Filed under: Nutrition
Those of you who read this blog probably know that I am not a huge fan of grains. Not only are they highly overrated for health benefit purposes, I believe they can actually lead to a lot of negative health consequences. Most grains are highly allergenic, cause large insulin surges, and are lacking in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. They are also way too easy to over-consume, and it certainly seems that since the advent of the original Food Pyramid, people’s consumption of grains has increased, and so have we. Correlation does not equal cause-and-effect and there are a million other factors that play into this, but it is certainly one of them.
Over the course of human history, grains have not been a large portion of the diet for any significant amount of time. Only for the past 10-11,000 years or so have we domesticated plants and animals. This newfound ability did help create civilization, so it certainly has benefits, but it is a double-edged sword. Agriculture allowed for surplusses of food the likes of which had never been seen, and allowed people to settle into larger populations, creating the the first governments, religious centers, universities, and literature. It also allowed the first organized warfare, deadly plagues, and terrorism. Starting to see the other edge here? Just wait, there is more.
Due to the relatively short amount of time we have been consuming grains, 10,000 years is a blink in our millions of years on planet earth. This is where the problems occur. Due to our relatively short time from an evolutionary standpoint, our consumption of grains should not be so high. Most people are not well suited to it, there are exceptions, but they are not the norm. Some people even have severe reactions to many of the cereal grasses, being allergic to the protein gluten found in wheat, rye, barley and to a lesser extent in oats, called gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or celiac’s disease. Wheat tends to be the worst offender, with it’s very high concentration of gluten, that even if you don’t have celiac’s, can still be problematic for people at a sub-clinical level.
To continue this trend of problems, is that mainstream nutritionists encourage people to just eat more whole grains like 100% whole wheat products. Sounds like a good idea in theory, they are higher in fiber, higher in vitamins and minerals, and are absorbed more slowly. The problem is that we can’t absorb all of these vitamins and minerals. Whole grains contain anti-nutrients that are bound to the vitamins and minerals and severely limit their absorption. These anti-nutrients are things like phytic acid and lectins. Phytic acid is the big one, and it is highly present in normal wheat foods.
Fortunately our ancestors found a solution to this problem. To reduce the phytic acid and lectin content, and free up the nutrients to be available for absorption can be done by soaking, fermenting or sprouting whole grains. Granted you can also consume starches that are low in those anti-nutrients like amaranth, quinoa, and sweet potatoes, but if you want to find a way to enjoy some wheat based products, it needs to have those preparation techniques. Unfortunately, gluten is able to survive all but the longest fermentation process, so people with celiac’s are still out of luck.
One company that is making foods prepared like this widely available is one called Food for Life. They sell several lines of sprouted grain products including Ezekiel, Genesis, and 7 Grain. The Ezekiel line is there biggest, offering up bread, english muffins, wraps, cereals, pasta, hamburger and hot dog buns and more. It is made up of wheat, other grains and legumes, and due to the fact that it contains those other foods, it is lower in gluten, is a complete protein and has a rock bottom GI of 36. It is also preservative free so you have to keep it frozen, a little FYI. I still suggest consuming more oats, quinoa, amaranth and sweet potatoes, but at least now you have a decent wheat option.
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