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Rethinking Grain-Based Carbohydrates Part II

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Back in August I wrote a Part I article on the good, the bad and ugly of grain-based carbohydrates. While promising to deliver Part II shortly thereafter, a manuscript deadline got in the way. Well, here is the tardy Part II and by way of apology, I will rely on the old saying "better late than never." But, first a quick recap of the introductory article.

Part one discussed how there is little argument that taking away all the "white stuff" from your diet is a good thing. Removing all grains from our diet would not only be a good thing but, if the majority of us were to never again eat grain-based carbohydrates we would not miss any essential nutrients from our diet that we could not replace by eating plant-based foods. Grains, in their natural unprocessed state, are simply not designed to be eaten by human beings. Humans do not possess either the digestive enzymes or the multiple-pouched digestive system enjoyed by ruminant animals, which are capable of consuming and being well-nourished by grain-based carbohydrates in their naturally-occurring state.

Eliminating grain-based carbohydrates from our diet is also a simple way to remove high-calorie foods. Eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries and other living plant food is easily understood to be more nutritious and less caloric. Consuming a living foods diet has been identified by the Harvard School of Public Health and other research universities as the best disease prevention diet possible. There are also an abundant number of studies that evidence the healing power of living foods.

Also discussed in Part I were the pros and cons of whole grains vs. processed grains. The bottom line on whole grain is while the long-running Harvard Nurses Study evidences that whole grains improve outcomes of colon cancer, heart disease and type II adult onset diabetes because of the higher amount of retained fiber content, whole grains are still problematic for many of us who consume them.

Well-respected weight loss programs advocate removing all grain-based carbohydrates from the diet as an easy solution to weight loss. And, in fact, this works quite well for most of us. Even if the scale does not show an immediate weight loss we can still experience a noticeable improvement in how we feel and how our clothing fits due to water loss and the more rapid use of the stored fats.

Grain-based carbohydrates are not only higher in calories than other food types, but they also contain sugars and proteins that are non-digestible by humans. Most of us think of gluten as the main culprit in grain sensitivities, allergies and immune system insults, but there are several other organic compounds such as raffinose, stachyose, phytic acid (phytates), lectins and verbascose that are harmful irritants to humans yet well-tolerated and nourishing for ruminants.

We also explored in the first article how grains are refined to make them more digestible by milling out the non-digestible cellulose that protects the grain. Of course, the problem with trying to push this square peg into a round hole is that it backfires on us by causing not only the above mentioned issues but also increases the need for insulin. This can then lead to the overproduction of insulin and finally insulin resistance. Other serious health concerns such as metabolic syndrome are also the result of the overconsumption of high-insulin provocative foods, which are mainly grain-based carbohydrates.

It was interesting to note that the overwhelming majority of the Part I blog responders were very much "anti-grain" folks who had a lot to say about the evils of grains. While applauding my comments about the many problems related to consuming grain carbohydrates, the idea that there could be any redeeming qualities or a positive application and use of grains in someone's diet was seriously challenged by the readers.

The purpose of this follow-up article is to look at the issue of when can grain-based carbohydrate be an advantage nutritionally when everything we know points to grain-based carbohydrates being toxic irritants to the overwhelming majority of human beings?Understanding dietary compatibility is no different than understanding lifestyle choices, religious preference or an individual's chosen politics.

For those of us who cannot or do not choose to consume animal products, the use of sprouted grains becomes an essential part of a vegan or strictly vegetarian diet. This is true especially for pregnant or lactating moms or their rapidly growing infants, who need adequate amounts of amino acids for whole protein, a full complement of B vitamins and a reliable source of calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.

Sprouted grains date back to the ancient Hebrews, who developed the first form of bread with matzo (or matzah) by smashing uneatable grain berries into a paste, spreading the paste out on a flat surface to dry in the sun and creating edible and portable food that they could make anywhere and could easily carry off with them as their nomadic lifestyle demanded. Other variations of sprouted grain loafs are what are referred to as "bible breads."

One very tasty version of sprouted grain bread is named after the Old Testament prophet, Eziekel. In chapter four of the Book of Eziekel, the Lord directs the prophet to "take for your self wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for your self." The use of grain by humans is meant to be in sprouted form.

Sprouting grain berries converts non-digestible proteins, sugars and other grain components into plant quality amino acids, digestible sugars as well as neutralizes the harmful effects of lectins and phytates, turning the grain into nourishing and compatible plant food for humans.

In my private nutrition practice I see many pregnant vegan moms before, during and after the birth of their babies. While for many of us the inclusion of grain-based carbohydrates in our diet is not preferable or nutritionally necessary, to overlook the benefit of converting grain "seeds" or berries into vegetables that are nourishing and digestible for vegans and vegetarians would be a mistake.

For those of us who are dedicated vegans or vegetarians, sprouted grain is a blessing, as it provides the opportunity to create plant-based nutrition that will give us what we need nutritionally to be healthy and still avoid the pitfall and problems of non-digestible grain-based carbohydrates.

No one diet is for everyone, just as no one lifestyle or philosophy fits all people. When we consider nutrition this same principal applies. I recommend for those of us who are vegans or pure vegetarians that they learn more about the health-giving properties of sprouted organic grains. The magic here is that sprouted grains are no longer grains per say but are actually sprouted vegetables -- living food -- that taste great and are highly nutritious!

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