Whole grains have an image problem: As delicious as they are, often they’re perceived as difficult or time-consuming to cook and, frankly, a little on the stodgy side. These days, too, their age-old health benefits get pushback from the anti-grain crowd. There are three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt). The imported Italian farro available in the United States is usually the emmer variety. It’s often semi-perlato, or semi-pearled, meaning it retains some, but not all of its bran and nutrients. Most recipes are written for this kind of farro; without any soaking, it cooks up fast, in about 25 minutes, at least ten minutes faster than the average  type of rice.

Farro is delicious as a hot breakfast cereal (it’s wonderful with peaches) and in soups, salads, side dishes, and even desserts. One preparation that everyone loves is farrotto—farro cooked like risotto. And once you start working the grain into your culinary repertoire, think about upgrading to whole-grain farro. Unlike the semi-pearled type, it hasn’t had any of its bran and germ removed, so it contains more fiber and nutrients—which include B vitamins (especially B3, or niacin), and important minerals such as manganese and zinc.

As far as complex carbohydrates go, it’s rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. Although it isn’t a complete source of protein, like quinoa, farro contains more than, say, brown rice, and it also contains lignans that give it antioxidant properties. In general, whole grains take longer to digest, so they keep you feeling full longer and provide sustained energy. They’re also thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

According to the U.S. Whole Grains Council, eating 100 percent whole grains, including wheat, provides well-researched benefits, such as:

  • reducing the risk of stroke by more than 30 percent
  • reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes by 20 percent to 30 percent
  • significantly lowering risk for heart disease risk factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • helping with better weight maintenance
  • reducing the risk of asthma
  • helping people to consume more dietary fiber, which is important for digestion
  • preventing obesity
  • reducing the risk for numerous inflammatory diseases

Get your Italian Farro and Enjoy 1f60b

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