Whole grains are high in B-complex vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and other minerals. They are high in dietary fiber. Grains are filling and can provide sustained and high-quality energy.
Unfortunately, for many people, grains can be very inflammatory. Grains that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, rye, and some oats have their own set of problems that you can read about in my post entitled Diets That Heal. Even grains that do not contain gluten contain phytates that can contribute to mineral deficiencies, lectins that can cause GI distress, enzyme inhibitors that put stress on digestion, sugars that humans cannot break down, tannins and other substances with potentially harmful effects.
Grain-free diets exclude grains for this very reason. You may be aware of the popularity of the movement toward Paleo or Primal diets and other grain-free diets such as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and GAPS. You can read more about this at my post Is a Grain-Free Diet Right For You. These diets have tremendously positive results for some people, but there are some potential issues with these diets and they are not suitable for everyone.
When there are complicating factors such as allergies and intolerances, too narrow a menu can lead to nutritional deficiencies. If someone is limited because they can’t or won’t eat vegetables, can’t eat fruit or tolerate fructose or FODMAPS foods, have other limitations such as oxalate, salicylate, amine or glutamate foods, they can be left wondering what to eat. These situations are not at all uncommon. Sometimes in these situations a reliance on too much meat can lead to toxic levels of ammonia in the body which can damage the kidneys, liver, and other organs including the brain. It also works the urea cycle hard detoxifying all that ammonia. Because there is an intricate relationship between the urea cycle and the Krebs or citric acid cycle, when we drive the urea cycle hard like that, we can affect the Krebs cycle and this can impact the generation of energy in the body and certain markers on an Organic Acid Test (OAT). Everyone needs protein, fat, and carbs in their diet, and the ratio of these macronutrients needed by each person is very individual. If you are not getting the results you want on a healing diet, you might need to make some adjustments.
Properly prepared grains are a great option for branching out from a grain-free diet, or improving nutrition and digestion on any diet that includes grains. I have witnessed some children on grain-free diets improve dramatically when properly prepared grains were introduced.
There is a school of thought that does not exclude grains, but focuses instead on the proper preparation of grains to make nutrients available, reduce anti-nutrients, and enhance digestibility. This is how grains were prepared traditionally. It is said that our modern methods of grain preparation are causing everything from digestive issues to mental illness.
Why are improperly prepared grains so problematic? I can’t explain it any better than the experts…
Most of these antinutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind to You
Soaking grains really does not require a lot of effort. It just requires a little extra planning and a few minutes of your time. You will find that you quickly get into the habit of preparing grains this way and take pleasure in knowing you are taking this extra step for the health of your family.
Here is a wonderful two-part explanation by Kimi from The Nourishing Gourmet about how and why we soak our grains:
Here is an example of a recipe I made with soaked grains. Notice how little extra effort is required to derive extra health benefits!
Soaked Millet Zucchini Pancakes by Peeling Back the Onion Layers
Here are some awesome recipes I found around the web that use soaked grains:
Gluten Free Multi Grain Pancakes by Gluten Free Diva
Whole Grain Gluten Free Waffles by Fuel My Family
Soaked Granola Cereal by Whole Intentions
Gluten Free Soaked Baked Oatmeal by Mutritious Nuffins
Crunchy Honey Sweetened Buckwheat Kasha by Eat Nourishing
Soaked Apple Cinnamon or Cherry Almond Baked Oatmeal by Kitchen Stewardship
Gluten Free Pizza Crust made with Buckwheat by This Chick Cooks
Super Simple & Flavorful Brown Rice by Home With Purpose
Quinoa Cranberry Pilaf by Cooking Traditional Foods
Soaked Baked Doughnuts by Whole New Mom
Brownie Pudding Cake Gluten and Dairy Free by The Nourishing Gourmet
For more information:
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind to You by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD
This article was featured at Thank Your Body’s Thank Your Body Thursday, Creative Juice at Momnivore’s Dilemma, and Allergy Free Wednesdays at A Whole New Mom, Laura’s Gluten Free Pantry, and The Willing Cook.