Knowing what to eat should be a simple and pleasurable experience, but for many folks food choices can create panic.
And, for good reason – modern food science can drive you crazy!
The food science experts in the 1970’s told us to fear fat, so everyone switched to fat-free foods and butter substitutes like margarine and vegetable oil.
Forty years later we know margarine is total crap and excessive amounts of plant-based oils high in Omega 6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation and throw the body out of balance. “Most North Americans and Europeans get far too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. This imbalance may explain the rise of asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inappropriate inflammation in the body.”
In the 1980’s the experts told us to fear sugar and the market became saturated with artificial sweeteners. Today, the links between many diseases and artificial sweeteners is growing. “In the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”
Now the experts are at it again. This time telling us to fear grains. Oy vey! Here we go again.
But, this time the food experts are correct. If you are eating grains that are NOT properly prepared they can be damaging your body.
For thousands of years grains have been healthfully eaten by much of the world’s populations.
Many of us are still eating grains today, but unfortunately, we’re mostly eating highly refined, simple carbohydrates like cakes, pastries, cookies, processed cereals, and other crappy grain products.
The difference between the whole grains our ancestors ate and the refined grains we eat today is vast; many of the refined grains have lost most of their vital elements during the milling process and are nutritionally deficient.
That is why most breads and cereal products are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals.
In addition to losing nutritional value, the starches in highly refined grains are absorbed quickly, upsetting blood sugar levels that the body regulates by releasing insulin. Blood sugar instability contributes to type II diabetes, obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease.
One the other hand, traditional whole grains can contribute to a good night’s sleep, create a balanced feeling in the body, satisfy hunger, promote smooth bowel movements, long memory, and clear thinking.
According to author, Steve Gagne, “Energetically, whole cereal grains finely tune the human nervous system in such a way as to affect every part of the body, to the extent of unifying it with the soul as one whole functioning organism. This was the legacy given us by our ancestors.”
Seems like our ancestors were pretty darn smart.
I’ve worked with many clients that were suffering from brain fog and an inability to think clearly from abusing carbohydrates, sugars and grains (including whole grains). It’s very common.
I’ve also worked with folks that have gone Paleo, Primal or Keto, and found that they just were not feeling fully satisfied or energized without grains and starches in their diet.
What is true is that not ALL grains work for all people, and they ALL need to be prepared properly to benefit health.
Whole grains traditionally were prepared by soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking. This process made them more digestible and increased nutritional potency.
Today, by rushing to produce food for the mass market, many of those preparation techniques have been lost.
All grains, beans, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors that exist in the outer layer or the bran. Phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc, and block absorption.
Zinc is essential for the immune system and thyroid function (zinc is required to convert thyroid hormones T4 to T3). Phytic acid can also block absorption of iron that is essential for building strong blood – if you are anemic, this is something to watch out for. Magnesium can also be bound by phytic acid, and it is essential for relaxing the muscles – if you’re muscles are cramping or are too tight, take notice.
As you can see, whole grains that are not properly processed can be problematic for many folks.
Refining the grain by stripping the outer bran eliminates the potential anti-nutrient problem, but also eliminates essential nutrients, bran and fiber.
Before eating whole grains, it’s best to use traditional preparation methods. Soaking grains is one of those methods. Soaking can release up to 40%-70% (or more) of phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
Grains that have already been heat-treated, like rolled oats and kasha, do not need to be soaked.
When you’re ready to prepare grains, simply discard the soaking water and cook with fresh water according to the recipe (grain recipes here).
Cooking helps deactivate anti-nutrients in the grain. Which is one of the reasons I do NOT recommend eating raw sprouted grains! Eek! Some modern trends do not make any sense. The preparation process is simply not complete without roasting or cooking. There are many foods you can eat raw, but whole grains are not one of them.
Our ancestors were smart and cooked their grains. Let’s follow their lead. I believe they knew better then modern nutritional science about what to eat and how to eat it.
Grains that can be appropriate for healing and nourishing the body include brown rice, quinoa, kasha, oats, polenta and wild rice.
Always remember to be cautious when reading what the “experts” have to say about the latest food science, and stick to what our ancestors knew about what to eat and how to prepare it.
Want to learn more about the best foods to nourish the body and how to prepare them? Opt-in to receive 2 FREE chapters of my book, Health is Wealth, plus a FREE 25 page Eating and Recipe Guide, and 15% off any of my DVDs and books.
 http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401214/Need-Omega-9-Fatty-Acid.html  http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carbs-against-cardio/  The Energetics of Food, Steve Gagne, 2006, pg. 295
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.