Power Packed Grains Of The Ancients

Grains Of The Ancients

Quinoa Or Quinua (pronounced Keen-Wah) has been called “41 vegetable-caviar” or “Inca-rice”, and has been eaten continuously for 5,000 years by people who live on the mountain plateaus and in the valleys of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile.

Quinua translates to “mother grain” in the Inca language and is a staple food of the Inca, the Quechua and Aymara peoples who live in rural regions.

Quinoa is a highly nutritious food with the nutritional quality having been compared to that of dried whole milk. The protein quality and quantity in Quinoa seed is often superior to those of more common cereal grains.

Quinoa is higher in lysine that wheat, and the amino acid content is considered well balanced for human and  animal nutrition, similar to that of casein. It is certainly a power packed energy grain.

Quinoa grain has a lower sodium content and is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc than some other grains such as wheat, barley, or corn.

You can use quinoa in soups, breakfast cereals, or simply use it in savory dishes, mixed with onions, garlic and spices. Quinoa flour has a nutty taste to it and can be used in baking to make muffins, biscuits/cookies, pancakes, doughnuts, bread and mixed into gravies and sauces.


This wonder grain was used by the ancient Aztecs. It contains the highest level of protein of any other grain and research shows that it surpasses that of soybean.

Amaranth is a tall plant with very broad leaves that produces many thousands of tiny seeds, which are all edible.

It is closely related to spinach, beets and pigweed, along with other plants in the goosefoot family, Chenopodiaceae. Amaranth belongs to the Amaranthaceae family.

Its English name comes from the Greek Amarantus, meaning “never-fading”.

It was considered the Food of the Gods and often fashioned into images of the Gods and eaten as communion. Amaranth was outlawed during the conquest of Mexico, and the people of New Spain were forbidden to cultivate or eat it.

Even though it was eaten by the indigenous people of Mexico and the many inhabitants of Central America, it was thoroughly disliked by the new settlers, and considered a food associated with ancient pagan practices!

When the Spaniards arrived in the New World, the were suspicious of any foods that were used in religious festivals and Diego Duran forbid a long list of native foods which were traditionally used in festivals.

In the Book of The Gods, Amaranth is noted as being a plant that should be shunned, and that consuming it was blasphemous to the new Christian religion that they enforced on the natives of what we now call Central America, and Mexico.

However, this amazing plant was not to be killed off. After growing for over 7,000 years and used traditionally in every day cooking along with festivals, the people continued to gather it and use it despite harsh punishment which was imposed upon them by the friars and new settlers.

It is surely a wonder food because it contains 75-85% of total human nutritional requirements and an abundance of lysine and methionine not found in most other grains. Methionine is excellent for liver metabolism and detoxification.

Amaranth contains all the 8 essential amino acids, which we need from our daily diet. It also provides you with up to approximately 14 of the other non-essential amino acids.

Due to its high nutritive value it is an excellent food for vegetarians as well as meat eaters and is easily digested. It contains Vitamin E isomers, which are also known as tocotrienols, squalene, and phytosterols, which are also found in soybeans.

You can use Amaranth as a cereal by itself and combine it with fruit, nuts, seeds of choice, mixing up with hot water, soymilk, or skim milk for breakfast or dessert.

Due to its high nutritive value when mixed with other grains it will increase the protein quality of those grains.

Like Quinoa, Amaranth can be used in baking and cooking as flour, or to thicken sauces, enhance protein content, or simply eaten as a breakfast cereal.


Teff is not a grain that is commonly known of. It is a very tiny grain; in fact the smallest grain in the world, which they say 150 grains will weigh the equivalent of one kernel of wheat!

It has been a staple food traditionally eaten in North Africa and Ethiopia for many thousands of years. It is still a very prominent grain in Ethiopian cuisine.

Teff is also grown in the USA in Idaho and is gluten free, so therefore a great food source of minerals for anyone experiencing gluten intolerance. Traditionally it was made into flat bread and is a white, red or brown in colour. The white variety is the most sweetest and delicate in flavour. The brown and red varieties are nuttier in flavour.

Teff can be used in savory foods especially good for vegetarians and in breakfast cereals due to the excellent source of iron and calcium, which are apparently much higher ratios than those our more familiar grains of Oats, Rice and Millet.

It also contains a high level of other minerals such as boron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and copper. So, you could call it another Super grain of the Ancients!


Millet is a very ancient grain and many feel one of the first grains that were cultivated by man, with the first recordings as far back as 5,500 BC in China.

Millet has been eaten by many cultures for thousands of years and is also given to birds. Records show that there are approximately 6,000 different varieties of millet growing throughout the world.

Millet seed is small and round ivory/creamy colour and can be used in breakfast cereals, baking, and savory dishes.

There are many varieties and one known as Pearl Millet is very alkaline and therefore assists in balancing the PH levels in the digestive system.

Millet is full of nutrients and contains approximately 15% protein, B complex, in particular niacin, thiamin and riboflavin, vitamin E, lecithin, methionine, and very high in iron, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and fiber, so an excellent grain to start the day with!

The ancient Hunzas who live high in the Himalayan regions ate Millet and are well known for their excellent health, energy and longevity.

Food choices were limited by the Hunzas and they ate millet often in the form of cereal, breads, savory meals and soups. The bread that was commonly eaten by the Hunzas is called Chappati.

In India millet was also very popular and eaten by many, particularly in the form of cakes called roti.

Western cultures often use Millet mixed in cereals or as a form of pudding/porridge.

On its own it does not have much of a flavour but combined with other grains or vegetables etc or in baking with spices it is a wonderful grain to consider for obtaining excellent nutritional benefits.

You can add millet to muesli or oats for breakfast or simply stir it into any vegetarian dish that you prepare.


History indicates that the Chia seeds were first used as a food as far back as 3500B.C. and that it was growing in Central Mexico from 1500 and 900 B.C.

The Aztecs were excellent in agriculture and grew the Chia crop for many uses. It was eaten alone or mixed with other seed crops; they also made beverages from it when it was dissolved in water. It was also used in their ceremonies and for face and body paints.

The Aztecs grew several grains, but the main ones were Chia, (its botanical name being Salvia hispanica, Amaranth, Maize and Beans. Chia is also in the mint family and grows wild in the South West of America and Mexico.

The Aztecs thrived on these 4 crops alone and the nutritional profile of this food was more than substantial equating to the dietary requirements set out by Food & Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

This observation shows that the diet of the Ancients (known as Pre-Columbian), was far more superior t present day diets.

The Mayans were also avid consumers of these grains and things only began to change when invasion took place by the Spanish who felt the crops were evil since the people used them for religious ceremonies.

The crops were outlawed and wheat’s, barley and various vegetables were introduced. Anyone who continued to grow these crops or eat them was severely punished, as they were forbidden.

Chia was often mixed in water with some lemon juice and sweetener – such as sugar or honey and traditionally drank in this way in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Southern parts of America, in particular Arizona and California.

Chia provides you with Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber, an excellent nutritive food to include in your diet as it is often used in bread.


Spelt should not be confused with oats or wheat; it is a member of the same grain family bit is an entirely different species. Spelt is one of the original 7 grains mentioned in the Bible.

This grain is estimated to be around 9,000 years old and originated from the Fertile Crescent and over the centuries found its way throughout Europe where it remained a very popular grain for hundreds of years.

Spelt has a tough outer hull protecting the kernel and unlike common wheat, which looses its hull, when harvested, spelt kernels have to be transported to a custom processing center to de-hull and clean the grain.

The outer hull allows for development of a more delicate, water-soluble kernel and protects the grain from pollutants, insects and enhances retention of nutrients in the kernel therefore improving the freshness.

Since Spelt has a high water solubility nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body, in particular B Complex vitamins, along with a total protein content of 10-25% far more than common wheat.

Spelt also contains special carbohydrates, which are important factor in blood clotting and stimulating the immunity.

Spelt does contain gluten, but not as much as commercial wheat’s so it is not suitable for people who are celiac, however it is possible that it can be suitable for some people who just have an intolerance or allergy to wheat


Kamut is originally from Egypt and a close relative to wheat. Its kernel is about the same shape as a wheat seed however a Kamut kernel is more than twice the size.

Kamut as a slightly nutty, sweet flavour and is great alternative to wheat for breakfast cereals, breads, cakes and savoury dishes.

Kamut is high in protein, generally containing 40% more protein than wheat and contains up to 65% more amino acids and boasts more lipids and fatty acids.

Due to its higher content of lipids, which produce more energy than carbohydrates, Kamut is a high energy grain.

Athletes, and very active people, or anyone seeking quality nutrition will discover Kamut a great alternative to regular wheat.

Kamut also contains elevated levels of vitamin E, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Pantothenic acid (B5), Copper and complex carbohydrates.

The International Food Allergy Association (IFAA) concluded, “most wheat sensitive people can tolerate Kamut as an alternative to wheat”.

Dr. Ellen Yoder, President of IFAA and a team of independent scientists and physicians researched Kamut and came to this conclusion observing two different wheat sensitive groups in the population.

Those who have immediate immune responses and; Those with delayed immune responses.

In the delayed immune response group, 70% showed greater sensitivity to common wheat than Kamut. In the immediate immune response group, the severely allergic group, 70% had no/minor, reaction to Kamut.

However, the people with severe allergies are advised to seek advice of their doctor/practitioner beforehand. So far, for many wheat sensitive people, Kamut grain is a great alternative to wheat.

Botanists estimate that there are around 80,000 edible plant species in the world and only around 150 of these are being utilized in our diet with modern agriculture.

Many of these grains offer a far more superior nutritional profile than the commonly used grains such as wheat, corn and rye, and are less likely to contribute to allergies.

It is important to rotate your foods and not eat the same grains/food every day; this can contribute to allergic reactions as you become overexposed to them. By introducing some of these ancient grains into your diet you then have more choices.

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Lyn Craven

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