Grains like wheat, barley, and sorghum were some of the earliest domesticated species of plants. They grew quickly, thrived in less than ideal environmental conditions, and could be stored for long periods of time. The calories that could be quickly harvested from a plot of wheat allowed humans to actually enjoy a food surplus for the first time. Extra food meant that not all members of the community had to go out foraging or hunting, and the fact that the food was cultivated obviated the need for frequent nomadic displacement. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that without cereal crops, human civilization as we know it would not exist.
Recently, there has been a renewed interest in ancient grains, the kinds our ancestors ate — so much so that Cheerios recently released a product called its own brand of Cheerios + Ancient Grains. But not all types of millennia-old cereals are used in mainstream American culinary culture.
The grains that originated in present-day Iran, Turkey, and Syria, are healthier than their more popular, domesticated counterparts. Compared to processed red wheat, these lesser-known varieties of cereals are higher in dietary fiber and protein, while also lower in fat and calories. Unless sold in a powdered flour form, ancient grains usually come with their nutrient-rich outer bran intact, which might require an extra 15–20 minutes of simmering. However, your patience will be rewarded with thea rich nutrient profile. These widely underutilized grains can add another level of taste and texture to dishes that might otherwise be made with rice, wheat, or oats.
Here are seven incredibly healthy grains you didn’t even know existed.