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Farro – Health Benefits of this Ancient Grain

Farro is an ancient grain that is pretty popular worldwide. Like brown rice, it is high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Besides its high protein level, this superfood is also high in dietary fibre and is a good source of magnesium, energising iron, and zinc. Farro is a variety of wheat that predates conventional bread wheat and belongs to the genus Triticum. So, farro is not gluten-free and has a nutty texture and delicious taste.

Farro is an ancient grain that originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it was discovered in the tombs of Egyptian monarchs and fed the Roman legions. According to the Whole Grains Council, farro was one of the initially domesticated grains and a staple for the Roman legions. But it was soon replaced by wheat varieties, which were simpler to the hull. For generations, Italians have eaten farro. The renewed interest in whole grains is now a regular on trendy restaurant menus and is commonly available in supermarkets.

Nutritional Value of Farro

As per USDA, 100 grams of pearled farro serving contains:

Energy: 375 kcalCarbohydrates: 72.5 gFat:  2.5 gProtein:  12.5 g Fibre: 7.5 gIron:  4.5 mg

The HealthifyMe Note

Farro is a nutrient-rich whole grain. It’s rich in protein, fibre, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and several B vitamins. One cup of whole-grain emmer farro contains 20% of the daily fibre recommendation.

Types of Farro

Farro refers to three different species of wheat grains:

Farro Piccolo or Einkorn: Triticum Monococcum or small farro is possibly the first type of wheat harvested by humans. It is called the purest wheat.Farro Medio or Emmer: You will usually find Triticum dicoccum or medium farro in the U.S. and Europe. It is the most common variety of farro grown in Italy.Farro Grande or Spelta: Triticum spelta or large farro. Spelt is the best known among all ancient wheat.

Farro is more importantly categorised based on how it’s processed:

Whole-grain Farro has the most fibre and nutrients per serving because the grain is intact. It has a stronger flavour, has more chew, and takes the most time to cook (around 30 minutes)Semi-pearled Farro: A part of the bran gets removed from the grain. It retains a portion of the fibre.Pearled Farro: The outer layer of the bran gets removed in this type of grain. Thus it retains less fibre and nutrients but also cooks faster. As a result, it has the least cooking time. It is the most common type of farro sold.

Health Benefits of Farro

Aids Digestion

Farro is an excellent source of fibre. Fibre aids in keeping the digestive system healthy. Therefore, farro can be highly beneficial if you have constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive issues. 

Studies show that a high-fibre diet can help improve digestion, adds to the development of “good” bacteria in the gut, and can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Weight Management

Farro is rich in fibre and proteins. Studies show that increasing fibre intake can decrease obesity and help manage a healthy weight. At the same time, protein gives a feeling of fullness, which might help you avoid overeating and assist in weight management. Furthermore, proteins also prevent muscle loss and help burn more calories. The fibre in the farro also improves gut health, which is essential for healthy weight management. 

Diabetes Management

Farro has a low glycemic index, making it suitable for people with diabetes. In addition, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is useful for those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The fibre aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption while preventing blood sugar spikes after meals. It also improves insulin sensitivity.

Improves Heart Health

Whole grain dietary fibre helps lower cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, the consumption of fibre can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Hence, you can include farro in a heart-healthy and balanced diet because it is a good source of fibre. 

Improves Blood Circulation

Iron is essential for producing haemoglobin and red blood cells, enhancing oxygenation and blood distribution throughout your body. Hence, it may assist in improving blood circulation.

The HealthifyMe Note: 

Farro is suitable for the digestive system and helps maintain a moderate weight. In addition, it is good for the heart and helpful for diabetic patients. It’s a fantastic addition to summer salads and soups and makes a pleasantly warm morning porridge.

Precautions and Things to Keep in Mind

Gluten-Free Diets

Farro is a wheat product. Hence, it includes gluten like any other wheat product. As a result, you must avoid farro if you have a medical condition that necessitates a gluten-free diet, such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Flatulence and Bloating

Whole grains like farro contain a good amount of fibre which might be difficult to digest for some people (common in older adults). When broken down by microorganisms in the large intestine, it can lead to gas.

Farro Allergy

Farro consumption may also lead to allergic reactions in some people. However, it is rare. But, you must limit eating farro to avoid serious health consequences in these situations. It is advisable to check for allergies before consuming farro in huge quantities. 

Tips to Remember Before Including Farro in Your Diet

It is best to eat farro after cooking. However, the cooking time varies for different types of farro.

Whole-grain farro: 20-60 minutes, requires soaking (preferably overnight)Semi-pearled farro: 25-30 minutes, no pre-soaking requiredPearled farro: 15-20 minutes, no pre-soaking required

The HealthifyMe Note

The cooking and storage process for farro is essential to know. You can store this grain in airtight containers. Avoid direct contact with heat and light and keep in a cool and dry place. It can last up to 7 months or more than a year. It is better to keep cooked farro in the refrigerator and consume it within 5-6 days. 

Easy and Healthy Recipes 

Farro Fried Rice with Brussel Sprouts

Servings: 2

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients

Shallot, thinly sliced: 1Eggs: 2Olive oil: 1 tbspLeeks (white and light green parts): 2 cupsBrussels sprouts, thinly sliced & shredded (1½ cups): 12Garlic cloves, minced: 2Ginger, grated: 1 tspRice vinegar: 2 tspCooked farro: 1½ cupsTamari: 1 tsp (more to taste)Scallion, chopped: 1Lime slices for servingSriracha, optional

Method

In a frying pan, saute the shallots for approximately 10 seconds or until browned in a non-stick pan.Drain on a platter lined with paper towels.Set aside fried eggs.Combine the olive oil, leeks, and a pinch of salt in a medium pan over medium heat. Cook, occasionally stirring, until the leeks get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, toss to combine, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Toss in the garlic, ginger, and rice vinegar to combine.Toss in the farro, tamari, and scallions once more. Cook for 2-4 minutes more or until the farro is tender.Adjust seasonings to taste.Divide the farro mixture onto two plates and top with a fried egg and, if desired, shallots. Serve with sriracha and lime slices.

Farmhouse Farro Salad

Servings- 4-6 

Preparation time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

Cooked farro: 1 cupSweet potato, chopped into cubes: 1Kale leaves: 5-7 (few)Salad greens: 2-3 cupsCarrots, peeled into ribbons: 1-2Apple, diced: 1A few radishes, slicedA small handful of chopped parsleyChopped & toasted almonds: ½ cup

Apple Cider Dijon Vinaigrette

Extra-virgin olive oil: ¼ cupApple cider vinegar: 2 tbspDijon mustard: 1 tspoptional: maple syrup or a big squeeze of orange: ½ tspSea salt and fresh black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the sweet potato cubes, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Roast until golden brown.You should whisk the dressing ingredients together.Lightly massage the kale in a large mixing bowl with a little of the dressing until it wilts. Blend in the farro.Toss with dressing you like: greens, carrots, apple, radishes, parsley, and almonds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Summary

Farro is an ancient grain rich in fibre, protein and carbohydrates. It is a healthier alternative to processed grains like white rice, etc. However, it contains gluten. Farro is an umbrella term for three different species of wheat; einkorn, emmer and spelt. It is of three types based on processing; whole-grain, semi-pearled and pearled farro having lesser fibre and cooking time in the same order. Farro is rich in fibre and other nutrients, making it healthy for digestion and weight loss. It is also suitable for the heart and blood circulation. It contains antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory.

Farro is a type of wheat and hence contains gluten. People suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease should avoid it. In addition, people on a keto diet should avoid it as it is rich in carbs. There are many delicious recipes for soups, salads and other dishes containing farro. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is farro better for you than rice?

A. Yes, farro is a healthier alternative to white rice. Farro is a whole grain that contains three times the fibre of rice. It has nearly double the protein amount of white and brown rice. Unlike white rice, which includes refined carbohydrates, farro has complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and aid weight loss. It’s a lot better choice than white rice or other processed grains.

Q. Is farro healthier than brown rice?

A. Farro can be healthier than brown rice. Farro has more protein and fibre per half-cup serving than brown rice. According to USDA, 100 grams of farro has 12.5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fibre, whereas brown rice has 7.54 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fibre. 

Q. Is farro a Superfood?

A. Farro is a nutritious, nutrient-dense ancient grain. It’s high in protein, fibre, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and several B vitamins. It’s a much better choice than white rice or other processed grains. However, it might not fall under the category of superfoods. 

Q. Is farro healthier than quinoa?

A. Quinoa is full of nutrients. It contains magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B complex, and vitamin A. Even though the fibre, protein and magnesium content exceeds the amounts present in quinoa, overall, quinoa comprises most of the essential nutrients and has also been called a superfood. Therefore, quinoa is healthier than farro. However, Farro has more calories and carbohydrates than quinoa, so it might not be the best option for someone trying to lose weight.

Q. Is farro inflammatory?

A. No, farro is not inflammatory. Ancient grains like farro have never been hybridised or genetically modified. Hence, they may not have the inflammatory and GI disruptive effects of contemporary grains like wheat, corn, and rice. In addition, Farro contains complex carbohydrates that limit inflammation.

Q. Is farro high in arsenic?

A. Farro is not high in arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic substance that causes cancer in human beings. Farro, which contains gluten, has a trace amount of arsenic. Thus it is a perfect substitute for white and brown rice, which include a relatively good amount of arsenic. 

Q. Is farro a carb or protein?

A. 100g serving of pearled farro contains approximately 12.5g of protein and 72.5 g of carbohydrates. Farro is a grain generally used as a source of carbohydrates in meals. However, its health benefits make it a preferable choice for healthy living compared to refined carbs.

Q. Is farro high in potassium?

A. Potassium is an essential mineral that regulates fluid balance and muscle contractions. Since farro is low in potassium, it is not a reliable source; therefore, you can consume spinach, bananas, and avocados for sufficient potassium intake. 

Q. Is farro high in iron?

A. Farro is a good source of iron. It provides 2 milligrammes of iron per one-third cup or about 10% of the Required Daily Intake (RDI). According to USDA, 100 grams of farro contains 4.5 mg of iron. 

Q. Is farro a processed food?

A. Farro processing can happen in three ways: whole grain, semi-pearled, or pearled farro. The various processing procedures affect the flavour and cooking time of farro. Whole grain is not processed and takes the longest to cook (might require overnight soaking). A part of the bran gets removed from the semi-pearled farro. Pearled farro does not have bran, significantly reducing the fibre content and cooking time.

Q. Is farro good for prediabetes?

A. Farro is a fantastic option to treat or avoid prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The fibre aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption while preventing blood sugar spikes after meals. In addition, it improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels after meals.

Q. Is farro a keto?

A. Farro is not keto-friendly due to its high carb content. Even a modest portion size can knock you out of ketosis. Farro is substantial in carbs and low in fats, which are the opposites of the macronutrients necessary for the keto diet.

Q. Is farro in a plant-based diet?

A. Yes, farro is considered plant-based. Farro is a plant-based protein source, making it ideal for vegans and vegetarians. The high iron content of this type of grain may also benefit those on plant-based diets. It’s also high in nutritional fibre and low in fat and tastes delicious in salads, soups, and stews.

Q. Is farro better than oatmeal?

A. Farro has more fibre than oats and is also a good source of iron, making it an excellent replacement for oatmeal for breakfast. One can mix the grain with water or milk and top it with fruits, chocolate nibs or almonds.

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