|Photo credit Mike & Carol Werner|
Since I recently received my latest grain order and have been reorganizing my pantry and stock of grain and other staples, I thought it would be fun to share what I’ve learned about whole grains over the last eight or nine years in my quest to provide healthy food for my family: the role they play in our health, the variety of different types, and how to properly store, prepare, and use them.
I’m convinced that the epidemic of gluten and wheat intolerance, yeast overgrowth, and many other health issues we see today is due largely to the overconsumption of refined grains, and the overuse of wheat in general. I know that even in my own family, if we eat out or splurge on store-bought products too much, my husband especially suffers for it. He feels much better when he eats very little wheat, and then only my homemade breads, cookies, etc. By feeding my family fresh-ground and sometimes soaked, whole grains and using a variety rather than just wheat, I’m hoping to spare my children from the many health issues that stem from the misuse and overuse of grains, wheat and corn in particular.
When I began this journey, all I knew was that “whole wheat” was better than white bread, and I reasoned that homemade must be better than store-bought since it wouldn’t contain all the preservatives. So, I bought a bread machine, a bread machine cookbook, and some whole wheat flour and began making all my own bread. It took some experimenting, but I finally adapted a recipe in the cookbook I bought that worked well for me.
A couple of years later, I stumbled onto Sue Gregg’s cookbooks and ordered one to use to help me teach my kids (it was just the Dancer and Karate Kid at this point) how to make simple lunches and learn basic cooking skills. I was fascinated with the bits of health information in the cookbook, the pamphlet that came with it, and on her website, and ended up splurging on her whole cookbook set.
This was the first I’d ever heard of the benefits of grinding my own grain. After more research, I became convinced it was worth investing in a grain mill and started saving for one.
Do you realize that a grain of wheat (wheat berry) begins to oxidize and lose its nutrients the second it’s broken open and exposed to the air? Within 72 hours, up to 98% of the nutrients are GONE! How likely do you think it is that bag of whole wheat flour sitting on the grocery store shelf was milled less than 72 hours ago? They “enrich” it by adding back in four of the twenty-six original nutrients…but the synthetic forms of these four are actually detrimental to our bodies.
I was also very interested in learning more about soaking grains, which is also mentioned in Sue’s books. In a nutshell, whole grains contain phytic acid, a substance that binds itself to key minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and prevents their absorption in your intestinal tract. As I mentioned earlier, many people have trouble digesting gluten also. Soaking the grain in an acid medium like yogurt, buttermilk, or even water with lemon juice or vinegar added before using will neutralize the phytic acid while also breaking down the gluten and starches that can be difficult to digest. It also serves to soften the grain, making your baked goods lighter in texture. Not to mention, it saves time by breaking the process into two shorter steps! Fermenting (like in sourdough) or sprouting the grain achieves similar results. I hope to go into greater detail on the soaking process in the near future.
In the meantime, we began to do what we could. I soaked our rice before cooking and we experimented with recipes such as Blender Oat Pancakes and Baked Oatmeal (both of which are staples in our family now), which offer some of the benefits of soaked whole grains, even for those who don’t own a mill. I adapted most of my recipes to use whole wheat flour, honey, and sucanat and we eliminated white flour and sugar completely.
I’ll stop there for now. Watch for the rest of my story in the next week or two, and then I’ll go into more detail about the whole process and the different grains and ways to use them.
In the meantime, you might enjoy these past posts and recipes. The recipes utilize the soaking process but don’t require any extra equipment…you’ll need a regular blender for the pancakes and waffles, but that’s it:
- Bread Baking With Fresh Ground Flour 101 (my step-by-step tutorial for how I make my bread)
- Bread Baking Resources…Getting Started
- My Nutrimill
- Simply Scrumptious Blender Oat Pancakes
- Delicious Baked Oatmeal
- Simple Blender Waffles
- Super Simple & Flavorful Brown Rice