Freekeh Benefits

Freekeh
Latin Name

Triticum

Also Known As

Farik, Frikeh

Origin

Mediterranean, Africa

Parts Used

Grain

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

With a history stretching back thousands of years, Freekeh is believed to have been discovered around 2,300 BCE when an ancient Eastern Mediterranean city was anticipating an attack. Worried about the imminent attack and ensuing starvation, the people harvested and stored the early heads of green wheat. Unfortunately, when the city came under fire their green wheat store was razed to the ground. However, not ready to throw out their food supply, they found that the wheat heads had survived. Furthermore, they discovered that when they rubbed the chaff from the surviving grain it was not only edible, it was delicious! Interestingly, the word Freekeh is Arabic and means “to rub”.

Because it is derived from wheat, Freekeh is not gluten free. However, being harvested when it is young it retains much more nutrition than wheat that has been harvested when it is mature. It is gaining a reputation as another ancient super-grain that packs a powerful nutritional punch.

Freekeh Benefits

Aids Healthy Digestion

Firstly, Freekeh is packed with prebiotics – indigestible fibres that promote the growth of good bacteria (probiotics), in the microbiome. Prebiotic foods are immensely supportive to digestive health, improve metabolic health and can help to boost the immune system.

Freekeh is also high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. Because insoluble fibre isn’t broken down by the gut and absorbed into the bloodstream, it adds bulk to waste in the digestive system which promotes bowel regularity and prevents constipation.

Soluble fibre is soft and sticky and absorbs water to form a gel-like substance inside the digestive system. It helps to soften the stool so it can slide through the GI tract more easily, binding to substances like cholesterol and sugar, thus preventing or slowing their absorption into the blood. Soluble fibre can help regulate blood sugar levels and protect against heart disease.

Healthy Weight Loss

The high fibre content of Freekeh increases satiety, making you feel fuller for longer. It is also low in carbohydrates, fat and contains many essential vitamins and minerals. When the body receives the correct amount of essential nutrition, cravings are reduced. Cravings are a result of the body trying to meet its nutritional needs in any way possible, which is why eating junk food leaves you feeling only temporarily satisfied. Consuming high quality, organic foods such as Freekeh ensures that you are meeting these needs, thus negating the need to overeat.

Eye Health

Freekeh is rich in antioxidants, in particular lutein and zeaxanthin – compounds that have been extensively studied in relation to their benefits to the eyes. It has been found that they filter harmful, high energy blue wavelengths of light which helps to protect and maintain healthy eye cells. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye. Therefore, eating foods rich in these two important compounds are believed to reduce the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration.

Type 2 Diabetes

For people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or are managing this condition with diet, Freekeh is an excellent grain to include in the diet. It ranks low on the glycaemic index, at just 43, meaning it is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream and prevents blood glucose levels from rising too quickly. The high fibre content of this grain will further prevent the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.

Sports Performance

Glutamine is stored mainly in the muscles but can also be found as in the lungs, liver, brain and blood (plasma). It comprises approximately 50 - 60 percent of the free amino acids in muscle which accounts for most of the body's Glutamine reserves.

Freekeh is high in glutamic acid (glutamine), with just one serving providing a whopping 2.27 grams of the amino acid that is essential to muscle building and helps to improve endurance and strength. For this reason, athletes and body builders seek out high glutamine foods as it is known that intense exercise can deplete glutamine levels by as much as 35 – 50 percent.

Typical Use

Organic Cracked Freekeh

This tasty grain can be used as a substitute for quinoa, rice or couscous. It is delicious when added to stews, salads and can be used to thicken up soup. 

Folklore and History

Dating back to ancient times, Freekeh has long been consumed for its many benefits in places such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.

In Lebanon, the region of Jabal 'Amel is most famous for its production of Freekeh. Here, the green wheat is hand harvested then left to dry in the  sun for 24 hours. It is then spread on stones together with branches from a particular local shrub called balan. Balan provides the fuel for an intense and very quick fire that burns the husks while the grain undergoes a rapid and even roasting. This stops the aging, improves the conservation and gives the Freekeh its characteristic toasted aroma. 

Freekeh is so ancient it is mentioned in the book of Leviticus in the bible, where a description of how to prepare the grain is included. It also makes an appearance in a 13th century Baghdad cookbook where it is referred to as farīkiyya.

Freekeh
Constituents

Freekeh contains; fibre, protein, fat, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese. It is also high in amino acids and antioxidants.

Precautions

Contains gluten - do not consume if you have coeliac disease or are gluten intolerant.