Ancient grains is an umbrella term for grains and pseudocereals not bred or genetically manipulated for many centuries.

Ancient Grains


What are Ancient Grains?

Ancient grains is an umbrella term for grains and pseudocereals not bred or genetically manipulated for many centuries. Consumer interest in “natural” and non-hybridized grains and cereals continues fueling demand for these grains.2

Some producers in the Americas eschew the “ancient” label since these grains have been planted since antiquity and are staple crops outside North America.1

Ancient grain types include:

Origin

Ancient grains are plants cultivated since antiquity that have remained unchanged over time. As such, these ingredients have a reputation as a healthy alternative to conventional, processed grains.

These grains and seeds are deemed unique ingredients, perceived as sustainable and healthy, in part, because they do not tolerate commercial fertilizers or other chemicals and are often grown organically.1

Ancient grains are not to be confused with heritage grains, a designation that tends to apply to heirloom plant varieties and landraces.3

Function

Ancient grains’ hulls are intact and the resulting flour tends to be more flavorful and nutty, while baked goods produced using them are darker and denser.1, 2 Their addition to baked goods provides visual interest and differentiates products via their unique flavor profiles.4

Demand for these grains, according to marketing and economic research by Cornell University, is outpacing supply and consumers are willing to pay more for items made from them.5  Some of these grains have only recently entered mainstream production and distribution channels.

Nutrition

Although nutrition claims have been made for various ancient grains, not all of these have been rigorously investigated. A particular problem is the sweeping generalization that all ancient grains are gluten-free and that all products...


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