Expand And Enrich Your Diabetes Diet With Whole Grain Farro

With its slightly nutty flavor, chewy texture, and nutritional punch farro is an ancient whole grain worth a place in our pantry.

Farro easily blends into soups, stews, and salads, or can be eaten alone. It’s an excellent alternative to quinoa, rice, buckwheat, or barley, and readily absorbs any spices or flavors added while cooking.

Farro and Diabetes

Two nutrients in particular, fiber and protein, make farro an especially good grain for people with diabetes, and those trying to manage their weight:

  • There are 7 to 8 grams of fiber in a half-cup serving of farro. That’s more than four times the fiber in white rice.
  • A half-cup of whole grain farro gives us 12 grams of protein—about equal to the protein in quinoa, and more than in brown rice.

Fiber and proteins slow the digestive process, and the body’s absorption of glucose, plus they help us feel full and satisfied longer after we eat. Farro also provides plenty of B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals (e.g., zinc, magnesium, iron) that support the health of our cardiovascular and immune systems.

With all these nutritional advantages, it seems like farro should be a more familiar grain, but its popularity may be hampered by a kind of identity crisis.

Figuring Out Farro

Farro by some other name might still be farro since this grain comes in three varieties:

  • Einkorn (farro piccolo)
  • Emmer (farro medio)
  • Spelt (farro grande)

The three farro types have slightly different flavors and baking attributes, plus small variations in nutrient content. Emmer is the most common farro type used in Europe and the U.S. However, the terms einkorn, emmer, and spelt are often used interchangeably.

All farro is sold dry and looks like wheat berries - though once cooked it appears similar to barley - and farro can be purchased three ways:

  • Whole grain: the intact germ and bran provide the most health benefits so whole grain is highly recommended. Though it must be soaked overnight, and takes about 45 to 50 minutes to cook, it’s worth the added effort.
  • Semi-pearled (semi-perlato): part of the germ and bran is removed, diminishing the nutrient value. Because it cooks in 20 to 25 minutes, it’s often chosen for home and restaurant use.
  • Pearled (perlato): some or all the bran and germ are removed. Though cooking time is lessened, so is the nutritional benefit.

Finally, when shopping for farro you may find the bran is labeled as long, medium, or cracked. Long and medium grades are generally fresher, and more nutrient rich than farro bran that is cracked.

Versatile Grain

Whatever type of farro is purchased, having it on hand adds versatility to any amateur chef’s repertoire. For instance:

  • Use farro in soups instead of rice, barley, or pasta.
  • Create a simple salad by mixing farro with chopped cucumber, tomato, and green onion. Toss with a vinaigrette dressing.
  • Use farro in any risotto recipe as a substitute for rice.
  • Make farro the grain in your stuffed bell peppers.
  • Enjoy farro with eggs for breakfast, or have a bowl of farro instead of oatmeal—garnish with nuts, fruit, and (or) a scoop of yogurt.
  • Flavor farro by boiling it in half water, half apple cider, and add a favorite herb if desired; serve as a side to chicken or beef.

There are also countless farro ideas available on the Internet; just do a search for “farro recipes.”

Farro Caution

Though farro may have less gluten than other wheat grains, people with celiac disease should avoid eating it. Those mildly sensitive to gluten might be able to tolerate farro, but may wisely choose other grain options instead.

Sources: Nourished Kitchen, Food and Wine
Photo: Pixabay

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