Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Gluten Our Enemy?

I started off the day with the usual: yogurt and eggs. Yummy! So, is it possible that we have eaten too much wheat? Throughout history, when wheat (and other grains and legumes) were consumed, they were usually first fermented or sprouted. Now we know this was done to neutralize the phytates and difficult-to-digest elements such as gluten. Humans consumed grains this way for thousands and thousands of years (times vary depending on the grain) without our developing heart disease, diabetes and leaky-gut syndrome. But as civilization “advanced” people came to seek easier and quicker ways to make food. Quick-rise breads came with the discovery of the wonders of yeast (as opposed to the slow-rise of sourdough breads). And people probably started to consume more bread-products.

With the industrial revolution families began to leave the farms and to work out of the home more. More and more people moved to metropolitan areas and more women left the home to work. This necessitated a lot more “quick” meals. Breast-feeding and cooking began their wane. By the 1920s people were still mostly cooking and breast-feeding but not as they had done 50 years earlier. Women had tasted freedom and who could blame them for wanting more? With these changes on the home-front and technological advances in machinery the concept of industrialized food processing became very appealing for profit-minded businesses (well, what other kind is there?). Companies began to find more and more inroads to alleviate the workload of working moms. How convenient it would be to buy your bread instead of slaving at home?
Fast-forward to now. It is all too common for women to work out of the home, even with tiny newborns. The average American consumes a large amount of processed food. And we eat a ton of wheat products, almost none of which have been fermented or sprouted. A lot of our health problems today are probably derived from the way we eat grains. (Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are also big culprits in the demise of our health) Unfortunately for us it would be way too costly (read: lower executive salaries) for big food manufacturers to soak or ferment grains. Don’t want to mess with the bottom-line. And now big pharma is there to pick up the slack. They are making billions on our sick, diseased, fat bodies. It seems it is easier for us to take medication than to change our ways.

So perhaps gluten is not the enemy. Maybe we need to get back into the kitchen and start soaking and fermenting our grains from their whole form. Gluten is a friend (unless you are already gluten-sensitive), and that boxed food is not!


  1. Jill,
    Why not skip the grains altogether rather than soak and ferment?


  2. I think most people are accustomed to eating grains. They are the basis of most dishes people eat. We eat small amounts at home but we do still enjoy them (and the kids love them, they would be quite peeved if I said no more grains).

    I don't think grains, in and of themselves, are bad they just need to be prepared properly. So,I would say that if you don't have time to sprout or ferment your grains it would be better to avoid them. However, rice is one of the few grains you don't need to soak overnight, slow-cooking for 2-3 hours is fine.

    Also, once you get into the habit of soaking it is pretty easy and doesn't consume much time.
    For example, quinoa needs to be soaked, I often will do it before I go to bed (for dinner the next day).

    1 cup quinoa
    3 cups warm water
    1 tbls whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk or lemon juice (for those with dairy allergies)
    Soak at least 12 hours, drain, rinse and cook like you would normally.

    I usually saute garlic in olive oil and butter, then add quinoa and heat for a few minutes. Then I add coconut milk, salt and home-made stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or longer.

    But I do agree that grains are not "necessary".