Articles with 'whole grains'

Are You Confused About Whether or Not Grains Are Good For Health? You Are NOT Alone!


collection of grains in wooden spoonKnowing what to eat should be a simple and pleasurable experience, but for many folks food choices can create panic.

And, for good reason – modern food science can drive you crazy!

The food science experts in the 1970’s told us to fear fat, so everyone switched to fat-free foods and butter substitutes like margarine and vegetable oil.

Forty years later we know margarine is total crap and excessive amounts of plant-based oils high in Omega 6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation and throw the body out of balance. “Most North Americans and Europeans get far too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. This imbalance may explain the rise of asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inappropriate inflammation in the body.”[1]

In the 1980’s the experts told us to fear sugar and the market became saturated with artificial sweeteners. Today, the links between many diseases and artificial sweeteners is growing. “In the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”[2]

Now the experts are at it again. This time telling us to fear grains. Oy vey! Here we go again.

But, this time the food experts are correct. Chances are, if you are eating grains that are NOT properly prepared they can be damaging your body.

For thousands of years grains have been healthfully eaten by much of the world’s populations.

Many of us are still eating grains today, but unfortunately, we’re mostly eating highly refined, simple carbohydrates like cakes, pastries, cookies, processed cereals, and other crappy grain products.

The difference between the whole grains our ancestors ate and the refined grains we eat today is vast; many of the refined grains have lost most of their vital elements during the milling process and are nutritionally deficient.

That is why most breads and cereal products are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals.

In addition to losing nutritional value, the starches in highly refined grains are absorbed quickly, upsetting blood sugar levels that the body regulates by releasing insulin. Blood sugar instability contributes to type II diabetes, obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease.[3]

One the other hand, traditional whole grains can contribute to a good night’s sleep, create a balanced feeling in the body, satisfy hunger, promote smooth bowel movements, long memory, and clear thinking. According to Steve Gagne, “Energetically, whole cereal grains finely tune the human nervous system in such a way as to affect every part of the body, to the extent of unifying it with the soul as one whole functioning organism. This was the legacy given us by our ancestors.”[4] Seems like our ancestors were pretty darn smart.

I’ve worked with many clients that were suffering from brain fog and an inability to think clearly from abusing carbohydrates, sugars and grains (including whole grains). It’s very common, especially with thyroid disease and adrenal fatigue.

I’ve also worked with folks that have gone Paleo or Primal and found that they just were not feeling fully satisfied without grains in their diet. Not only that, but going without grain did NOT heal their thyroid conditions, and in some cases made it worse!

What is true is that not ALL grains work for all people, and they ALL need to be prepared properly to benefit health.

Whole grains traditionally were prepared by soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking. This process made them more digestible and increased nutritional potency.

Today, by rushing to produce food for the mass market, many of those preparation techniques have been lost.

All grains, beans, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors that exist in the outer layer or the bran. Phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc, and block absorption.

Zinc is essential for thyroid function because it is required to convert thyroid hormones T4 to T3. Phytic acid can also block absorption of iron that is essential for building strong blood. Many thyroid patients suffer with anemia (weak blood). Magnesium can be bound by phytic acid, and is essential for relaxing the muscles. Many thyroid patients, both men and women, complain of muscle cramping.

As you can see, whole grains that are not properly processed can be problematic for many folks.

Refining the grain by stripping the outer bran eliminates the potential anti-nutrient problem, but also eliminates essential nutrients, bran and fiber.

Before eating whole grains, it’s best to use traditional preparation methods. Soaking grains is one of those methods. Soaking can release up to 40%-70% (or more) of phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.

Grains that have already been heat-treated, like rolled oats and kasha, do not need to be soaked.

When you’re ready to prepare grains, simply discard the soaking water and cook with fresh water according to the recipe (grain recipes here).

Cooking helps deactivate anti-nutrients in the grain. Which is one of the reasons I do NOT recommend eating raw sprouted grains! The preparation process is not complete without roasting or cooking. There are many foods you can eat raw, but whole grains are not one of them.

Our ancestors were smart and cooked their grains. Let’s follow their lead. I believe they knew better then modern nutritional science about what to eat and how to eat it.

Grains that can be appropriate while healing a thyroid condition include brown rice, quinoa, kasha, oats, polenta and wild rice.

Heartier grains that contain gluten like wheat and rye can be difficult to digest. Especially, if not properly prepared! I cover that information here: You Eat Gluten?

Remember to be cautious when reading what the experts have to say about the latest food science. Here’s a great quote by Mark Twain that sums it up: “Be careful of reading health books, you may die of a misprint.”

If you are suffering with thyroid disease and need more information about what to eat and how to prepare it, check out my upcoming Nourishing Thyroid Series for a whole lotta traditional and delicious food knowledge.




[4] The Energetics of Food, Steve Gagne, 2006, pg. 295

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Good Carb, Bad Carb


There seems to be a lot of confusion around whole grains, and good and bad carbohydrates.  I think the pandemonium occurred somewhere along the path of human food consumption when someone erroneously stated that all carbohydrates were bad.  Who knows how it happened? I can only guess that maybe an innocent victim was wolfing down an oversized bagel too quickly and it got lodged in his throat.  He dropped dead on the spot with the bagel hanging suspiciously out of his mouth.  A bystander witnessing this tragedy shouted, “Look!  Carbohydrates kill!” And thus carbo-phobia was born and all carbs were labeled bad.

Once we become educated about the effects of “good and “bad” carbohydrates in the human body, irrational fears will subside and bread makers around the world can fire up their ovens again and get back to work!  Some of the “good” carbohydrates to stock in your home are whole grains and whole grain products. Whole grains have been part of the human food supply for thousands of years, and recipes for them have been passed down from generation to generation.  There is even a reference to whole grains and bread making in the Bible. “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof; according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, even three hundred and ninety days, shalt thou eat thereof.[1] Yes, that’s right… the Bible is actually a big old cookbook.  Dust it off, say a prayer, and start cooking.  Amen, sister!

Whole grains are wholesome foods that haven’t been completely refined.  They are “whole” as the name implies, have not been broken down; they retain their integrity.  They contain most of their vitamins, minerals, bran, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and other essential elements that make them a better food choice than most refined grain products like white flour, white pasta, white rice and the infamous white killer bagel!

A good rule of thumb: the whiter the grain, the more anemic it may be.  It’s clearly a wise idea to go for the brown when making carbohydrate choices.  This does not mean that chocolate cake, although quite brown, should be considered a good carbohydrate choice.

A simple example of whole and refined grains is brown rice versus white rice.  These are actually the same grain, only the white rice has been stripped of its outer layers (bran, fiber, nutrients, and vitamins), leaving behind a refined carbohydrate with a high glycemic index.  Foods with a high glycemic index turn to sugar rapidly in the body, and, when eaten in excess, create blood sugar swings and nutritional deficiencies.  You could probably eat five bowls of white rice and become quite full, but the body’s nutritional needs may not be met, so you might still be hungry for nutrients.

I know what you’re thinking… and yes, you can still eat white rice, white flour, and white killer bagels; just keep in mind that the greatest health potential can be reached if you consume whole grains and whole grain products most often, and highly refined grains (and chocolate cake) less often.  Learning how to get healthy should never be about deprivation.  “Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is a wearisome malady.”  François Duc de la Rochefoucauld.

Next time you go to the market, pick up a bag of brown rice, barley, wild rice, quinoa, polenta, kasha, millet, or whole, rolled, or cracked oats.  As long as the bags are sealed tightly, they can be kept in the cabinet.

One of my favorite summer grains is polenta – totally yum! Here is a great recipe for you to try.

Polenta with Sauteed Shitake Mushrooms, Sausage and Greens


Excerpted from Health is Wealth




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Six Carbs that Won’t Make You FAT!


By Lisa Consiglio Ryan – Guest Blogger

Certified Health and Nutrition Coach

Carbs. What a dirty, dirty word…especially for me a few years ago. I used to be an Atkins girl. In fact, I went without eating fruit for years due to the fact that they were carbs. I even did the South Beach diet and never really got to Phase II because I was so afraid that the carbs would make my butt get big.

Luckily, I am done with all those diets and have learned to enjoy carb-friendly foods. Let me be honest, though, not all carbs are created equal. Sugar and flour are typical no-nos. These refined foods cause a spike in blood sugar which results in chronic illness such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Those are the carbs to watch out for.

On the other hand, unprocessed carbs generate gentle rises in blood glucose and insulin, giving you a small but long-lasting supply of energy your muscles can use for hours. Even in my experience (after all the dieting drama), eating grains can even curb sugar cravings and help you avoid those after dinner “I need chocolate!” feeling that leaves you guilty.

So what are these carbs, these magical carbs, you ask?

Here is the list I recommend:

1. Fruit: A lot of popular diets recommend limiting fruit because it slows down weight loss. You can still continue to maintain your weight or even lose weight while eating fruit so long as you don’t pig out on it. Fructose (sugar in fruit) is bad for you because it is converted to fat in the liver not because of raising blood sugar. However, the small amounts of fructose present in whole fruit is really nothing to worry about.

2. Beans: Beans are rich in carbs, but most of it is fiber and the overall glycemic load is low. Beans are a great source of iron, protein, and folate. Don’t be afraid of these! If you tend to experience gas, rinsing and soaking your beans will help.

3. Lentils: Like beans, they are full of fiber and digest slowly. If anything, adding lentils to your diet will likely help you lose weight. Yes. Really.

4. Quinoa: This is a psuedograin. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber and has a very low glycemic index. Have you tried it yet? It is easy to cook and great for breakfast, too.

5. Brown Rice: You can add this to any meal. A small serving of brown rice can make your salads, stir fries, and other veggie dishes more filling while not forcing that big blood sugar spike you get from the bread basket.

6. WINE: Surprise! Wine and alcohol have been known to have a lot of calories. BUT your body digests alcohol calories different than sugar calories. Now there are many reasons to keep your wine portions in check, but having a few glasses of wine at dinner won’t hurt.

Enjoy these carbs, but this is not a green light to gorge yourself on grains or any food for that matter. If you eat enough of something or eat it fast, you will still end up with more sugar in your blood than your body knows what to do with. But in moderate quantities you can eat from the list above without risking your life or growing out of your favorite jeans.

What do you think about this post? Do you eat these carbs? Will you try something new (and don’t be cute, I know that the wine is probably your first choice:) Can’t wait to hear your thoughts so leave a message below.




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Store Your Stuff!


Taking on a whole foods diet can have its benefits. But, have you ever come home and discovered bugs in your kitchen? It’s traumatizing! Watch this video and learn how to store your stuff, and keep it safe from hungry little (or big) creatures.

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