Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Results First - Grains

 It's time for another 'results first, beliefs second- nutrition' post. This one has been on my mind since day one, and primarily because of so much confusion surrounding grains. Another banned food by many, grains have a negative association that I hope to make clear.

The Belief - Grains have only been around for roughly 10,000 years (or with the inception of more modern agriculture), therefore we are not suited to consume them.

The Truth - Yes, grains have been around for roughly that time but results show that we have eaten and thrived on variations of them for thousands of years. Most of the negative grain press or studies done have been done on those of poorer quality in a manner that's not traditionally prepared.

As you can see by now I'm not one to demonize food. The reason; we are all different AND all of these things have shown the RESULTS
of being beneficial for different peoples at different times. If grains are so horrible, how do Asian cultures thrive so effortlessly on them? What about Quechua Indian tribes that eat 95% carbohydrate based diets? Our biochemistry is all so vastly unique.

There seems to be mass confusion as to what constitutes a 'good' grain. The USDA says we need 'whole grains'. We've been told since we were young that we need 6-11 servings (before the recent change) and that things such as whole wheat, oats and bran are extremely good for us. They contain high amounts of fiber and are not depleted of nutrients in their processing to flour, flakes and grain. So where is the confusion? Why are people suggesting we shouldn't eat them?

Think back to what our great-grandparents may have subsided on. Do you think they ever questioned whether or not they should consume grains? They ate breads, oats, porridge, rice or any other available grain. There were not incidents of heart disease, obesity or mal-absorption.

A BRIEF history of grains. As I stated, grains have been around for roughly 10,000 years. As soon as we began to farm land, we began growing grains. At that time the methods for production where very minimal. Farmers would cut the wheat or grain and allow it to sit in the field after harvest. Often times it would get wet from rain or morning dew, naturally allow the endosperm to 'sprout'. This soaking/sprouting process started the livening of the grain and reduced phytic acid (a mineral blocker) that is on the outer shell. Once collected, grain that was used was ALWAYS fermented/soaked/sprouted in some manner. This greatly increased absorption and utilization by the body by again reducing phytic acid and increasing good bacteria through fermentation. A few examples of fermented grains that have been used throughout history-

India - idli and dosas (fermented lentils and rice)  
Africa - ogi (soured corn porridge)
Ethiopia - injera (bread made from teff)
Mexico - pozol (corn cakes)
America - sourdough (fermented bread)
                 porridge (oats/barley soaked cereal)(see MISO PORRIDGE)

These are just a few examples of fermented grain dishes that have been used for years with great results.

Just like my other posts on traditional food, quality and preparation are the most crucial factors. Grains are a HUGE commodity crop. Corn, wheat and cotton are all subsidized by the government and grown in large quantities. Most are monoculture crops, in that they are growing only one thing (not natural). Being that it's not an ideal environment for growing crops, large amounts of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides are sprayed on the grain. The lack of soil rotation greatly depletes the soil producing a less than ideal grain for consumption. Much of it does not make the cut for our eating and is fed to animals, used to make high fructose corn syrup, plastics or for fuel. What does make it is pushed down our throats in the form of puffed cereals, granola bars, xanthan gum, maltodextrin, HFCS to name just a few. This is not sustainable... this is not healthy. These are the grains we should talk about avoiding, as opposed to demonizing them all.

How was it grown? Organically? Is it from a genetically modified source? 
We know that many grains are subsidized from the government. GMO grains are extremely prevalent, cheap and of very poor quality. Most get used in feed lots for animal consumption as it's not fit for humans. Stick to the highest quality organic grains you can find.
How was it stored? 
Grains have been known to be stored in large silos where they sit and develop molds or dangerous aflatoxins. Do not buy grains in bins that sit for long periods of time.
How old are the grains?
Just like meat and produce, grains lose value with age (unless fermented, which can be the opposite)
How were they prepared?
I can guarantee that 99.9% of the grains that are consumed are NOT traditionally prepared. That is a problem. Results show that poorly prepared grains have been linked to higher rates of obesity, heart disease and other health related issues. THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT! 

Non-traditionally prepared grain-
-Harder on the digestive tract due to large amounts of phytic acid (enzyme inhibitor).
-Robs the body of minerals. (caclium, magnesium, iron, zinc etc)
-Can create 'allergies' to certain aspects of the grain. (gluten, phytic acid)
-Can cause intestinal bloating and candida issues.

Traditionally prepared grain-
-Easier to assimilate and utilize. Healing to digestive tract considering higher amounts of beneficial bacteria.
-Increases absorption of minerals.
-Provides lasting, sustained energy and satiety.

Signs you might need to try different grains-
-bloating, indigestion, constipation or loose stool
-runny nose or excess mucous production
-dry, itchy skin
There are more. Ask questions after you eat anything. Awareness is the first step to the ability to change.

Lastly, I will save grains on fat loss and performance for a later time but would like to address the topic briefly here. I do see the value of reducing (not eliminating) even fermented grains for a period of time if fat loss is a desired goal. Once you reach your target weight you can figure out the right amount for you. With that being said, high amounts of grains are not possible to consume if you are preparing them in a traditional manner. They are not as likely to be 'at your disposal' (or your mouth). If I want to consume bread, it's a 2 day process. I appreciate the work that goes into it and it makes it that much more worth it when it gets eaten.

related posts-
Mindful Eating
Fermented Foods
Dietary Perfection

If you have any questions about this post or others, please email me


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