You’ve heard of common grains like barley, buckwheat and whole wheat, I’m sure, but have you ever tried farro? Chances are you haven’t even ever heard of it, but you should!
This impressive grain is beginning to gain traction for its health benefits and ability to adapt to different recipes. In a similar vein as kamut or bulgur wheat, farro makes a good alternative grain addition to several dishes.
While it does contain gluten, it contains lower levels than today’s wheat, and if prepared properly, the gluten is pre-digested and broken down by sprouting and fermentation like a sourdough process. This makes it much more tolerable with anyone sensitive to gluten.
So what exactly is farro, what are the biggest farro benefits and how can you use this ancient grain? Let’s take a look.
What Is Farro?
Farro, also called emmer in some parts of the world, is a type of ancient wheat grain that has been eaten for thousands of years. Today, you’re likely to find farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum) in many Mediterranean, Ethiopian or Middle Eastern restaurants.
These days, especially in parts of Italy — but also increasingly throughout the world, including in the U.S. — this high-fiber food is staging a comeback as a gourmet specialty. That’s because it’s an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron.
Ancient hulled wheat varieties are believed by historians to be among the early cereals that were domesticated in their places of origin in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. As “old world grain,” traditionally farro has been used in soups, salads and even some desserts, usually paired with olive oil, fresh herbs, fruit and all types of vegetables.
What is farro similar to? It looks similar to wheat berries — it’s a little light brown grain with a visible bran — and has a chewy texture and mild nutty flavor, which makes it a good alternative to rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, spelt or other ancient grains.
Is farro gluten free?
No; because it’s a type of wheat, it contains the protein gluten, which is found in all types of wheat, barley and rye grains. Therefore it isn’t appropriate for those following gluten-free diets.
On the plus side, farro is believed to contain less gluten that many modern strains of wheat. It may also be potentially easier for people with various types of intolerances to digest, according to some research.
Because it’s easily digested and so low in gluten, some claim that certain types of farro can often be eaten by people who normally experience gluten intolerance symptoms,
That being said, for those who can tolerate gluten, there’s an important difference between eating forms of unprocessed wheat grains (like farro, einkorn and barley) compared to popular refined types of wheat. According to groups such as the U.S. Whole Grains Council, and many studies conducted over the past several decades, eating 100 percent whole grains (including wheat) provides well-researched benefits, such as:
- reducing the risk of stroke by more than 30 percent
- reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes by 20 percent to 30 percent
- significantly lowering risk for heart disease risk factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure
- helping with better weight maintenance
- reducing the risk of asthma
- helping people to consume more dietary fiber, which is important for digestion
- preventing obesity
- reducing the risk for numerous inflammatory diseases
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Is farro better for you than rice, quinoa, or other whole grains? Like all whole grains, farro provides a concentrated dose of complex carbohydrates, especially dietary fiber.
Because it contains more fiber than other popular grains like rice or even quinoa, farro might have even more positive benefits when it comes to digestion and cardiovascular health. It’s also exceptionally high in protein for a grain and supplies more than 10 different vitamins and minerals.
The USDA does not provide nutrition information for farro at this time, but we can assume it has similar nutrients to other closely related wheat species, such as spelt. With that in mind, 1/2 cup serving of uncooked farro has about:
- 150 calories
- 34 grams of carbohydrates
- 7–8 grams fiber
- 7–8 grams protein
- 1 gram sugar
- 1 gram fat
- 4 milligrams niacin (15 percent DV)
- 60 milligrams magnesium (15 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams iron (10 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams thiamine (10 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams zinc (10 percent DV)
1. High in Fiber
Why is farro a good carb source? Studies show that a very high level of fiber, plus other compounds, makes it heart-healthy, good for digestion, and beneficial for preventing blood sugar/insulin spikes and dips.
One 1/2 cup serving of farro has about seven to eight grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber, which is more than four times the amount in white rice or a slice of white bread! Adults need at at least 25 grams of fiber daily, and in general, the more we get the better.
Farro has an intact bran and germ, the parts of the grain that provide nutrients, protein and fiber, which winds up swelling up in your digestive tract, keeping you satisfied for longer than refined grains.
A large body of research has shown that whole grain foods are superior to processed grains because they deliver the bran, germ and endosperm of the original grain. They therefore both the outer bran layer (which is composed of non-digestible, mainly insoluble fiber, poorly fermentable carbohydrates) along with the the inner germ and starchy endosperm (which holds all the vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, oils and other phytonutrients).
Fiber is more than just a regulator. Research shows it’s beneficial for preventing constipation, clearing the arteries of plaque buildup, curbing hunger pangs and supporting a healthy gut environment.
Farro’s complex carbohydrates break down slowly, keeping your energy levels more stable compared to eating refined grains, which makes it a great choice for hard-working athletes.
2. Improves Immunity and Heart Health
Like other 100 percent whole grains, farro supplies not only fiber, but also resistant starch, oligosaccharides and antioxidants, including phenolic compounds. These have been linked to disease prevention in many studies.
Studies show the more whole grains someone eats, the more protection that person seems to have against chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in addition to obesity.
Among farro’s different types of carbohydrates is a specific compound called cyanogenic glucosides, which have been shown to positively affect the immune system, lower inflammation, help regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.
3. Good Source of Protein
In addition to fiber, it surprises many people to find out that whole grains can be a good way to obtain protein. In fact, farro is considered an excellent source of plant-based protein, providing about the same amount as most legumes or beans.
If you’re cutting down on the amount of animal products or meat you consume, you’ll be happy to know that farro can form a complete source of protein when paired with other plant foods like vegetables.
4. High in B Vitamins
Farro contains multiple B vitamins, especially vitamin B3 niacin, which is important for metabolic health and converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins from the foods we eat into energy.
Research shows that B vitamins are also important for brain health, maintaining high energy levels, neurotransmitter function and supporting the central nervous system.
Vitamin B2, another B vitamin found in farro, is critical for development, reproductive capabilities and the conversion of carbohydrates found in whole grains.
5. Good Source of Antioxidants
Most people think of vegetables or fruits as being the only high-antioxidant foods, but research shows that unprocessed grains with their brans intact also provide antioxidants, especially the type called lignans.
Lignans are bioactive, non-nutrient, non-caloric phenolic plant compounds that have a protective effect when consumed and metabolized by our intestinal bacteria.
Plant lignans are known to reduce inflammation and are highly consumed by populations known for their longevity and heart health, such as those who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet meal plan.
Studies suggest that increasing your intake of lignans — from foods like whole grains or seeds, for example — is associated with positive reactions of C-reactive protein, a lowering effect on plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower blood pressure levels, and an overall reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
6. Provides Iron, Magnesium and Zinc
Farro is a good source of nutrients that some plant-based eaters, or anyone with a mostly processed diet, might be missing out on, including magnesium, zinc and iron.
Iron is important for preventing anemia and helping to improve energy, while zinc is crucial for brain function, helping with growth and development and facilitating with DNA and cellular functions.
Magnesium is a crucial electrolyte that has numerous benefits — preventing muscle cramps and PMS symptoms, helping you sleep better, fighting of headaches and helping with digestion — but many people actually have a magnesium deficiency and don’t even realize it.
Wondering what farro tastes like? According to food writers for The New York Times, “farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty flavor with undertones of oats and barley, but it’s lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains…”
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Farro comes in several different forms. That’s because there are actually several species of farro grains and more than one way of processing the seeds. For example, farro medio and farro piccolo are two types with different sizes.
The two most common types are perlato (pearled farro) and semi-perlato (semi-pearled farro) varieties.
- Semi-pearled farro is the better choice among the two, since it has more of the fiber- and nutrient-rich bran. Kinds that are labeled as “pearled” means the farro grain been partially processed and some of the nutrients and fiber have been removed.
- You might also find farro sold in different “bran grades”: long, medium or cracked grades. Look for “medium farro” if possible, since this is the species that has the preferred complex taste, shorter cooking time and health benefits you’re looking for.
- It’s best to buy long or medium, which means it hasn’t yet been cracked and should be fresher, retaining more nutrients that can be lost when the grain is cracked and bran removed.
- You can crack long grain farro yourself with a coffee grinder or blender if you’d like to speed up cooking time.
- Another type of related wheat plant (Triticum monococcum) called ”little farro” is also available, but is “less evolved” than farro and has a cruder kernel, higher cost and different taste.
How can you tell the difference between farro and other wheat grains? Experts recommend looking for light brown, cleft grains with subtle white stripes and a little white peeking out of some of the kernels. Depending on where you shop, this grain may also be called by other names, such as farro medio.
Farro can be easily confused for spelt (sometimes called farro grande, dinkel wheat or hulled wheat), but luckily spelt has similar benefits and a comparable taste.
Where to Buy Farro
By the beginning of the 20th century, farro was mostly replaced by processed flour products made from higher-yielding wheat strains, which meant it could barely be found anywhere besides online or some ethnic grocery stores for many decades.
While most of the world gave up on using farro for everyday recipes, one of the few exceptions to this has been Ethiopia, where farro still comprises around 7 percent of all wheat that’s grown (still not a very high number, all things considered).
You can find farro in most large supermarkets these days, health food stores, and usually Italian/Middle Eastern grocers.
It’s typically sold dried and prepared by cooking the grains in water until they’re softened up and chewy, but still somewhat crunchy too.
How to Cook
Since whole grains take a longer time to cook than processed grains, it’s a good idea to first soak far grains overnight if you’re using semi-pearled farro grains.
Not familiar with the benefits of sprouted grains? Compared to sprouted seeds (in this case sprouted grains), unsprouted grain seeds have a lower protein content, deficiency of certain essential amino acids, lower protein and starch availabilities, and the presence of certain antinutrients that block the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Here’s how to cook farro on the stovetop (it can also be cooked in a slow cooker or pressure cooker):
What kinds of recipes does farro work well in? You can keep things simple and eat cooked farro on its on with some simple seasonings (just like you would with rice or quinoa) or use farro in place of Arborio rice to make risotto. It also makes a great hearty addition to veggie soups, stews and chilis.
It’s also common to use herbs, nuts and veggies to make a farro salad. Other popular uses for farro around the world include eating it with milk or cream, topped with honey and nuts for a hearty breakfast similar to granola, pairing it with pistachios and olive oil for a farro pilaf-style side dish, or using it in place of barley in mushroom dishes.
Farro is al used to make semolina flour, which is native to parts of Tuscany and often said to make the best homemade pastas.
- What is the grain farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum)? It’s a type of whole grain in the wheat family. It has similar health benefits to quinoa or barley, with a nutty flavor and chewy texture.
- There’s a reason farro has been a popular grain among some of the longest-living people in the world: it’s chock-full of fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants.
- Benefits of this whole grain include supporting heart health, digestion, blood sugar management, and preventing anemia, magnesium deficiency and low fiber intake.
- Farro is a perfect addition to recipes like salads, stews, soups and more. Look for semi-pearled farro in stores if possible, since this has more nutrients due to having less bran removed.
- Keep in mind that while farro can help improve digestion due to helping you get more fiber, it does contain gluten. For people who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, similar grains that are gluten-free (like buckwheat, amaranth or wild rice) are a better choice.
— Update: 13-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Farro – Health Benefits of this Ancient Grain from the website www.healthifyme.com for the keyword health benefits of farro.
Farro is an ancient grain that is pretty popular worldwide. Like brown rice, it is high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Besides its high protein level, this superfood is also high in dietary fibre and is a good source of magnesium, energising iron, and zinc. Farro is a variety of wheat that predates conventional bread wheat and belongs to the genus Triticum. So, farro is not gluten-free and has a nutty texture and delicious taste.
Farro is an ancient grain that originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it was discovered in the tombs of Egyptian monarchs and fed the Roman legions. According to the Whole Grains Council, farro was one of the initially domesticated grains and a staple for the Roman legions. But it was soon replaced by wheat varieties, which were simpler to the hull. For generations, Italians have eaten farro. The renewed interest in whole grains is now a regular on trendy restaurant menus and is commonly available in supermarkets.
Nutritional Value of Farro
As per USDA, 100 grams of pearled farro serving contains:
- Energy: 375 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 72.5 g
- Fat: 2.5 g
- Protein: 12.5 g
- Fibre: 7.5 g
- Iron: 4.5 mg
The HealthifyMe Note
Farro is a nutrient-rich whole grain. It’s rich in protein, fibre, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and several B vitamins. One cup of whole-grain emmer farro contains 20% of the daily fibre recommendation.
Types of Farro
Farro refers to three different species of wheat grains:
- Farro Piccolo or Einkorn: Triticum Monococcum or small farro is possibly the first type of wheat harvested by humans. It is called the purest wheat.
- Farro Medio or Emmer: You will usually find Triticum dicoccum or medium farro in the U.S. and Europe. It is the most common variety of farro grown in Italy.
- Farro Grande or Spelta: Triticum spelta or large farro. Spelt is the best known among all ancient wheat.
Farro is more importantly categorised based on how it’s processed:
- Whole-grain Farro has the most fibre and nutrients per serving because the grain is intact. It has a stronger flavour, has more chew, and takes the most time to cook (around 30 minutes)
- Semi-pearled Farro: A part of the bran gets removed from the grain. It retains a portion of the fibre.
- Pearled Farro: The outer layer of the bran gets removed in this type of grain. Thus it retains less fibre and nutrients but also cooks faster. As a result, it has the least cooking time. It is the most common type of farro sold.
Health Benefits of Farro
Farro is an excellent source of fibre. Fibre aids in keeping the digestive system healthy. Therefore, farro can be highly beneficial if you have constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive issues.
Studies show that a high-fibre diet can help improve digestion, adds to the development of “good” bacteria in the gut, and can reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Farro is rich in fibre and proteins. Studies show that increasing fibre intake can decrease obesity and help manage a healthy weight. At the same time, protein gives a feeling of fullness, which might help you avoid overeating and assist in weight management.
Furthermore, proteins also prevent muscle loss and help burn more calories. The fibre in the farro also improves gut health, which is essential for healthy weight management.
Farro has a low glycemic index, making it suitable for people with diabetes. In addition, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is useful for those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
The fibre aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption while preventing blood sugar spikes after meals. It also improves insulin sensitivity.
Improves Heart Health
Whole grain dietary fibre helps lower cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, the consumption of fibre can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Hence, you can include farro in a heart-healthy and balanced diet because it is a good source of fibre.
Improves Blood Circulation
Iron is essential for producing haemoglobin and red blood cells, enhancing oxygenation and blood distribution throughout your body. Hence, it may assist in improving blood circulation.
The HealthifyMe Note:
Farro is suitable for the digestive system and helps maintain a moderate weight. In addition, it is good for the heart and helpful for diabetic patients. It’s a fantastic addition to summer salads and soups and makes a pleasantly warm morning porridge.
Precautions and Things to Keep in Mind
Farro is a wheat product. Hence, it includes gluten like any other wheat product. As a result, you must avoid farro if you have a medical condition that necessitates a gluten-free diet, such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Flatulence and Bloating
Whole grains like farro contain a good amount of fibre which might be difficult to digest for some people (common in older adults). When broken down by microorganisms in the large intestine, it can lead to gas.
Farro consumption may also lead to allergic reactions in some people. However, it is rare. But, you must limit eating farro to avoid serious health consequences in these situations. It is advisable to check for allergies before consuming farro in huge quantities.
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Tips to Remember Before Including Farro in Your Diet
It is best to eat farro after cooking. However, the cooking time varies for different types of farro.
- Whole-grain farro: 20-60 minutes, requires soaking (preferably overnight)
- Semi-pearled farro: 25-30 minutes, no pre-soaking required
- Pearled farro: 15-20 minutes, no pre-soaking required
The HealthifyMe Note
The cooking and storage process for farro is essential to know. You can store this grain in airtight containers. Avoid direct contact with heat and light and keep in a cool and dry place. It can last up to 7 months or more than a year. It is better to keep cooked farro in the refrigerator and consume it within 5-6 days.
Easy and Healthy Recipes
Farro Fried Rice with Brussel Sprouts
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
- Shallot, thinly sliced: 1
- Eggs: 2
- Olive oil: 1 tbsp
- Leeks (white and light green parts): 2 cups
- Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced & shredded (1½ cups): 12
- Garlic cloves, minced: 2
- Ginger, grated: 1 tsp
- Rice vinegar: 2 tsp
- Cooked farro: 1½ cups
- Tamari: 1 tsp (more to taste)
- Scallion, chopped: 1
- Lime slices for serving
- Sriracha, optional
- In a frying pan, saute the shallots for approximately 10 seconds or until browned in a non-stick pan.
- Drain on a platter lined with paper towels.
- Set aside fried eggs.
- Combine the olive oil, leeks, and a pinch of salt in a medium pan over medium heat.
- Cook, occasionally stirring, until the leeks get soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the Brussels sprouts, toss to combine, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
- Toss in the garlic, ginger, and rice vinegar to combine.
- Toss in the farro, tamari, and scallions once more.
- Cook for 2-4 minutes more or until the farro is tender.
- Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Divide the farro mixture onto two plates and top with a fried egg and, if desired, shallots.
- Serve with sriracha and lime slices.
Farmhouse Farro Salad
Preparation time: 50 minutes
- Cooked farro: 1 cup
- Sweet potato, chopped into cubes: 1
- Kale leaves: 5-7 (few)
- Salad greens: 2-3 cups
- Carrots, peeled into ribbons: 1-2
- Apple, diced: 1
- A few radishes, sliced
- A small handful of chopped parsley
- Chopped & toasted almonds: ½ cup
Apple Cider Dijon Vinaigrette
- Extra-virgin olive oil: ¼ cup
- Apple cider vinegar: 2 tbsp
- Dijon mustard: 1 tsp
- optional: maple syrup or a big squeeze of orange: ½ tsp
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the sweet potato cubes, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Roast until golden brown.
- You should whisk the dressing ingredients together.
- Lightly massage the kale in a large mixing bowl with a little of the dressing until it wilts.
- Blend in the farro.
- Toss with dressing you like: greens, carrots, apple, radishes, parsley, and almonds.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Farro is an ancient grain rich in fibre, protein and carbohydrates. It is a healthier alternative to processed grains like white rice, etc. However, it contains gluten.
Farro is an umbrella term for three different species of wheat; einkorn, emmer and spelt. It is of three types based on processing; whole-grain, semi-pearled and pearled farro having lesser fibre and cooking time in the same order.
Farro is rich in fibre and other nutrients, making it healthy for digestion and weight loss. It is also suitable for the heart and blood circulation. It contains antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory.
Farro is a type of wheat and hence contains gluten. People suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease should avoid it. In addition, people on a keto diet should avoid it as it is rich in carbs. There are many delicious recipes for soups, salads and other dishes containing farro.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is farro better for you than rice?
A. Yes, farro is a healthier alternative to white rice. Farro is a whole grain that contains three times the fibre of rice. It has nearly double the protein amount of white and brown rice. Unlike white rice, which includes refined carbohydrates, farro has complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and aid weight loss. It’s a lot better choice than white rice or other processed grains.
Q. Is farro healthier than brown rice?
A. Farro can be healthier than brown rice. Farro has more protein and fibre per half-cup serving than brown rice. According to USDA, 100 grams of farro has 12.5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fibre, whereas brown rice has 7.54 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fibre.
Q. Is farro a Superfood?
A. Farro is a nutritious, nutrient-dense ancient grain. It’s high in protein, fibre, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and several B vitamins. It’s a much better choice than white rice or other processed grains. However, it might not fall under the category of superfoods.
Q. Is farro healthier than quinoa?
A. Quinoa is full of nutrients. It contains magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B complex, and vitamin A. Even though the fibre, protein and magnesium content exceeds the amounts present in quinoa, overall, quinoa comprises most of the essential nutrients and has also been called a superfood. Therefore, quinoa is healthier than farro. However, Farro has more calories and carbohydrates than quinoa, so it might not be the best option for someone trying to lose weight.
Q. Is farro inflammatory?
A. No, farro is not inflammatory. Ancient grains like farro have never been hybridised or genetically modified. Hence, they may not have the inflammatory and GI disruptive effects of contemporary grains like wheat, corn, and rice. In addition, Farro contains complex carbohydrates that limit inflammation.
Q. Is farro high in arsenic?
A. Farro is not high in arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic substance that causes cancer in human beings. Farro, which contains gluten, has a trace amount of arsenic. Thus it is a perfect substitute for white and brown rice, which include a relatively good amount of arsenic.
Q. Is farro a carb or protein?
A. 100g serving of pearled farro contains approximately 12.5g of protein and 72.5 g of carbohydrates. Farro is a grain generally used as a source of carbohydrates in meals. However, its health benefits make it a preferable choice for healthy living compared to refined carbs.
Q. Is farro high in potassium?
A. Potassium is an essential mineral that regulates fluid balance and muscle contractions. Since farro is low in potassium, it is not a reliable source; therefore, you can consume spinach, bananas, and avocados for sufficient potassium intake.
Q. Is farro high in iron?
A. Farro is a good source of iron. It provides 2 milligrammes of iron per one-third cup or about 10% of the Required Daily Intake (RDI). According to USDA, 100 grams of farro contains 4.5 mg of iron.
Q. Is farro a processed food?
A. Farro processing can happen in three ways: whole grain, semi-pearled, or pearled farro. The various processing procedures affect the flavour and cooking time of farro. Whole grain is not processed and takes the longest to cook (might require overnight soaking). A part of the bran gets removed from the semi-pearled farro. Pearled farro does not have bran, significantly reducing the fibre content and cooking time.
Q. Is farro good for prediabetes?
A. Farro is a fantastic option to treat or avoid prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The fibre aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption while preventing blood sugar spikes after meals. In addition, it improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels after meals.
Q. Is farro a keto?
A. Farro is not keto-friendly due to its high carb content. Even a modest portion size can knock you out of ketosis. Farro is substantial in carbs and low in fats, which are the opposites of the macronutrients necessary for the keto diet.
Q. Is farro in a plant-based diet?
A. Yes, farro is considered plant-based. Farro is a plant-based protein source, making it ideal for vegans and vegetarians. The high iron content of this type of grain may also benefit those on plant-based diets. It’s also high in nutritional fibre and low in fat and tastes delicious in salads, soups, and stews.
Q. Is farro better than oatmeal?
A. Farro has more fibre than oats and is also a good source of iron, making it an excellent replacement for oatmeal for breakfast. One can mix the grain with water or milk and top it with fruits, chocolate nibs or almonds.
— Update: 13-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Farro Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits from the website www.verywellfit.com for the keyword health benefits of farro.
Farro (Triticum dicoccum) is an ancient grain that dates back 17,000 years to the beginning of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia. Also called emmer, or emmer farro, this grain has a chewy texture and nutty taste. Farro has been used in Italian cooking for centuries but has only become more popular in the U.S. in more recent years.
Buying farro can be a little bit tricky as it is often confused with other grains, such as spelt (Triticum spelta) and eikhorn (Triticum monococcum), also ancient grains that are sometimes considered to be types of farro. But as the popularity of this hearty grain continues to grow, it is becoming easier to find and easier to identify in the supermarket.
Farro can be milled into flour or cooked like rice and added to soups, salads, and casseroles. It is known to be the best substitute for arborio rice when making risotto. Emmer farro provides more protein and fiber than white rice and is low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Farro Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a 1/3 cup serving (about 45g) of pearled farro.
A 45-gram serving of pearled farro provides 150 calories, most of which are carbohydrates. You’ll consume 29 grams of carbohydrate in a 1/3 cup serving, 3 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of sugar. The rest of the carbohydrate in farro is starch.
Whole grain emmer flour provides about 170 calories per quarter-cup (36g) serving. There are 34 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of sugar in that serving size.
The University of Sydney does not provide a glycemic index for emmer or farro or even spelt. The most closely related grain included in the database is barley (another intact or whole grain) which has a glycemic index that ranges from about 29–35, making it a low glycemic food. The experts at Oldways Food and Nutrition nonprofit note that almost all intact grains have a very low glycemic index.
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There is only one gram of fat in a single serving of farro.
Farro is a relatively high-protein grain, providing 5 grams per serving. As a basis for comparison, white rice provides about 1.5 grams of protein in a 1/3 cup serving and brown rice provides about the same amount. Black rice, an heirloom grain, provides about the same amount of protein as farro.
Vitamins and Minerals
Farro is a good source of iron, providing 2 milligrams per 1/3 cup-serving or about 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). It also provides a small amount of potassium and calcium.
Although a single 1/3 cup serving is not a good source of zinc or selenium, it is known to be higher in these minerals than other grains and is sometimes promoted as being a healthy source.
Since farro has been around for so long, it has been studied for its health benefits and nutritional advantages. Here's what studies have suggested about this and other ancient grains.
Helps Increase Lutein Intake
Researchers have compared different types of bread wheat to see if ancient grains provide a nutritional advantage. Studies have shown that einkorn, emmer, and Kamut wheat all contain higher amounts of the carotenoid lutein than modern white bread wheat.
Carotenoids are chemical compounds found mostly in plant foods. These compounds are believed to provide certain health benefits and have antioxidant properties. Increased dietary lutein intake is associated with improvements in visual function and a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.
And lutein supplements are often used in the treatment of eye diseases. In addition, studies suggest that sustained lutein consumption, either through diet or supplementation, may contribute to reducing the burden of several chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.
It should be noted, however, that emmer is not considered to be one of the best sources of lutein. Better sources include spinach, chard, radicchio, sweet potato leaves, chard, and peppers. But if you are trying to increase your lutein intake, choosing a bread made with ancient grains such as emmer will be more effective than choosing a white bread made from modern processed wheat.
Supports a Balanced Vegan or Vegetarian Diet
Getting enough protein can sometimes be a challenge for people on vegetarian and vegan diets because meat and dairy are common sources of the macronutrient.
Protein is needed for several important functions in the body including building and maintaining muscle and other cell structures in the body. It is also important for the transport of nutrients and for other important chemical reactions.
Protein is made up of amino acids. Your body makes some, but not all of them. Essential amino acids are those that your body doesn't make so they must be consumed in the diet. Complete proteins are those that contain all of the essential amino acids and usually come from animal-based foods that are not consumed by vegans and vegetarians.
There are a few plant-based complete proteins such as quinoa. But protein-rich ancient grains, such as emmer can be a complete protein when combined with legumes (such as chickpeas) or lentils.
May Help Improve Gut Health
Depending on where it is grown, emmer can be a source of resistant starch which passes through the small intestine without being digested. Resistant starch is fermented in the large intestine and feeds your healthy gut bacteria. The starch in emmer wheat is believed to be 44.7% to 53.8% slowly digesting starch and 17.1% to 21.2% resistant starch.
Researchers are in the process of understanding how different types of resistant starch affect the body's gut biome. There is some speculation that the healthy changes it promotes in the digestive tract may help to prevent colon cancer and other diseases. Research is ongoing.
Improved Blood Glucose and Blood Cholesterol
The dietary fiber in ancient grains such as farro can provide health benefits including improved blood glucose, improved blood cholesterol, and even a reduced risk of certain cancers.
Studies have demonstrated that the nutritional makeup of emmer wheat (farro) varies based on where it is grown, but the total dietary fiber content can range from 7.2% to 20.7%, with most of it coming from insoluble fiber and a lesser amount from soluble fiber.
There has been one study specifically investigating emmer wheat fiber on blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels. Results showed that incorporating emmer wheat flour into the diet for 6 weeks reduced total lipids, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol concentrations by 11% as compared to traditional bread wheat. There was also a marginal decrease in fasting blood glucose levels. However, the study was small and narrow in scope, involving just 16 people with non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. Study authors acknowledged that more research is needed.
Dietary fiber is known to improve laxation (i.e., ridding the body of waste through defecation). A research review published in 2012 suggested that increasing dietary fiber intake can increase stool frequency in those who have constipation. That review, however, concluded that increased fiber intake did not improve stool consistency, constipation treatment success, laxative use, or painful defecation.
But another study conducted in 2018 found that adding fiber to the diet in older adults may be effective in increasing stool frequency and/or decreasing laxative use and reducing the burden of constipation.
Those with a wheat allergy should not consume farro. Symptoms of a wheat allergy include a skin rash or hives, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, headaches, and asthma. In severe cases, anaphylaxis may occur.
Even though it is not usually labelled as wheat, farro is a type of wheat and therefore contains gluten. Those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should not consume emmer farro or any other type of farro (einkorn or spelt).
There are other ancient grains that are considered to be types of farro, so when you're shopping for farro you should read the label carefully to make sure that you're getting the grain you desire. There are also many different varieties of each grain so you might see different names on package labels.
For example, Triticum spelta is spelt and is considered to be a type of farro. You might see this designated as “farro grande” on package labels. Triticum monococcum is eikhorn, another type of farro that you might see designated as “farro piccolo” on the package label. You might see emmer farro labeled as “farro medio.” Emmer farro is the most common type of farro in the U.S.
To make things more complicated, farro can also be purchased pearled (perlato), semi-pearled (semiperlato), or hulled. Semi-pearled farro has part of the bran removed. It is usually lightly scratched to allow for a faster cooking time. Pearled farro has the bran removed entirely. If you're looking for the fastest cooking farro, choose pearled farro. Pearled and semi-pearled farro are not considered to be whole grains because part or all of the bran is removed.
You may also find emmer berries on some store shelves or online. Emmer berries are whole, unmilled wheat grains, also called hulled emmer. This is the whole grain version of farro and needs to be soaked overnight before cooking to get the distinctive farro texture that most people desire.
Lastly, farro flour is gaining popularity. This is a whole grain, milled emmer flour that can be used for recipes such as muffins, quick breads, yeast breads, and pastas. Emmer flour contains a small amount of gluten, so it should not be used as a wheat flour alternative for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
When It's Best
Emmer farro is available all year long in stores around the country. It is also available online.
Storage and Food Safety
Emmer farro should be stored like you store all of your grains. Keep it in an airtight container away from heat and light for up to three months. You can also freeze farro for up to a year. Once it is cooked, keep farro in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days.
How to Prepare
The proper cooking method for farro depends on the type that you buy. Pearled farro, which is most common, will cook in about 20–30 minutes and is the easiest to prepare. This type of farro pops open more easily when cooking because the hard outer shell is removed. Semi-pearled farro is lightly scored or scratched so it cooks faster than whole-grain farro, but it takes slightly longer than pearled farro.
To cook pearled farro, fill a pot with water, add a dash of salt, and bring it to a boil. Plan to use about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water for each cup of farro. Add the desired amount of farro to the boiling water and cook until it reaches your desired consistency. This is usually about 20 minutes for al dente farro. Drain the farro and serve it hot as a side dish or add it to a pilaf, soups, or casseroles. You can also rinse it in cold water to use in a salad or cold dish.
Another way to use pearled farro is to cook it like risotto. Farro releases a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, so you can use your favorite risotto recipe and substitute farro instead. To make a simple risotto, saute shallots or onion and add farro with a little bit of white wine. Continue to cook the mixture adding small amounts of stock until the farro reaches the texture you desire (usually 30 to 45 minutes). Sprinkle with parmesan and enjoy it warm.
Semi pearled or whole hulled farro should be soaked overnight to reduce the cooking time. Soaking softens the outer bran so that you can get the texture you desire without keeping farro on the stove for hours. Once it is soaked, you can cook this type of farro the same way you cook pearled emmer farro.
You can make your own emmer flour at home if you have a mill. Simply add the whole emmer berries to the hopper and choose a medium to coarse setting. Avoid using a fine setting as the flour can get gummy.