Good Decisions… Most of the Time considers whole grains to be Good Decisions under certain conditions. Like dairy, grains can be inflammatory for some people and not others. Whether or not grains are a good Decisions for you depends on your body and how well it does with grains.
What is a Whole Grain?
“Whole grain” implies that 100% of the original kernel is present. This includes the bran, endosperm and the germ. Common examples of whole grains are corn, rice, oats, and buckwheat. What are deemed “ancient grains” are also becoming more mainstream. Examples of ancient grains include amaranth, quinoa, millet, and teff. While all grains are technically ancient, this label typically implies the grain has not been modified over the years like wheat has been.
The Issue with Grains
When whole grains are not soaked, sprouted, or properly prepared they can be very difficult to digest. When grains are refined, the grain is striped of the bran and germ which makes a flour that is easier to digest and is shelf stable, but contains very few nutrients and elevates blood sugar levels, in some cases more so than sugar.
Since the most prevalent food sensitivities are to wheat and other gluten-containing grains (such as spelt, barley and rye), grains should be approached with caution. If your pulse escalates, or you experience joint pain, brain fog, headaches, anxiety, cramps, skin problems, eczema, diarrhea, or gas, this indicates that a sensitivity to certain grains may certainly be present. You may also feel bloated, fatigued, or notice an increase in mucus or sinusitis. These symptoms are telling you that grains might best be avoided.
Grains can also contribute significantly to inflammation when they are not properly prepared. However, even when they are properly prepared, many people are allergic, sensitive to, or have problems digesting grains. Inflammation plays a huge role in so many diseases, from joint disease and irritable bowel syndrome, to heart disease. The fire of inflammation can often be squelched by simply removing grains, refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, and processed foods from your diet. Many people choose to avoid grains altogether because of this and find that they thrive on a mostly vegetable and protein diet.
A Word on Wheat
While wheat is not classified as a genetically-modified crop, it can be just as problematic. I was once told that The New England Journal of Medicine listed fifty-five diseases that can be caused by eating gluten found in wheat. When I went to its website to verify this, I lost count after twenty! The top five were celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and diabetes. The scary thing is, wheat is the most consumed grain on the planet, and people continue to talk about how healthy it is. Wheat products such as pasta, breads, flour, and other refined products made from conventional wheat are linked to too many diseases for it to be considered a healthy food choice.
Conventional hybridized wheat is not a Good Decision.
When to Consume Grains
Given the inflammatory nature of grains, they are best consumed only under the following conditions:
• You are not sensitive or allergic to the grain.
• Your digestion is working well.
• The grain is not genetically-engineered or overly hybridized.
• The grain has been soaked and properly prepared.
If you meet this criteria then whole grains can be important sources nutrients and may be very Good Decisions for you. Whole grains contain antioxidants and nutrients including vitamin E and selenium. Antioxidants help protect against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and reduce some of the effects of aging. Whole grains, when properly prepared, also supply minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, and vitamins A, B6, and E.
When I say “properly prepared,” I am referring to the soaking and fermenting of grains. Let’s face it, chewing on raw grains isn’t that pleasant, but when they’re soaked, and prepared as our ancestors once did, they’re quite delicious and can be used in soups, pilaf, salads, and alongside a main dish for everything from stew to stir-fry. When cooked in broth and other nutrient-rich fluids, they are fantastic at absorbing flavors as well as nutrition. Always reach for organic heirloom grain varieties when possible.
Like anything else though, it’s all about moderation. To avoid exacerbating any health issues with grains, listen to your own body and notice which types cause you discomfort. Keeping a food journal can be of great assistance in helping you track this.