Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that they have a difficult time digesting grains. Many of them have joined the paleo movement and have cut grains completely out of their diet. I even heard of someone having a bumper sticker saying that carbs=cancer. Although carbs do turn to sugar and sugar does feed cancer, I feel that is a little overboard. Whole grains versus processed grains Rice, a whole grain, has been in humans diets since about 2500 B.C. It’s a staple in both the Ayurvedic and the macrobiotic diets. I do feel that our culture over consumes grains, but not whole grains (rice, millet, barley, etc). Modern culture over consumes refined grains (bread, crackers, cookies, etc) and that screws up your gut. Refined grains feed candida, increase inflammation, and pack on the pounds. Eating refined grains is no different than eating sugar. Your body breaks it down in the same way, and you are likely to have a similar sugar crash. Whole grains in a Traditonal Chinese Medicine perspective are a beautiful food source. Grains are full of jing. Grains are seeds, and like all seeds and nuts, grains contain the fertilized germ cells and the nutrition to sustain a new plant…jing. This life potential within the grain is an amazing source of vital nutrition. The only issue is you need to be able to access it. If you buy processed grains, whether you’re thinking bread or even instant rice, that vitality has been denatured. And if you don’t soak your grains, you’re likely not going to be able to digest and properly break them down. The importance of soaking grains This is because grains have phytic acid. Phytic acid is what the plant uses in order to protect the grain. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. Think of it has a protective shield. In humans and animals with only one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. And the phytic acid molecule has these little arms that bind with other minerals in our body such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc making those unavailable as well. Phytic acid also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food including pepsin (proteins) and amylase (starch). Soaking grains for 24 hours reduces the amount of phytic acid significantly. That may seem like a long time, but it’s pretty easy to just put them in a pot of water overnight for the following day’s dinner. Another reason why I think it’s a good idea to soak/wash your grains is because you never really know where your grains have been. It is acceptable for foods to have a certain amount of mouse poop, bugs, etc in them and still be legally sold. Most of us wash our produce and meat before cooking it, so why not grains?
Here are a list of grains that you may not include in your diet but are yummy and full of vitality: -Brown rice -Millet -Barley -Quinoa (though technically a seed) -Amaranth -Buckwheat -Wheat berries -Groats (this is what oatmeal comes from…rolled oats have been processed so they lack vitality) Whole grains when soaked and cooked properly are an excellent source of nutrition and balance the diet. If you have been having a difficult time digesting grains after soaking them, you may need to take them out of your diet for a short amount of time while you focus on healing your gut and strengthening your digestive system. For most of us with a healthy digestive tract, soaking grains will be enough to avoid any unpleasant side effects. Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens Barley is an amazing grain. It strengthens the digestive system by strengthening the spleen-pancreas and regulating the stomach. It promotes diuresis so is an excellent grain for excess weight. It is very easilly digested. It quells fever in soups. Helps reduce tumors, swellings, and watery accumulations such as edema. Ingredients: 1 tbsp olive oil 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks 8 oz mushrooms 2 garlic cloves minced 2 1/4 tsp rosemary minced 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes 1 cup soaked barley 4 cups chicken broth 1 bunch kale Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add kale; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Cover and simmer until kale and barley are tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 10 minutes.