Are Whole Grains Really Good for You?
Over the past few years there has been a lot of conflicting information about whole grains. It’s become difficult to figure out what’s best – whole grains, grain free, or gluten free. Because of the rise of wheat allergies, many health gurus will steer you into a wheat or gluten free diet. And then there’s the new paleo diet fad (short for “paleolithic”) which says we should eat like hunter gatherers and avoid grains altogether. The cereal and bread industry would like to fool us into believing we need more whole grains, and then sell us boxes upon boxes of improperly prepared, nutrient depleted grains that will only cause our bodies problems in the long run.
The problem with the gluten free movement is that it has given rise to a number of very unhealthy and overly processed foods labeled “gluten free,” fooling the consumer into believing that somehow the lack of gluten turns it into a health food.
Unfortunately, the wheat we consume today is much different than the wheat consumed generations ago. Without going into historical detail, sometime in the 1950’s and 1960’s wheat was hybridized into a shorter grain that you might consider the unhealthy dwarf grandchild of the robust and healthy wheat our great grandparents ate. On top of that, modern food processing strips the grain down to an empty nutrient depleated flour, often even increasing the gluten content to create fluffy breads and pastries. It’s no wonder a rising number of people have developed an allergy to this wheat byproduct, and a growing number of chronic ailments can be traced back to wheat consumption. Even more people have noticed their waistlines expanding, and some have given up grains altogether noting that they feel much better without grains in their diet.
As with most diet trends, you have to find and do what works best for you and your family. If giving up grains makes you feel better and is a realistic option, by all means do it. But if you love wheat and other grains but want a healthy way to consume them, one option that seems to help many people is returning to the traditional method of soaking and fermenting them before preparing them to eat.
In fact, most people will have no problem digesting the small amount of naturally occurring gluten in whole grains that have been soaked and/or fermented. Soaking your grains for 12 hours or more reduces the amount of gluten and other anti-nutrients, which is the way many traditional cultures have prepared their grains since ancient times.
Is this difficult to do? Not at all. It simply requires some foresight. If you can measure out your grains the night before you want to cook them, place them in water with a tablespoon or so of something acidic (apple cider vinegar, lemon, lime, yogurt, buttermilk, etc), then rinse them before you cook, your body will thank you for it.
What about Rice?
Soaking brown rice overnight in an acidic liquid not only improves the texture and taste, but it also increases your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Consuming whole grains that have not been pre-soaked may contribute to grain intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreas disorders, and other ailments.
After you’ve soaked and rinsed your rice, cooking it in a mineral rich bone broth, or serving it with a good fat (pastured butter, coconut oil, pastured cheese, or gravy made from bone broth), will provide your body with a nutrient dense food that won’t weigh you down.
How about Beans?
“Beans, beans, the natural fruit… the more you eat, the more you ___!”
If you’ve experienced digestive trouble after consuming beans, most likely you consumed beans that were not soaked. For the same reason as soaking rice, you should soak your beans overnight in an acidic liquid and rinse away the “scum” that rises to the top prior to cooking. That “scum” you see is anti-nutrients that inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the goodness that is packed deep within those protein filled beans!
And all the rest… Oats, Wheat, Spelt, Cornmeal, Flaxseed Meal, Almond Meal, etc.
The convenient thing about these grains is that you can soak and cook them in the same liquid, eliminating the rinse step. With oats, you’ll want to mix in a small portion of rye or buckwheat flakes to assist in breaking down the phytic acid, and then add the amount of water you’ll need to cook with, along with a tablespoon or so of something acidic. Leave it covered in the pan overnight, and the next morning you can enjoy a high enzyme bowl of oatmeal.
Spelt is a great alternative to wheat. Although it contains gluten, spelt is considered an ancient grain and has not been altered to the extent that wheat has. It’s also a bit softer than whole wheat. But for either, you can measure out the amount you want to use, add in the amount of buttermilk or yogurt (or water with vinegar) your recipe calls for, and let it sit covered for about 7-12 hours before you want to bake it. Same goes for almond meal, flaxseed meal, and cornmeal.
Once you get in the habit of soaking and/or fermenting your grains, it gets easier and you’ll most likely begin to see changes in the way you feel after eating. You may even notice your teenager’s skin clearing up, or your toddler’s eczema. Give it a try and see if it works for you. And let us know what you think!
Weston A. Price Foundation. westonaprice.org Be Kind to Your Grains and Your Grains Will be Kind to You. Accessed Online August 12, 2013
KitchenStewardship.com Soaking Grains, Why Do It? Accessed Online August 15, 2013
Grainstorm Heritage Baking: What’s Wrong With Modern Wheat? Accessed Online August 31, 2013