There is a lot of information out there about grains, which ones we should eat, which we should not eat, gluten free grains, and the like. There are books out there all about grains, such as Wheat Belly and Grain Brain to name a couple, which talk about the detrimental effects of grains. Then there’s the food pyramid, and those that say eating grains is good for your health. So what gives? What’s the real story behind the grains?
I’ve done a lot of experimenting with my diet over the years, and one of the things that stands out most is the effect grains have had on my body.
The first step I took on my health journey was going gluten free about 13 years ago. I did not go gluten free because I thought it was cool, or because I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I went gluten free because I suffered from severe constipation the majority of my life, and I heard it might help. What I noticed when I went gluten free was astonishing. Within three days my constipation subsided. Keep in mind, this was after over 20 years of battling chronic constipation.
Some years later, I began to read about the benefits of going completely grain free. Despite going just gluten free I was still suffering from digestive upset, as well as a myriad of other symptoms such as skin rashes and arthritic symptoms. I had stiff joints, muscle aches and extreme tightness, and frequent rashes on my elbows, knees, wrists and ankles. I began doing research on the effect of grains related to symptoms such as these. This lead me to reading information about leaky gut syndrome, and how undigested grains can “leak” into the bloodstream causing all kinds of autoimmune signals, such as those I was suffering from.
For three months straight I went completely grain free. No more organic corn chips with my guacamole, no more sushi, brown rice pasta, oats or even quinoa. I know, this may sound boring but again, the results were astonishing. My muscle aches and tightness subsided. My joint stiffness was reduced by 80%. The rashes at my joints were few and far between, and my digestion and elimination improved immensely. And, although I went grain free for three months, I was seeing results almost immediately after starting this regimen.
The lesson here is not just that we should go grain free. There is a lot more to it than that. The more I read and research, I am finding that grains really have little to no nutritional value whatsoever. In fact, I am finding that grains can actually be detrimental to our health.
Here is a simple breakdown of what a grain actually is, and how the body responds to it. A grain is a complex sugar, or what is called a polysaccharide. A polysaccharide consists of several simple sugars (monosaccharides) bonded together to form a grain or starch. The only way our bodies can actually use a polysaccharide (grain) is to break it down into those simple sugars it is made of. After these grains are broken down into simple sugars, now the body has the job of dealing with the overload of excess simple sugars, resulting in a domino effect of responses. The body will store those excess sugars as fat, and whatever the body cannot immediately use or excrete slowly ferments in the digestive system, causing overgrowth of fungus such as candida. As if this isn’t enough, grains have an acidic effect on the body, which is the opposite of what the body needs to survive (the body must have a slightly alkaline PH for survival).
Now keep in mind this does not necessarily grains are “dangerous” to consume. What it does mean scientifically, however, is that they surely are not the most healthful foods we could be eating, and they have some pretty detrimental effects on the body. If you choose to eat grains, it is wise to eat them sparingly and also to prepare them so they can be more easily broken down and used by the body.
How to Prep Your Grains for Consumption
Phytic acid is known as an anti-nutrient for humans, and here’s why. Phytic acid is a protective barrier for the grain, as it encases its nutrients so they remain intact. The human body cannot break down phytic acid when we ingest grains, and therefore we are missing any nutrient value that grain has to offer. This makes sense when you think about it, as the phytic acid is protecting the plant and its nutrients. In addition, when grains are consumed in the same meal as other food, the phytic acid will latch onto nutrients from those foods, preventing us from absorbing these valuable and necessary nutrients.
If we want to get the most out of our grains when we do choose to eat them, the best way to do this is to soak and even sprout them in some cases. Soaking grains in filtered water overnight helps to release most of the phytic acid, as well as break down the grain making it not only much easier to digest, but also making the nutrients in the grain accessible to the human body.
I like to soak a bit of oats in a glass container in the fridge overnight, so that the next morning they are ready to go for my hemp, chia and oat “oatmeal.”
I soak and sprout all of my quinoa whenever I make it as well. To do this, I soak my quinoa in filtered water for about 12 hours, then rinse it and put it in a sprouting jar to sprout for about another 12-24 hours or so. You will know when it is done sprouting when you see the little “tails” emerge.
This being said, I rarely eat grains. But when I do, it’s usually soaked oats or sprouted quinoa, as these tend to agree with me best. I do not often eat rice or corn, and I am still 100% gluten free so wheat, barley and rye have been out of my life for quite a while.
In all cases of soaking and sprouting, your grains should be rinsed thoroughly before cooking, to remove any phytic acid and to prevent molding. When I sprout my quinoa, I rinse it twice throughout the process, and once again just before cooking it.
Nuts, seeds and legumes also contain phytic acid and can be soaked and sprouted before consumption. I soak and sprout my nuts and seeds most of the time before consuming them. Due to their tough outer shell, these need to be soaked and sprouted longer than grains do.
Sprouting is best if you have time and patience to do it, as this turns the grains/nuts/seeds into living foods, much more compatible with our digestive system. However, if you don’t have time to sprout, just soaking them overnight will do.
The facts are in: grains slow digestion, are difficult to break down, raise blood sugar levels, contribute to weight gain, feed fungus such as candida, and inhibit vitamin and mineral absorption.
And these are just some of the effects grains have on the body. What about my personal experiences of my arthritic/muscular symptoms and rashes subsiding, and my digestion improving with the elimination of all grains?
There is a ton of research out there, and I encourage you to take a look at it and draw your own conclusions. Better yet, try going grain free for a week. What do you notice?
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