There's something about a Monday that gives you a mental 'clean slate' for the week. But motivation doesn't always come easy. Why not ask Bupa dietitians Rosalyn D'Angelo and Gemma Cosgriff how you can make some healthy changes? Why not start the week with some inspiration and advice from Bupa dietitians Rosalyn D'Angelo and Gemma Cosgriff?

This week's feature article

Ancient vs modern grains

Gemma Cosgriff
Bowls of grains

Perhaps it’s the interest in looking, feeling and living younger, we have gone backwards in time when it comes to food choices too. No, I’m not talking about the food staples of the 80s, but far earlier than this. Ancient times! Ancient grains!

What is the difference between an ancient and a modern grain?

The word ‘ancient’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “belonging to the very distant past and no longer in existence”, so the literal interpretation isn’t being used when our modern society uses it in relation to grains. (Modern: “adj. Relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past.")

The term ‘ancient grains’ refers to grains which have existed over the last several hundred years, without changing in a big way… and those which have more recently become popular choices again. These refer to the likes of quinoa, chia, amaranth, millet, wild rice, teff and more ‘ancient’ forms of wheat like spelt and farro (AKA emmer). They have not changed too much over time like the common modern grain has. 

Modern grains have been seen to have been bred for rapid growth, improved milling ability and have been processed through hybridisation or genetic modification, and have therefore changed over the years. Examples include wheat, corn and rice.

That’s not to say that human’s ability to modify naturally occurring foods is necessarily a bad thing. So aside from the rustic, retro romance ancient grains might have over their modern counterparts, let’s take a look at the nutrition and palatable side of things.

If you have ever had a go at eating some of the ancient grains, you might have noticed that they can tend to have a bit more crunch, density, and sometimes a little nutty flavour infusion. Some might even fill you up a little quicker than the modern varieties.

What we do know is that “whole grains” are an important part of our diet – they help to provide us quality fibre, protein, nutrients and energy for a healthy gut and heart, and they fuel our daily lives. “Whole grains” mean that the entire grain seed is present without any of its parts having been removed. Milled or refined grains (think white bread, white rice, white pasta) have been through processing to make the texture lighter, and therefore removing a whole bunch of that nutritious fibre. So let’s look at some of those ancient options which might provide some extra nutrition.
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