Originally published October 16 2008
The Whole Grain Scam: How to Make Grains Fit to Eat
by Patty Donovan
(NaturalNews) As you walk down the grocery aisles, you are bombarded with whole grain cereals, breads and other bakery products. Major companies have a big TV campaign promoting their whole grain cereals. Aside from the fact that many of these are loaded with sugar and few are 100% whole grain, are these foods really good for you? Unfortunately, these aren't doing your body much good and could actually be harming you. Grains, nuts and legumes, being seeds, are not "ready to eat". The fiber from untreated whole grains is very harsh and can actually increase digestive difficulties, especially in those who persist in eating a SAD (Standard American Diet). This can lead to irritable bowel, Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease as well as increased constipation, diverticulitis and many more disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract.
Grains fall into two general categories:
1) Gluten containing grains such as rye, barley and especially wheat. These grains should not be consumed unless they have been been soaked, sprouted or fermented (these processes will be discussed later in the article). Oats are actually gluten free but if grown in the US, they are contaminated with gluten as they are grown and processed side by side with wheat. Celtic oats are safe.
2) Gluten free grains such as buckwheat, rice, quinoa and millet are, on the whole, more easily digested. These grains however, still contain other anti-nutrients which should be neutralized.
Gluten, along with other proteins in grain, is very difficult to digest. A diet high in unfermented whole grains, particularly wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive system. Eventually, the GI system breaks down and you end up with allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion and Candida albicans overgrowth to name just a few. Symptoms of candidiasis and gluten intolerance overlap significantly because the undigested sugars promotes overgrowth of Candida albicans. There is now even evidence of a link between gluten intolerance and multiple sclerosis.
During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
Approximately 1 in 200 people around the world have actual celiac disease, an auto-immune disease where the body's immune system attacks itself when exposed to gluten. However, a conservative estimate places gluten intolerance as affecting 1 in 7 people. Some studies indicate 1 in 3 or 4. Gluten intolerance is poorly understood, and rarely diagnosed by physicians . When you complain of symptoms that are actually gluten intolerance, you are most likely to be told you have reflux, irritable bowel or that you are depressed. These symptoms are overlooked because gluten intolerance is so poorly understood and the symptoms vary widely, affecting every part of your body. Some of these symptoms include: diarrhea, flatulence, bloating and generalized gastro-intestinal discomfort. Other symptoms often reported are headaches, mouth ulcers, weight gain or weight loss, a poor immune system, and chronic skin problems like dermatitis and eczema. Anemia is often also present.
Gluten intolerance is poorly understood, and rarely diagnosed by physicians
Because it is highly unlikely you will get the correct diagnosis from your physician unless you actually have celiac disease, you can test yourself through an elimination diet. You will have to be extremely conscientious because wheat/gluten is hidden in most processed foods, medications and even supplements. Here is one site which shows you what to look for if you are avoiding gluten: http://gfkitchen.server101.com/FoodstoAvoid1... If you have determined you are gluten intolerant or have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, complete abstinence from gluten is imperative to healing. Gluten intolerance is known to lead to other food sensitivities. Some people with gluten intolerance (not celiac) may be able to introduce sprouted grains back into their diet after at least a year of strict abstinence.
Other important antinutrients:
The other problem with untreated grains (and nuts,seeds and most legumes)is that they contain substances called "anti-nutrients"; in other words they contain substances which block or inhibit obtaining nutrition from them. The main anti-nutrient is phytic acid (or phytate). Phytic acid is the principal storage form of Phosphorus in plant tissues. The highest levels are found in the hulls. Phytates are known to inhibit the absorbtion of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Because phytates bind to these minerals in the GI tract, they are eliminated instead of absorbed. Phytates contribute to mineral deficiencies in anyone who relies primarily on these foods for their mineral intake. Deficiencies are most likely to occur in vegans, infants and children, the elderly and in people of developing countries who rely on grains for most of their nutrtion, especially if little or no animal protein is consumed. Along with mineral deficiencies, these people are especially vulnerable to developing a niacin deficiency leading to pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by the "4 D's": Diarrhea, Dermatitis, Dementia, and Death.
Besides phytates, grains contain other antinutrients such as enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; tannins, which irritate the digestive tract; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related proteins which humans have difficulty digesting. Anti-nutrients are present because they prevent germination until conditions are right for growth and survival. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Soaking grains and legumes or slow sour dough fermentation imitates nature.
All of these substances can be neutralized by several methods, however, the whole grain products you find at the grocery store, and even most at the local health food store have not been treated. Cooking grains only slightly decreases the amount of phytic acid. Soaking grains/nuts/legumes in an acidic medium for 12 to 24 hours will effectively neutralize phytates as does sprouting which is more involved and actually entails sprouting or germinating the grain or legume. Fermenting, as in preparing a true sourdough, will also neutralize antinutrients.
Sally Fallon, author of the book Nourishing Traditions and follower of Dr. Weston A. Price's teachings, is a huge advocate of soaking and goes into great detail in the book. This is an excellent book for beginners. Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist who studied "native" nutrition as it affected various cultures' teeth. He was the first person to warn of the dangers of consuming large amounts of either refined or improperly prepared grains. An excerpt from page 452:
"Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amounts of many vitamins, especially B vitamins".
Humans only have one stomach and much shorter intestines than animals that subsist on plant matter. These animals have as many as four stomachs and an extremely long (by comparison) intestinal tract. Human anatomy allows us to eliminate animal products before they putrefy in the gut but leave us poorly adapted to a diet high in grains. When grains are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting or fermenting, the friendly bacteria of the microscopic world begin the process of digestion for us in a bowl. These are the same lactobacilli that do their work in the first and second stomachs of the herbivores and found in the intestines of healthy people. We can survive quite well without grains, and giving up grains altogether is an option that will not only aid digestion, but help heal insulin resistance and other problems. This is an option few people are willing to choose, so here is how to make grains as healthy as possible.
Changing the way you eat grains requires advance planning, but only a few extra minutes of actual preparation time. For non-gluten containing grains, simply put the whole grain in a bowl with enough water to cover. Add a tablespoonsful of whey, lemon juice or vinegar and leave covered at room temperature for at least 6 to 12 hours. You can get whey simply by draining yogurt (or kefir) through a tightly woven cloth. The clear liquid that drains is whey. Drain, add your cooking liquid and cook as usual. This will take you less than 5 minutes and the grain will be ready for cooking when you get home from work or get up the next morning.
Gluten containing grains require more preparation. Grains need to be soaked and sprouted, a process which takes 2 to 4 days. After germination, they are ready to cook with no further soaking, or the can be dried and ground into flour. The process sounds difficult and daunting, but really isn't. If you are interested in doing this yourself, check out this site: http://organicfanatic.blogspot.com/2008/01/h...
In todays busy world there are many alternatives. If you make your own bread with purchased whole grain flours, simply start a day early. Substitute buttermilk, kefir or yogurt for part of the liquid. Make your dough as usual, put in a covered bowl and allow to rest for 24 hours. I'm not going to give an exact recipe because you will have to experiment to find what works for you. The acid in the above foods is needed to break down gluten and phytates while the live bacteria in the above cultures actually begins the digestion process for you.
The easiest option is to buy your grain products already made from sprouted grains. Ezekial bread is available in almost all health food stores and even some grocery stores. Other brands are Alvarado Street Bakery and Manna Breads. There are other brands depending on where you live. You can get bread, hamburger buns, even tortillas. You can also buy flour that has been made from sprouted grains.
Gilani GS, Cockell KA, Sepehr E.
Health Canada, Nutrition Research Division, Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Banting Research Centre (AL: 2203 C), Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0L2, Canada. [email protected]
About the authorPatty Donovan was in a wheelchair and could only walk around her house with a cane. She was on over 20 medications. When told to "take the morphine, get in the wheelchair and learn to live with it" by a neurosurgeon, she knew her life had to change. She is now almost a fanatic when it comes to healing through the use of "whole foods" and and natural remedies. Since that time, she has spent countless hours researching nutrtion and alternative health. After spending 30 years in the allopathic health care industry in both pharmacy and as an RN, she brings a unique perspective to Natural News readers. Since committing to this new life style, she no longer uses even a cane, has gotten off over 20 medications, lost over 50lbs and returned to work.
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