The 7 Healthiest Grains You’ve Never Heard Of

For centuries, grains have been a staple in human diets, offering vital sustenance, nutrition, and versatility to cultures worldwide. While you may already know about popular grains like oatmeal, millet, and quinoa, there are several other lesser-known yet healthy varieties that can be excellent additions to a balanced diet. If you're looking to expand your palate and boost your health, here are five not-so-popular grains that you should definitely consider trying.

Related: This Grain Is the Best and Healthiest Wheat Alternative

1. Amaranth


For over 8,000 years, amaranth has been a mainstay in cuisines across the world, respected not just for its gluten-free status but also for its high nutritional content. Like quinoa, amaranth has a complete protein composition, which includes a variety of amino acids essential to muscle growth and tissue repair.

This beige grain is a nutritional powerhouse, including high amounts of fiber as well as key bone-building elements like phosphorus and magnesium. Furthermore, amaranth includes squalene, a compound that was studied in 2019 for its ability to supplement chemotherapy treatment by shrinking tumor growth in mice.

Amaranth can be substituted for rice, couscous, or quinoa in several recipes. It may also be used to thicken soups and stews, providing body and texture.

2. Spelt


Spelt is a form of wheat that has more protein than other varieties, providing 10.7 grams per cup. This ancient grain is high in fiber, with 8 grams per cooked cup. It also contains high levels of iron, magnesium, and zinc, which help boost immunity. Despite containing gluten, wheat-sensitive people generally find spelt simpler to digest.

Spelt is an excellent substitution for rice in burritos, as well as in soups, salads, and veggie burgers. Spelt flour can be used in place of whole wheat flour in baked items, although more liquid is required since the flour absorbs more water.

3. Teff


Teff is the world's smallest grain, measuring around 0.7-1% the size of a wheat kernel. A single cup of teff packs a punch with 123 milligrams of calcium. Also, it is gluten-free and a solid source of vitamin C. Teff is packed with high-resistant starch, which lab studies suggest may help prevent colon cancer.

Teff is gluten-free as well, which makes it suitable for use in a wide range of meals, including cereal, soups, stews, and gluten-free baked products. It is readily available, either online or in some stores.

4. Freekeh


Freekeh is a mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine. It's made from green durum wheat and is high in nutrients and essential carotenoid compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect against degenerative eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Freekeh is wheat harvested early, distinguished by its yellowing leaves and fragile green seeds, and then precisely roasted to provide a deep smokiness. Freekeh has about four times as much protein as brown rice and has a low glycemic index. Furthermore, its high fiber content is beneficial for colon health.

Freekeh has an earthy, nutty taste and a satisfyingly chewy texture, similar to brown rice. Freekeh is a versatile grain that complements the flavor and texture of soups, stews, casseroles, and light summer salads.

5. Farro


Farro is an ancient type of wheat that is high in protein and fiber, which can help you feel full and prevent overeating. It also contains a lot of magnesium, providing 31% of your daily needs per 100 grams. Farro is also rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols, carotenoids, and phytosterols, that can lower your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers.

Gluten-containing grains such as this one are easily incorporated into your diet, and can be eaten similarly to other grains. Just add it to dishes like salads and soups.

Related: This Underrated Food Is Great For Your Heart & Weight Loss

6. Fonio


Fonio, a type of millet common in West African countries, is classified into white fonio (Digitaria exilis) and black fonio (Digitaria iburu). It is high in amino acids, particularly methionine, which helps with fat digestion and toxin clearance from the liver and brain. Also, fonio is high in magnesium, zinc, and manganese, making it a valuable dietary inclusion.

Fonio has a wide range of culinary applications: it may be crushed into a wonderful gluten-free flour for baking or boiled to create a light and fluffy texture similar to couscous.

7. Bulgur


Bulgur, also known as cracked wheat, plays an important role in Middle Eastern culinary traditions. Made from cracked durum wheat, bulgur is widely used in salads like tabbouleh or as a rice alternative in pilaf. Rich in fiber, bulgur may improve heart health, digestion, blood sugar balance, and weight management. However, individuals with gluten or wheat sensitivities should exercise caution, as Bulgur contains wheat components that may trigger adverse reactions.

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