Grains have been cultivated for thousands of years for their nutrient value. Our ancestors kept the seeds from wild grasses, and these gradually became the grains we know today. From brown rice and barley, to rye, buckwheat and wholewheat “berries” these complex carbohydrates, when thoroughly chewed and digested, aid a balanced metabolism and provide a complete range of necessary nutrients. Technically all grains are seeds, but the ones we refer to and use as grains are in the main those which are complex carbohydrates. However some such as millet and quinoa are sometimes described as seeds and further to confuse things are used as protein foods. Quinoa, named the mother grain by the Incas, has a high protein content as does amaranth, which was used by the Aztecs.
Why we need grains
In general they are part of a balanced diet for everyone, aiding blood sugar metabolism, reducing sugar swings and banishing cravings. Amaranth and quinoa can supply all the protein needs without needing to eat animals, and both also provide calcium, in fact quinoa has more calcium than milk. Both these grains are therefore especially useful for pregnant and nursing women, also people doing heavy work. In fact quinoa used alone, or amaranth combined with wheat, provides a better range of amino acids than in meat. Whether sprouted and eaten raw or cooked, this makes amaranth and quinoa invaluable long term sources of protein and calcium for vegetarians and vegans.
To sprout or not to sprout?
The general position on sprouting grains, and seeds also of course, is to increase their food value and their digestibility. The sprouted grain or seed is at its greatest vitality. Vitamins and enzymes increase many times, the starch content is broken down into simple sugars while the protein is converted into amino acids and fats are broken down into fatty acids. Altogether these processes make a strong case for always sprouting our grains and seeds. In these predigestion stages in the sprouting jar, the grains become much easier for us to assimilate, and it is noticeable that people with sensitivities to a whole grain may well be able to use it when sprouted.
One size fits all?
However as always when choosing foods and their preparation methods, it is essential to consider the individual’s metabolism and bodily type. Quite simply, though this goes against the grain (sorry) for some hundred-percent-raw-food-for-all-no-matter-what pundits, the fact is that not everyone thrives on a complete raw diet at least not all the year round, and particularly not in a cold climate.
To cook or not to cook?
If you are often cold and feel the cold, and are not very strong, with a weak digestion, this is an indication to have more cooked food of all kinds. If you are robust and resilient, you will get on well with lots of raw food including sprouted grains and seeds, although even strong constitutions may digest their grains better when lightly cooked. The Chinese system of physical types which includes conditions such as coldness, dryness, heat and damp, illustrates this principle, which can be helpful in deciding how often to eat raw and sprouted grains and seeds, and at what times of year.
But can I cook sprouts?
Why not? Lightly steamed sprouts added in the last minute to a stir fry are delicious, and if preparing them this way suits your digestive system, at least in the colder months, then go ahead. However don’t be tempted to go for the conventional vegetarian and vegan recipes which use whole grains or kibbled grains or even flours, cooking and baking them in large quantities and for long periods. Light steaming or brief cooking, better still the gentle “cooking” in a dehydrator regulated to 40 degrees centigrade, will help your digestion while maximising the nutrient quality of your grains. Whether you are planning a raw dish or a cooked one, all the grains you use will be more nutritious and more easily digested if sprouted first.
But grains are acid forming?
Yes, most grains are acid forming. The exception is millet which is alkali forming. However they can be made less acid forming when thoroughly chewed, and mixed with the alkaline saliva. This makes them also more easily digested and assimilated. It is essential for those with weak digestion to chew grains well, rather than avoid them, as in moderation they are an important component of a long term balanced diet.
Grains build the blood
The B vitamins and protein found in grains are essential for long term health, particularly for vegetarians and vegans. They also help to utilise the iron found in the grains themselves and in the vegetables, nuts and seeds which are the other vital ingredients of a well balanced diet, whether high raw or more cooked. The important principle to follow is to use these foods in their unrefined state, when enough protein, copper, and vitamin C will be available to ensure absorption of the all-important iron. So it is clear that whatever your constitution is, whether you are blessed with a strong digestion or need to take care of a weaker one, unrefined grains, preferably sprouted and if cooked, as lightly as possible, are essential for all of us. It is also clear that they need to be eaten in moderation and that they are most useful to us when balanced with fresh raw vegetables and salads. The proportion of raw to cooked food is a matter for the individual.
Using unrefined grains to help in Diabetes
In adult onset diabetes, where insulin is produced but not utilised because the diet contains too much fat. This applies less to vegetarians, however anyone with a sugar habit is in the same position, as excess sugar converts to fat. The answer is to use complex carbohydrates such as unrefined grains, vegetables and legumes, and reduce excess fat. If you already eat vegetarian high raw this will be no problem, as long as you watch your intake of oils and oily seeds and nuts, but for meat eaters this is the area to cut down.
A change in this direction should enable you to reduce insulin greatly, but don’t do it without getting your doctor’s assessment of your reduced need for insulin.
Grains to help a sluggish Liver and Gall Bladder
An overworked liver can result in sediment or stones in the gall bladder, causing indigestion and flatulence, chest pain, shoulder tension and a bitter taste. To correct this gradually and naturally, avoid heavy meats, dairy and meat. If you are already vegetarian, vegan, or high raw, avoid peanuts and either reduce consumption of other nuts and seeds or cut them out altogether for a while. For all, eat just unrefined grains, vegetables, fruit and legumes for at least two months. Add some specific foods which dissolve gall stones, such as radishes, and take flax oil daily.
Whole Grains for your heart
Whole grains contain what you need for a healthy heart. Use plenty of rye, oats, amaranth, also rice, buckwheat and sprouted wheat. These give you the niacin which is in all the grains, particularly brown rice. Vitamin E is also in all grains, especially in sprouted wheat, while the rutin in buckwheat strengthens the arterial walls.
Some other benefits from using grains
Some grains, especially whole wheat, oats and brown rice have a gentle but definite effect in calming the mind, and help insomnia. For best effect use a very simple diet for a while. Avoid alcohol, sugar, complex meals with many ingredients, spicy and rich foods, coffee and eating a large meal late at night.
Tabouleh using raw sprouted quinoa
Wash and rinse a cupful of quinoa, and let it sprout for 24 to 36 hours. Keep an eye on it. In hot weather the shoots can grow very quickly and they are not so good to eat when they grow long. Soak them in lemon juice and just before serving toss with generous amounts of fresh parsley and garden mint, both chopped or minced very finely. You can drizzle with olive oil or part of your daily dose of flax oil, or omit any oil. It makes a deliciously refreshing starter.
Sprouted Essene Bread
Soak 4 or 6 cupfuls of wheat berries overnight and let them sprout until the shoots are the same length as the grains. Grind them in a food processor, and spread the paste on dehydrator sheets. Dry at 40 degrees until crisp. Store in an airtight tin. If you prefer a sweeter and chewier version, mix with 2 or 3 cupfuls of finely grated carrot before drying. You can also add a few raisins. This version will not keep so long and is best stored in the fridge.
Millet with squash
Wonderful with summer squash fresh from the garden. Soak and drain 2 cups of millet then cover with cold water, add a piece of kombu seaweed for flavour and for the minerals, and gently bring it to simmering point. As soon as it simmers turn off the heat, fit the lid and leave it to absorb the liquid. You have the option to slow roast the squash and serve it hot in chunks on a bed of warm millet, or to grate it raw, dress with a squeeze of lemon juice, heap it on top of the millet and serve at once. Whether raw or roasted drizzle with olive oil and serve with a side salad of dark green tasty leaves such as rocket, mizuma greens or watercress.
Your checklist of grains
Amaranth. Barley. Buckwheat. Corn. Millet. Oats. Quinoa. Rice. Rye. Wheat. Spelt. Kamut.
For more recipes and for therapeutic uses of the Living Foods Programme refer to Living Foods for Radiant Health by Elaine Bruce.
Copyright Elaine Bruce 01584 875308 www.livingfoods.co.uk