25th September 2020

Featured / Food / Karen O'Donoghue

Ancient Grains and Why We Should Be Eating Them, by Karen O’Donoghue

6 5 mins 2

KKaren has healed thousands of people with health and digestion related issues. Her secret? Grains. Here Karen - Master of Gut Health - lists four of her favourite grains, including why we should eat them and how we can incorporate them into our diets.

Teff was the first cereal ever cultivated for human consumption. It’s been farmed for much longer than wheat or corn yet is still a widely unknown grain outside its motherland, Ethiopia.

It is the most nutritious grain you can eat with just 100g bringing you over 50% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of the minerals and vitamins that maintain a robust immune and nervous system. Its fibre content, specifically its prebiotic fibre content, works to enable excellent digestive health, relieve constipation and feed your good gut bacteria, creating a better overall holistic health to your mind and body.

By simply soaking in yoghurt or mixing with oats into a porridge, you’ll receive its potent benefits. For a mega breakfast or lunch, my 48 Hour Soaked Teff Scones are the best way to eat this food of the gods!

Always buy from Lovegrass to support Ethiopian farming.

Rye is off the scale when it comes to antioxidants. Dr Andrew Wilkinson of Gilchesters Organics conducted a five year research project with the EU on his rye grown in Northumberland and the findings were incredible. The rye that Andrew is growing is highly, highly nutritious. The extreme levels of antioxidants are excellent for the gut and it has incredibly high levels of phenolics, in particular, Vitamin E. Phenolics are nutritious compounds found in the bran of a grain.


At The Happy Tummy Bakery School, we work with the wholegrain rye cereal from Gilchesters Organics to feed our starter, we also use the Cracked Rye in our porridge blend that goes through our Porridge Sourdough.

Barley is a great source of fibre and protein and is well suited to growing on British soils. My favourite way to use barley is through a porridge blend of oats, barley and rye. I use this in some of my sourdough recipes to create more moisture in the loaf thereby extending its shelf life. Our gut health thrives on a diet where we eat a variety of cereals daily, barley not only brings necessary function and taste but also plays a massive role in keeping our microbes satisfactorily fed. Hodmedod’s do a fantastic naked barley which we use at Happy Tummy Co.

Einkorn is the oldest variety of wheat that was domesticated for human consumption. It is much lower in gluten compared to younger varieties of wheat. I add einkorn to all my sourdough recipes for the flavour it brings but also for the positive effects it has on people with IBS and other digestive issues. Adding einkorn flour to a pizza dough elevates the flavour and nourishment. People who suffer from digestive problems and cannot seem to tolerate most bread, can not only stomach but utterly enjoy a slow fermented sourdough made with this powerful ancient grain.

Its an absolutely brilliant grain to sprout at home and mix through bread, bircher or just about anything you fancy, even pizza dough.

I source mine from Gilchesters Organics.

Modern society’s relationship with wheat and carbohydrates has been dysfunctional for quite some time. The lack of understanding has wreaked havoc on the health of our bodies and the health of the soil. A wheat kernel is an excellent source of B vitamins, phenolic compounds which act as antioxidant food for the gut, fibre, protein and minerals like iron and zinc which so many people across the world are currently deficient in.

Through supporting the farming of local and ancestral varieties of wheat, by buying flour directly from the stoneground miller, we enable the encouragement of more farmers into growing organic cereal.

When I visit a new area I search out for the local bakeries and millers selling ancestral varieties of wheat and I encourage you to do the same. That way you can taste the soil of the place you are in.

Explore wheat as a healthy food source and buy organic stoneground wholegrain wheat flour.

Do not rely on supermarkets to solely curate the varieties of wheat produced. Do your research and get comfortable asking questions. Your local farmer, miller and baker are all a part of a bigger system which only they are qualified to tell you about.

Farms to Feed us is an excellent database to help you find freshly milled flour local to you.

Clap for appreciation

Share   |  
Twitter   Facebook   Copy link
Karen O'Donoghue

Karen O’Donoghue, “an activist for fibre” and founder of Happy Tummy Co.

ProfileSee All

Connect with us

Our Network