Freekeh: An ancient grain

Freekeh is fast becoming a popular new food that contains many valuable nutrients and health benefits.

If you have not heard of Freekeh yet, it is quickly becoming more popular and more available in health food stores and supermarkets. Freekeh is ancient and has been cultivated in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt and Lebanon for centuries. So, what is this intriguing food?

Freekeh is a grain that is processed from young wheat, usually durum, which is roasted to a smoky flavor. The grain does not burn due to the high moisture content. Freekeh means “to rub” in Arabic which is the next step in how this grain is processed. The end product results in a chewy grain, similar to bulgur, with a smoky and nutty flavor.

The nutritional value of this grain is high as it contains higher amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals than other grains. And it has a lower glycemic index. Freekeh cooks in 20 minutes and is a great substitution for brown rice or couscous and can be enjoyed as a cereal, in soups and casseroles. Below is an easy recipe for a soup.

Feekeh soup (Arabic soup)

Makes 4 servings (4 cups)

From FitClick

Ingredients:

1/2 cup medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 chicken stock cubes

4 cups water

Directions:

  1. Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil, then add onions and cook until tender.
  2. Add water and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and season with chili pepper and cinnamon, boil for a few more minutes.
  3. Add freekeh, stirring occasionally.
  4. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

 Some of the health benefits that may come with eating freekeh include losing weight, as it contains a high amount of fiber (eight grams per cup), giving you a feeling of fullness that can lead to an overall decrease in calorie consumption. Freekeh is rich in lutein, which is an antioxidant that is positively associated with the prevention of age related eye problems. There is research that shows freekeh having a positive benefit to the digestive system not only because of the high fiber content, but it may also act as a prebiotic to increase the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.

Freekeh is not gluten-free because it is made from wheat, but it may fit into a diabetic meal plan. Make sure you check with your dietitian or health care specialist first. The grain can be purchased in a course form and more crushed form.

Freekah can be found in health food stores and ethnic markets, as well as some supermarkets. For more news related to grains and diabetes management visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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