Grains are an important part of our diet, and have been since the dawn of mankind. Don't let the Paleo diet fad convince you otherwise, even the cavemen ate wild grains. The issue is that we have forgotten an age old truth about grains. THEY MUST BE PROCESSED. Grains (cereal/grass grains) must be processed in a way that unlocks their nutritional potential, and destroys anti-nutrients. Cultures around the world and throughout history have had multiple ways of doing this. Today, I want to talk about these forgotten ways, and more importantly why we need to bring them back.
Proper Grain Preperation
The big reason for the NEED, yes I said need, to properly prepare our grains is to unlock the nutrition inside by destroying the anti-nutrients that bind them within the plant. The processes also reduce hard to digest proteins (like gluten).
Phytic Acid is the anti-nutrient I am talking about. It is found in Nuts, Grains, and Legumes (which we will discuss again later on in the section on these foods). Phytic acid is a great chemical for plants. It is a mineral binder. It helps to pull minerals out of the soil and hold them in the plants for germination. It is NOT good for us (well not large amounts). Because it is so good at binding to minerals, it will prevent your body from being able to access these nutrients. This can...
In the germination process, an enzyme called Phytase is produced that breaks the phytic acid bond, and allows the new plant to utilize the stored minerals to grow. This also allows our digestive systems to break down the grains and access the nutrition inside. Cooking does not stimulate the production of phytase, there has to be a start in the germination process, hence the NEED, yes need, to properly prepare your grains.
Soaking Your Grains
Did you know that as recently as the early 1900's, people knew they needed to soak their grains before cooking them? Oatmeal packaging instructions listed as a step the need to soak the oats overnight and rinse before cooking. This was also before the advent of rolled quick oats.
What soaking means is, really, just what it says. Placing the grains in a bowl of water at room temperature for a specific length of time. The addition of an acid, like vinegar/whey, or lactic acid, with speed the process. Letting the grains soak in the acid solution stimulates germination, and in turn the release of phytase and the breakdown of phytic acid.
Many cultures have soaked and washed grains prior to cooking them. My Korean grandmother would sit at the sink and WASH her rice over and over again, and then let it sit on the counter overnight before cooking it. I always thought she was a bit crazy, but it was knowledge that she had learned as a child in a culture that eats large amounts of grains.
Sprouting Your Grains
Sprouting is taking soaking to the next step. This is completing the germination process and allowing more of the phytase to be released and more of the phytic acid to be destroyed. This is a longer process, but well worth it. The actually sprouting process is the fermentation of the grain into the beginnings of a new plant. If done correctly, you should see this baby plant beginning to emerge.
Sprouted reduces more phytic acid, but also reduces the starch content of the grain and increase mineral bioavailability, as well as protien.
Through the history of farming, grains were left, after harvest, in the elements, and naturally sprouted before use and consumption. This was actually a "problem" that modern farming techniques "fixed" with mechanical farming. You can now find several sprouted grain breads in the common grocery store, for your convenience.
For a good tutorial on how to sprout your grains, click here.
Souring Your Grains
There is, honestly, nothing better than a good sourdough bread....am I right?
Souring is another traditional preparation method that has been lost to modern cooking. Historically, there was no packaged yeast for making bread, there was a generational sourdough starter...often handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. This sourdough starter was full of bacteria, the good kind, and naturally occurring yeasts that yielded a tangy and light bread loaf. It also yielded nutrition.
Souring is like soaking, but better. You get all the same benefits, such as the decrease of phytic acid and the unlocking of minerals. An added benefit...the lactic acid bacteria consume gluten producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. The process creates the light a fluffy texture of a good sourdough.
The perfect bread...one where the grains have been soaked or sprouted, and then soured...oh man, I am hungry just thinking about it!
Grains and Athletes
I know there is a push right now for athletes to be either Paleo or Ketogenic (we'll talk later). But, grains do play a role in our natural health.
Athletes need to consume larger amounts of nutrient dense foods. Grains have long been used for this purpose. If treated correctly, they provide complex carbohydrates, starches, protein, minerals, and other vitamins.
If they are not treated correctly, they can inhibit athletic performance by causing mineral deficiencies, digestive inflammation, and empty calories.
The key is knowing how to use them correctly. Vegetarian athletes tend to have significantly higher rates of anemia. Due in part to the large amount of grains they typically consume in their diet without being properly prepared. (in addition to higher amounts of uncooked greens, and no meat consumption).
15 Push Ups
20 Squats with weight (50 pound child)
20 Calf raises with weight (50 pounds child)
20 Squats with weight (100 pounds of child)
SO, funny story...I was doing my little workout and my 9 year old was very confident in the fact that she could also do squats with her sister on her back too. (in fact she pretty much taunted me with the "that's easy I could do that"). So, I let her have a try (or childishly dared her to see how many she could do). The child was able to squat her own body weight (my kids are roughly the same size) not 10, not 20, but 40!!!! times! Well, this mama has a bit of a competitor in her, so I insisted that both children get on my back, and front and I could squat with both. I only made it to 20 (barely).
Score 1 for M1....she can seriously out squat me....this is a clear sign I need to work harder, I think.
Breakfast: Open FAced Egg SAndwich on Sourdough
This would have been so much better with arugula, but the garden was low...sniffle.
Lunch: Spoons Sandwich and Soup - Goat Cheese Pesto Sandwich & Hungarian Mushroom
Hooray for TAKE OUT. Forgot my packed lunch for work....oops.
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry; Sprouted Brown Rice; Spring Roll
I cheated on my sprouted grain rice today...I bought a bag of already sprouted brown rice. This is a thing, and a huge time saver.