Getting the most from your grains
Rice, amaranth, buckwheat, corn and quinoa have a complex makeup…in its whole, raw form they are actually not so easy for us to digest. Our ancestors innately knew this, which is why many soaked their grains overnight. This made it easier for the body to break it down and shortened cooking time.
The soaking of grains (as well as legumes, nuts and seeds) overnight, makes it more bioavailable for our body to use – reducing any buildup of gas or the possibility of indigestion. Grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, a substance that is hard for our body to recognize and utilize and has been shown in studies to potentially interfere with the absorption of minerals such as calcium. (1) Not only does it grab onto minerals we need, it’s also been shown to inhibit pepsin – an enzyme needed for the proper breakdown of food in the stomach.(2)
The value of grains in our diet is very important as they provide much needed fuel for our body, burning slower than simple sugars while supplying fiber to help reduce the risk of many diseases. (3) Grains are also packed with antioxidants, vitamins (especially Bs) and trace minerals. Though they may not be appropriate for those with severe digestive issues, whole or sprouted grains may be a great way balance blood sugar levels and promote regular bowel movements.
3 Tips to get the best from your grains
- Soaking grains, nuts, seeds and legumes overnight (up to 24 hours) in 3 parts room temperature water with a small cap of raw apple cider vinegar (to help keep the water clean) will help decrease phytic acid. If soaking for longer than overnight – rinse grains and change water. Rinse clean before using the next day.
- Choose WHOLE grains locally grown and not genetically modified/avoid refined or processed grains.
- Eat a variety of foods with your grain – don’t make it the major source of calories in your diet. (4) Enjoy around 20-30% of whole grains in your diet.
Why are grains important during menopause and beyond?
Grains offer us a large nutrition profile, packed with vitamins, minerals and most important fibre. As we get older our hormones begin to decline and our ability to properly digest meals may begin to wane a bit. I myself went through alot of bloating during menopause and part of that was because I wasn’t taking the time to properly soak my grains. The other reason for bloating was I was eating too fast! (I’m still working on this one).
Clinically I have used acupuncture and dietary therapy to help many women with constipation during and after menopause. This is the wonderful thing about whole grains…it bulks up our stool and gets it going down the pipeline. If you are constipated and/or bloated try cooking a whole grain of your choice really well, not mushy by cooked well (after soaking). Add it to one of your main meals and see if that helps to get things going.
1) R. A. McCance and E. M. Widdowson (). Phytic Acid. British Journal of Nutrition, 2, pp 401-403 doi:10.1079/BJN19480069
2) Tannenbaum and others. Vitamins and Minerals, in Food Chemistry, 2nd edition. OR Fennema, ed. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 1985, p 445.
3) Haas, Elson M. MD. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts, 2006. Berkeley, California. Pg. 324-5
Cindy is a registered acupuncturist, certified Pilates instructor, holistic nutritionist and a foodie. She works with her patients to support their whole body health, emphasizing self care, living a positive life and nourishing the body and mind. Cindy is the owner/creator of My Fit Over 50, a website dedicated to health of women through menopause.