Understanding the Nutritional Benefit of Ancient Grains

Understanding the Nutritional Benefit of Ancient Grains

Written by Lisa Kunstler, FodShop Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor

What are Ancient Grains?

Ancient grains are grains that have changed minimally over the last thousands of years. Modern wheat is constantly being bred and changed and hence is not deemed an ancient grain. Some ancient grains are also beneficial on a gluten free diet, as they contain no traces of gluten! Some examples of gluten free ancient grains include sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, polenta, and millet. Always make sure to check the labels of your grains to make sure they are certified gluten-free.

GF Ancient Grains:

  • polenta
  • sorghum
  • buckwheat
  • polenta
  • millet
  • fonio
  • teff
  • amaranth


Non-GF Ancient Grains:

  • barley
  • einkorn
  • emmer
  • farro
  • freekah
  • kamut
  • spelt


Deep Diving into Ancient Grains Nutrition Profile

Ancient grains are more nutritionally beneficial than refined grains like white bread, flour, and rice, as they contain higher levels of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and zinc. This is because they haven't been stripped of their nutritional contents in the refining process.

They are also a good source of fibre and a low GI grain, meaning that they are absorbed by the body slower, helping to maintain blood sugar levels. This is especially important in individuals with diabetes, as consistent consumption of low GI grains help to prevent blood sugar spikes throughout the day. High fibre foods also aid in digestion and encourage bowel regularity. 

These grains also have other nutritional properties. Sorghum is high in phenolic compounds, which act as antioxidants and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, decreasing cholesterol. Millet, another ancient grain, is known for its ability to lower cholesterol and improve blood pressure, due to its high fibre content. This grain is also known to improve insulin sensitivity to prevent the likelihood of type 2 diabetes forming. 

Another reason to choose ancient grains is from a carbon footprint perspective, as these grains require lower levels of pesticides, fertiliser, and irrigation. 


Final Thoughts

Ancient grains are a beneficial whole grain, filled with nutrients like iron, fibre, and antioxidants. They are great for heart health, minimising risk of diabetes, and improving gut symptoms. Eaten in a diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods can help to prevent chronic disease and improve bowel regularity.


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