For many patients, perhaps the most frustrating part of eating a healthy diet occurs when they cannot eat foods that they are used to and therefore become confused and discouraged. It is not hard to eat and be satisfied with healthy foods and it is not hard to prepare them healthfully, it is just different. Grains are the most confusing. Let me first explain why refined flours or even freshly ground grains are not good for the digestive system. In pre-industrialized peoples, grains or flours were soaked or fermented before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles. American pioneers were well known for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits. In many countries there are examples of this tradition. Why was this so important?
As written in Sally Fallon’s cookbook Nourishing Traditions, all grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous in bound) in the outer layer or bran. 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 unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies. 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. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amounts of many vitamins, especially B vitamins.
Part of the problem with high gluten grains such as wheat is that they put an enormous burden on the digestive system to process. Over time the digestive system breaks down and then the evidence of allergies, celiac disease, chronic digestive problems and the like occur. During the process of soaking and fermenting gluten and other difficult to digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. Considering this information and the prevalence I see both within my practice and my family prompted me to clear up the confusion on consuming grains. Following is a pancake recipe taken from Nourishing Traditions that our family eats and enjoys. We find that we do not have a sugar crash, even with using real maple syrup, and that we are full until our next meal rather than needing a snack with in a couple of hours. I think this recipe produces far superior pancakes than you could get anywhere. We use kamut, which can be found at Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage as well as within some co-ops. We grind ours fresh the night before and ferment it with the use of vanilla kefir (we favor the Helios brand). The following recipe was taken from Nourishing Traditions in their bread and flour recipe section.
PANCAKES 2 cups freshly ground spelt, kamut, or whole wheat flour 2 cups diluted Helios vanilla kefir (maybe 6 TBL or so mixed with water) 2 eggs, lightly beaten ½ tsp sea salt 1 tsp baking soda 2 TBL melted butter
Soak flour with kefir in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Those with milk allergies may use 2 cups filtered water plus 2 TBL lemon juice or vinegar in place of dairy products. We haven’t enjoyed this as much, but it will work. Stir in the other ingredients in the morning and thin with water to desired consistency. Cook on a hot, oiled griddle or in a cast iron skillet. These pancakes cook more slowly than either unsoaked whole grain four or white flour pancakes. The texture will be chewy and the taste pleasantly sour. Serve with melted butter and maple syrup.
If you have any questions or are having a hard time finding any of the ingredients listed, email and let us know, maybe we can help you. Our hope is that this will help bring some enthusiasm to your family as you press on towards being as healthy and strong as possible.