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This article was written by Dr. Jonathan Goodman, an experienced naturopathic physician who seeks to promote health through education, inspiration, humor, cutting-edge science and ancient medical wisdom. Check out his website here or follow him on Facebook

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A new food choice has been making its way into the culinary mainstream. A staple of diets in the Middle East, freekeh (pronounced “free’ kuh”) is getting more noticed here as consumers look for healthier alternatives to refined grains. A grain is refined when the bran and/or germ is removed, and the grain crushed into flour. The flour is low in fiber and easy to eat.

Unlike these refined versions, freekeh is made from whole wheat seeds which are harvested while immature and roasted to dry them and bring out the flavor. The immature grain is higher in protein than regular wheat and the whole grain is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Freekeh is called “green wheat” for the color of the grain before it is roasted.

Health Benefits

Managing Blood Sugar

With 5 grams of fiber per serving freekeh is a better alternative to whole wheat and many other grains for controlling high blood sugar. Since it is a carbohydrate, freekeh is not the best choice for people seeking to reverse diabetes, but as part of an overall low carb approach, it is a better option than most other grains.

Weight Management

Freekeh is chewy. You can’t eat it too quickly, so you will have a hard time overeating. The fiber means you will feel fuller longer after you eat it. The best idea for weight loss is to combine freekeh in a dish with lamb, a cheese or yogurt, nuts or some other fatty food to help you feel satisfied. Add vegetables to round out a healthy meal.

Healthy Gut

Freekeh is high in resistant starch. This type of insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, helping feed the growth of healthy bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria in turn help to make short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which is an important help in preventing colon cancer. Butyrate is an essential fuel which helps to build healthy cells in the colon.

Ok, so freekeh is good for you. How does it taste?

I recently bought some freekeh and cooked it in a saucepan with some chicken stock for about 45 minutes. The grain was still chewy, reminding me of bulgur, a type of wheat. I enjoyed it and will make some other dishes with it, including with tahini and Brussels sprouts. It took me a while to finish the ½ cup I prepared, so I know I could never overindulge in this food. If you’re trying to lose weight and are vegan/vegetarian and not Paleo/Primal, this is a great food to incorporate in your rotation.

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