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 www.newtrendspublishing.com.
THE DANGERS OF MODERN BREAKFAST CEREALS
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.