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Farro vs. Freekeh: Which Grain You Should Load Up On Now...

ired of too much brown rice and quinoa, but not sure what other healthy grains you can load onto plate? We pitted farro and freekeh against one other to AMY SHAPIRO, MS, RD and Founder of Real Nutrition NYC. She shares which superfood reaps plenty of benefits, what you should look for when you purchase them and more…

What are the health benefits of farro?

Farro is a complex carbohydrate that contains a lot of fiber, B vitamins (especially Niacin B3, which aids your metabolism with macronutrients), iron, magnesium, zinc and even protein — about seven or eight per 1/2 cup!

What about freekeh?

Freekeh is similar as it is high in fiber, contains protein, iron, magnesium and zinc, and also contains some calcium and potassium. Additionally, it has many prebiotics, which help with gut health and the digestive processes. Lastly, it is high in lutein — which aids in eye protection — and is high in glutamic acid which is important in aiding muscle growth, making it great for athletes.

Wow, so far they both sounds amazing. Are there any downsides to farro or freekeh?

If you are celiac or sensitive to gluten, both of these grains contain gluten, and aren’t ideal for someone who has celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Additionally, these grains are nutritionally dense so eating large portions may not be appropriate for everyone — depending, of course, on your nutrition goals.

It seems like new and interesting grains are having a moment. What makes them different than other grains?

Actually, these grains are not new — they are ancient grains which are having a comeback! What is so great about these grains is that they provide the texture that people like in say rice but with tons more nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. Additionally, these grains are easier to digest than wheat. These are becoming popular because more people are focusing on plant-based diets and these are great grains for them since they provide protein!

What constitutes a superfood? Do farro or freekeh fall into that category?

In reality there is no such thing as a superfood; it is more of a marketing gimmick than anything that is scientifically-based. With that being said, any food that provides significant health benefits through the nutrients they contain could be considered a superfood. Both of these grains are considered superfoods because they are so nutritionally dense and provide more fiber and protein than other grains in their category.

Which grain is more versatile in the kitchen?

They are actually both very versatile and can be substituted for one another in recipes. Their flavor profiles may be slightly different but both are chewy and have great texture and flavor. The size of the grains can differ based on what type you buy: Freekeh is whole or cracked and farro can be pearled.

How many grains overall should we be consuming?

This truly depends on the individual, their nutrition goals, current diet and fitness path. I usually recommend two to three servings of grains per day. That is in conjunction with receiving carbohydrates for other sources as well.

What should we be looking for on their food labels?

I recommend buying pure versions over those that have added flavors. This way you can watch the sodium and any non-natural ingredients and add your own flavors. When it comes to farro you should purchase whole, not pearled, which means some of the nutrients have been removed through the processing. Additionally, they sell farro in long, medium or cracked grains. Go for long or medium, as cracked may not be as fresh.

So which grain should we gravitate towards?

As long as you don’t have a gluten allergy, I recommend both of these grains. They are highly nutritious and are good sources of protein (and many grains aren’t). If I had to pick one, I’d pick freekeh because you can usually find it in whole form and minimally processed. I also am an advocate for high fiber foods for weight loss and irritable bowel syndrome assistance, since so many of my clients complain of this. If you are gluten intolerant a good alternative is quinoa — another grain which is high in protein.

Anything else to add?

They are so easy to cook on a stove top or a rice cooker! I like to cook mine with water infused with turmeric which I keep in the fridge for added antioxidants and health benefits!

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