Grab the Quinoa! Ancient Grains are Making a Comeback

By Sarah LeVesque, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

What are ancient grains?

Ever since it became cool to eat carb-less diets grains have been getting a bad rap. Recently, there has been a rise in gluten-free options while people are trying to eat more vegetables and beat the bloat. While filling your plate with veggies is all good, we are selling ourselves short of what ancient grains can do for our health. When people think ‘ancient grains’ they can’t help but picture a slice of whole grain bread with seeds on top. But ancient grains are more than that. They are less processed and contain various vitamins and nutrients that can help promote good health. Ancient grains have remained primarily unchanged over the last several hundred years, which is pretty cool!

Some ancient grains that are on the rise:



(KEEN-wah, kin-o-ah, quinoa.)

We see it all over the place: mixed in salads, as a side dish at restaurants, and in recipes posted on Pinterest. It seems intimidating when you find a bag of the stuff in the grocery store because it doesn’t look like the quinoa you’re familiar with until you cook it. On top of that it can be costly. A pound of brown rice costs less than a dollar, where a pound of quinoa can cost up to $12.

But why choose quinoa?

According to a 2010 review done by the Journal of Science and food Agriculture, quinoa is an exemplary functional food. It contains ten different amino acids. The average protein content for quinoa is 15%. This ancient grain isn’t just functional food to reduce the risk of health complications, it is also a terrific way to incorporate even more protein into your diet.

The concentration of vitamins and minerals makes quinoa a valuable ancient grain. The minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; and Vitamins C, E, B1, B2, and B3 are all found in quinoa in considerable amounts that surpass other grains. Brown rice and quinoa are both great sources of vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients, but quinoa offers more dietary fiber and protein than brown rice.

With one cup of quinoa cooked or raw, you get 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of fat for only 222 calories.

When just considering the vitamins and minerals that make up quinoa, it seems to have earned a spot at the dinner table. Although eating quinoa every day might get boring, it’s important to fill your plate with grains every day.  Mixing it up between brown rice and quinoa is a fun way to enjoy the health benefits of both. You could even prepare and mix the two!


Wild Rice

Wild rice offers a high fiber and high protein option to add to your dinner table. It has a distinct chewy, nutty, and herbal flavor. Wild rice has fewer calories and higher amounts of fiber and proteins that white long-grain rice. Wild rice’s proteins are of higher quality and offer about 10% of the daily value for folate, niacin, and vitamin B6. Wild rice also contains riboflavin, and thiamin. It is a great way to add vitamins to your diet that are great for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Wild rice also contains minerals that are essential for nerve, heart, and muscle function.

If you are trying to watch your weight, choosing a nutrient dense grain like wild rice is a perfect way to incorporate considerable amounts of fiber and protein which keep you fuller longer, without having to sacrifice the calories.

In grocery stores, wild rice is often mixed with other grains. Some ways to enjoy wild rice would be adding various fruits and nuts to offer texture!



Whole spelt is high in carbohydrates and an excellent source of fiber. It is linked with a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes.

The reason why spelt is a valuable ancient grain is because of its fiber content. Fiber helps aid digestion and helps stabilize blood sugar spikes and drops which drive our cravings. Eating spelt or other ancient grains can slow down digestion and absorption. Whole grain spelt is like whole grain wheat in many aspects, but spelt offers slightly more minerals than wheat.  Make sure to look out for refined spelt, which is lower in fiber and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

A fun way to incorporate spelt into your diet is to substitute flour for spelt flour!



Gluten-free and high in calcium, this rich ancient grain boasts a mild and nutty flavor that is healthy and versatile. Leading the pack in calcium content, one cup of cooked teff offers the same amount of calcium than a half-cup cooked spinach. Teff is a small grain, about the size of a poppy seed. These small but mighty grains are high in protein also.


These are just few of the ancient grains that are on the rise. Next time you’re in the grocery store, check them out and try to incorporate them into your weekly meals. These ancient grains are beneficial for everyone and we should expect to see a rise in products that are made from these nutrient dense grains. Switching up the grains in your diet a fantastic way to consume an assortment of different nutrients.

For delicious recipes featuring ancient grains, visit Fill Your Plate!


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Meet the Author:

I’m a Sun Devil out of the East Bay, San Francisco area. I am on the fun side of my twenties and find it hard to stay awake past 10 p.m. There are few foods I won’t eat, and even fewer things I won’t drink! I enjoy long walks through wineries and quiet dinners with seafood. My happy place is in my own kitchen or at a coffee shop where I don’t have to clock in. I aspire to have my own restaurant one day when I grow up, and want to incorporate some of the foods I’ve enjoyed all over the world. After a decade of service in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry, I’ll finally be graduating with a nutrition communication degree to compliment my skills in May 2017.

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