Throughout the world, grains are a staple crop. This is due in part to their ease of growing and harvesting. However, grains of various kinds have been grown for centuries in places including Ethiopia, Turkey, North and South America and Asia.
The varying forms of grains each have their own unique health benefits, however, an over-consumption has led to an increase in various health conditions from gastrointestinal disorders to mood and behavioral conditions. This is also attributed to the genetic modification of the grain crops either through hybridization or the abundant use of toxins (herbicides, pesticides and fungicides).
If you are considering going ‘grain-free’, it is also important to remember to exclude meat and dairy products fed a modern diet of grains, and choose grass-fed, pastured animals and animal products.
What are grains?
Grains include foods such as:
Foods considered ‘pseudo’ grains are
Wheat is one of the largest grain crops in the world, with a number of species. These different species are used to make grain products including pasta, semolina and farro. Typical wheat species include
Farro is made from either einkorn, emmer or spelt (or a combination). Bulghur and pasta is made from durum wheat.
Common wheat is primarily used in the manufacture of bread and bakery-based products.
Gluten-free grains can be difficult to decipher from all other grains that contain gluten. Some great ‘gluten-free’ grain choices are buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, wild rice and amaranth.
Grains that contain gluten by nature include barley, oats, rye, wheat (all species), kamut, spelt, triticale. Triticale is a genetically modified grain consisting of rye and wheat.
Today, many people eat a diet that is grain free, which is excellent, and they also tend to sacrifice foods commonly associated with grains, like legumes and nuts.
Legumes and nuts, much like whole grains are important in health and wellness but are mistaken in their association with grains. When eliminating grains from the diet, legumes and nuts are an excellent replacement.
The types of beans available is enormous and include black, pinto, green, adzuki, edamame, soy, lima, fava (broad), canneillini, borlotti, kidney, anasazi, butter, chickpeas, calico, mung and navy.
Peas include snow, sugar, snap, green, split and black-eyed.
Nuts are an excellent replacement for grains and include walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Brazil, pecans and macadamias.
It is good to know that peanuts are legumes.
What’s the difference between nuts and legumes?
Nuts typically have one ‘seed’ within a shell or pod, while legumes consist of multiple seeds within their pod or shell (that’s why peanuts are a legume as they often contain 2 seeds in one shell).
Today’s modern, fast-paced life has seen an increase in the incidence of food allergy and intolerance and metabolic diseases, which can be attributed to highly-processed foods with excess amounts of highly refined grains and sugars.
If you are considering reducing or eliminating grains, also consider what you can use to replace them with, assuming you have no underlying health concerns.
While many people struggle with digestion of grains, sprouted grains and legumes can be beneficial as they are already partially digested and the nutrients contained within them are more bio-available. Always speak with your natural health care provider before undertaking any diet and lifestyle changes.