Farro and Kamut are types of wheat often referred to as “ancient grains,” and nutritionally, they outperform brown rice and whole-grain pasta.

These tasty ancient grains deliver about the same number of calories (roughly 100 per half-cup cooked) as more traditional choices. But when it comes to protein and fiber, farro (shown above, it's also called emmer) and Kamut (the brand name of a grain also known as Khorasan or Oriental wheat) are the clear winners. Per ½-cup serving, farro delivers more protein (about 3.5 g) and fiber (about 3.5 g) than brown rice. So does Kamut, providing almost 5 g of protein and 3.7 g of fiber per half cup. Whole-grain pasta, which might be enriched with added nutrients, contains about 4 g of protein and 2.9 g of fiber. Farro and Kamut also deliver a number of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, and zinc.

Farro and Kamut might also be better choices than brown or white rice because many types of rice have been found to contain arsenic, a potent human carcinogen. In fact Consumer Reports’ research has found that brown rice tends to have more arsenic than white rice of the same type. (Find out how much arsenic is in your rice.)

Long-time staples in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, both farro and Kamut have recently become more popular in the U.S., which is why you may have spotted them in your local supermarket. That rise in popularity could be fueled by an increasing amount of research showing the health benefits of boosting the amount of whole grains we eat. For example, says Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., "Studies show that people who consume more whole grains may have a lower risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes."

The government also recommends that Americans boost their intake of whole grains. According to the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines, adults should eat about 6 servings of grains per day, half of which should be whole grains. “There’s no question that whole grains such as Kamut and farro are a better choice than products containing refined grains that have been stripped of many nutrients because of the way they're processed," says Amy Keating, a registered dietitian who has tested food at Consumer Reports for 14 years. "But variety is key, so try incorporating a selection of whole grains, including whole wheat pasta, Kamut, and farro, into your diet," she says, "you’ll get the benefits of each one and may discover a new favorite."

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2016 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.