Stop for a second and ask yourself how many servings of grains you get in a day. How much bread do you eat? A few pieces in the form of toast, or a sandwich perhaps, a little pita around your lunch wrap, a cliff bar after a work out, perhaps a bowl of rice for dinner, or that box of Fiber One you eat over the kitchen sink at midnight, a little cookie for a pick me up in the afternoon, a rice cake when you are trying to be “good”? If you think that is all the grains you are getting, then most likely you are mistaken. Most people consume far too many grains and if you are someone who eats processed foods, you are probably getting far more than you think. Grains also show up in the form of corn byproducts (and there are several), in emulsifiers and hidden at the bottom of a list of complicated ingredients, and in so many other places that you might be shocked at how difficult avoiding grains can be.
But Aren’t Grains Good For Me?
Traditionally prepared grains (taking a whole grain and soaking it) are a fantastic form of carbohydrates—your body’s preferred energy source. Breads and grains have sustained civilizations for thousands of years, but the truth is, no generation has been inundated with grains in the amounts or forms in which industrial food processing has done to us. If anything, the past 30 years has shown us that the western dietary intake of grains (in the form of refined flours, fractionated bran, germ and starch, milled at high temperatures—think any grain product in a box basically) has created a lot of unhappy, unhealthy guts.
Why You Should Avoid Processed Grains – Especially For Your Kids
Think of a grain’s ability to sit in a storehouse for years without blossoming into a sprout—there were usable grains found with the mummies in the pyramids! A single piece of grain has the entire DNA and life energy needed to sprout into a plant when given the right environment (i.e. placed in the ground). The thing preventing it from doing so is a protective shell called phytic acid. Like a vacuum seal for your T-bone, phytic acid creates a barrier for the seed and keeps the grain preserved.
Traditional (in contrast to modern) preparation methods would take grains such as rice, quinoa, oats, corn and wheat, and soak them for 12-24 hours in water with a slightly acid PH level in order to neutralize the phytic acid surrounding that grain. Traditional recipes such as porridge or sourdough breads follow this method too. Neutralizing phytic acid increases a grain’s digestibility, enhances its nutritional profile, and allows our bodies to access that nutrition more easily. The main problem with modern grain processing is that it takes the grain, intact with its hard, phytic acid shell, and grinds it up. Imagine taking your T-bone out of the freezer and with its plastic wrap still around it, throwing it into your food processor and making a burger patty out of it. No way! Phytic acid in our gut can bind with key minerals and leech them from the body, which over time can lead to nutrient deficiencies, create inflammation in the linings of our intestines and also lead to several food allergies.
So why should you avoid processed grains? An inflamed gut is an unhappy gut. An inflamed gut cannot absorb nutrients optimally and a gut that cannot absorb nutrients means the body it’s in goes malnourished. A malnourished body can be susceptible to nearly any disease process.
A Happier, Healthier Gut
Here are some steps to improve your gut health, followed by some delicious recipes to help heal your angry gut, or at least give it a break by cutting back on your non-soaked, non sprouted grain consumption:
1. Go gluten free for a month. Gluten is a protein contained in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It provides that elastic-gooey component to breads that we all go gaga for. The issue is that many people are unable to digest this protein, which then signals the immune system to respond to the “invader”. Over time, bombarding the body in this way results in mal-absorption of key nutrients, bloating, pain, diarrhea and hyper immune symptoms such as joint pain, acid reflux, heart burn, fatigue, even infertility. Avoiding gluten is becoming easier with so many products on the market. Even MOM’s, a local health food store has a dedicated “gluten free” section!
2. Get to know your gluten-free grain alternatives. Some of my favorites go to gluten-free grains are: Brown rice pasta, brown rice, gluten free oatmeal, millet, and quinoa.
3. Consume Soaked and Sprouted Grains. If cutting out gluten isn’t in the cards for you at this time, make sure the grains you do consume are of a sprouted variety. Whole Foods Market and MOM’s organic grocery store carry many options of sprouted grain breads, English muffins, tortilla shells, pizza crusts and cereals. You will find most of these type products in the freezer section.
Oats After Being Soaked Overnight
4. Get into the habit of soaking your grains. Before making grains such as rice, quinoa, millet and oatmeal, remember to soak them in a solution of water and whey (or lemons, or plain, whole milk yogurt) as listed in the recipe below. The cookbook Nourishing Traditions talks about this extensively as the only way we are able to access the minerals in grains and avoid the negative health effects. Here’s a picture of some oats I soaked.
5. Lastly, rely on home made, gluten free versions of your favorite baked goods. Bake with grain alternates such as nuts, coconut flour and seeds.
Remember, our bodies preferred source of energy is from carbohydrate and that modern day grain products are not the health foods they are promoted to be. Hopefully the motivation you have to cut out processed foods from your diet just got a big boost! Perhaps you have been struggling with some immune issues and are considering kicking gluten for the first time. The next time you find yourself getting ready to carb load for your Sunday run, or are simply planning your balanced meals for the week, try to make whole food carbohydrates such as the grains listed in this article part of your dietary staple. Your gut will say “thank you!”
Almond Flour Muffins
2 ½ cups nut flour or ground seeds such as sunflower
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
Mix together ingredients. Line cupcake tin with paper liners and fill batter into tins about ½ full. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Coconut Flour Bread-my kids love this stuff!
¾ cup sifted coconut flour
½ cup coconut oil or butter melted
2 TSP honey
½ tea sea salt
1 tea baking powder
Blend together eggs, butter honey and salt. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk thoroughly into batter until there are no lumps. Pour into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
Soaked Millet Cereal
Soaked Breakfast Porridge Recipe – Prepare the day before in order to allow 12-24 hours of soaking time.
1 cup oatmeal or amaranth
1 cup water
2TBS whey, or plain yogurt or fresh lemon juice
Let the mixture sit in a bowl on your counter in room temperature overnight in order to let the whey, yogurt or lemon juice work on neutralizing any phytic acid. The added benefit of probiotics in the whey or yogurt will also enhance the grains digestibility, but if all you have is lemon, that will work just fine.
In the morning, bring 1 cup water to boil
Add grain mixture
Dash of mineral sea salt
1-2 TBS of pastured butter
Bring to a boil, stir, lower the heat and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add-ons can include: raisins, soaked chia seeds, bee pollen granules, grade B maple syrup, more butter, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 cup rice
2 cups warm filtered water
2 TSB whey (or fresh lemon juice or plain yogurt)
Place rice and water into bowl and add the whey. Place a plate or tea towel over the bowl and allow the grain to soak for 24 hours.
The next day, pour rice and water mixture into pot and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes or until the water reaches the level of the rice. Add 2 TBS of pastured organic butter to pot, a dash of sea salt, cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.
And We Couldn’t Leave Out Dessert!
Delicious Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
Amazing Coconut Flour Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting This cake has so much coconut oil, (a healthy source of fat), and eggs, (a tremendous source of protein), we couldn’t feel guilty about the sweet maple syrup that makes this cake a real treat!
Here is the recipe, adapted from http://www.elanaspantry.com/chocolate-cake-coconut-flour-continued/
¾ cup coconut flour, sifted
¼ cup cacao powder
1 tea mineral sea salt
1 tea baking soda
10 eggs (the coconut flour is really dense and needs a lot of eggs!)
1 cup melted coconut flour (I prefer this over grapeseed oil)
1 ½ cups maple syrup (no agave nectar for my family!)
¼ teaspoon orange zest (I used the zest of an entire orange…I went a little crazy!)
- In a small bowl combine flour, cacao salt and baking soda
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer, blend eggs, oil, maple syrup, vanilla and orange zest
- Add dry ingredients into large bowl and continue to blend until all the coconut flour clumps are gone
- Oil two 9” round cake pans and dust with coconut flour
- Pour batter into pans and bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes
- Remove from oven and allow to completely cool before removing from pan
I followed her vegan chocolate frosting recipe, swapping out the grapeseed oil for coconut oil, and the agave nectar for maple syrup. It was AMAZING!
The texture of coconut flour can be a bit denser than regular flour. It is also rich in dietary fiber, packed with protein and lauric acid. Here is what Dr. Mercola has to say about coconut flour! http://products.mercola.com/coconut-flour/
Let us know how it goes!
Your friend in Health,
P.S. To further complicate our issues with the modern grain, “Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which put stress on the pancreas, irritating tannins, complex sugars which the body cannot break down and gluten, a hard-to-digest protein.” Read more about this issue in http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/be-kind-to-your-grains
Addressing gut health is something that can benefit everyone, and most everyone can benefit from reducing his or her exposure to industrially processed grains. Gas and bloating should not be commonplace, a distended tummy that feels hard or heavy after a meal is not normal, and skin conditions, irregular bowels, allergic reactions and cramping are just a few of the side effects that people live with and eventually accept as normal. What does this mean? Among other things, a gassy, bloated, crampy feeling gut after a meal (or between them) is not normal!