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Too Much Blame on the Grain?

Too Much Blame on the Grain?


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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.

The Alternative

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

It’s Easy to Do

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:

Nourishing Practices: Soaking Grains

Soaking Grains, Part 2



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


Do you soak your grains? Share your favorite soaked grain recipes in the comments below!


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

Come join my group on Facebook, where we are always discussing these issues! 

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This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Please consult with a qualified medical professional before making any dietary or supplement changes. Read our full disclaimer here.


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.



  1. Mindy W. says:

    Wow, great information! I soak my grains sometimes but I think after reading this I will do it more often.

  2. Dawn Tasher says:

    Yay! I am so happy I inspired you. 🙂

  3. Very informative post ( love the photo too) Thank you for sharing at the hop xo

  4. Lisa Lynn says:

    Great info to know! Thanks for sharing this 🙂
    I would love to have you visit my blog and vote for your favorite post on Wildcrafting Wednesdays People’s Choice Awards! Next week we will be back to our regular blog hop, but you can find the poll here:

  5. […] in case you missed my posts this week: Too Much Blame on the Grain? – A grain-free diet is not right for everyone! To Soy or Not to Soy? – Soy may be […]

  6. Donna Heber says:

    Lots of wonderful information. I’m co-hosting with Katherine this week at Thursday Favorite Things and hope you will stop by for a visit. Wishing you all the best in 2013.

  7. Thank you for sharing this at Motivation Monday. Your point about making sure a grain-free diet is still an optimal one is fabulous. As someone who loves to make and eat a wide range of food, going grain free isn’t a struggle for me, though I can see how it would be for someone who depends heavily on pasta and breads.

    I’ve tried a few times to soak grains, but haven’t spent as much time as I’d like to. I can’t wait to check out the recipes you shared.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks so much, Barb! 🙂 Grain free certainly is not a diet of deprivation! For various reasons some do better with grains in the diet. We are all so different!

  8. […] Too much blame on the grain? by Peeling Back the Onion […]

  9. Cindy says:

    Thanks for linking this up at Gluten Free Fridays! I have this tweeted and pinned!

  10. […] Toxins on Your Plate – oxalates may play a role in autism and other health problems. Too Much Blame on the Grain? – a grain-free diet is not right for everyone! To Soy or Not to Soy? – soy may be […]

  11. I don’t soak our grains, but we are very lucky not to have many dietary issues in our family. I know it is a very popular thing to do, and I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s a great resource, especially with all the excellent links you have provided.

  12. Thank you Dawn for linking to my Gluten Free Multi Grain Pancakes! I just love that recipe! Am glad to make your acquaintance and I’ll be back to look at your blog posts, for sure.

  13. Erin says:

    I’d like to soak my grains more this year. I’m not in the habit of it yet, or haven’t fully wrapped my head around the purpose and place of soaking, or something. If I’m following a recipe written with soaking rains built in, then I’m good. If I have to adapt a regular recipe, I’m pretty lost and just don’t soak.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Erin! It is pretty hard to adapt a regular recipe. I am very grateful to the folks that have contributed the above recipes because when I try to adapt them myself it does not always work!

  14. After eliminating grains for 6 months I felt amazing but couldn’t live without them forever. Now I can tolerate oats, rice and some other grains but not wheat or spelt. I read recently that the wheat grain has changed over the years and it’s not as easy to digest now as it contains more gluten than it used to. I may try soaking wheat before using it at some point to see how I find that. Thanks for the inspiration!
    I did a lot of reading about whether to soak my oats before using them in a smoothie. I now use oat groats which I think are healthier but generally don’t soak them as I had read that much of the oxalates stay in the oats after soaking. I didn’t realise you could soak flour too so thanks for the great info!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      My family was off grains for a few years. We have been eating them in small amounts now. My daughter and husband are doing great with the (soaked) grains; I think they are actually healthier on the grains. I don’t think my body likes them as much. I don’t know if you are familiar with the blood type diet, but they are blood type A and I am blood type O and according to that diet, an O should not eat grains and an A should. So it is interesting that our experiences correlate with the recommendations of that diet (and we have observed these correlations many times over the years – even our personalities perfectly match those described by the blood type diet!). According to that diet, blood type O should be on a more primal diet, which seems to be the diet my body loves. Whatever the reason behind it, I am listening to my body and I eat very little of the grains I prepare for them.

  15. I agree-enjoying sprouted grains in bread, so much tastier!

  16. […] Too Much Blaming on the Grain from Peeling Back the Onion Layers […]

  17. […] Fav: Too Much Blame on the Grain? @ Peeling Back the Onion […]

  18. […] Too Much Blame on the Grain from Peeling Back the Onion Layers […]

  19. lynda says:

    Great short explanation I can send on to a couple friends. Thanks. I’ve been soaking for a couple years now, getting better at it as I go. Notice a real difference in my gut when I don’t soak.

    Often my family and I don’t love the acidic tang the soaking medium adds to the final product, but I’ve found creative ways around a lot of that. This isn’t a recipe, but a tip I guess… When you soak, of course the general rule is 1T acidic medium to 1c. whole grain flour. Sometimes I cheat and do 1/2 the amount of a.m., but typically what I do is for every 1T, I add 1/4t. of baking soda with the remaining ingredients after the soak. It reacts with the vinegar or whatever you use and counteracts the taste. This is in addition to any baking soda already in the recipe. I do have some recipes that require more like 1/2t baking soda, but this is experimentation and 1/4t.:1T is a great place to start. IMPORTANT: because baking soda is a salt, with many recipes you must decrease some of the salt in your recipe, typically by 1/2 (if recipe says 1t. salt, you decrease to 1/2t). I’ve found this so helpful, hopefully others will too.

    This works amazing with Bob’s Red Mill High Fiber Whole Grain Pancake mix, even tho it’s a mix and you can’t decrease the salt. Ever since doing that, my family loves pancakes again!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Wow, Lynda, this is very interesting! I tend to rinse my whole grains after soaking them but that does not really work for the flours. 😉 I will have to experiment with this. Thank you for sharing! I hope you stop by again and share more! 🙂

      • lynda says:

        You bet! Thx. 🙂

      • lynda says:

        In the interest of potentially, and unwittingly, misleading anyone, because I posted here I feel a need to pass on this article. I’ve had some minor concerns over time about soaking and recently had a need for those concerns to be addressed. In my research, I came across this article, which surprisingly answered the questions I had outright. What I didn’t expect was to find answers to direct me away from soaking. I’m feeling very at peace with this tho. Perhaps soaking isn’t the answer but rather fresh milled grains alone. Weigh for yourself.

        • Dawn Tasher says:

          Thank you for sharing this, Lynda! I will check it out. I have heard arguments against soaking as well. Since it is a traditional practice I tend to trust it, particularly for digestive issues or transitioning from a grain free diet. Like all health decisions it is something we have to research and determine for ourselves!

          • lynda says:

            Yes, you’re absolutely right. My biggest concern is that she claims it is actually *not* a traditional practice and explains the misunderstandings. Her info reflects over 4 years of research and a seemingly genuine heart to want to know the truth. I’m not sure exactly where I stand with all of it, but I felt certain I had to pass it on since I posted something here. Thanks for responding well.

          • Dawn Tasher says:

            Interesting! Thank you for sharing this! I am eager to read the article…I have just been really busy lately!

  20. Melanie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing at Wednesday’s Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above
    Melanie @ Keep It Simple & Fun

  21. SO much wonderful information. Thanks so much for sharing with Wednesdays Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Charly and Debi @ Adorned From Above
    Melissa @ Keep It Simple And Fun

  22. […] Too Much Blame on the Grain? – a grain-free diet is not right for everyone! […]

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Doug! That might work for someone that finds it difficult to digest, but when someone truly reacts to gluten it is a much larger issue.

  23. Meagan says:

    Thanks for linking up my recipe! I hope it can be of use to your readers 🙂

  24. Dawn, I agree with you. Love your broad and deep knowledge base on this topic…it’s been a while since I last talked about the Krebs cycle! Good post!

  25. […] Too Much Blame on Grain? via Peeling Back the Onion Layers […]

  26. Dawn-

    We’ve been properly prepping about 1/2 of the grains in our home and I’ve noticed a difference in digestion. Curious what your thoughts are on grain-free and low body temperature. We’ve never done the GAPS diet because my son and I run cold. After reading Matt Stone’s work on metabolism and grains…it made me rethink a lot that I held as dogma.

    Anyway…for another blog topic, right?

    Thanks for sharing at Creative Juice. I’m sharing this at my health board on Pinterest and of course, at the party.

    My best,

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Nicolette! Thanks for sharing the difference you noticed. That might inspire others to try it! You know, I think there is something to it. I find Matt Stone’s work very interesting. But yes, LOL, that is a VERY big topic! Thanks so much for helping me spread the word!!!

  27. […] Some clients come to me eating multiple servings of protein at every meal. As I explained in Too Much Blame on the Grain, a reliance on too much meat in the diet can lead to toxic levels of ammonia in the body. As […]

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