Are Ancient Grains Better for You? reports: “The expression “everything old is new again” certainly rings true when it comes to grains, with a growing number of people pushing their grocery carts past modern wheat breads, cereals and crackers and loading up on products made with ancient grains.

What Exactly Are Ancient Grains?

Often also referred to as “heirloom” grains, the term “ancient,” generally refers to grains that have remain unchanged from their original form from centuries ago. In contrast, most of the wheat products on grocery shelves today are made with modern, or “dwarf” wheat, which is a hybrid of several different ancient wheat varieties. Ancient grains include the original strains of wheat: einkorn, spelt and emmer, plus non-gluten options like amaranth, teff and quinoa.

Are Ancient Grains Better for You?

Modern, or dwarf, wheat has been bred to withstand pesticides, and it also contains higher amounts of gluten and starches than its predecessors. Because it contains more starch, modern grains will be higher glycemic, which means they spike the blood sugar more than some of the ancient grains.

Meanwhile, ancient wheat grains have been found to have higher amounts of antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals and lower amounts of gluten.

Sprouting and Fermenting Grains

One way to make all grains more nutritious and digestible is to soak or sprout them prior to cooking with them. This reduces antinutrients like phytic acid in the grain, which interferes with the absorption of the mineral content. Another way to improve the nutritional content of grains is to ferment them, as with sourdough.

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