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Welcome back! Are you ready to endure through the home stretch in our series, 12 Steps to a Nourishing Diet? You’ve persevered to the end and I’m proud of you! Only one more after today. Today, we are going to talk about one of the easiest, cost-effective way to begin incorporating real food into your diet.
But first, I have two exciting news items! Amy K., you are the winner of my ebook, “A Primer for Nourishing, Homemade Recipes to Replace Unhealthy Food Products!” I’ll email you your copy today. Congratulations!
Secondly, my ebooks are finally available to the rest of you! Just hover your mouse over the store tab at the top of the page and you’ll see a drop-down menu featuring “eBooks.” Click on it and voila! You’ll see ‘em listed. Enjoy! They’ve been many months in the making with you in mind. I genuinely hope they serve you well! Keep checking back up there because I’m working on getting other helpful resources (like grain mills and mixers!) into my store.
Now, on to grains…
Preparing grains at home does not need to be daunting! Sometimes it seems overwhelming, but with a little guidance you can learn how to make just about everything that you would find in the store. First though, it is helpful to understand why it’s so much better for you. It’s hard to make the switch just because someone tells you it’s better for you. You need information to understand why for yourself!
I’ll start off talking about bread and wheat, but you need to understand that a diet that includes whole grains means consuming more than just wheat. I’m talking brown rice, wild rice, millet, spelt, quinoa, oats, amaranth, buckwheat…are you familiar with any of those? Each of these are very nutritious and would be beneficial to incorporate into your diet. We’ll touch on these later.
History of Bread Making
Did you know that most people, prior to the industrial revolution, bought freshly ground flour from their local mill? They made their own bread and it was from whole grain wheat or other nutritious grains. In the early 1900s, new technology allowed millers to develop a lucrative industry by separating the parts of a wheat kernel, allowing for the isolation of just the starchy flour for long shelf life and therefore, more sales. Farmers would not feed this to their animals, but they did begin buying the other parts of the wheat berry that were discarded by millers, which they then fed to their animals. This brought in even more profit to the millers.
About the same time, sickness began to rise. Diseases like beriberi and pellagra were rampant. Both are vitamin B deficiency diseases and are caused by the lack of Vitamin B-containing wheat components that were being removed from the milled flour that was being sold in stores. The solution? The bread industry decided to “enrich” breads with the vitamins and minerals that were lacking in the separated flour. They put 4 of the 25 vitamins that were missing back into the flour.
The Amazing Wheat Kernel
Did you know that the wheat kernel has three parts? The bran, germ, and edosperm are each full of nutrients. To leave out any of them means you are lacking in important vitamins and minerals.
The bran is the outer protective coating of the wheat berry. It contains a large amount of insoluble dietary fiber that contains great amounts of three different B vitamins, minerals, and a small amount of protein.
The germ has a high amount of B vitamins, fat, and a little bit of protein. This is the section that is often removed because of quick spoilage due to the fat and oil.
The endosperm is the source of white flour. This makes up 83% of the kernel. The endosperm is a rich source of B vitamins, fiber, protein, and iron.
Most grain, when properly stored can last for many years. It is only after being milled that it’s nutritional qualities are lost. Within 24 hours of milling, 40% of its nutrients are lost. Within 72 hours, nearly 90% are lost through chemical reactions with the oxygen in the air. This is why it’s important to use freshly milled whole grains. The wheat you buy in the store, even if it’s whole wheat, is rancid.
What about store bought products made with flour?
Unfortunately, the flour store bought products are made with is probably rancid, has been enriched, and has added preservatives to extend shelf life. There are brands such as Food for Life that sell sprouted grain products. This is a great alternative…but it’s also very expensive.
Eating store-bought cereal is a whole other topic. I do not buy it anymore for a host of reasons. If you’re curious, read this. It is easy to replace it with yummy recipes such as soaked granola, breakfast cookies, baked oatmeal, and eggs.
I rarely buy something made with or from grain from the store. I have learned how to make just about everything from scratch. It’s not hard, and it’s sooooo much better!
Let me make it clear that I am *not* perfect and occasionally buy grain products from the store. Please don’t hear a condemning spirit in my writing! I share this to make he point that it’s possible to do it!
Preparing grains at home is more economical
Making my own bread has definitely saved us money over the years. I was shocked when I realized just how marked up store-bought bread is! The only ingredients necessary to make bread are freshly milled wheat, water, honey, oil, salt, and yeast. Buying these products in bulk is the most economical way to go (read about this here and here).
To start, a grain mill and good mixer will be needed. This will be a high cost up front, but in the long run will save you lots of money. We saved money and purchased both at the same time a few years ago. This was the best kitchen purchase we have ever made! I use my mixer nearly every day (because of the blender attachment). Everything that I would use flour for has been replaced with freshly milled whole grains which I keep stored in our basement.
How to prepare grains
Okay, now that you understand why it’s so important to use fresh grains, how in the world do you prepare them? Glad you asked! It’s important learn a little more information about grains before diving in. You will definitely be providing more nutritious foods simply by serving whole grains, but you need to go one simple step further.
Most grains contain phytic acid which links with minerals and vitamins, making them difficult to digest. Over time, this could lead to digestive problems and is the reason, I believe, why so many people are gluten intolerant. To make grains more digestible and to ensure that your body is absorbing all of the vitamins and minerals readily available in the grain, it’s important to break down the phytic acid, or, to neutralize it. Here is helpful, detailed information from the Weston A. Price Foundation explaining this process:
“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.”
A general rule of thumb is to add 1T of acidic medium per 1c of water and soak at room temperature for 7-24 hours. (I use 1T plain yogurt when I make 1 serving of oatmeal.) Grains such as brown rice, millet, and buckwheat need less time to soak because they contain the least amount of phytates. Oats require the most amount of soaking time.
Simply soak the grain for 7-24 hours in half of the amount of warm water called for. Add 1 T of acidic medium (kefir, plain yogurt, whey, or apple cider vinegar). So, if you plan to make oatmeal for breakfast, you can soak one cup of oats, one cup of water, and 2 T of yogurt. Cover it with a pan lid or a towel and let it sit on the counter top overnight. In the morning, it will cook faster and will be much easier to digest. Simply add the remaining water and cook, adding any additional ingredients.
Quick Breads/Muffins and other Recipes
The same rule of thumb applies. Generally, for each cup of water called for, you can add 1 T of acidic medium. When milk is called for, you can replace it with kefir, an equal mixture of plain yogurt and water, or simply add 1T of vinegar to 1C of milk. To ensure that the dough/batter will be moist enough to work with the next morning, you can also add the oil or honey called for in a recipe.
You can do this with any grain and just about any recipe! In my ebook, A Primer for Replacing Store-Bought Foods with Real Foods, I have several recipes to get you started. Check back frequently for recipes that I’ll share using the soaking method.
I have transitioned to preparing bread, muffins, quick breads, cereals, rice, etc. by using the soaking method. I do not find that it adds extra time, just a little forethought. If I plan on making cornbread with dinner the next night, I will either begin soaking the night before or the morning of. The time and temperature does need to be adjusted from the original calling for non-soaked flour, but you can learn more about that in my book.
Where do I find supplies?
Local coops are the best place for finding your grains and honey.
I use a Nutrimill and a Bosch Universal Mixer. Both of these have been wonderful additions to my kitchen and have served me well. They both have lifetime warranties and I’ve experienced great customer service from the manufacturers. I recommend buying a mixer than enables at least 4 loaves of bread to be made at the same time. These are higher quality mixers and will last a lifetime (with a great warranty!).
I would also recommend a mixer over a bread machine, simply because you can maximize your production very easily. While a bread machine will yield one loaf of bread, you can bake 4 loaves of bread with a good mixer in the same amount of time. A little bit more hands-on work is required, but if you take into consideration the fact that using a bread machine would require you to repeat the process four times, the work involved is probably comparable. But I do know people who love their bread machines and it works best for their family. Do what works for you!
You can buy any of the food products in your local health food store, though each of them will probably be more expensive than your local coop or online in bulk.
Check back in my store soon for some helpful bread-baking products!
So, to sum up, consuming freshly milled whole grains that have been soaked is the most nutritious way of consuming grains. With just a little bit of thought and preparation, you can easily add this step to your repertoire while transitioning to whole foods.
Was this helpful? Do you have any questions for me about grains or how to prepare them?