First of all, few people know exactly what ‘grains’ are and where they appear in our diets; let alone which ones contain Gluten; and certainly not what the heck a pseudo-grain is. So let’s start there.
There are grains and then there are pseudo-grains. “Biologically speaking, cereal grains are the seeds of grasses, and belong to a group called monocots. In contrast, pseudo-grains are the seeds of broadleaf plants, and belong to a different group called dicots,” according to Paleoleap.com
The benefits of pseudo-grains over cereal grains are:
- They do not contain Gluten Listen to my Podcast on Gluten issues here!
- They contain more than just carbs; they contain proteins and are lower in glycemic index than cereal grains
- They contain more vitamins (B vitamins and iron) than cereal grains
- They are less prevalent, have not been hybridized and do not form the staple of nearly every product in the US diet like corn and wheat do
- They are less available, harder to grow, and less adulterated and NOT genetically modifies like CEREAL GRAINS ARE
- Wheat- Contains gluten
- Rye- contains gluten
- Spelt- contains gluten
- Barley- contains gluten
- Wild rice- not actually in the rice family, but is an aquatic grass and is of the genus Zizania; white and brown rice are of the genus Oryza sativa.
Reason #1 to switch to Pseudo Grains
Gluten, one of the most inflammatory and allergy causing foods there is, does not exist in pseudo-grains. Gluten can cause intestinal issues, damage the gut lining, causing intestinal permeability and from there, lead to systemic problems ranging from auto-immune diseases, to neurological disease to connective tissue and brain disorders. Even if you present with no overt signs of intolerance to gluten, avoiding it is a safe bet for everyone. At least make an attempt to limit it.
I know, I know, I love my brie and baguette and burgers just as much as you. My friend Laura, who I interviewed here, is dead set against putting gluten to her lips, even though she doesn’t seem to have any adverse reactions to it. She reminds me all the time what Dr. Alesio Fasano discovered: that gluten triggers leaky gut in EVERYONE, NOT just some of us. And having a leaky gut sets us up for allergies, tissue and organ damage, immune dysfunction and auto-immunity. Still, I am with you, I love me some nice, soft, hot bread to dip into my olive oil!!!!! I mean LOVE! So what I would like to instill in you today are 2 things:
1) be aware of all the issues gluten can cause in you and your kids and if you see ANYTHING remotely disturbing, consider eliminating it. And 2) even if you do not think you or any family member has a gluten intolerance, PLEASE consider making gluten the exception, not the norm in your daily life. I WILL GIVE YOU LOTS OF OPTIONS TO MAKE THIS EASY, I PROMISE! They are options I need and use all the time.
Reason #2 to switch to Pseudo Grains
Pseudo-grains are higher in protein, lower in blood sugar spiking carbs and higher in nutrients than cereal grains. Gluten is not the only issue with grains: the high glycemic index of most grains makes them one of the main contributors in the American diet to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Giving you more “bang for your buck”, pseudo-grains can provide more nutrients with fewer calories and lower carb load.
There is still a caveat: even pseudo-grains need to be well prepared. The IDEAL way to maximize the nutrients and minimize the anti-nutrients in pseudo-grains is by soaking them overnight, then pressure cooking them for 30 mins or stove top cooking for 1 hr. The way I make this easy is by rinsing the grain well, placing in my Instant Pot and covering with water by about 1 inch, then cover with a towel overnight. I then either set my InstantPot to start on its own (in this case, it would need to have the lid on and secured) or start in the in morning for about 30 mins (pressure cooker setting).
Chart for Soaking GRAINS
- Buckwheat Grains: 30 minutes-6 hours soaking (time varies)
- Amaranth Grains: 8 hours soaking
- Kamut: 7 hours soaking
- Millet: 8 hours soaking
- Teff: 6-8 hours or overnight
- Oat Groats: 6 hours soaking
- Quinoa: 4 hours soaking (overnight is fine)
- Wheat Berries: 7 hours soaking
- Wild Rice: 9 hours soaking
- Black Rice: 9 hours soaking
Reason #3 to switch to Pseudo Grains
Pseudo-grains are not part of the highly available, subsidized, hybridized, genetically modified and Round-up-doused group of grains that inundate our food system. Wheat and Corn are full of pesticides, highly adulterated, and taking over the planet- and not in a good way.
Pseudo-grains are still generally in their original, “ancient grain”, non-modified form. They are more sustainably grown and healthier to the planet and your child’s body.
Reason #4 to switch to Pseudo Grains
My 4th reason to switch to pseudo-grains is because in my opinion, we eat entirely too many grains, usually in their processed form; but even in their “whole grain” form. I completely disagree with the USDA’s recommendation that grains should make up the base of our diet and I think that 6-11 servings of “grains” (especially when a dinner roll counts toward this total) is ludicrous. Grains are carbohydrates that turn directly into sugar (glucose) when delivered into our bloodstream. It makes zero difference if the glucose started as a teaspoon of sugar or a slice of bread. By filling your child’s tummy up with grain products, you are depriving them of nutrient dense foods. Grain products provide VERY FEW nutrients and only provide ANY if you soak and cook them for hours and hours. Children are growing so fast that they need 2-4 times the nutrients that an adult needs. This requires vigilance about each and every bite of food they put in their mouths or you will never meet these requirements. To me it is a no-brainer: remove grains (for the most part) and what’s left (meats, dairy, veggies, eggs, fish, fruit and nuts) will be the most nutrient dense foods you can feed your kids. It actually makes things simple. NOT EASY, but simple. Simple is my motto. The difficult part is making the adjustment in your family’s palate and expectations.
What this really means
So, that said, by asking you to make the switch to pseudo-grains, I am accomplishing a few things:
- Getting you to remove the common grains that make up 80% of our processed foods
- Getting GMO’s, pesticides, hybridized and subsidized junk food out of your diet
- Reducing your family’s carbohydrate load from processed food and grains of any form
- Because pseudo-grains are harder to find, more expensive and less adulterated, I am getting you to eat higher quality grain, less frequently and lower on the glycemic load scale
- Not to mentions everything I said in Reasons #1, #2 and #3:
- Removal one of the most inflammatory foods: Gluten
- Increasing the nutrients your child is getting from their food
- Eating foods that save the planet and not eating from the subsidized industrialized, frankenfoods that are the majority of process grains in the US
Don’t get me wrong. My family cheats. Like there is no tomorrow when on vacation, traveling, etc. My kids do not seem to have immediate reactions to gluten; they are slim and healthy; they have no skin issues, etc. However, my daughter does get phlegmy and tends toward a tight cough; my son’s immune system is not what I’d like it to be and when he doesn’t sleep enough, and eats too much junk, he gets frequent colds. Limiting grains is just something we make a point of at home as BEST AS WE CAN. Do I have a husband and kids who think they’ve died and gone to heaven when they get a bowl of real pasta? YES!!! And do we eat that occasionally? YES and YES! I am grateful my kids don’t seem to have issues with gluten at this point. But I do believe that limiting these foods will help make their long term health, body composition, energy and immune function more optimal. I just ask that you think about what I’m saying. Take some small steps toward increasing the nutrient density of what your child eats by replacing grains. You don’t have to be perfect- I certainly am not. I just like to look at the long-term health of our children and ask: have our government recommendations over the past 30 years made our kids healthier or sicker? I’m pretty sure “6-11” is not the answer.