Grains, The Good And Bad

     Not long ago, I had someone ask me if I was anti grains. In a simple answer, I am and I’m not…

Confused? Well it’s not really a yes or no answer as there are far too many variables to give a single answer. But if the question was “Am I anti bread, pasta, breakfast cereal or any other processed grain products?”, it’s a definite YES. Anyone who read my post “What’s for Breakfast” will definitely know how I feel about breakfast cereals.

Take for instance bread or pasta which is mostly wheat. 99% of what is out there is so highly processed, all that is left is the sugar. Very little fibre and vitamins (if any) are left after the manufacturing process. Even most wholegrain or multi grain breads are still very deficient in nutrients, which makes it a very bad choice for a healthy diet. Grains were designed by mother nature to be used as a whole, not just in part. 

Have you ever wondered why it is that a whole grain or seed, can last for months, even years without developing a single bit of mould or even look like going off? Strange isn’t it. Especially when you compare it to a piece of fruit or a vegetable, which, depending on what it is may only last a few days before it’s inedible. 

Well the reason behind this is it actually has a type of organic force field around it. One that is completely resistant to microbial attack and even resistant to enzymes and acids in our digestive system. If you think about it, mother nature designed them in a great way so a bird can come along, eat a bunch of seeds, fly off to a different part of the forest and deposit the undigested seeds ready to grow when the conditions are right. A great way to spread plants, but definitely not ideal for us getting the nutrients from those seeds.

Phytic acid is one of these compounds and will block the absorption in our gut of many minerals that we consume and potentially reducing the nutrient content of other foods we have eaten. But there is a way to neutralize these “anti nutrients” and it’s quite simple.

Think about when you plant a seed in some soil, you keep it moist, give it warmth and sunlight and within a week or two, you have a little plant sticking up through the soil. What actually happened was the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors broke down and allowed the grain to sprout. More nutrients become available as it sprouts and this sprouted grain is a far more nutrient dense food than it was a few weeks back.

So what does that mean? Do you need to soak your bread or pasta for days before you eat it? No definitely not, those grains are already destroyed and aren’t worthy of being called a food. Fortunately the job has been done for you in some cases. One of the sources of grains I highly recommend, for people who can tolerate them, is something called Essene Bread. It’s a bread made entirely of sprouted grains. It’s very dense and very high in nutrients if prepared properly. Some health food stores stock it; you may just have to search online for a local supplier. Just make sure it is kept in a fridge and vacuum sealed to keep its freshness.

     Another way of processing grains is by soaking them in an acidic solution. In my post titled “What’s For Breakfast part 2”, I describe how you can use natural yoghurt as the acid to soak oats overnight. After doing this, it takes just minutes to cook a healthy porridge the following morning without fearing that there is any phytic acid or enzyme inhibitors left.

     Another grain which sprouts very quickly and I recommend over most others is Quinoa. A South American grain which if soaked for a short time then cooked will sprout before your eyes. Chia seeds are another great one. Just soak them in enough water to cover them and a couple of minutes later, they are sprouted. Both are packet full of vitamins and minerals and are far better for you than a pasta dish or a sandwich.

Just keep in mind, if you are trying to lose weight, I would advise you avoid all grains completely. The amount of carbohydrates in them make it very easy for you to store fat. On the rare occasion I do eat grains, I always try to eat them in conjunction with some protein and fats. These actually slow down the digestion process, in effect lowering the “glycemic hit” of the grain.

     Always remember, be good to your grains, and they will be good to you.

Run well

Chris O’Driscoll


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