Why eat Whole Grains?

Whole grains: Amaranth, Barley, Brown Rice, Buckwheat (groats, Kasha), Bulgur, Corn, Emmer, Farro, Kamut, Millet, Oats & Oatmeal  Popcorn, Quinoa, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Triticale, Rye, Wheat, Wild Rice

They’re delicious. Each whole grain has it’s own flavor — nutty, sweet, rich flavors and great textures. Many people think they don’t like them because the bread made in the 70’s was full of carob, soy, molasses and other bad tasting, hard to choke down nutritious ingredients.

If you think bread is supposed to taste like cardboard, it can be hard to make a transition, but it’s worth a try.  You can always add lots of your favorite ingredients to make something you’ll like.

Lose weight. You’ll feel fuller longer because whole grains have fiber and complex carbohydrates that take a while to break down, unlike white flour and white rice, which send blood sugar and insulin levels on a roller coaster ride, bringing hunger back quickly, and a risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Fast and easy!  Get crackers, quick bread, flatbreads into the oven in 5 minutes. 

Save Money.  Home-made cereal, bread, crackers, chips, cookies and so on can be 95% cheaper than store bought.  And the amount of money saved on healthcare?  Priceless.

Whole grains are healthyThe March 2008 issue of Consumer Reports says that eating whole grains is the #1 action you can take to improve your health (besides quitting smoking).

Food made with white flour is unhealthyWhite flour has been stripped of nutrition.  This ought to be a crime!  The bran and germ parts of wheat kernels have been removed, which contain most of the fiber, essential healthy oils, vitamins, minerals, a quarter of the protein.

Rats fed on white bread have died, so the missing nutrition is a big deal.  Bread used to be called the staff of life because you could live off of it.  For most of human history, bread comprised 70% of people’s diets.              

Because flour is milled into a starch, it no longer behaves or tastes like flour, so up to 30 chemicals are added.  These chemicals stabilize, soften, and extend the already long shelf life of white flour.  Bakers often add a lot of sugar and salt to hide the chemical taste of white flour, and fat as well, to get you to buy their products.

David Kessler, in “The End of Overeating”, interviewed a food expert who told him that more than any other kind of food, bread and crackers have a lot more salt, sugar, and added fat than people realize.

Bake with whole grains because you can’t be sure you’re buying a whole grain product, despite the labeling.  Many products that sound like they’re whole grains aren’t, or only partially so.  The brown color in “wheat” bread is often molasses or caramel food coloring.  Manufacturers can get away with this because there aren’t any rules about labeling food as whole grain, and the USDA and FDA don’t have the staff or budget to go after false claims.  Even expensive bread bakeries falsely advertise their products.

Not one of the following descriptions means the product is whole wheat:

Multi-grain                    9 grain              Cracked wheat             Stone Ground

Bran                             Wheat Germ     Enriched Flour  Healthy multigrain

Wheatberry                  Hearty grain      Sprouted Wheat           Mixed Grain

Enriched flour               Wheat flour      Bromated flour

unbleached Organic wheat flour (the favorite tricky wording at artisanal bakeries)

Grains are 25% of what you’re supposed to eat.  See Myplate.gov for specifics

You can only eat so many calories a day: so make them count!

Whole grain quick and flat breads have hundreds of fast and easy variations

Gluten-free.  Crackers, flatbreads, quickbreads, muffins, cookies and more can be made from oatmeal, or these flours: corn, bean, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, brown rice, oats, and quinoa.

Prepare your family for emergencies. I live in California, the shake and bake state, so I keep grain on hand for the next fire or earthquake.  And tons of other problems – hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, volcanic eruptions, power outages, floods, droughts, snowstorms, gasoline shortages, a financial meltdown, the avian flu, landslides, etc.

Whole grain wheat flour is packaged so it won’t go rancid for about a year, and oatmeal lasts about two years.  Buy enough to last several weeks to make quick nutritious meals until electricity and other services are restored.

Better yet, buy the grains themselves – wheatberries, rye, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, and so on.  Mill them with a home grain mill into wheat or multi-grain flour and oatmeal.  Grains stored whole, as seeds, can last for 10 to 25 years if stored optimally.  With a Family Grain Mill, you can quickly mill what you need within minutes, and can grind manually as well.

A grain mill will quickly pay for itself, and the health benefits of fresh flour are priceless.  The fresher the flour, the more nutrition it has, and it’s best within 48 hours of milling (as well as for best flavor).

Sneak good nutrition into your children’s diet.

The November 2008 Consumer reports issue looked at the top 27 cereals marketed to children (adults eat 58% of these cereals).  Not even one cereal was rated excellent. Four were rated very good, though all of them had too much sodium, too little fiber (3 grams at best, you need 20-35 grams per day depending on your sex, age, and weight), and two contained too much sugar per serving.  Roughly $229 million was spent on marketing these cereals – no wonder the price is at least ten times the cost of cereal you could make at home. The other 23 cereals were merely good or fair.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories—for example, 21 grams for someone eating 1,500 calories a day, or 35 grams for someone eating 2,500 calories.

Home made whole-grain cereal, granola, oatmeal, cracked grains, breads, scones, muffins, pancakes, and so on have so much variety in texture, taste, aroma, and visual appeal that even finicky children will look forward to breakfast.

But schools have found that it’s best to slowly increase the amount of whole grains in food rather than suddenly introduce them.  Some kids will balk once you reach about 75% whole grain, but that’s still better than none at all.

Support local farmers.   

When you use whole grains rather than buy manufactured products, the farmer gets more of the profits, and there’s no wasteful packaging.

Whole grains help the planet.

Too much energy is used to ship grain to the very few flour mills left, and then back again to grocery stores

Baked whole grain breads, cookies, cakes, etc make great gifts.

Climate Change

As climate change makes successful crops less likely, and the energy to fertilize, harvest, process, and distribute food grows more expensive, bread is likely to regain its importance in our diet.  Typically an animal eats ten pounds of grain to gain one pound of meat, so beef, pork, and other meat is likely to become prohibitively expensive for many, with grain a much cheaper (and healthier) alternative.

Start your own small business baking whole grain goods

If you have time but no money to invest in a whole grain mill (they cost $70 and up), then ask someone you know for a loan.

If you have money but no time, rent a grain mill to an unemployed friend and pay him or her back by buying whole grain bread, cereal, etc.

If enough people start to bake their own healthy whole grain goods, it won’t be long before the prices on the best grain mills drop as more are produced.

About Alice

I've milled and baked with whole grains for many years, because whole grains are delicious, and white flour is missing the nutrition that protects you from cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. Plus it's a good emergency food.
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