Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
AARP The Magazine

6 Great (Whole) Grains

Packed with nutrients, these ancient foods are improving modern health

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win! Official rules.

whole grains (Ted Morrsion)

The grains (clockwise from left): Barley, millet, red quinoa, polenta, pearl couscous, kamut. — Ted Morrison

After years of obscurity, healthful heirloom grains such as spelt, farro, quinoa and millet are finding their way into the limelight.

Subscribe to the AARP Health Newsletter

Chefs across the country are adding these grains to their menus. Supermarkets are stocking new, convenient mixes. And researchers are discovering that these ancient whole grains may help reduce belly fat, lower cholesterol and protect against cancer and other diseases.

What makes whole grains so nutritious? The fact that their nutrient-rich outer layers — the bran and the underlying germ — don't get stripped away during processing, says Maria Speck, author of the award-winning cookbook Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

For older adults in particular, "grains can provide a big hit of fiber," says Seattle dietitian Kim Larson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fiber not only helps keep you regular; new studies suggest that a high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer, too. Many whole grains are also quick to prepare, says Speck. Bulgur, millet, whole wheat couscous and quinoa can be on the table in 15 minutes, she says.

If you're not sure you can tell quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) from kamut, here's a quick rundown on their health benefits:

Barley: Hulled barley has more fiber than pearled, plus extra selenium, an immune system booster.

Kamut: A brand of Khorasan wheat, this ancient grain has protein and iron, and is high in B vitamins.

Couscous: The whole wheat version of these fast-cooking pasta balls is higher in important nutrients and fiber.

Millet: Easily digestible, this ancient seed is rich in magnesium, which helps build stronger bones and muscles.

Quinoa: Red or white, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse, with the highest protein content of any grain.

Polenta: Like grits, stone-ground cornmeal is higher in vitamin A than most grains. It's also gluten-free.

Candy Sagon is an editor and health writer at AARP Media.

You May Also Like

Visit the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

HEALTH BLOG

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

AARP Membership Drive: Join or Renew Now

Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.

African American grandfather, father and son brushing teeth

Members can earn exclusive points offers from Walgreens.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today

MOST POPULAR

Viewed

Commented

bring health To Life-Visual MD

FEATURED GROUPS

Social Security

How to strengthen Social Security for future generations. Discuss

Medicare & Insurance

Share health coverage information and experiences common to being age 50+. Join

Health Nuts

Share heart-smart recipes, fitness tips and stress relievers. Join