While it is becoming universally understood that white flour lacks essential nutrients that the human body needs and even promotes disease, the public does not have an adequate understanding of whole grains. We are led to believe that whole grains are a perfectly healthy alternative to refined grains when, in fact, they also present a whole host of dangers to our health.
The modern production of grains
When grains were first introduced to the human diet, they were not prepared and consumed as they are today. Pre-industrialized societies fermented grains so that they were more easily digested and their vitamins and minerals could be better absorbed. Today, grains are sprayed with pesticides while they are growing and then are milled at high temperatures, which causes their fatty acids to spoil and become rancid. The milled flour becomes even more rancid when it’s stored for long periods of time. Preservatives, stabilizers and additives are added to flour and it becomes much less beneficial and even harmful to our health.
The preparation of grains is so critical because their antinutrients can cause health problems if they aren’t properly treated through fermentation or soaking. One of these antinutrients is phytic acid, which combines with magnesium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc in the intestinal tract when it’s left untreated. This prevents the body from being able to absorb these nutrients. Therefore, consuming large amounts of our modernly prepared whole grains can cause the body to become mineral deficient.
Enzyme inhibitors are another antinutrient that can irritate the pancreas and digestive system because they don’t allow the body to properly break down sugars and gluten. This causes allergies and other digestive and autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease, Chron’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
The grain-less school of thought
Some health professionals believe that all grains, including whole grains, are not well tolerated by the human body and should be avoided completely. This has caused the emergence of the paleolithic diet, which resembles the diet of cavemen based on wild plants and animals. Before the development of agriculture, our ancestors did not have access to grains and some believe that the human body has not genetically adapted to a grain-based diet and that those who follow a “paleo diet” are less likely to contract diseases. While there are countless versions of the paleo diet, it commonly consists of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meat, eggs, roots, nuts, fruits and vegetables and cuts out grains, dairy and refined sugars.
Be smart about grain consumption
If you continue to consume grains, there are several things you can do to ensure that they will be better digested and more nutritious. If possible, buy organic whole grains and grind them yourself with a home grinder. If you’re short on time, look for organic stone ground, sour dough or sprouted whole grain products at the store. Also, grains are better digested when they are eaten with fat soluble vitamins A and D. Enjoy your grains with butter, cream or whole cheese to improve nutrient absorption.