Go with the whole grain Knowing which grains to eat can make a huge difference in how you feel, and may also have a big part to play in whether you get chronic disease. Being careful about the grains you eat is an important part of the BluePrint for Life.
Refined grains – a health hazard White rice and white flour products (cookies, donuts, cakes) = refined grains. Refined grains can cause blood sugar and insulin disorders, obesity, nutrient deficiency, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and inflammation, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Nutrition. These are some of the key factors underlying chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Refined grains – a health hazard Research shows that switching to products such as porridge oats and whole grain bread can reduce the risk of stroke as effectively as taking blood pressure-lowering drugs, according to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Since 167,366 Americans die annually from stroke, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics, this suggests that simply replacing refined grains with whole grains could save thousands of lives. Another three-year study of post-menopausal women published in the American Heart Journal found that eating whole grains such as brown rice slows progression of atherosclerosis.
When you eat refined grains, your body has to borrow from its own reserves of nutrients such as B vitamins in order to process the food. The body is left in deficit. This is why refined grains are often referred to as nutrient robbers. Whole grains contain fiber, vitamins and minerals, and trace elements, which we need for creating energy, making neurotransmitters, immunity, cardiovascular protection, and many other functions.
Blood sugar swings Blood sugar swings speed up the aging process and cause diabetes and obesity-related conditions. These are at epidemic levels in the US. Blood sugar swings make it very hard to lose weight because they cause insulin resistance. Excess glucose starts being taken straight to the fat cells. Elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, excessive inflammation, raised levels of free radicals, the stimulation of cancer cell growth, stiffened collagen, wrinkled skin, raised blood pressure, low levels of the ‘youth hormone’ DHEA, and excess blood clotting are all also connected to problems with blood sugar levels. Most or all aspects of the BluePrint for Life, including the lifestyle habits, are beneficial for blood sugar levels. Balancing your blood sugar is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Problems with whole grains? Grains, either whole or refined, were never a part of our ancient diet and may not be entirely compatible with our biochemistry. Some people do not digest grains well, especially wheat and other grains containing gluten -- and even whole grains can unbalance blood sugar levels when eaten in excess. Grains also contain phytates which can prevent the absorption of minerals we need such as calcium, iron and zinc. On the other hand, whole grains are eaten in the Longevity Hot Spots, and they certainly have some health benefits.
Problems with whole grains? If you eat them, do as the Hot Spot people do and enjoy them in moderation, as part of a balanced diet. Choose grains which agree with you. Wheat is a problem for many people whether they know it or not.
The best thing since sliced bread…? Cardiologist Dr. William Davis says that modern wheat is 'a perfect, chronic poison'. It is a modern plant created by genetic research in the 1960s and 1970s. It contains a form of gluten called gliadin which is particularly problematic. Gliadin is an opiate which binds to opiate receptors in the brain. Dr. Davis claims this causes us to consume an extra 440 calories per day because it stimulates appetite.
The best thing since sliced bread…? "We’re seeing hundreds of thousands of people losing 30, 80, 150 pounds [by giving up wheat]" (Dr. Davis). He claims to have found that people giving up wheat stop having diabetes, depression, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other problems. Wheat is addictive, especially when sugar is added. One cupcake never seems to be enough...
Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and supper. If you are having grains, make them whole grains and let them take up a quarter to a third of the plate. If you are used to getting take-away food made with refined grains, look for whole grain substitutes. Avoid white buns, white rolls, bagels, white sliced bread, white rice and cakes and cookies made from white flour as much as you can. Pasta does not cause as dramatic a rise in blood sugar levels as other white flour products since it is made from durum wheat. However, white pasta is still a nutrient-robber because the outer husk has been removed. Whole wheat pasta from home-grown flour is eaten in the Hot Spot Campodimele.
What should be on your plate? Potatoes and sweet potatoes are not a grain, but you can include them as an alternative healthy carbohydrate – choose organic varieties and eat the skin for maximum nutrient content. Sweet potatoes are higher in antioxidants and lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes. Chips and fries should be avoided as much as possible since they will spike blood sugar levels. If you suspect you are intolerant to wheat or have a wheat allergy, try cutting it out of your diet for two weeks, then eating a good amount of wheat over a day or two. Watch out for symptoms over the next three days such as bloating, gas, irritability or tiredness. If you have any of these, you may be intolerant to wheat.
What should be on your plate? If you have very severe digestive problems such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, you may well need to avoid grains entirely and stick to a grain-free Paleolithic Diet such as the one eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Whole wheat Whole wheat contains the fibrous husk and germ where the vitamins and minerals are. However, modern whole wheat is still likely to be problematic for many. Beware of ‘brown bread’ which can just be white bread colored brown.
Sprouted and sourdough bread Sprouted wheat is eaten in Hunza. It is a more digestible alternative to ordinary wheat, since the sprouting process breaks down much of the gluten and also frees up many of the nutrients in the wheat. Sprouted bread does not contain yeast and so is suitable for those with candida overgrowth. Sourdough bread is made with dough from wheat or rye flour which has been fermented partly with yeast and also with lactobacillus cultures. Sourdough bread contains slightly weaker gluten than ordinary wheat bread and is more digestible, since the carbohydrates and proteins are slightly broken down.
Durum wheat Pasta is made from durum wheat, a type of hard wheat which is also used to make certain types of bread, such as flatbread and some pizza dough.
Spelt Spelt is similar to wheat, but is a more ancient grain. It does contain gluten, but a slightly lower amount than wheat, and some people who cannot tolerate modern wheat do not have problems with spelt. It is higher than ordinary wheat in B vitamins, protein and iron. It can be used in place of ordinary wheat flour for baking, although it does not rise as high due to its lower gluten content.
Kamut This is another ancient type of wheat whose name comes from the ancient Egyptian word for ‘wheat’. It is more ‘natural’ than modern wheat in that it has not been engineered and it is also lower in gluten; many people who cannot tolerate ordinary wheat find kamut more digestible. Kamut is also richer than ordinary wheat in protein, vitamins and minerals. Kamut flour makes a good substitute for ordinary flour in baking. The kernels can also be cooked similarly to rice, or sprouted.
Barley Barley is another ancient grain which somewhat resembles rice and is a good accompaniment for casseroles or in place of rice. The Hunzakuts sometimes use it to make chapattis. Barley contains gluten but a weaker form than that in wheat. It is high in B vitamins, calcium and potassium (good for heart health). Use beige ‘pot barley’ rather than white pearl barley, since pearl barley is a refined grain.
Rye Rye is an excellent source of manganese and anti-cancer selenium, and is also high in fiber and B vitamins. It contains gluten, but this is a weaker form of gluten than the gluten in wheat. Rye is used in sourdough rye bread, rye bread, rye crackers and pumpernickel bread.
Oats Oats contain the weakest form of gluten. They contain good-quality fiber to help keep the colon clear of toxins and cholesterol. They are a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E, and omega 6 essential fats.
In the parts of Bama where life expectancy is especially high, brown rice is eaten. It was also traditionally eaten in Okinawa and is viewed as a health food in Japan. Brown rice contains fiber, magnesium, iron, manganese, anti- cancer selenium, and B vitamins. It is gluten-free. Brown rice has a fuller flavor than white rice and should leave you with a more satisfied post-meal feeling than white rice. Brown basmati rice goes well with Asian dishes, while short- grain brown rice can be parboiled and used to make risotto. Brown Rice
This is another type of whole grain rice which has a red husk. It is rich in flavor and a good source of B vitamins, iron, calcium and fiber. Red rice also contains antioxidant anthocyanins, which give it its color. Red Rice
Also known as forbidden rice, this full-flavored grain has a black husk and will turn purple with cooking. Black rice is a good source of fiber, iron, amino acids and some B vitamins. Black rice is also very high in antioxidant anthocyanins, hence its rich color. One study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that rabbits fed black rice had 50 per cent lower levels of atherosclerotic plaque than rabbits fed white rice. Black Rice
Corn is a daily staple in Nicoya and Bama. In Nicoya the kernels are soaked in lime, cooked, and ground into flour for tortillas. In Bama it is ground and cooked into something similar to polenta. In Campodimele, it is eaten on the cob with salt, pepper and olive oil. Avoid GM corn which is not proven to be safe; studies suggest it may be harmful to health. Rats eating GM corn have higher cancer rates. Cooked corn contains antioxidants and a compound called ferulic acid which is known to have anti-cancer properties. Corn is gluten-free. Corn
Millet is alkalizing, a good source of protein, B vitamins, minerals, and silicon (a part of collagen to help keep skin smooth). Millet flakes work well in porridge or home-made granola and millet flour can be used to increase the nutrient content of pancakes. Millet is gluten-free. Millet
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) is actually the seed of a fruit rather than a grain but can be used like a grain in cooking. Quinoa was called the ‘Mother Grain’ by the Incas and thought by them to cause long life. It is a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It is highly digestible. Quinoa works well as a substitute for rice or cous cous, in salads, with casseroles, in stir fries and in broth. Quinoa flakes are a good addition to porridge, and quinoa flour can be added to pancake mix. Quinoa is gluten-free. Quinoa
Buckwheat is the seed of a fruit and it has nothing to do with wheat. It is a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. It also contains rutin, which strengthens blood vessels, choline, a B vitamin which helps the liver to process alcohol, vitamin B17, a compound which is thought to have powerful anti-cancer properties, and D-chiro-inositol which is being studied for use in treating Type II diabetes. Buckwheat is given to Hunzakuts if they are feeling below par and it is popular in Japan as a hangover cure. In the West, we can get it as flour, flakes or noodles. The flour is good for baking and also works very well in pancakes, blinis and wraps. Buckwheat is gluten-free. Buckwheat
Amaranth is a seed which can be used in place of a grain. It was revered by the Aztecs, who believed that it gave them superhuman strength. It is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Amaranth is available as flour and has a nutty, malty flavor. The seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads. Amaranth is gluten-free. Amaranth
Hemp is a seed which can be used like a grain. It is eaten in Bama and used to make a soup known as ‘longevity soup’ which is eaten twice daily. Hemp is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals including calcium and magnesium. Hemp oil has been found to prevent eczema due to its essential fatty acid content. Hemp products are sold in Western health food shops in the form of hemp bars, nutty-flavored pastas, breads, and flour. The cold-pressed oil can be taken as an essential fat supplement and is also sold as a beauty product for skin and hair. Hemp is gluten-free. Hemp
ACTIVITY: Try to incorporate whole grains as opposed to refined grains in your diet this week. If you feel you may have a grain sensitivity (gluten allergy), then avoid all breads this week to see how you feel.