Why you Should be Eating Freekeh
The variety if new grains on the supermarket shelves is growing rapidly. Those of us of a certain age doubtless remember when your only option was some form of rice but over recent years you will have noticed an ever increasing choice.
Quinoa, amaranth, farro and other types of previously exotic sounding grains have all become fairly commonplace in the kitchen. These so called ‘superfoods’ are all extremely tasty, versatile and very healthy but now there is yet another grain that is enjoying a growing reputation.
It may be very new to supermarkets and kitchens around the world but freekeh is absolutely ancient and has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. If you do not know much about this new supergrain but would like to find out how it compares with some of your other options, then this is the article for you.
What exactly is Freekeh?
Before we go on to explore the health benefits and nutritional value of this grain, here are some basic facts. Freekeh is essentially wheat and if the spelling does not help, it is pronounced as free-kah.
Healthy wheat options are notoriously difficult to find but if that wheat is of the right type, then it can provide you with a healthy source of nutrition. Unlike quinoa, freekeh is not a gluten-free product but it compares very well in terms of fiber, protein and fat content.
Freekeh gets its name and its distinctive nutty, smoky taste from the process in which the grain is prepared. When the wheat is harvested, heaps of it gets set alight in order to burn the chaff and the straw.
Because the seeds inside the grain are still very moist, they do not burn along with the chaff and are you are left with a slightly chewy grain with a smoky flavor. Once the burring stage is complete, the wheat is threshed and sun dried which gives the grains their consistent texture and flavor. The process of rubbing is called ‘farikor’ and gives the final product its familiar name. The final stage of the process involves the seeds being cracked into small pieces giving them an appearance much like bulgur wheat.
Freekeh Nutritional Value
What makes freekeh such an attractive option to add to your diet is its impressive nutritional profile which compares incredibly well with more established grains including quinoa.
It has just the sort of nutritional value that any health minded person would find very interesting. It may not be free of gluten but it is very high in healthy fiber and protein while being very low in fat.
When compared with quinoa, it has around twice the amount of fiber meaning that it will keep you feeling sated for longer periods. This makes it an attractive option for people looking to shed some weight and its low glycemic index makes it an excellent choice for diabetics or people looking to manage their blood sugar levels.
It is also an excellent source of protein and contains important minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium.
Each 100 grams of freekeh will provide you with around:
- 350 calories
- 60 grams of carbohydrates
- 15 grams of protein
- 13 grams of fiber
- 2 grams of fat
- 31 mgs of zinc (207% of the daily value)
- 32 mgs of iron (178% of daily value)
- 3.5 mgs of copper (170% of daily value)
- 370 mgs of calcium (37% of daily value)
- 110 mgs of magnesium (28% of daily value)
Health Benefits of Freekeh
So now that you know what it is and how much nutrition it contains, what health benefits can you expect from adding freekeh to your diet?
1. Digestive Benefits
We all know how important it is to get enough fiber into your diets but that does not stop people from ignoring the advice. Freekeh is a tasty source of healthy fiber that can help ease a number of common digestive complaints including diarrhea and constipation.
Freekeh contains insoluble fiber which helps to add more bulk to the stools providing relief from constipation and easing the passage of food through your digestive tract.
2. Weight Control
High protein foods that are also rich in fiber like freekeh can also satiate your appetite helping you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. This in theory will reduce the temptation for snacking between meals and your overall calorie intake.
When compared to other grains, freekeh compares very favorably. It contains three times as much fiber as brown rice which is great for your digestive health as well as your waistline.
While no studies have been done into the weight loss benefits of freekeh itself, some studies indicate that increasing your fiber intake can have a very positive effect on your weight. A study published in 2015 examined the effects of a high fiber diet in over 200 adults suffering from metabolic syndrome for a 12 month period. Perhaps unsurprisingly they found that the group who followed a high fiber diet had greater weight loss success than the other group. (1)
3. Antioxidants and Eye Health
As well as all the nutrients mentioned above, freekeh is a great source of antioxidants.
It contains antioxidant carotenoids called zeaxanthin and lutein that are known to prevent macular degeneration which typically occurs as we get older. There is evidence that these carotenoids affect the development of the eyes from an early stage.
They are present in breast milk and continue to contribute to eye health throughout your life. Other than freekeh, sources of these healthy carotenoids are certain fruit and vegetables and egg yolk.
4. Inflammatory Bowel Conditions
This super-grain also contains prebiotics which according to preliminary studies may help people treat an array of digestive conditions including common inflammatory complaints like IBS and leaky gut syndrome.
Bear in mind that prebiotics are not the same thing as the better-known probiotics that you can get from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and miso. It is thought that prebiotics help to fuel the probiotics making them potentially useful in the battle against inflammatory bowel conditions.
A study published in 2012 concluded that prebiotics in conjunction with probiotics could help to treat a number of common digestive complaints including diarrhea, IBS, IBD, candida and leaky gut. (2)
5. Muscular Growth and Endurance
Each 100 gram serving of freekeh comes with around 2.2 grams of an amino acid called glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is popular with bodybuilders and athletes because it helps to synthesize glutamine which can improve strength and endurance.
6. Blood Sugar Control
Freekeh is an ideal choice for diabetics and for those who are simply looking to manage their blood sugar levels. The wholegrain variety of freekeh has a relatively low glycemic index of 43. This low GI and its the small insulin response to eating freekeh makes it a great option for the prevention or management of diabetes.
If you have never tried freekeh before, then why not give it a go. It is a great, healthy option that you can serve up as an accompaniment to meat in the same way that you would serve rice.
Although it contains gluten, it compares very well with other popular grains like quinoa when it comes to fiber and protein content.
If you have any favorite recipes, why not let us know about them; we would love to hear from you.