I see that there is a lot of grain-bashing on the internet. It’s a food that people love to hate, whether because they are paleo, keto, carnivorous, raw food, or something else. For me, I see whole grains as a whole natural plant food, and that can’t be all bad. There has got to be a lot worse things that you can eat than whole grains.

However, if God came down and said that of the 5 classes of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts (including nut-like seeds), beans (including dried peas and lentils), and grains) that I could only have 4, that I had to exclude 1, then I would exclude the grains and just eat the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans.

So, why exclude the grains? Well, I wouldn’t consider excluding fruits, nuts, or vegetables because they are primordial foods which can be eaten raw or in the case of some vegetables, with simple, easy cooking methods. It would definitely have to be grains or legumes, and I would rather keep the legumes than the grains. I consider legumes much more natural food for humans than grains.

But, how can I say that knowing that legumes are full of phytates, lectins, hemagluttens, digestive inhibitors, etc.? Because proper cooking neutralizes  those things, to a very great extent.  And Vitamin C counteracts phytic acid, so when you eat a large green salad and a bowl of steamed vegetables with your beans, you’re in the pink.  

But, don’t beans give you gas? Let’s be frank; lots of things can give you gas. It’s not as though you are guaranteed not to get gas so long as you don’t eat beans.  I get some gas; just a little; not a lot. It’s not a huge problem for me. And I don’t notice that it’s particularly worse when I eat beans. And, I regularly eat beans; I’m used to eating them; and I’m sure my bacterial flora is adapted to eating them. And that helps a lot. Beans are staple foods in cultures all over the world. In Italy, where my family stems, it’s lentils, chickpeas, and Tuscan beans. In Austin, where I live now, Tex-Mex is big, and almost all the restaurants here serve black beans as a side. Throughout the Caribbean, it’s red beans, which is a small red kidney bean. The point is that beans didn’t become staple foods in so many different cultures for being gassy. If you can’t eat beans, maybe the problem is with you and not the beans.

I think of beans as a dried vegetable because that’s how they start out, as a podded vegetable. For example, did you know that you can eat pinto beans as a  green bean? And they are delicious! They are much tastier than the green beans you find in the store. They come with a string. That’s where the expression “string bean” comes from. Young people don’t know about it because commercially they stopped growing string beans a long time ago. So, you have to pull the string off pinto bean pods in preparing them. But, it’s worth the trouble because they really are good eating.

Right now, I am growing black-eyed peas in my garden,  and I eat them as vegetable. I don’t dry them and shell them. Well, I do some but only to save seed for the following year. When it comes to eating, I eat them fresh; I just steam them up; and I eat everything. I eat the pod; I eat the pea; I eat it all. It’s all edible. I let them develop until it looks like a row of bulging biceps, but it's still green. Then, I harvest them and steam them for 10 minutes, and they really are good. And in that form, they deliver a lot of protein, because there is a well- developed seed there, but because they are still green, you’re also getting Vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, and a lot of other nutrients. And they are very hardy. I’ve never had any pest problems, and they grow fast. You can see the growth from one day to the next, and that’s easy. Sometimes, I can see the growth from morning to evening. It’s fun to grow blackeyed peas because you can see the vitality pushing out of the ground.

I am so spoiled getting my blackeyed peas this way that I don’t eat them the usual way at all. But, I do eat pinto beans, black beans, lentils and other beans the usual way.  Did you know that lentils are one of the first crops cultivated by humans? The same goes for chickpeas. They go back to the Neolithic.

So, to my thinking, a legume is the dried seed of a podded vegetable, and vegetables are primordial foods for humans. But grains, on the other hand, are makeshift foods. They are the seeds of grasses, and obviously, humans don’t eat grass; we aren’t grazers. And it’s likely that human interest in grains, such as wheat and rye, started because cows could graze on them. So, we started growing them for our livestock, and then figured out ways to consume them ourselves.   

You know, of course, that some people are sensitive to the gluten in wheat, and for some, it is devastating. I once saw a severe case of Dermatitis Herpetiformis, and it was extreme, with oozing blisters, to where we had to wash the guy’s sheets every day. They treat that condition medically with a drug called Dapsone, which is an antibiotic; but, it is also anti-inflammatory, so that’s why they use it. But, it is quite toxic, and he didn’t want to take it, and I didn’t want him to take it. He ended up fasting with me for 28 days, and his rash cleared up beautifully. I estimate 90%. And he was a very strong faster too; amazingly so.

So, wheat does a number on some people, but on the other hand, they say that the Roman Army conquered the world on a diet of wheat and barley, and the Jewish slaves built the Egyptian Pyramids for the pharaohs also on a wheat-based diet. You can see it in The Ten Commandments. So, wheat intolerance is not universal. I don’t say that everyone has to avoid wheat completely, although there is no good reason to eat a lot of it.

Rice, of course, is the most widely eaten food in the world.  For millions of Asians, rice is half or more of their diet. And it’s almost always white rice. The milling of rice goes back to ancient times. Basically, it went straight to white rice. Why do you think that is? I can think of several reasons: 1) the milder, sweeter flavor was more appealing 2) the milder flavor also combined better with other foods without overwhelming them, and 3) the softer texture made white rice much easier to chew and masticate.

And I would like to dwell on that third point. I believe that humans have an instinctual sense about how long foods should be chewed before swallowing. And I suppose it’s not just instinctual but also cultural to some extent. But regardless, it is a programmed thing.  And, the fact is: we don’t expect to have to chew foods as much as brown rice needs to be chewed. If you were to examine the brown rice that people swallow, you would see that it is only partly broken down. There are still big chunks of kernels in it that aren’t going to be digested. And for adults, it doesn’t matter too much, and it may even assist them with weight loss. But, the problem is when parents feed whole brown rice to young children. Kids chew foods even less than adults do. So, if you’ve got this young child who is taking a few chomps on her brown rice and then down the hatch, that girl is going to starve. And doctors have reported a lot of growth retardation in children being fed macrobiotic diets high in brown rice.

So, when it comes to young children, if you want to give them brown rice, it should be a brown rice noodle or brown rice hot cereal that is already pulverized. Otherwise, it is not likely to turn out well. 

And I have had two dentist-friends tell me that brown rice wears down the teeth more than any other food, where they can spot a brown rice eater on sight. It reminds me of how the ancient Egyptians added sand to their bread flour which ground their teeth down to nubs. I’m not saying that brown rice is as bad as that, but you get the picture.

 

It’s not just the amount of fiber, but the kind. Beans are very high in fiber, but it’s mostly soluble fiber, and it softens a lot from soaking and cooking. The result is that you can liquefy cooked beans in the amount of time that a person expects to chew. But not so with the insoluble fiber of brown rice. That is some hard stuff.

Then, there is the concern that rice is high in arsenic, and especially brown rice.

So, the bottom line for me is that I don’t eat a lot of rice. Occasionally, I’ll fix some brown rice, but not that often. And when I eat it, I think about the need to chew it and pulverize it completely before swallowing and longer than my instinct would dictate.

Quinoa is a rice-substitute that a lot of people have gone to. It contains toxins known as saponins, but fortunately, they will rinse off if you make a point of it. And quinoa is one of those foods that if you know how to fix it, if you know how to complement it with the right culinary herbs and vegetables and seasonings, you can produce some very tasty dishes. I’ve had quinoa dishes made by great vegan chefs that are absolutely fabulous, and I mean out of this world. But, it does take some know-how.

So, what grains do I eat at home? I eat oatmeal, and I make it fancy with banana, raisins, and homemade nut butter. People like my oatmeal. They often say it’s the best they’ve ever had. I will eat whole grain bread sometimes. Lately, I have been eating this Ezikeal pita bread. These are the ingredients: 

INGREDIENTS 

Organic 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Fresh Carrots, Barley Flour, Millet Flour, Lentil Flour, Spelt Flour, Soy Flour, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt.

 

And I keep some organic whole wheat linguini around, but I don’t cook it very often. And If I’m going to eat wheat, I won’t eat it at more than one meal.  I don’t want to push my luck.

 

But, the bottom line for me is that I value beans much more than I do grains, and if I had to give up one or the other, it would definitely be the grains. And if anyone asks me if they have to eat grains, I say, “No, you don’t. You can be completely well nourished without them.”