Despite the fast-paced world we live in, a lot of my patients show a growing desire to go back to basics, and experience foods and rituals that have a long history and dedication behind them. And it seems the trend is not just about making healthier choices either, folk are looking back in time for great flavours too. This year a Culinary Forecast from top chefs listed ancient grains in their top 20 foods in 2015, with over two-thirds (69%) of participants calling them out as a "hot trend".
Not only are ancient grains becoming the modern day necessity to any health conscious meal but many are still planted and harvested using the same methods employed from thousands of years ago so offer environmental benefits too. Some have become a firm favourites amongst celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow who reportedly swear by eating ancient grains to keep their body in shape and their skin glowing.
In recognition of this popular trend new products are entering the market all the time to make it easier than ever for all of us to include more ancient grains in our daily diets - Wraps, breakfast cereals, snack pots and meal accompaniments can all be found on UK supermarket shelves. So you no longer have to go to Hollywood whole food shops to eat like a star.
The 'mother of all grain' facts
Quinoa was called "the mother of all grains" by the Incas, which is no surprise as the complete protein provides high levels of iron, phosphorus and potassium, which helps to build and repair tissues, boost energy and reduce stress, and risk of heart disease. Quinoa is also what we call a complete protein because (like eggs) this grain contains all 9 essential amino acids needed for health. On a similar note, sorghum has more antioxidants than super fruits blueberries and pomegranates. Antioxidants are excellent for preventing illness and known to protecting your skin. Whilst a less commonly known ancient grain, teff has twice the iron levels of other grains and three times the calcium levels.
And don't forget more ancient grains like oats have super health benefits too. The fibre in oats is called beta glucans and has been shown in good scientific studies to help lower blood cholesterol which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
In my view, ancient grains can enrich our diets and day-to-day lives. They truly deserve their renewed status as hero ingredients because there are very real nutritional and culinary reasons to opt for more ancient grains. This isn't just a food fad. Everyone's looking for foods which are efficient energy sources and keep you feeling satisfied, warding off hunger between meals. That's where ancient grains really come into their own. Ancient grains tend to release their energy slowly because more often the grain is unrefined and whole. They retain all their natural nutrients and goodness. This helps keep you going throughout the day and can mean you're less likely to want to snack.
Top tips for eating more ancient grains every day:
- Look for breakfast cereals which contain whole grains- Weetabix, Cheerios and whole grain meusli are all great.
- As the cold mornings head our way start the day with a bowl of old fashioned porridge- sweeten your porridge with dried fruits and a banana.
- When baking use a mix of half wholemeal flour and half white flour- the results are delicious
- If your taking sandwiches for lunch try a Newburn Bakehouse whole grain wrap made with ancient grains
- At the weekend treat yourself to an artisan loaf like spelt, or a rustic whole grain plat
- Add barley or sourghum to soups and casseroles
- Try using barley instead of Arborio rissotto rice to make a Barleyotto- use the barley in exactly the same way
- Make a batch of cookies with oats and whole grain flour
- Make your own flapjack but cut the quantity of syrup down by 1/3rd using grated apple and sultanas instead for a natural sweetness
- Make your own salads like tabbouleh using quinoa
- Try making fruit crumbles with oats and spelt flour instead of wheat flour.