Chances are, if you are eating grains that are NOT properly prepared they can be damaging your body.
Knowing what to eat should be a simple and pleasurable experience, but for many folks food choices can create panic.
And, for good reason – modern food science can drive you crazy!
The food science experts in the 1970’s told us to fear fat, so everyone switched to fat-free foods and butter substitutes like margarine and vegetable oil.
Forty years later we know margarine is total crap and excessive amounts of plant-based oils high in Omega 6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation and throw the body out of balance. “Most North Americans and Europeans get far too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. This imbalance may explain the rise of asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inappropriate inflammation in the body.”
In the 1980’s the experts told us to fear sugar and the market became saturated with artificial sweeteners. Today, the links between many diseases and artificial sweeteners is growing. “In the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”
Now the experts are at it again. This time telling us to fear grains. Oy vey! Here we go again.
But, this time the food experts are correct. Chances are, if you are eating grains that are NOT properly prepared they can be damaging your body.
For thousands of years grains have been healthfully eaten by much of the world’s populations.
Many of us are still eating grains today, but unfortunately, we’re mostly eating highly refined, simple carbohydrates like cakes, pastries, cookies, processed cereals, and other crappy grain products.
The difference between the whole grains our ancestors ate and the refined grains we eat today is vast; many of the refined grains have lost most of their vital elements during the milling process and are nutritionally deficient.
That is why most breads and cereal products are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals.
In addition to losing nutritional value, the starches in highly refined grains are absorbed quickly, upsetting blood sugar levels that the body regulates by releasing insulin. Blood sugar instability contributes to type II diabetes, obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease.
One the other hand, traditional whole grains can contribute to a good night’s sleep, create a balanced feeling in the body, satisfy hunger, promote smooth bowel movements, long memory, and clear thinking. According to Steve Gagne, “Energetically, whole cereal grains finely tune the human nervous system in such a way as to affect every part of the body, to the extent of unifying it with the soul as one whole functioning organism. This was the legacy given us by our ancestors.” Seems like our ancestors were pretty darn smart.
I’ve worked with many clients that were suffering from brain fog and an inability to think clearly from abusing carbohydrates, sugars and grains (including whole grains). It’s very common, especially with thyroid disease and adrenal fatigue.
I’ve also worked with folks that have gone Paleo or Primal and found that they just were not feeling fully satisfied without grains in their diet. Not only that, but going without grain did NOT heal their thyroid conditions, and in some cases made it worse!
What is true is that not ALL grains work for all people, and they ALL need to be prepared properly to benefit health.
Whole grains traditionally were prepared by soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking. This process made them more digestible and increased nutritional potency.
Today, by rushing to produce food for the mass market, many of those preparation techniques have been lost.
All grains, beans, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors that exist in the outer layer or the bran. Phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc, and block absorption.
Zinc is essential for thyroid function because it is required to convert thyroid hormones T4 to T3. Phytic acid can also block absorption of iron that is essential for building strong blood. Many thyroid patients suffer with anemia (weak blood). Magnesium can be bound by phytic acid, and is essential for relaxing the muscles. Many thyroid patients, both men and women, complain of muscle cramping.
As you can see, whole grains that are not properly processed can be problematic for many folks.
Refining the grain by stripping the outer bran eliminates the potential anti-nutrient problem, but also eliminates essential nutrients, bran and fiber.
Before eating whole grains, it’s best to use traditional preparation methods. Soaking grains is one of those methods. Soaking can release up to 40%-70% (or more) of phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
Grains that have already been heat-treated, like rolled oats and kasha, do not need to be soaked.
When you’re ready to prepare grains, simply discard the soaking water and cook with fresh water according to the recipe (grain recipes here).
Cooking helps deactivate anti-nutrients in the grain. Which is one of the reasons I do NOT recommend eating raw sprouted grains! The preparation process is not complete without roasting or cooking. There are many foods you can eat raw, but whole grains are not one of them.
Our ancestors were smart and cooked their grains. Let’s follow their lead. I believe they knew better then modern nutritional science about what to eat and how to eat it.
Grains that can be appropriate while healing a thyroid condition include brown rice, quinoa, kasha, oats, polenta and wild rice.
Heartier grains that contain gluten like wheat and rye can be difficult to digest. Especially, if not properly prepared! I cover that information here: You Eat Gluten?
Remember to be cautious when reading what the experts have to say about the latest food science. Here’s a great quote by Mark Twain that sums it up: “Be careful of reading health books, you may die of a misprint.”
If you are suffering with thyroid disease and need more information about what to eat and how to prepare it, check out my upcoming Nourishing Thyroid Series for a whole lotta traditional and delicious food knowledge.
 The Energetics of Food, Steve Gagne, 2006, pg. 295