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What Is Freekeh And Why You Should Try It

Maintaining a healthy diet requires eating a variety of different foods, each of which provides your body with different nutrients.

Maintaining a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals can be difficult. You may be tempted to find a few different meals that work and simply stick with those. However, exploring new kinds of food is enjoyable and can lead you to discover choices that are even more healthy and nutritious than what you already eat.

One in particular grain you might want to try is freekeh.

What Is Freekeh?

فريكة, usually transliterated as freekeh or farik, is made from wheat that is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft. Normally wheat is separated from the chaff by a combine harvester, which leaves the waste on the field and saves the grain.

However, freekeh does not go through a combine harvester. Instead, it is piled up and left to dry in the sun. When the chaff has dried, the pile is carefully set on fire. The straw burns away, but the grain survives thanks to its higher water content.

The grain then undergoes a process of thrashing or rubbing. This lends freekeh its name, which means “rubbed” in Arabic. As a result of its early harvesting and the fiery production process, freekeh usually has an earthy and sometimes smoky flavor.

Where Does It Come From?

Freekeh has existed in the Middle East for thousands of years. In fact, a similar food made from barley instead of wheat is mentioned in the bible. Although its origins are unclear, one tale suggests it was discovered by accident.

A field of young green wheat caught fire and the crop burned; however, the locals discovered that the grain had survived the fire and was edible once the charred coating had been rubbed off.

Today, the grain remains popular in Levantine countries such as Jordan and Syria, as well as in Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Freekeh has also spread to neighboring regions such as Turkey and North Africa.

What Makes Freekeh So Healthy?

Freekeh has about four times as much fiber as similar grains, such as brown rice. Most of this is insoluble fiber, which improves digestion and can help relieve constipation. Freekeh also significantly improves overall bowel health and may help prevent degenerative diseases such as colorectal cancer according to a study conducted by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Freekeh has more protein than many other grains, and the protein is of a higher quality than that of normal wheat. Freekeh also has a very low glycemic index, making it an excellent choice for diabetics.

Cooking With Freekeh

Freekeh cooks fairly quickly compared to most other grains, taking only about 20 minutes. If you’re unsure what to make with it, try using it as a substitute for brown rice or barley in dishes such as salads, risottos and pilafs.

As freekeh grows more popular in the western world, there are also an increasing number of recipes online that call for it. For a more traditional meal, try freekeh with roasted vegetables, or in a salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Freekeh is also often paired with meat, such as in a Pin Ittraditional Palestinian soup with chicken. It may also be used as a base for a meal of roasted lamb or chicken, often sprinkled with pine nuts.

The ways in which you can serve freekeh are almost endless, and this versatile grain can accommodate nearly any taste. No matter how you choose to use it, freekeh will give you a powerful dose of fiber and protein, along with numerous vitamins and minerals. It’s one of the healthiest foods around and a true super-grain.

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Katherine Hurst
By Dr. Michael Richardson
Passionate about sharing the latest scientifically sound health, fitness and nutrition advice and information, Dr Richardson received his Master of Science in Nutrition from New York University, and a Bachelor Degree from New Jersey University. He has since gone on to specialize in sports nutrition, weight management and helping his patients to heal physical ailments by making changes to their eating habits and lifestyles.

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