What Is Freekeh? Health Benefits, Concerns And Cooking Instructions For The Latest Super Grain

16/04/2015 17:00 BST | Updated 07/01/2016 11:59 GMT

Move over quinoa - freekeh is the latest super grain to spark a foodie craze.

With celebrities including Jamie Oliver and Oprah Winfrey reported to be fans, it's not surprising freekeh has grown in popularity in recent months.

If you're looking for an alternative to brown rice, it could be for you.

freekeh

What Is Freekeh?

Freekeh (pronounced Free-kah, not freaky) is traditionally a Middle Eastern food. Freekeh is a process which means "to rub" in Arabic.

"Freekeh is basically wheat that has been harvested earlier than we would normally in the UK, then is roasted and threshed," Dr Duane Mellor, assistant professor in dietetics at The University of Nottingham tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

Freekeh tastes similar to barley, but the alternative farming and roasting process leaves it with a smokier flavor.

Health Benefits

As freekeh is based on wholegrain, it's an excellent source of fibre and protein. In fact, when compared to brown rice, it is thought to contain three times the amount of protein and twice the amount of fibre.

Priya Tew, a spokesperson from the British Dietetic Association says it's a great option for vegetarians and vegans because of this.

She adds: "Fibre is known to be something that we should all be aiming to eat more of, playing an important role in diabetes and weight management."

Mellor tells us that, like bulgur, freekeh has a low glycaemic index meaning that carbohydrates release quite slowly compared to baked potatoes and white bread.

"Also depending on the source, you may be helping to support farmers in Palestine who may be benefit financially from this ancient grain" he says.

Health Concerns

Both Mellor and Tew say it's important to remember freekeh is still wheat and as such it contains gluten. Therefore, it is not suitable for those with wheat or gluten allergies.

A photo posted by FreekehFoods (@freekehfoods) on

How To Use It

Freekeh can be prepared on the stove-top or in a rice cooker, usually on the brown rice setting.

Blogging on HuffPost Healthy Living, dietician Frances Largeman-Roth says it cooks faster than other wholegrains and can be ready to eat within 20 minutes.

"You can use it in place of brown rice or barley in dishes like pilafs, risottos and salads," she adds.

"I like using cracked freekeh in tabbouleh. With its chewy texture, whole cooked freekeh is also really nice paired with yogurt and fruit in a parfait.

"Give the grains a toss with maple syrup or honey before layering them with the yogurt and fruit."

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