True Grit on Whole Grains
You know how government-issued health claims are constantly changing your diet? Well the claim that you’re eating “whole grains” with the FDA and USDA’s stamp of approval is just plain not true. Their assurance is stamped right on their federally subsidized products. And let’s just put it this way–you are not eating whole grains. Not in the least. To give a quick science lesson on what constitutes a whole grain, it’s best to see the diagram.Whole Grains Council. One hundred percent of the original kernel must be present: the bran (skin), germ (seed) and endosperm (meat if you will). If all are intact then it’s a whole grain. So, unless your breakfast cereal is a literal oat, then it is not a whole grain. If it is a bowl of millet, quinoa or wheat berries, then you’re having a bowl of whole grain cereal. If you’re having a bowl of your average name brand or generic breakfast cereal, I’m sorry but it’s not a whole grain (including the organic varieties). No matter what the Food and Drug Administration says. (I mean administering “drugs” is right in their title.) Most cereals have been refined and enriched where much of the true whole grain nutrients are stripped out. Refined grains being sold with the Whole Grain stamp of approval is labeling trickery at its finest. In the U.S. in order to receive the 100 % Whole Grain stamp there must be at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving. This is considered a full serving of whole grain; the rest of that serving is made up of vicious refined and enriched grains. So you are definitely not getting a whole grain.
Picture taken from www.theslowcook.com
Whole grains are at the bottom of the food pyramid, meaning you should be consuming more grains daily than anything else. So you think bring on the carbs. Pasta, cereal, crackers, so what’s another roll? Well these two things are not one and the same. If you were eating true whole grains then you would probably not gain a pound. Our digestive tracks would run effortlessly because true whole grains are made up of natural fibers and proteins. Historically humans have been consuming these forms of nutrition for at least thousands of years, so our digestive system recognizes grains in their natural form and it knows how to break them down. Add man-made chemically concocted vitamins that act as nutrients in a whole grain and we can’t process it. We have been consuming these added chemical nutrients for the last 80 years. In the last 80 years in America, diet-related disease has been the number one killer. This statistic was reported in 2003 by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA):”Two-thirds of premature deaths are caused by poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco. HHS estimates that unhealthy eating and inactivity cause about 1,200 deaths every day. That’s 5 times more than the number of people killed by guns, HIV, and drug use combined.” The Center for Disease Control has this posted on their website, “During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.” And people think the “news” is scary.
Here comes illnesses like celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Now I’m not a doctor, scientist or nutritionist but this may be evolution’s way of telling our bodies that they cannot handle today’s refined grains. This is not to say that if you have celiac disease you have eaten too many refined grains. What it may mean is that collectively our human bodies are creating a new way to deal with these unnaturally processed foods. I can only imagine that we are rejecting them altogether. Virtually most real whole grains are gluten free. Oats (uncontaminated by other wheat’s), amaranth, buckwheat, corn (if you can find non-GMO), quinoa, rice (not white rice–it’s been bleached, refined and stripped) and many others. The conclusion is that if we were eating true whole grains like times of yesteryear or just in another country then these epidemics might not be on the rise.
Another fun fact about whole grains is that there are various grains grown all around the world that can withstand different climates. Virtually anywhere in the world people are growing a grain you’ve probably never even heard of. Sorghum for example is grown worldwide and feeds many populous nations. Here in the U.S. it is mainly fed to animals. This gluten free grain is highly malleable for all baking needs. Why not give this a try instead of your ordinary all-purpose flour which is a wheat seed that has been crushed, grinded to a dust and bleached (typically using chlorine gas or benzoyl peroxide in the process). Clearly all the nutrients have been depleted at this point so the manufacturers figure let’s just add them back in using our own chemically created “nutrients” like niacin and riboflavin. Simply put, our bodies can’t digest these chemical nutrients or the heavily processed flour. Our digestive system treats them like foreign invaders, storing them in our fat cells, which then break down to free radicals which may lead to cancerous cell production over time.
Picture taken from www.lifeintheusa.com
Where did this breakdown occur in nutrition information to the American public? Well there is a lot of false advertising going on in food product labeling. The problem is manufacturers are trying to sell their cheap refined grains as whole grains using clever labeling tactics. The solution is in the ingredient labeling. If it says “whole oats” then that’s what you’re having. They appear in the order from most to least amounts in the product. My motto for processed food (cereals, crackers, etc.) is if I can read and recognize every word in the ingredients as human food (seeds, whole grains, etc.) and there are only five ingredients in the product, then I will buy it. This way I ensure minimal processing, however there will always be processing in a food “product.”
So how can you save yourself in these indeterminable times where today’s mega food retailers are almost void of whole grain and overly bountiful in refined, enriched grains? My suggestion is this: Read the ingredients and avoid anything that says enriched or bleached, added vitamins and minerals, etc. Try to buy bulk grain and cook it in its whole form. Oh and of course make sure you buy organic so you can determine there was at least some standards taken to maintain the quality of the grain. Let’s not even get into how genetically engineered and modified foods have played into these epidemics. (For more on that watch the Future of Food documentary.) Most grains are cooked the same way. Two parts water and one part grain. Cooking times vary, however foods like quinoa are on the table in nearly 20 minutes. You can do this. Start requesting more whole grain goodness (like the USDA suggests we eat) and surely the manufacturers will have to respond.
Sausage Broccoli Quinoa- a little something I concocted earlier this week. Legit 30 minute meal. 1 pound lean ground pork OR pork sausage removed from casing (if using sausage- omit seasoning) 1 pound broccoli raab, broccoli or broccolini – roughly chopped 1 ½ cups quinoa 3 cups water or chicken broth 1 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1/3 cup dry white wine Extra virgin olive oil (you decide) (Seasoning) 1 teaspoon fennel seed Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste) Freshly ground black pepper Pink Himalayan salt to taste (okay I’m a salt snob!) 1 teaspoon Bell’s seasoning or a poultry seasoning Blanch the broccoli and set aside. Rinse quinoa under cold running water. Cook water and quinoa in medium sized pot. Bring to boil and reduce heat to a simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. Cook gently or you’ll break the grain. Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan, cook onions, pork or sausage, and seasoning on medium heat until browned and cooked thoroughly. Add the broccoli and garlic to the sauté pan and deglaze with the white wine. While reducing add the quinoa and stir to mix evenly. Serves 4 large portions or 6 sides. Add any fresh herbs or cheese to top that you’d like. Serve with a simple side salad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour www.wholegrainscouncil.org
**** After this article was published, I was contacted by Cynthia Harriman the Director of Food & Nutrition Strategies for The Whole Grains Council & Oldways. To clarify the definition I presented on what constitutes a whole grain for the 100% stamp, she specified this:
“First of all, a whole grain does not need to be intact to be WHOLE. As long as all of its bran, germ and endosperm are present, it’s a whole grain — so whole wheat flour is a whole grain, even though the wheatberries have been milled into flour; all the parts are still there.
Second, foods that contain refined or enriched grains do NOT qualify for the 100% Whole Grain Stamp. The requirements for the 100% Stamp are 1) that ALL the grain in the product must be whole grain AND 2) that the product contain at least 16g of whole grain. If a product bears the 100% Whole Grain Stamp you will NOT be getting any refined or enriched grains.”
I would apologize if my information was misleading however I would argue that while this is the guidelines for labeling Whole Grain products, they are still 1.) a “product”- thus not always necessarily a whole grain and 2.) any refined flour loses nutrient value even if it is whole wheat flour-so… in moderation perhaps .3. While this is the definition for the 100% Whole Grain stamp, the Whole Grain stamp in various forms (without 100%, etc.) can still be in rotation. According to their website this was printed, ”
“Q. HOW MUCH ACTUAL WHOLE GRAIN IS IN A PRODUCT BEARING THE WHOLE GRAIN STAMP?
A. Any and all products with the Stamp contain at least half a serving (8 grams, also written as 8g) of whole grain ingredients. The amount of whole grain in a product is stated on all Whole Grain Stamps in Phase II of the Stamp program, since June 2006.
Until manufacturers use up their existing package and make the switch, you may still see products using earlier Whole Grain Stamps. With these Phase I Stamps, “Excellent Source” and “100% Excellent Source” Stamps identify products that contain 16g (16 grams) or more of whole grain ingredients, and a “Good Source” Stamp identifies products containing at least 8g (8 grams) of whole grain ingredients.
With both the current Stamps and the earlier Stamps, the minimum level of whole grain content is 8g. The 8 gram minimum is based on the latest research on whole grains and health. Both government and academic scientists agree that people should aim for three servings a day of whole grains. A serving is defined as at least 16 grams of whole grain content. So all products bearing the Stamp offer at least half a serving (8 grams) of whole grains. Most offer a lot MORE, so look for the Stamp and enjoy your whole grains.”