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Ancient grains, which are described by the advocacy group Whole Grains Council as those that have been largely unchanged over the last several hundred years, have become quite the contemporary commodity. Over the past decade, grains like buckwheat, spelt, millet and, of course, the ever-present quinoa have become starchy staples on wellness-minded restaurant menus as well as many personal grocery lists.
Given the many nourishing qualities attributed to ancient grains, it’s ironic that the grain packing the most powerful punch when it comes to health benefits happens to be the smallest in actual size and the newest available on the U.S. market ― fonio.
onio is good for your health.
Ancient grains, in general, are coveted for their nutritional value. Much more beneficial to the body than some of the most widely used varieties of rice, corn and wheat ― which have undergone centuries of breeding ― ancient grains offer an abundance of advantageous vitamins and nutrients.
DJ Blatner, a Chicago-based registered dietitian, nutritionist and winning trainer on the 2016 ABC competition series “My Diet Is Better Than Yours,” recommends adding ancient grains to your diet for their “stress-fighting B vitamins, magnesium for muscle health, blood-building iron, and fiber for regularity and gut health.” She advises that “ancient grains can help feed good bacteria in our gut and healthier gut bacteria can help with everything from digestion to immunity to mood.” Ancient grains are also known to be relatively high in protein, which is beneficial for anyone on a plant-based diet.
But fonio, specifically, goes above and beyond most ancient grains in many nutritional categories.
Native to West Africa and considered “the seed of the universe” by ancient Egyptians, fonio has been grown in that region for over 5,000 years and is likely Africa’s oldest cultivated grain. This tiny member of the millet family is much more nutritious than its larger kin ― and most other grains, for that matter. It’s a great source of complex carbohydrates. Fonio is also a gluten-free grain with a low glycemic index, making it ideal for gluten-sensitive eaters and those who monitor their blood sugar.