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Be Kind to Your Grains...And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD   
Saturday, 01 January 2000 14:57

Read this in: Czech

The science of nutrition seems to take a step backwards for every two steps it takes forward. When the study of vitamins was in its infancy, researchers realized that white flour lacked the nutrients that nature put into whole grains. One of these researchers was Dr. Weston Price who noted in his studies of isolated, so-called "primitive" peoples that when white flour and other devitalized foods were introduced into these communities, rampant tooth decay and disease of every sort soon followed. But defenders of the new refining process argued that phosphorus in whole grains was "too acid" and was the true cause of bone loss and tooth decay. Warnings against the use of white flour went largely ignored.

Only in recent decades has Dr. Price been vindicated. Even orthodox nutritionists now recognize that white flour is an empty food, supplying calories for energy but none of the bodybuilding materials that abound in the germ and the bran of whole grains. We've take two important steps forward—but unfortunately another step backward in that now whole grain and bran products are being promoted as health foods without adequate appreciation of their dangers. These show up not only as digestive problems, Crohn's disease and colitis, but also as the mental disorders associated with celiac disease. One school of thought claims that both refined and whole grains should be avoided, arguing that they were absent from the Paleolithic diet and citing the obvious association of grains with celiac disease and studies linking grain consumption with heart disease.

But many healthy societies consume products made from grains. In fact, it can be argued that the cultivation of grains made civilization possible and opened the door for mankind to live long and comfortable lives. Problems occur when we are cruel to our grains—when we fractionate them into bran, germ and naked starch; when we mill them at high temperatures; when we extrude them to make crunchy breakfast cereals; and when we consume them without careful preparation.

Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.

Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.

Most of these antinutrients are part of the seed's system of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

Animals that nourish themselves on primarily on grain and other plant matter have as many as four stomachs. Their intestines are longer, as is the entire digestion transit time. Man, on the other hand, has but one stomach and a much shorter intestine compared to herbivorous animals. These features of his anatomy allow him to pass animal products before they putrefy in the gut but make him less well adapted to a diet high in grains—unless, of course, he prepares them properly. When grains are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting or sour leavening, the friendly bacteria of the microscopic world do some of our digesting for us in a container, just as these same lactobacilli do their work in the first and second stomachs of the herbivores.

So the well-meaning advice of many nutritionists, to consume whole grains as our ancestors did and not refined flours and polished rice, can be misleading and harmful in its consequences; for while our ancestors ate whole grains, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas, bran preparations and other hastily prepared casseroles and concoctions. Our ancestors, and virtually all pre-industrialized peoples, soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles. A quick review of grain recipes from around the world will prove our point: In India, rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas; in Africa the natives soak coarsely ground corn overnight before adding it to soups and stews and they ferment corn or millet for several days to produce a sour porridge called ogi; a similar dish made from oats was traditional among the Welsh; in some Oriental and Latin American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is prepared; Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by fermenting a grain called teff for several days; Mexican corn cakes, called pozol, are fermented for several days and for as long as two weeks in banana leaves; before the introduction of commercial brewers yeast, Europeans made slow-rise breads from fermented starters; in America the pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits; and throughout Europe grains were soaked overnight, and for as long as several days, in water or soured milk before they were cooked and served as porridge or gruel. (Many of our senior citizens may remember that in earlier times the instructions on the oatmeal box called for an overnight soaking.)

Bread can be the staff of life, but modern technology has turned our bread—even our whole grain bread—into a poison. Grains are laced with pesticides during the growing season and in storage; they are milled at high temperatures so that their fatty acids turn rancid. Rancidity increases when milled flours are stored for long periods of time, particularly in open bins. The bran and germ are often removed and sold separately, when Mother Nature intended that they be eaten together with the carbohydrate portion; they're baked as quick rise breads so that antinutrients remain; synthetic vitamins and an unabsorbable form of iron added to white flour can cause numerous imbalances; dough conditioners, stabilizers, preservatives and other additives add insult to injury.

Cruelty to grains in the making of breakfast cereals is intense. Slurries of grain are forced through tiny holes at high temperatures and pressures in giant extruders, a process that destroys nutrients and turns the proteins in grains into veritable poisons. Westerners pay a lot for expensive breakfast cereals that snap, crackle and pop, including the rising toll of poor health.

The final indignity to grains is that we treat them as loners, largely ignorant of other dietary factors needed for the nutrients they provide. Fat-soluble vitamins A and D found in animal fats like butter, lard and cream help us absorb calcium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and the many other vitamins that grains provide. Porridge eaten with cream will do us a thousand times more good than cold breakfast cereal consumed with skim milk; sourdough whole grain bread with butter or whole cheese is a combination that contributes to optimal health.

Be kind to your grains. . . and your grains will deliver their promise as the staff of life. Buy only organic whole grains and soak them overnight to make porridge or casseroles; or grind them into flour with a home grinder and make your own sour dough bread and baked goods. For those who lack the time for breadmaking, kindly-made whole grain breads are now available. Look for organic, stone ground, sprouted or sour dough whole grain breads (we have many brands listed in our yearly Shopping Guide) and enjoy them with butter or cheese.

Copyright: From: Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD. © 1999. All Rights Reserved.  To order Nourishing Traditions, go to





Modern cold breakfast cereals are made by a process called extrusion. The grains are mixed or mashed with water to make a slurry and then forced out a tine hole under very high temperatures and pressures. The shape of the die on the hole determines whether the final product will be a flake, a little O, a puffed grain or a shredded grain (for shredded wheat or triscuits). Extrusion represents extreme cruelty to our grains.

The industry has convinced the FDA that high-temperature, high-pressure extruded grains are no different from non-extruded grains and has contrived to ensure that no studies have been published on the effects of extruded foods on either humans or animals.  However, two unpublished animal studies indicate that extruded grains are toxic, particularly to the nervous system.

One study was described by Paul Stitt in his book Fighting the Food Giants: Stitt worked for a cereal company and found this study locked in a file cabinet.

Four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole wheat, water, vitamins and minerals. Another group received Puffed Wheat, water and the same nutrient solution. A third set was given water and white sugar, and a fourth given nothing but water and the chemical nutrients.

The rats that received the whole wheat lived over a year on the diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived for about eight weeks, and the animals on a white sugar and water diet lived for a month. But the company’s own laboratory study showed that rats given vitamins, water and all the Puffed Wheat they wanted died in two weeks.

It wasn’t a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition; results like these suggested that there was something actually toxic about the Puffed Wheat itself. Wrote Stitt: “Proteins are very similar to certain toxins in molecular structure, and the puffing process of putting the grain under fifteen hundred pounds per square inch of pressure and then releasing it may produce chemical changes which turn a nutritious grain into a poisonous substance.”
The other study, also not published but described over the phone to Sally Fallon Morell by the researcher, Loren Zanier, was performed in 1960 by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  Eighteen rats were divided into three groups.  One group received cornflakes and water; a second group was given the cardboard box that the cornflakes came in and water; and the control group received rat chow and water.  The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment and lived over a year.  The rats receiving the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition.  But the rats receiving cornflakes and water died before the rats that were given the box – the last cornflake rat died on the day the first box rat died.

Before death the cornflake rats developed schizophrenic behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions.  Autopsy revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves in the spine – all signs of "insulin shock."  

The startling conclusion of this study is that there is more nourishment in the box that cold breakfast cereals come in than in the cereals themselves.

Millions of children begin their day with a bowl of extruded breakfast cereal.  Do the toxic protein fragments in these cereals explain why so many of our children cannot concentrate at school?

Although there are no published studies on the effects of breakfast cereals on the health of humans or animals, there is one published study which looked at the process of extrusion on the proteins in grains (Cereal Chemistry. American Association of Cereal Chemists. Mar/Apr 1998 V 75 (2) 217-221). The study looked at zeins—grain protein-- which are located in spherical organelles called protein bodies, found in corn.  The researchers found that during extrusion, the protein bodies are completely disrupted and the zeins dispersed. The results suggest that the zeins in cornflakes are not confined to rigid protein bodies but can interact with each other and other components of the system, forming new compounds that are foreign to the human body. The extrusion process breaks down the organelles and disperses the proteins, which then become toxic. When the proteins are disrupted in this way, they can adversely affect the nervous system, as indicated by the cornflake experiment.

By the way, health food stores also carry extruded grain cereals. These cereals are made by the same process, and often in the same factories, as the cereals sold at the supermarket.  Usually these cereals are made with organic grains.  Organic grains contain more protein than non-organic grains. . . Which means that these health food store cereals probably contain MORE toxic protein fragments than supermarket cereals.

Breakfast cereals are a bad deal, all the way around.  They are very costly in terms of food dollars spent and their effects on our health.  So much better to have eggs and bacon for breakfast, or soaked and cooked porridges with butter and cream.



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Comments (33)Add Comment
Chill out
written by Maria, Jan 17 2014
To the person who took offence at referring to Africa as "Africa": why do you take offence. Nobody in Europe takes offence when referring to our cluster of nations as Europe. And nobody in the USA takes offence when referring to their 51 states as "the US." Chill out.
"The natives"?, Low-rated comment [Show]
Red Wheat Berries Soaked did not Sprout and Developed a Froth/Smelled Fermented
written by meg gould, Oct 07 2013
would like your advise.
planned to grind flour using sprouted red wheat berries.
soaked the berries and waited for them to sprout.
there were minimal sprouts...most of the berries did not sprout.
so decided to soak them again overnight.
the next day-the water was quite frothy and when i rinsed the grains, it smelled sour.
think fermentation has occurred.
gave the grains a few more days (7 days) to sprout, i would rinse them everyday.
today-decided to dehydrate the grains (very fermented smell) and will grind them to make flour.
wanted to know if this was alright to eat.
please adv. thank you.

Aerobic or Anaerobic
written by James, Aug 31 2013

Is phytic acid more efficiently degraded in the open air, or in a closed environment? Does this matter?

Soaking Grits
written by lynda, May 26 2013
I purchase non-GMO organic grits from a mill and they grind them to my specifications. I soaked the grits in spring water for 2 days and there was the fermented foam on top. I scooped that off, added a little bit of spring water and put it in my rice cooker with a tablespoon of butter. Mine cooked for about an hour, checking on it to make sure it didn't overcook. The result was the best grits we have ever eaten. I eat grits for the fiber factor.
For Infants
written by flakie, Mar 15 2013
I come from a part of Nigeria where 'ogi' is common for breakfast. Would you consider it ok, as in nutritious, to feed infants with porridge made from yellow maize, millet and guinea corn, (soaked for a number of days, off course) as part of their meals b4 they are a year old. Sometimes mixed with egg yolk.
the good of phytic acid!...
written by Semra, Mar 13 2013
culturing the buttermilk
written by Semra, Mar 13 2013
you can culture your buttermilk by soaking a broken tamarind (with shell) in it for 12 hours. Then use this to culture your milk or yogurt or whatever.
written by Karen, Aug 05 2012
Bran is cellulose. Humans do not have the enzyme cellulase to digest it whether it is soaked or not. that is why it is fed to cows
written by Don, Jul 16 2012
Where sre the studies that show fat soluble vitamins help us absorb calcium phosphorus, iron and B vitmains?
written by Don, Jun 07 2012
Where are the references concerning Phytic acid and mineral deficiency?

thank you
written by N., Oct 11 2011
Does anybody know, how the fermenting time affects the phytic acid, lectins and other antinutrients content in dough? Longer=better, i know, but with time the chance to spoil the dough also increases (especially if conditions in your kitchen are far fromm ideal), so I'd like to see some numbers.
written by N., Oct 11 2011
Shannon LeBlanc: "What about pastas, and popcorn? All bad? I can't imagine that pasta could be soaked overnight without becoming too soggy."

Popcorn? Do you REALLY need it?
The only healthy alternative I see is to make your own pastas from self-made fermented dough (I perfer pancakes with pumpkin/squash/zukkini added; as for me, they're much easier to handle).
written by N., Oct 11 2011
don: "people need to know that the "gluten" correlation with autism is only one hypothesis. If gluten is a problem then perhaps all we have to do is soak our grains in whey or yoghurt to partially digest them so what's all the hype about gluten for?"

Anoter robertevans?
There you can find some links for further exploration of this topic.
Last comment (for the moment) is mine (October 8, 2011 8:56 PM).

written by Bonni, Dec 02 2010
I would like to know how one makes soakes oatmeal cookies or granola bars. I'm thinkin' impossible. I say One tablespoon of acidic median to every cup of water Is good rule of thumb. Fresh whey, yogurt( which makes things very sour)lemon juice or vinegar. I try to soak all my beans, and nuts in whey and water even if it only calls for water soaking. Soaking small things such as rice, lentils, peas, and fresh seeds sour much quicker and I try to not let them go more than 12 hours. I would say to not soak pasta. buy sprouted pasta, or make fresh from sprouted grain. It is most likely the pasta was mada at High heat and is therefore void of much of anything worthy of soaking or probably eating for that matter. Hey I still eat it. I get the gluten free rice pasta. probably still just as bad. I would imagine things with really tough skins such as beans, nuts, oatmeal, and wheat are the the biggest culprits of phytic acid.
written by Elena, Oct 17 2010
I find it most frustrating to see an interesting article written with many informational holes and then to see many people asking questions, none of which are being addressed by the authors! Sally and Mary, you are a wealth of information and I am sure you are very busy, but if your goal is to bring awareness to people than you need to make time to fill in the gaps in your writing!

Just a few helpful hints to those who are soaking for the first time. You can also make your water acidic by adding kombucha or even wine to it (this is in addition to what DK wrote). Chlorine makes water more acidic, but it is not a chemical you want in your food. Tap water contains other compounds (like fluoride) that you are better off filtering as well. Adding a pinch of sea salt to your soaking medium (even if you use water that's not RO) activates many of the enzymes and is helpful! If you soak nuts in salty water they also taste better when ready to eat. You can also retain a small portion of the soaking water for future soaks because it contains already activated phytase, the enzyme that digests phytic acid and it will activate more enzymes in the new medium, - this practice will remove a geater percentage of phytic acid from your grains in each consecutive soaking. Health has everything to do with balance. Humans can eat meat every single day and be in vibrant health! Consumption of high quality, clean meats is best balanced by vegetables and grains. Our distant ancestors only ate vegetables and grains when they were available in season or could be stored or preserved by fermentation. Meat has been available to them year around and they didn't stick to just steak or prime rib when consuming the much cherished kill, so their meat consumption was also in balance because different parts of the animal are dense in different nutrients. This is exactly why including organ meats in our diet is beneficial. Not soaking grains in the hopes of getting rid of excess minerals resulting from consuming a diet out of balance is hardly an answer to anyone's health questions!
The grain soaking works.
written by Mary Lynn, Oct 11 2010
I was getting Rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago, and someone suggested the book Nourishing Traditions. After 5 months of changing our diet completely, I was 'cured' of the RA! We got rid of the store bought breads, started drinking raw milk and avoided refined sugar. After about a year, we started to 'fall off the wagon'. My husband went past Panera's on the way to work, and he started bringing bread home. Well, white bread is addictive, and I was busy with a baby and...started eating the bread all the time. After a month, my left joint in my thumb started to swell up, and got a painful bump on it. It was like a bone spur. It was extremely painful. I stopped eating the store bought bread, and in a few weeks, my thumb stopped hurting and eventually the bone swelling went away. I can 'recreate' this if I just start to eat bread again. That shows you how much damage this stuff causes to people. We got rid of our tooth decay by drinking raw milk and following the dietary guidelines found in Dr Fallon's book. We cut out those oils, and guess what? My blood pressure has gone to normal, and I don't have any more heart palpatations anymore either! My back injury that I had problems with for years (like pinched nerves) has stopped bothering me as well. It's AMAZING what good nutrition can 'cure'. And modern medicine has nothing on that. I also credit Dr. Fallon's book with helping my husband to get rid of his chronic indigestion he had since he was a baby (formula raised too, he would projectile vomit).
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Genet, May 13 2010
Ok . . ..I use raw milk at my house and after I make butter, I am left with the "buttermilk." This is fresh buttermilk though, and not cultured. If I wanted to properly soak the grains, would I need to culture this first ????
Anyone know ?
Reply to Jonathan
written by Mary , May 09 2010
I believe most of the grain collected during the time of Dr. McCarrison's research within India was during the period where the grain was left out after it was harvested. Thus it collected moisture and sprouted before it was ground for flour. Hence...sprouted whole wheat flour.
written by Jonathan, May 02 2010
Candida, your logic is flawed.

Following that idea, would not all your cells be deprived of minerals in as much as the cancer cells are? I can understand starving yeast to death but does cancer cells die faster than non-cancer cells? I have heard cancer cells can uptake sugar faster than non-cancer cells, so people say use more fat, however I don't know any alternative to minerals.
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Wyandotte, Apr 27 2010
Re phytic acid. The idea of dispensing with the fermentation of grains may have been an unconscious response to overmineralization. For decades, North Americans in particular went too heavy on the meat. It was meat 3X/day. There is such a thing as too much zinc, iron, etc. no matter how healthful the meat and overall diet were in abstract terms.

So, eating nonfermented grains may have ended up a two-edged sword, but our recent ancestors may have been doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
cooking in soaking water
written by Marija, Apr 06 2010
I don't understand the idea of cooking the grains in the soaking water. Wouldn't that leave the phytic acid in your meal?
Phytic Acid IP6 Friend or Foe
written by Candida, Mar 16 2010
This is in response to Helene. It would appear that overall phytic acid better avoided as it will chelate and remove many necessary minerals from the body.

However when an individual is dealing with Cancer it can work to deprive cells of minerals such as Iron which are needed for cell reproduction. As a result cancer growth can directly be inhibited through its consumption, however this is not to say that the individual will not also undergo some form of malnutrition as a result.

So ironically its BECAUSE of phytic acids ability to chelate minerals that it can benefit a cancer sufferer, however its a double edged sword again as the individual WILL be losing minerals overall as a result. Not to mention that it will also absorb and inhibit enzymes there are simply too many upsides to its avoidance.

In my opinion it would make the most sense to pursue soaking and the avoidance of Phytic acid since you will be intaking some inevitably. IMHO the benefits of avoiding it outweigh its potential benefits.
written by DK, Feb 24 2010
I don't know why some of the questions haven't been answered by now, but soaking pasta is a no-no. Some schools of thought might allow for making your own pasta with sprouted-grains flour--that's a different topic altogether though.
Acidic medium does mean to add acid to water, and regarding the chlorine question: tap water should ALWAYS be filtered to remove chlorine and other contaminants; and if reverse-osmosis water is used, a pinch of good quality unrefined sea-salt should be added to put back in minerals. Acid mediums to add: 1 tablespoon yogurt, buttermilk, FRESH whey (never powdered), or apple cider vinegar, preferably raw. Soak for a minimum of 7 but as long as 24 hours. Drain the water only if you prefer it, and cook as usual. You will find that oatmeal and cereal grains do not take as long to cook when they are soaked, and absorb the water better.
chlorine in water
written by oc, Feb 09 2010
Also, I wonder if the chlorine in most tap water affects the results of soaking grains?
soaking brown rice
written by oc, Feb 09 2010
About soaking brown rice I found this link to someone who explains how to do it: http://wholehealthsource.blogs...-rice.html

I would love to know more about soaking other types of grains too.
written by Shannon LeBlanc, Feb 04 2010
What about pastas, and popcorn? All bad? I can't imagine that pasta could be soaked overnight without becoming too soggy.
IP6 fights cancer, is phytic acid
written by Hélène, Jan 28 2010
IP6 is a nutritional supplement which strengthens your immune system & fights cancer. I take it. A google search says IP6 is phytic acid. How can phytic acid then be both an anti-nutrient and a potent cancer fighter and/or cure? Would appreciate an answer from WAPF, thanks.
written by quinn, Jan 19 2010
are we supposed to soak noodles overnight too?
what about rice?
written by KR, Jan 02 2009
Also, what do you mean by an acidic medium? Are you supposed to add vinegar to the water or something?
written by KR, Jan 02 2009
A question: when you soak grains overnight, do you strain them and disgard the water? Or do the grains absorb most of the water? Or do you cook the grains in the water they were soaked in? Does it matter?

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 19:45