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Food & Nutrition

More to Whole Grains than Wheat

By Cathi Stack, N.D.

There is a tremendous amount of confusion when it comes to including healthy whole grains into our diet. More and more individuals are becoming gluten intolerant, whether they know it or not, and are suffering needlessly.

Symptoms of fatigue, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, weight gain, Addison’s disease, headaches, mouth sores, inability to concentrate, bone, joint and muscle pain could possibly be related to gluten sensitivity. Many individuals are eating “whole wheat” instead of “white” bread products, thinking they are making the healthier choice, when in fact, it is just as disruptive in the gluten sensitive person.

The good news is that even those without gluten intolerance can benefit from eating other whole grains that are free of gluten. Benefits of whole grains include: calming the nervous system, improved energy and endurance, fewer cravings and more frequent and healthy bowel movements. Also, whole grains do not raise blood sugar like refined products do. Although grains are considered incomplete proteins, when combined with beans, they become a complete protein, which would be especially nourishing to the vegetarian.

Listed below are some whole grains that are delicious and will add new foods to your menu. Most are gluten free.

This is a great choice for those with increased nutritional needs. Higher in lysine than other grains, amaranth has a strong flavor and is commonly used in combination with other grains. Not only does it contain protein, but it is also high in fiber, contains amino acids, Vvtamin C, and has more calcium and magnesium than milk.

Barley is easy to digest, helps build blood and benefits the gall bladder. Whole barley is more nutritious than pearled barley, and barley also contains substantial amounts of fiber, protein, calcium and iron. Roasting barley will make it more alkaline, and it is even used as a coffee substitute. Nursing babies tend to tolerate moms milk better when barley is included in the diet. However, Barley is NOT a gluten free grain.

Buckwheat strengthens digestion and helps improve appetite. It contains the bioflavonoid rutin, which is beneficial to circulation (especially hands and feet) and may help to reduce blood pressure. Sprouted buckwheat, as with any sprouted grain or bean, is a great source of enzymes, chlorophyll and vitamins. Buckwheat pancakes are a favorite for gluten-free individuals.

Millet strengthens kidneys, balances over acid conditions, and has been beneficial in reducing candida overgrowth. It is high in protein and silicon, and may even help to ease morning sickness. Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. Millet is highly nutritious, non-glutinous and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid-forming food, so is soothing and easy to digest. In fact, it is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available, and it is a warming grain so will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons.

There has been some controversy on whether or not oats are acceptable in those with gluten sensitivity or Celiac’s disease. Oats are helpful for indigestion, improve bone density and renew connective tissue. They also contain phosphorus, which is necessary for brain and nerve formation.

Quinoa (keen-wa) is one of my personal favorites. It strengthens the whole body and has the highest protein content of any grain. Having more calcium than milk, it is also a great source of iron, phosphorus, B and E vitamins, is quick and easy to cook, and delicious cold or hot.

Rice expels toxins from the body. It is easily digested and commonly used for those suffering with nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disturbances. Rice contains very high-quality proteins, especially when compared to other grains. Rice contains all eight of the essential amino acids, which help to build and maintain muscle tissue and make up enzymes, antibodies and hormones. An old Chinese proverb suggests that brown rice preserves spiritual and physical strength.

There are more healthy options when it comes to eating healthy whole grains. Most individuals get stuck in a food rut and forget that there is an amazing selection of healthy options out there. It’s time for you to expand your horizons!

Catherine (Cathi) Stack is owner, facilitator and Doctor of Naturopathy at Journey II Health LLC, established in 2007 in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Along with her naturopathic practice at Journey II Health, Stack continues to work at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital as a Certified Nurse Midwife. She can be reached via e-mail at journeyiihealth@gmail.com, or visit her Web site, http://www.journeyiihealth.com.

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