For ancient grains, old is now new

Wheat is almost everywhere nowadays. In its current hybridized and glutenized form, wheat is so hard for your body to process and digest. There’s no room for modern wheat in the Fast Metabolism Diet (but there is in a sprouted form)—and once you see how your body feels without it, you may never want to go back. Let’s look at which grains can take the place of modern wheat.

First, be aware that “wheat” isn’t always called “wheat” on ingredient labels. Just to name a few, it can be disguised as:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Bran
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Durum flour
  • Enriched flour
  • Self-rising flour

Sprouted Grains

We’ve talked about sprouted grains in this blog post.  Sprouting grains, including wheat, is a tradition that’s been around for centuries. Sprouting grains changes their chemical makeup, making them easier to digest.

You can sprout grains at home to see how it works. Soak whole wheat grains in water until the dormant grain becomes alive, sprouting a tiny plant. This process activates enzymes that break down protein and carbon dioxide to increase the micronutrient content and make wheat easier to digest. This is why sprouted wheat is fine on the Fast Metabolism Diet.

Then there are ancient grains we humans have been harvesting and digesting for thousands of years: Millet, teff, and amaranth to name a few. They’re crammed with nutrients, rich in protein and fiber and, even more importantly, free of the doctoring and cross-breeding that’s made modern wheat so hard on the system.


Millet is actually a tiny seed—and yes, you may have noticed it as part of the mix in a bag of birdseed. But it is delicious and good for humans too and is particularly popular throughout Asia, India, and parts of Africa.

Most of the millet you’ll see in stores is yellow, but it also comes in white, gray and red. It typically contains 9 to 13 percent protein and is rich in fiber, copper, phosphorus (which helps your body metabolize fat), manganese and magnesium, which is good for your heart.

To cook millet, combine one part millet to two parts water or broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, frequently stirring to ensure a creamy texture. You can also pop it like popcorn, or toast it before simmering for a nuttier, fluffier taste and texture. Or try toasting millet for a few minutes in a dry skillet, and tossing into a salad.

Millet also makes a tasty, gluten-free breakfast porridge. Combine one part millet with three parts water instead of two cups to get a creamier porridge. Add pinches of cinnamon or nutmeg. A few drops of vanilla stevia also tastes great.

One cup dry millet cooks up to about 3 cups. You’ll find millet on Phase 1 of the Fast Metabolism Diet.


Like millet, amaranth is a seed. It was originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans some 8,000 years ago and can be cooked into a mildly nutty-flavored porridge by simmering 3 parts water to 1 part amaranth for about 20 minutes. Careful, though—if you overcook the amaranth it’ll turn into a sticky mess.

Amaranth is also an excellent thickener for sauces, stews, and gravies—and like millet, it can be popped like corn. (You can eat the result as a snack, or use it as a breakfast cereal during Phase 1.) Amaranth is about 13 percent protein. It’s also high in fiber, calcium, and iron, plus phosphorus, carotenoids, manganese, lysine and some Vitamin C.

Amaranth is gluten-free, and it has triple the fiber of wheat. Like buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is one of the few grains that contain two essential amino acids (lysine and methionine), which are the building blocks of muscle and body structure.


Just one of these ancient grains actually is a grain—that’s teff, the most important cereal grain in Ethiopia. When fermented and cooked into traditional injera flatbread, teff produces a sour taste; but when cooked on its own (without fermentation), teff has a mildly sweet, earthy and nutty flavor.

Teff comes in either white or deep brown, and each seed is just a little larger than the head of a pin. Despite their diminutive size, teff seeds are still high in iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin C and protein (about 14 percent).

For a creamy, smooth teff porridge, simmer one part teff in three parts water for about 20 minutes. You can also use it as a thickener for soups and stews.

Shopping tips

When shopping for any of these ancient grains, your job is pretty simple: Look for grain that is dry and clean, then store it in a cool, dry, dark place. The versatility and nutrient content of these grains — particularly vitamin C, which you don’t typically find in grain — make them a great staple to keep on-hand for Phase 1.


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