Do you know what is farro? If you are trying to make a healthier change in your diet, look towards the past. Ancients food grains like farro are gaining popularity like never before. Italians have had farro for more than 2000 years, and now this minimally processed and nutritious grain has become popular in the US also.
Since it is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and antioxidants, farro offers many nutritional benefits. Not only does it help you lose weight, but it is also helpful in improving immunity and heart health.
So, what is farro and what are the benefits that it offers to our health? Read on to know more.
What is farro?
Farro is an ancient grain that is derived from wheat. A staple in Mediterranean countries like Italy, farro is an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and is also lower in calories than brown rice and quinoa.
Farro is actually three grains which are Farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelled). Emmer is the most common variety found in the US.
Farro is available in three different forms at the grocery stores – whole farro, semi-pearled farro (partially removed bran) and pearled farro (bran is completely removed).
This grain is chewy and has a nutty flavor. It can be used in stews, soups, and salads. It can also be added to puddings, mousse, and sweetbreads.
What is farro’s history?
Farro is called the mother of all wheat. It is one of the earliest domesticated plants and was first domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Cresent in the Middle East. There it was a popular grain and was used as a daily ration by ordinary people.
It was one of the main staple crops in Babylon, ancient Greece, Egypt and Europe during the Roman period. In Egypt, Emmer was the only species of wheat planted until the Greco-Roman times.
It also figured mainly in the rations of the Roman legions.
Nutrition facts of farro
Though farro looks a lot like brown rice, it is not gluten-free. However, It is relatively low in gluten and easier to digest than the modern varieties of wheat. It is rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants, and lignans.
One-fourth cup (47 grams) of organic whole grain emmer farro contains (1) –
- Calories: 170
- Total fat: 1 gram
- Total carbohydrates: 34 grams (11% Daily Value)
- Dietary fiber: 5 grams (20% Daily Value)
- Protein: 6 grams (12% Daily Value)
- Niacin: 20% Daily Value
- Magnesium: 15 % Daily Value
- Zinc: 15 % Daily Value
- Iron: 4 % Daily Value
When compared to the modern varieties of wheat, farro contains twice the amount of fiber and protein. Farro also contains cyanogenic glucosides, which help lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar and boost immunity.
Health benefits of farro
Farro is hugely beneficial for health as it improves digestion, cardiovascular health and boosts immunity.
1. High fiber content
Farro is a rich source of dietary fiber, which is excellent for digestion, heart health, and it keeps your blood sugar in check. Just one-fourth of a cup of farro contains 5 grams of fiber, which can take care of 20 percent of our daily requirements.
Since farro is an unprocessed grain, it means its bran and germ are intact. Not only are these parts of the grain rich in nutrients, but they also make you feel full and satiated for a more extended period.
Farro contains less gluten than modern wheat, so people can easily digest it.
2. Improves heart health
Not only is farro rich in fiber, but it also contains resistant starch, oligosaccharides, and antioxidants, which are essential for heart health. According to research, eating whole grain food is highly beneficial for heart health (4).
Farro contains polyphenols which are known to keep heart ailments at bay. The antioxidant properties of polyphenols help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (5).
Additionally, farro also contains cyanogenic glucosides, a particular type of carbohydrate that is known to lower cholesterol, inflammation and regulate blood sugar levels.
3. Helps in weight loss
If you are trying to lose some weight, you must substitute refined grains with farro. According to a 2008 study, a higher intake of whole grains (around three servings a day) is associated with lower BMI and central adiposity.
A quarter cup of farro contains just 170 calories.
It is rich in fiber, which helps you stay fuller for longer, and thus you end up eating lesser calories (6). It is also rich in protein, which is beneficial for weight loss as it helps reduce appetite.
Farro is a low glycemic index food. It is digested more slowly, which causes a slower rise in blood sugar and keeps you energetic through the day (7).
4. Good source of protein
Farro is an excellent source of protein. In fact, farro has the highest protein content amongst all cereal grains. A quarter cup of faro contains 6 grams of protein.
It is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians as it provides a fair amount of amino acids. When consumed with legumes and beans, it provides a complete source of protein.
Protein plays a vital role in keeping our weight in check as it causes a rise in fullness hormones and reduces the hunger hormones (8).
Protein is also essential for building muscles, and it is vital for heart health. Various studies and trials have proved that an increase in the intake of protein at the expense of carbohydrates has a beneficial effect on BP.
5. Boosts immunity
Farro is an excellent immunity-boosting food grain. It contains oligosaccharides, resistant starch, antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which help build immunity in the body.
Farro also contains cyanogenic glucosides, a type of carbohydrate that boosts your immune system.
The faro grain is also a rich source of zinc, which keeps the immune system healthy, helps heal wounds and supports healthy growth. According to studies, zinc deficient people can have severe immune dysfunctions (9).
Farro also contains magnesium, which also helps in building immunity in the body.
6. Good source of B vitamins
Farro is rich in B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin. Both these vitamins support metabolism by breaking down and converting carbohydrates and proteins into energy (10).
B vitamins have several other important roles in the body like brain health, neurotransmitter function, and supporting the central nervous system.
They help reduce fatigue, boost mood and improve cognitive performance. They are also useful in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Though most of the time we can get our daily dose of B vitamins from our diet, certain circumstances increase our need for these vitamins.
Having farro is a good way to get extra B vitamins in your diet, when you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from diseases like cancer, hypothyroidism, and alcoholism.
7. Rich in antioxidants
Unprocessed grains like farro are an excellent source of antioxidants like carotenoids, polyphenols, phytosterols and selenium (11).
According to studies, long-term consumption of diets that are rich in polyphenols helps protect against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases.
Farro provides lignans, which help reduce inflammation. People who eat traditional Mediterranean food, which is rich in plant lignans, are known for their longevity and heart health.
These bioactive, non-nutrient plant compounds have a positive effect on the body. When taken from grains, lignans help lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
8. Provides essential minerals
Vegetarian diets are generally low in essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc. Unprocessed grains like faro are good vegetarian sources of these minerals which are needed for many important functions in the body.
Zinc is needed by the body to maintain a healthy immune system. It also helps in wound healing and for breaking down carbs during digestion (12).
Magnesium keeps bones strong, boosts immunity, improves nerve and muscle function and keeps heartbeat regular (13). It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity.
Iron improves energy levels in the body and prevents anemia.
Side effects of Farro
Farro is an excellent choice of cereal. However, if we consume it in excessive amounts, it can have some side effects. So, what is farro’s downside?
- Excessive amounts of dietary fiber from faro can lead to digestive issues like gas and indigestion.
- Farro also contains certain anti-nutrients like phytic acid which decreases the bioavailability of essential minerals like iron and zinc. So, people who have mineral deficiencies should control their intake of faro.
- Though farro is lower in gluten content as compared to wheat, it is not entirely gluten-free. So, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance should avoid consuming farro.
How to choose farro?
Though farro is readily available in supermarkets and health stores these days, the different varieties available can be confusing. It is available in whole grain, perlato (bran removed) and semi-perlato (brand partially removed) forms.
It is also divided into three grades. The best grains are 6 to 8 mm long. The second variety has grains that are 3 to 5 mm long. The third variety has broken and cracked farro grains, which is the lowest quality.
The whole grain farro is the most nutritious as it has the bran intact. However, it may take a little longer to cook. The pearled variety cooks faster and does not have to be soaked.
How to cook farro?
Farro is easy to cook, and you can eat it just like you would eat other grains like rice, barley, oats or quinoa. Here is a simple recipe to cook farro perfectly.
- 1 and ½ cups of farro
- 4 cups of filtered water, stock or a mixture of both
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- One tablespoon butter or olive oil
- Take 1 and ½ cups of farro and rinse with cold water and drain.
- Transfer to medium-sized pot with a lid, add four cups of water or the combination of water and stock and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and let it cook for 25 to 30 minutes till it is soft and chewy. Drain any excess liquid.
- Add one tablespoon of butter or olive oil to it and fluff it up with a fork.
Final words on what is farro
Farro has become extremely popular in the US in recent years. So, what is farro? It is a highly nutritious ancient food grain. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and provides many health benefits including weight loss.
It’s easy to prepare and can be used in a variety of dishes including puddings. If you are looking for a healthier alternative to refined grains, farro is a perfect choice.