Do you eat whole grains?

Yesterday, I talked about being gluten free and the importance of eating a nutrient dense diet in lieu of highly processed gluten free grains. Most gluten free flour products are made from very refined rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and thickeners like guar gum or xantham gum. While it may be ok for the occasional treat,  these products should not be the bulk of our diets.  These highly refined grain products turn to sugar very quickly in our bodies, can spike our blood sugars and feed pathogens in our gut.

So, what about whole grains? Grains are considered to be “whole grains” when the 3 parts of the grain are fully intact after being harvested as they were out in the field. These parts include the bran, the germ and the endosperm. When grains are refined, the bran and the germ are stripped away.

The endosperm is the largest portion of the kernel and contains starchy carbohydrates and small amounts of proteins and  vitamins and minerals. The germ is the part of the kernel that has the capability of sprouting into a new plant. It contains fats, proteins and B vitamins.

The bran is  the outermost layer of the kernel and contains antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber.

For years, the recommendation has been to eat more “whole grains”. Our breakfast cereals are now made with whole grains, our breads are now made with whole grains and some of us may sit down to a breakfast of steel cut oats. That’s great, right?

Well, not really. See, the thing that no one is telling us is that the these grains require special preparation before consuming.  Grains contain anti- nutrients which must first be deactivated in order for our bodies to utilize the nutrients in the grains.

Phytic acid is one of those compounds which is found in the bran of the grain. Left untreated, it can bind to calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper in our intestinal tract and block their absorption. Those eating large amounts of improperly prepared grains where the phytic acid is not neutralized are susceptible to osteoporosis and bone loss.

Other anti-nutrients include enzyme inhibitors, which make digestion of the grain more difficult and puts stress on our pancreas, gluten, (the protein found in some grains) and  tannins.

So, do we not eat whole grains? No, not at all. We just need to be aware of how to deactiviate these enzyme inhibitors.   Soaking whole grains in acidulated water for a number of hours will do the trick! Not only are the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid neutralized, vitamins, particularly B vitamins are enhanced.

How to soak your grains:

  • Take the desired amount of grain.
  • Place grains in  a large bowl and  cover with warm (from the tap) water.
  • Place an acidic medium in the water with the grain. You will use about 1 TBSP of the medium for every cup of water used to soak. (note that I do not always measure this, I usually eyeball it!)
  • Acidic mediums include whey (liquid run off from yogurt), yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar.
  • Cover the bowl with towel and leave in a warm spot in your kitchen for about 12 hours.
  • Cook as desired.

Note that cooking time and the amount of liquid needed will be slightly less for grains once they are soaked. There is no need to rinse them after soaking, but if you wish to, go ahead!

Soaked rolled oats cook up very quickly in the morning- in about 5-10 minutes!

Soaked whole grains are nutritious and gentle on the body. Try to avoid grains that are improperly prepared ( as in cookies, cakes, whole grain dishes) or high heat extruded grains like those in breakfast cereals. (More about those tomorrow)!




  1. This is great, Annmarie. Thank you. What’s your position on Rice cookers for oats, etc. I have one that I rarely use, but given this information, thought I could soak my oats with a little lemon juice overnight and then cook in the morning. This might be obvious to some, but I’m still searching for my roots in the kitchen… 🙂

    • Hi Susan,
      I would think they are fine. I don’t have one here but have used rice cookers before. My only question would be what the inside is made of. I would be concerned if the inside were teflon, but there are some cookers that are stainless steel or ceramic.

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