Quinoa used to be the one of the most popular foods out there touted by celebrities on their social media pages as the go to holy grain. Recently, farro has come into the big picture and is slowly stealing the screen from its big brother.
Farro has a slightly softer texture than quinoa, and has a rice like texture to it, so those who dislike the nutty taste and poppy consistency of quinoa will enjoy digging into this. While faro is not gluten free, it still contains lower levels than other kinds of wheat and if it is cooked well, the gluten is broken down and makes it much easier for those who can’t tolerate gluten.
Farro, otherwise known as “emmer” in various parts of the globe, is a type of wheat grain that has been consumed around the world for centuries. Before farro made its way to Italy, it was even called the “pharaoh’s wheat” in ancient Egypt.
Nowadays, it is typical to the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Ethiopian diets and has even made its way into our modern gourmet cuisine. This fiber packed food is slowly creeping its way into haute cuisine and fancy restaurants as people are realizing that not only does it have many health benefits, but it also tastes quite good.
Benefits of Farro
Farro has been found to be a great source of fiber, protein, and nutrients like iron and magnesium. It’s also a better alternative than refined grains or white rice. In these next sections, we’ll be exploring the numerous benefits of farro and how to include it in your diet.
Excellent Protein Source
What may be surprising for some people to find out is that farro is an excellent protein food. Actually, it is to be noted that farro is a great source of plant-based protein. It provides the same amount as beans or legumes and more than other types of whole grains.
For vegans, vegetarians, or those trying to cut down on their meat consumption, they’ll be thrilled to know that farro is a great substitute and a whole source of protein, especially when paired with vegetables.
Source Of Antioxidants
While red wine, dark chocolate, and green leafy vegetables are first to mind when people think of high antioxidant foods, you might be shocked to know that unprocessed grains also tops that list, especially the type called lignans.
Plant lignans are highly consumed by people who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet, and thus have great heart health and longevity. They are also known to reduce inflammation. Lignans are a type of bio active compound that have a protective outcome when eaten and processed by our intestinal bacteria.
It has been shown that increasing your consumption of lignans, either from seeds or whole grains, has been linked with positive effects of C-reactive protein, lowering blood pressure levels, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, and lowering effects of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Positively Affects Heart Health And Immunity
Research has proven that the more whole grains one consumes in their diet, the higher the protection that person has against chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Farro and other full whole grains supply high doses of dietary fiber, as well as antioxidants, oligosaccharides, and resistant starch, including compounds that have been related to disease prevention.
Cyanogenic glucosides are a carbohydrate compound found in farro which has been linked to lower inflammation and cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and improve the immune system.
Opting for farro instead of low quality cuts of meat is always a better choice. You can also use it in recipes instead of refined grains, since it is high in fiber and protein, hearty, and free of artificial additives, sodium, fat, and sugar.
High Level Of Fiber
The high level of fiber in farro makes it good for digestion, great for your heart, and prevents insulin or blood sugar spikes and dips. A half cup serving of this grain has approximately seven to eight grams of cholesterol lowering fiber, which is around more than four times the amount in a slice of white bread or the same amount of white rice.
Since farro is an unprocessed grain, it’s sure to fill you up faster and for longer than refined grains. Unprocessed grains have an intact germ and bran, which are the parts of the grain that provide protein and fiber, nutrients, and which expand in your digestive tract. The more fiber we get in our diet, the better off we are, as adults need approximately 25 grams of fiber daily.
As the old saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and most people think this is enough fiber a day in their system. However, a medium sized apple only contains around 4-4.5 grams of fiber.
You may be wondering what the big fuss is about getting enough fiber in your diet, but not only is it just a system regulator, is has many other benefits too. Fiber prevents constipation, curbs hunger pangs, supports a healthy digestive environment, and clears the arteries of plaque buildup.
Provides Zinc, Magnesium, And Iron
Those who haven’t yet heard of farro or are living on a high processed diet may be missing out as this fiber-packed grain is also a great source of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Zinc is important for brain function and helps with development and growth. It also aids with DNA and cellular function. Magnesium also has several significant benefits such as preventing PMS symptoms and muscle cramps, battling away headaches, aiding in digestion, and helping you sleep better. In fact, most people actually have magnesium deficiency and don’t even realize it. Iron is responsible for assisting to improve energy and preventing anemia.
Farro is a complex carbohydrate, which means it breaks down slowly and keeps your energy and sugar levels more stable than consuming refined grains, which makes it a great option for athletes and those competing in marathons.
It is important to note that aside from all its benefits, farro does contain gluten, as it is a type of wheat. For those who have gluten sensitivities, there are similar grains that are gluten-free like wild rice, amaranth, or buckwheat.
Now that we’ve talked about all the wonderful benefits of farro, you must be wondering by now what it tastes like. According to cuisine writers for The New York Times, “farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley, but it’s lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains. Farro tastes more elegant than earnest.”
Now when it comes to buying farro, it can get pretty confusing. In fact, many Italians and chefs aren’t sure which type is which as farro comes in several forms and species of grains. To make things easier, look for “medium farro” since this is a popular and much preferred option, has a shorter cooking time, and provides all the health benefits mentioned above.
To differentiate it between other grains, look for light brown, slightly cracked grains with delicate white stripes and a little white peeping out of some of the kernels. It is usually confused for spelt, but good enough spelt has the same taste and similar benefits. Farro can be found in most supermarkets, Italian or Middle Eastern grocers, and health food stores. It’s always best to soak it overnight since it takes a longer time to cook.
Cooking And Storing Farro
Farro can be eaten simply on its own with basic seasonings like a simple lime dressing or vinaigrette. It can also be used in place of Arborio rice to make a fantastic risotto. It can be added to vegetable soups, chilis, and stews, or as a side dish when eating meat.
When cooked and chilled, it can be used in salads along with chopped herbs, vegetables, and nuts, similar to a tabouleh salad. Around the world in international cuisine, it is eaten with cream or milk and topped with nuts and honey for a breakfast meal, similar to a granola dish. It is also mixed with olive oil and pistachios for a pilaf-style dish.
Farro should ideally be stored in a glass or tightly sealed plastic container in a cool, dry, and dark location like your refrigerator where it will stay fresher longer. Ideally, whole grains should be sealed or tightly wrapped to preserve their oils.
Farro Review Summary
While farro is not the most popular grain around and will still take time to appear on many celebrities’ social media pages and diet guru’s recipe books, it has been slowly gaining traction. It is an ideal choice for its many health benefits and adds variety to the already existing grains in your diet.
This immune boosting and heart healthy grain has been under the radar for some time in Western diets, but has been a staple among some of the longest living cultures in the world due to its high level of antioxidants, fiber, protein, and other nutrients.
Consider this an alternative to the healthy refined grains or if you’re simply looking to mix things up in your diet beyond quinoa.