Ancient grains pack a healthy punch in everyday foods

Millet is just one of the many ancient grains featured in \'Grain Power.\' Ancient grains come with many health benefits. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON – Imagine a chocolate-chip cookie packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Or a pizza loaded with something more than cheese — such as ingredients that fight chronic disease.

Sisters Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, authors of “Grain Power,” are on a mission to help home cooks swap their everyday conventional cooking ingredients for a healthier alternative: ancient grains.

“These are fabulous whole foods of the earth that can deliver amazing nutritional profiles,” says Hemming, who is also the co-author of “Quinoa Revolution.”

In their new cookbook, Hemming and Green focus on lesser-known grains, such as millet, amaranth, sorghum and kaniwa, among others. They hope to bring attention to the health and taste benefits of these grains and make “obscure grains” more accessible to the everyday cook.

“They’re sorting them on the grocery store shelves, so we can tell people about how to make this and how to make it good in the foods and the menu items that we’re eating in the traditional North American diet and show people how to pump up their nutrition and eat better,” Hemming says.


In the cookbook "Grain Power," authors Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming share ideas on how to incorporate ancient grains into everyday cooking. (Courtesy Playback Producers)

The health benefits of ancient grains, which Hemming describes as being “so pure” and “not enriched with nutrition in any lab,” are numerous.

“A lot of these ancient grains have very similar nutritional profiles, in that they deliver a natural source of iron and omega-3s and a lot of plant sterols, which are great for warding off cancer,” Hemming says.

“On top of that, they all seem to be blood pressure-lowering and cholesterol- lowering and inhibit inflammation and improve immune function.”

Ancient grains also suppress the appetite and help the body better metabolize fat. Hemming uses teff as an example when talking about the health benefits of grains.

Teff is a high-protein grain common in African communities. Hemming says many African runners and athletes attribute their skill, speed and endurance to the grain.

“In communities where they eat a lot of it, things like osteoporosis and diabetes are relatively unheard of,” Hemming says. “All of these ancient grains have just a realm of health benefits.”

If you’re new to the world of ancient grains, Heming says one way to begin incorporating these grains into your everyday diet is to start with a few obvious substitutions. Instead of serving rice or couscous, try an ancient grain instead.

Using a blend of grains for breakfast is another way to slowly and easily incorporate ancient grains in your diet.

“Instead of just having a traditional, out-of-the-box cereal

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