitute a safe grain for people who are wheat- or gluten-intolerant.

Amaranth is native to both Mesoamerica and the Andes and was a major food crop of the Aztecs and Incas. This tiny grain resembles fine couscous and has a nutty, corn-like flavor. Popped amaranth is a popular street snack in South America. Amaranth is almost always whole, since the grains are too small to easily refine. It cooks very quickly, so be sure not to overcook as it will become sticky.

 Millet is not just one grain but the name given to a group of several small related grains that have been around for thousands of years and are found in many diets around the world.   Millets are the leading staple grains in India, and are commonly eaten in China, South America, Russia and the Himalayas. Now people in the United States are are eating millet as well.  Millet's incredible versatility means it can be used in everything from flatbreads to porridges, side dishes and desserts.

In addition to being cooked in its natural form, millet can be ground and used as flour or prepared as polenta in lieu of corn meal.  As a gluten-free whole grain, millet is a great option for those who need to avoid gluten grains.  Millet is easy to prepare, and can be found in white, gray, yellow or red. Its delicate flavor is enhanced by toasting the dry grains before cooking. 

 
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