Farro: Another Whole Grain

For Labor Day, I made a wonderful tasty potluck dish, a Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad. It was a well liked salad that used the whole grain, farro, which was new to all the guests. People were curious about farro and wanted to learn more. As an educator would say, it was a perfect teachable moment.

A whole grain has all three parts of its seed intact. The protective outermost bran contains the fiber, B vitamins, minerals and proteins. The tiny innermost germ is oil rich and is responsible for providing B vitamins, minerals, enzymes and essential fatty acids. The remainder of the grain is the endosperm. Here lies the bulk of the carbohydrates, small amounts of B vitamins and proteins.

Grains are often manipulated by food manufacturers. When a grain is not in its natural 100% whole grain state, it has been refined. Only the endosperm is present. The most nutritious parts of the grain, the bran and the germ, have been striped away. When a grain is refined, about 22 natural nutrients have been taken away. An enriched grain has only 5 or 6 nutrients added back in. Some grains are labeled as “pearled”, as is sometimes the case with farro or barley. When a grain is pearled, it passes through a pearling machine and two giant rollers peel off the outermost bran. As a result this grain in no longer a whole grain.This same process turns brown rice into white rice. White rice, just like white flour, is more refined and void of much of its nutritional value. The end product is a starchy carbohydrate rich endosperm. Along the way, fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins have been lost.

Whole grains, with all of its three parts intact, are great sources of health and energy. Whole grains have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Whole grains are an excellent calorie source for runners and athletes who need carbohydrates to fuel their active lifestyle.

There are many types of whole grains in your grocery store. They are just a little harder to find. You will need to look past the endless products made with refined grains. Once you find them, be forewarned they will take longer to prepare than instant rice. While they are cooking, you can be preparing other elements of your meal or packing your gym bag for the next day’s workout. Your fitness isn't developed in an instant, please don’t expect the same from your dinner. There are shortcuts and time-savers  but I’ll save that for another article.