Farro is a type of wheat grain that includes three different varieties: emmer, einkorn, and spelt. It is thousands of years old and was one of the first crops people cultivated for food.

Farro’s offers several benefits, including fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, as a type of wheat, it is not suitable for people with celiac disease.

This article takes a closer look at farro’s benefits for health and how it compares with other grains, such as rice.

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Farro is an umbrella term for three different varieties of wheat, comprising:

  • einkorn, or farro piccolo
  • emmer, or farro medio
  • spelt, or farro grande

Though all of these are a type of farro, the variety that companies label as farro in the United States is usually emmer.

Farro can be a whole grain, but not always — it depends on how manufacturers process the grain. With this in mind, people can purchase:

  • whole grain farro, which still contains its outer layer of bran
  • semi-pearled farro, which retains part of the bran
  • pearled farro, which has no bran at all

Whole grain farro has the best nutritional profile, while pearled and semi-pearled farro are quicker to prepare and cook.

People can eat farro whole or as part of meals by adding it to soups, salads, and other dishes. It is also possible to use certain varieties to make baked foods, such as bread.

Whole grain farro provides similar health benefits to other types of wheat, but it contains a higher amount of nutrients in some cases. We explain these nutrients further below.

Emmer contains a number of important vitamins and minerals, including:

  • vitamin B3 (niacin), which regulates cholesterol
  • zinc, which plays a role in the immune system
  • magnesium, which influences muscle and nerve function
  • iron, which is necessary for producing hemoglobin

Some types of emmer also contain high amounts of antioxidants, even compared to other types of farro. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, and ferulic acid, which may lower inflammation and reduce damage by free radicals.

Learn more about the benefits of antioxidants.

Ancient types of wheat, such as farro, contain more protein than the modern varieties of wheat in bread. This may be useful for people who wish to eat more plant-based protein or follow vegetarian or vegan diets.

A diet high in fiber can contribute to healthy digestion, deliver “good” bacteria to the gut, and has links with a lower risk of colon cancer. However, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 reports that more than 90% of females and 97% of males do not get enough fiber in their diet.

A quarter cup of cooked, whole grain emmer provides nearly 5 grams (g) of fiber, accounting for more than one-fifth or one-sixth of the daily requirement for adult females and males, respectively.

Fiber can also help people maintain a moderate weight. A 2019 study involving 345 participants found that fiber intake promoted weight loss and adherence to a calorie-controlled diet.

This may make farro a suitable addition to a balanced diet. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the fiber from whole grains can help individuals feel full even if they are eating fewer calories than usual.

Farro has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause as much of a rise in blood sugar compared to refined carbohydrates, such as potatoes or pasta. This keeps blood sugar levels more stable, which can be useful for those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

Furthermore, a 2018 laboratory study found that North Dakota emmer grains had antihyperglycemic properties, meaning that this type of farro may help lower high blood sugar. However, studies in humans will be necessary to prove this finding.

The AHA states that dietary fiber from whole grains can reduce cholesterol levels, lowering the risk for heart disease and stroke. Further research reveals that individuals consuming the highest amounts of fiber have a significantly reduced mortality rate from cardiovascular disease.

As farro is a suitable source of fiber, it can be part of a heart-healthy and balanced diet. Some studies suggest that some antioxidants in grains, such as farro, may also protect against heart disease, though more research on this is necessary.

While farro shares many similarities with other grains, it has a few distinctive properties that set it apart.

Farro vs. brown rice

Farro and brown rice are nutritionally similar. They are both suitable sources of:

  • fiber
  • vitamin B3
  • magnesium

However, farro contains significantly more protein than brown rice, with 6 g per quarter-cup. By contrast, brown rice has only 1.25 g.

Farro vs. quinoa

Like farro, quinoa is also an ancient food staple with a similar nutritional profile. It is:

  • high in protein, with 6 g per serving in farro, and 7 g in quinoa
  • high in fiber, with the same amount per serving in each
  • sources of slow-burning carbohydrates

Farro contains more carbohydrates than quinoa, but it also has more calcium. Both are nutritious choices, but of the two, farro provides more vitamins and nutrients. However, unlike farro, quinoa is gluten free.

When it comes to other grains, such as barley, millet, and oats, they have similar nutrient profiles to farro. All are suitable sources of fiber, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins and reasonably high in plant-based protein.

Farro is an ancient type of wheat. There are three varieties: emmer, einkorn, and spelt, available as whole grains or pearled. Farro offers several benefits, including being a suitable source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. This makes it a suitable addition to a nutritious, balanced diet.