How to Eat Grains (Mindfully)
People with chronic illnesses have so many things to worry about, especially in relation to food. Food can easily become the enemy. This is damaging to our minds and bodies.
Let's talk about eating grains in a mindful way without demonizing them. Let's develop a healthy relationship with food and understand where our nutrients come from. And if you feel better not eating grains, keep on!
Before we dive in, here are some delicious words about eating bread, eating well, and feeding your senses:
I can think of no better way to get good, healthy vegetables, lush, ripe, and in season, to the middle of your plate than to let them balance on freshly toasted bread. Instead of worrying about lots of ingredients with which to trot around, buy a loaf of bread with a hard crust. Pick it based on how enticing it looks […] Then let the rest of your meal be vegetables. Cut thick slices of bread, drizzle them with oil, and toast them in a hot oven or on a grill. Let them get nicely charred, then rub each slice lightly with the cut side of a clove of raw garlic…
–Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal
There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether or not grains are good for us, given our current food system. Regardless of your stance, there’s no denying their tremendous presence in our diet.
Of the known edible plant species, 'only three — rice, maize and wheat — contribute nearly 60% of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.'
–The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationS
We rely on rice, corn, and wheat (among others) to satisfy us. Sometimes they turn a few vegetables and a bit of meat into a full meal–a bowl of rice, a tortilla, heaped bread–they stretch a dollar and fill us with warmth. They give rise to cakes, cookies, and other sweet things. Whiskey and other grain alcohols soothe our sores. Beer was once our sterile source of hydration.
We’ve been eating grains in one form or another for a long time; there’s evidence to suggest that we’ve been processing and eating grains since paleolithic times. Through evolution, we developed the ability to produce enzymes to digest the starch in grains. But we still can’t access all of the nutrients unless we grind, ferment, boil, toast, acidify, or alkalize them.
Unfortunately, we became a bit overzealous in our processing methods, to the point that we’ve beaten a lot of the nutrients out of our grains. By the time we eat them, a lot of them are empty calories with additives that improve shelf life. When talking about eating grains, I want to stress that the ones that can be good for us are grown organically (without fungicides and pesticides), the least processed as possible, and fermented to release all of the nutrients.
5 Tips for eating grains mindfully:
1 — BE AWARE
Simply being more aware of how often you eat grains (and noting if they’re heavily processed) will probably guide you to make more nutritious decisions moving forward. If writing things down is helpful, do so, just remember to not judge yourself. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie. But if a large part of your diet consists of grains (espeically refined), you’re probably not getting all the nutrients you need!
2 — CHOOSE WHOLE GRAINS OVER REFINED FLOURS
Whole grains retain their vitamins and minerals while the refined flours–like in baked goods–lose most of their nutrients (usually resulting in empty calories). You can easily cook up some brown rice, barley, or other grain to eat with roasted vegetables. For snacking, popcorn is a fun and nutritious option. Popping it yourself is super easy, and you can spice it how you like.
3 — PREP A BUNCH OF VEGETABLES FOR YOUR GRAINS
We don’t always have time to make our meals. Why not make it easier to eat nutritious things in a pinch? When you find a spare hour in your week, roast or pickle a bunch of vegetables and reap the benefits for days to come. Things like grain bowls, tacos, or loaded toast are easy and adaptable to your mood.
4 — ADD HEALTHY FATS
A drizzle of olive oil, coconut oil, a bit of grass-fed cheese or butter, a soft-boiled egg, nut butter, some slices of avocado…these are a few ways to dress up your grains and make them more satisfying. Too often we reach for a packaged snack and mindlessly munch. Including healthy fats not only boosts nutrition, but also tastes delicious and fills us faster.
Try almond butter... yum :) We love Thrive Market!
5 — WHEN YOU EAT BREAD, MAKE IT NATURAL SOURDOUGH
Simply put, sourdough is a fermented mixture of flour and water that is alive; it leavens bread and makes grains much more digestible and nutritious. Pick up a loaf from a farmer’s market, or check online to find bakeries in your area.
Stay tuned! In an upcoming post, we’ll explore sourdough further and review bread baking–if you can stir flour and water in a jar, you can take care of a sourdough starter.
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