Lately grains have been getting about as much love as fat did in the 80s, which is none if you’re not old enough to remember! The recent popularity of Paleo and Keto diets have people cutting grains out their diets completely. I agree with cutting out grains you are sensitive to, or those that come in highly processed forms like cereal, pasta, crackers, cookies, flour etc. I also think grains are a little misunderstood right now and I want to clarify what I feel is their place in a healthy diet.
Grains are a great source of fiber when eaten in their whole grain form. They are also high in B vitamins, and minerals like iron, selenium, and magnesium. Grains have been shown to help us with energy, provide food for the good bacteria in our gut, help prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke, prevent Type II Diabetes, cancer, and so on.
The reason Paleo diets avoid grains is because of their ‘anti-nutrient’ components otherwise known as phytates. When we eat foods containing phytates, they can bind to minerals in our gut so that we can’t absorb them, influence digestive enzymes, and interfere with the digestion of starches, proteins, and fats. Soooooo, you’re saying I should stay away from grains??? No, but you do need to know how to reduce the amounts of phytates in the grains before you eat them:
Cooking – will decrease some of the phytates, but also decreases phytase (the enzyme that breaks down phytates) so it’s not the most effective way to get rid of phytates.
Soaking – will help reduce phytates significantly. Soak your grains overnight as you would do with beans and then cook them the following day.
Fermenting – is another great way of dismantling phytates. The most common grain-form of this is sourdough bread.
Sprouting – grains such as those available in Ezeikiel bread products break down phytates.
Good bugs – probiotics create an environment favorable to breaking down phytates. Taking probiotics regularly and eating probiotic rich foods will further assist reducing your phytate load.
Enjoy some reduced phytate grains, healthfully!