Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Aug

Are Traditionally Prepared Grains Healthy?

“People from Africa, Asia, and Latin America eat lots of grains and manage to stay skinny, so what’s the deal?”

You know this line of questioning. We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all pondered it. It may have even stumped a few of you, left you stuttering and stammering for a quick explanation. But by the time you think of a reply (if you even have one), the moment has passed and they have “won” the argument. A briefly open mind was now closed.

But let’s be honest: it’s a valid question, and a tough one at that. We can’t just avoid the tough questions. So let’s take this head on.

Like always, the answer is multifaceted. Health is not reliant on a single feature. It’s not just diet, it’s exercise, stress, sleep, family, community, genetics, infectious burden. Within diet, it’s not just what is eaten, but also what isn’t eaten. It’s how food is prepared, whether it’s cooked or eaten raw. Find me a culture who thrived on grains as a staple food, and I’ll find you a culture who came up with some elaborate preparation method to mitigate the antinutrients and enhance the nutrient bioavailability of those grains. Find me a culture whose health thrived on toxin-rich grains as a staple without mitigating said toxins, and I’ll be waiting a long time (and observing the United States through smug Primal shades while I wait).

In today’s post, I’m going to explore the primary reason for why so many traditional cultures who ate grains managed to stay thin and relatively free of degenerative diseases: traditional grain preparation, including soaking, sprouting, and fermentation. If you’re familiar with the Weston A. Price Foundation‘s stance on grains, you’re probably aware of these preparation methods. Each step alters the nutritional experience of the grain to varying degrees, making it more digestible, less toxic, and tastier. I for one am not willing to go through hoops to make grass babies go down easier, but the process is nonetheless extremely interesting. And in the future, if any of my readers want to give grains a shot, at least they’ll do it right, or as right as it can get. As I always say, the only reason to make grains any part of your diet is as a cheap source of calories that converts to glucose very quickly.

You know how cool parents will drink or smoke with their teens to teach them mature consumption of potentially illicit substances before they learn to do it all wrong it in the wild world? This post is kinda like that.

Let’s first do a quick rundown of what exactly we’re trying to avoid, deactivate, or mitigate. We gotta know what we’re up against.

Phytic acid: Phytic acid is the main storage form of phosphorus in grains. That’s awesome for the grain, which needs phosphorus, but there’s a catch. Phytate also binds to many minerals, including zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron, to name several. And, since non-ruminants don’t possess phytase, which digests phytate and releases the bound minerals for easy absorption, eating large quantities of phytate-containing foods results in mineral deficiencies for meat-eating apes. These deficiencies, taken to an extreme, can manifest as tooth decay, which might explain why early grain eating populations had worse teeth than the hunter-gatherers who preceded them.

Enzyme inhibitors: Grains are seeds that require certain wet, nutrient rich conditions for proper growth. Spontaneous germination is counterproductive (you don’t want your children settling down in an area with high crime and high unemployment, do you?), so enzyme inhibitors prevent it. When moisture abounds (like, when soaking grains), the inhibitors are deactivated and sprouting occurs. So why should we care? Certain other enzyme inhibitors also inhibit our ability digest the grains. If you’re relying on grains as a dietary staple, you can’t afford not to wring every last drop of nutrition out of them.

Lectins: I covered lectins fairly comprehensively in a previous post, so I’ll keep it brief. Lectins are nature’s pesticides, protecting the tiny grain from predation. They can perforate the intestinal lining, disrupt our immune systems, and there’s even evidence that they bind to leptin receptors in the hypothalamus (potentially triggering leptin resistance).

Gluten: You know this guy. Found in wheat, rye, and barley, he’s a real bastard of a protein – and possibly not just to celiacs. There’s some evidence that true fermentation can break down gluten, but not all of it. Some Italian researchers used a unique blend of bacterial species to break down 99% of the gluten in sourdough bread, but it was under strict, extremely contrived laboratory conditions. More on that later.

So, how do traditional cultures take care of the aforementioned?

Soaking and Sprouting

I’ve written about soaking nuts and seeds before, and soaking grains is the same idea. The grains are covered with water, placed in a preferably warm place, and soaked for between 12 and 24 hours. There’s not much more to it than that. After soaking, you drain them, rinse them, and let the grains sit out for a couple days. To get grains to sprout, rinse and drain them a couple times each day until sprouts emerge.

Effect on phytate: If the grain contains phytase, some of the mineral-binding phytic acid will be deactivated, but not much. And if the grain has been heat-treated, which destroys phytase, or it contains very little phytase to begin with, the phytic acid will remain completely intact. Overall, neither soaking nor sprouting deactivates a significant amount of phytate.

Effect on enzyme inhibitors: Well, since the seed has been placed in a wet medium and allowed to sprout, the enzyme inhibitors are obviously mostly deactivated. Digestion is much improved (cooking will improve it further).

Effect on lectins: The evidence is mixed, and it seems to depend on the grain. Sprouted wheat, for example, is extremely high in WGA, the infamous wheat lectin. As the wheat grain germinates, the WGA is retained in the sprout and is dispersed throughout the finished plant. In other grains, sprouting seems more beneficial, but there’s always some residual lectins that may need further processing to deactivate.

Effect on gluten: Sprouting reduces gluten to some extent, but not by very much. Don’t count on it. A little bit goes a long way.


After soaking and grinding, grains are traditionally mixed with a starter culture or allowed to wild ferment. Starter cultures often include whey, kefir, yogurt, or left over fermentation medium from the previous batch. Wild fermentation occurs when the grain mixture employs bacteria already present on the grains, or picks up wild yeasts and bacteria from the environment. Both methods are far more effective than just soaking and sprouting at deactivating antinutrients and improving digestibility. Plus, fermentation lends interesting flavors to and enhances the shelf-life of the resultant food (which was extremely valuable in the days before refrigeration and canning).

Effect on phytate: Remember phytase? It’s the enzyme that deactivates phytate, and it really gets cooking during fermentation. In grains that contain high amounts of phytase, like wheat, rye, and buckwheat (technically a pseudo-cereal, but close enough), a day of fermentation deactivates most of the phytate. To degrade the phytate in low-phytase grains, however, the fermentation time must be extended. Adding small amounts of phytase-containing grain to the mix will also speed up the process. Increasing the temperature also improves phytate breakdown. In millet, a low-phytase grain, it took 72 hours to completely degrade the phytate. In wheat, it took ten hours to reach a maximum of 88.8% phytate reduction using a specific bacterial strain. Other strains resulted in reductions of between 28% and 86% (with most reaching above 80%). Standard quick rise baker’s yeast only reduced 16% of phytate (that’s what 99% of wheat eaters are eating nowadays, remember!). Ten hours may not always be enough, however – another fermentation study found that at 48 hours, phytate in wheat was still degrading.

Effect on enzyme inhibitors: Fermentation also significantly reduces enzyme inhibitor activity. A few examples would be prudent, since fermentation has different effects on different enzyme inhibitors in different grains. In 24 hour traditional sorghum fermentation, both trypsin inhibitor and amylase inhibitor (which impedes starch digestion) were reduced by up to 58% and 75%, respectively. In millet, a 48 hour fermentation was required to completely deactivate amylase inhibitor. As I mentioned in the last section, one study found that 48 hours of fermentation resulted in maximum wheat starch digestibility, presumably by deactivating amylase inhibitor.

Effect on lectins: Fermentation reduces lectin load fairly comprehensively across the board, but it might take longer than you can spare. In lentils (I know, not a grain, but with similar antinutrient issues), 72 and 96 hours of fermentation at 42 degrees C eliminated 98% and 97.8% of the lectins, respectively. Specific info on grain lectin breakdown due to fermentation is sparse. Overall, fermentation appears to be pretty effective at reducing lectins (and cooking reduces them further).

Effect on gluten: No store bought garden variety sourdough you find is going to be gluten-free. A team from Italy was able to produce a gluten-free sourdough wheat bread by using specific bacterial strains from all over the world and subjecting the bread to many days of fermentation. The process was totally unfeasible for the home or average commercial baker. There’s also a guy who sells monthlong fermented sourdough bread out of LA-area farmers’ markets and claims celiacs can eat it without issue. Reviews on Yelp seem to corroborate. Maybe I’ll swing by his stand and give it a shot, but I’m skeptical. And besides, I’m personally more worried by WGA, which is biologically active at nanomolar concentrations and which may not be fully degraded by fermentation.

To Eat, or Not to Eat

Some may turn up their noses at agrarian people for relying on a “sub-optimal” grain as staple food, but not me. Yeah, I’m definitely no fan of grains, and I think avoiding them is one of the biggest positive steps a person can take for their overall health. That’s beside the point. As a technical feat, I find the taming of the grain incredibly impressive, a testament to mankind’s awesome ability to adapt to and overcome adversity. Any other animal that switches over to a new staple food that prevents nutrient absorption, causes intestinal perforation, and increases inflammation had better develop some physiological adaptions to deal with the antinutritive factors, and quickly, if it doesn’t want to die out or be forced to move to a new habitat. A human, though? Humans figured out a way to preserve the toxic food, make it palatable, drastically reduce its antinutrient content, and make it more digestible, thanks to the big efficient brain inside our skulls. It’s not physiology (well, kind of), it’s not some advantageous mutation that’s naturally selected and saves the day. It’s human ingenuity, knowhow, knowledge, and wisdom. It is manipulation of the environment to suit our immediate needs. That gets us into trouble on occasion, but you can’t say it isn’t impressive.

That said, will I start soaking, sprouting, and fermenting big batches of grains in my kitchen? No. It’s way too much work and it’s unclear whether the toxins are fully mitigated (and in the case of wheat, they almost certainly are not). I’ll admit that crusty sourdough bread can be a nice occasional treat when eating out, but it’s not something I’m interested in eating on a regular basis. Furthermore, I’m not missing out on any magic nutrient by avoiding grains, but I am avoiding the elaborate prep work required to make them moderately edible (and the toxins that may or may not be deactivated). For the billions that rely on grains for sustenance, these traditional preparation methods are necessary. Choosing between potentially toxic food and starvation, you choose the food – no question – and then you do your best to make it more nutritious. For those of us who don’t need to make that choice, for whom bread is an extracurricular treat, I think removing the risk altogether by simply avoiding the potentially toxic food is a better move. And if it’s carbohydrate you’re after, stick with safe starch sources like roots, tubers, or even white rice (the sole grain that requires no elaborate processing).

But at least you know there’s a better way than what most people do with grains nowadays. At least there’s somewhat of a middle ground for people who won’t relinquish the grass babies.

What about you guys? Do you think you’ll ever experiment with traditional grain preparation?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great post. I also read somewhere (Taubes?) that someone on poverty-level caloric intake can also survive (and not get fat) on a high grain diet.

    Dave wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Most of the “healthy” eaters I know who often eat things like oats with added sugar are lean. The best body comp I ever had in my life was a diet based around whole oats, rice, and protein shakes. That said, it wasn’t optimal for health. Body comp isn’t everything.

      Grok wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Good point, I almost wish some of my lean, oat-eating friends would get overnight fat, just so they’d be more open to make the change. But most people are so focused on the outside, they don’t pay enough attention to their bodies internal reactions.

        And cancer, diabetes and heart disease is so rampant, that people (over-generalizing, I’m sure) will simply credit it as a risk of getting old.

        Primal Pig wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Pig–I’m thin and lean pretty much no matter what I eat–BUT, and this is a big but (tee hee)–I don’t suffer from IBS, sore, creaky joints, energy crashes that cause me to feel miserable and cranky and headaches now that I’ve cut out the grains. I also don’t have to work out as hard to stay lean, have put on a little more muscle and recover from exercise and injury much faster. This is more than enough reason for me to never touch grains again. Even if I was overweight, any weight-loss would be icing on the cake.

          fritzy wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • We eat only gluten-free grains & I can tell a differance, after being on refined, whole wheat products for over half of my life.Plus I liked my sweets way too much. D.K.’s Phase One I diet also was a life-changing moment for me & my daughter. We both lost 20-30lbs. w/o exercising. But we did get into an exercise program later.

        SusieQ wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Great post. I also read somewhere (Taubes?) that someone on poverty-level caloric intake can also survive (and not get fat) on a high grain diet.

      OMG, Calories matter!

      August Pamplona wrote on April 25th, 2016
  2. Great topic. I ran into the WAPF a couple of years after I went Paleo and I gave it a try. All the soaking and fermenting did nothing for my ability to digest grains. Having been raised with grain as my staple food, maybe there was just too much damage already done to my body to tolerate them in any state.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  3. I think if you’re gonna go this route, properly prepared beans are way healthier.

    Chaohinon wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I’m going to go out on a limb and agree with you here. I do better on a higher amount of starches, and from what I’ve read the traditional preparation of beans does more to neutralize anti-nutrients than in grains. Not to mention, as a gardener, I find beans less effort to harvest than grains (and many seeds) so intuitively it seems more Grok-like. Not everyone has a gut that does well with beans though, so they’re a bit of an N=1 sort of thing.

      jj wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • I sprouted some lentils this week. They were a tasty addition to my BAS. Since lentils are a bean, I figured that sprouting them was the best way to eat them. And they do have some protein.
        It just misses being complete.

        Dave, RN wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • So true. Wheat and legumes are both oligosachharides, which makes them fermentable short-chain carbs (FODMAPs), and many people with IBS can’t handle them. Some IBS sufferers are sensitive only to some categories of FODMAPS and some are sensitive to them all. Wheat is a fructan and legumes are galactans, I believe. The funny thing is, a person can THINK they are or aren’t sensitive to a food but it can be hard to tell for sure until you take that food out of the equation and then put it back in with all else constant. That’s my experience anyhow. Sometimes people eliminate 9 types of foods, for example, and they don’t feel better. So they assume diet changes don’t help. But had they eliminated that 10th food that was also causing them problems, they would have noticed improvement.

        DThalman wrote on August 4th, 2011
  4. I recently read somewhere, don’t remember where, that one explanation for Italians eating pasta and remaining healthy is that they first eat antipasto consisting of fatty meats, which coat the digestive tract, and eat salad with oil and vinegar at the end of the meal, which confers protection to the intestinal lining. Does this make sense?

    Maxmilliana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I’m not so sure about protection being lent to the digestive tract (I searched but didn’t come up with anything definitive) but it seems that the Italian culture is what would prevent weight gain. They have a strong culture surrounding their food as the french do (french: social taboos against seconds and snacking) and this seems to be the primary factor in how they eat. I once read that eating your greens before your pasta is a very Italian way to eat – and I would assume that filling your stomach with an antipasto (of whatever sort) would prevent over-indulgence on the pasta course.

      Emily Mekeel wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Traditionally, pasta is a small side dish or small course. Fatty meats are the staples. Also, the Italians in general are not that significantly more healthy than anyone else. It is those that come from primarily meat eating regions, where pasta is not as common, that present with the greatest health, and skew the statstics.

      Marnee wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Ive been thinking about this recently and realizing that it makes sense that pasta hasnt traditionally been a staple in most italian cooking, primarily because it takes a helluva lot of prep work to make by hand. I bet its only recently as mass-produced dried pasta has become cheap and ubiquitous that its become the main part of the meal.

        cTo wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Just finished reading a book about the history of food in Europe after the middle ages and it said dried pasta only became a staple food in Italy in the middle of the 19th century. Before that, there was only fresh pasta and it was expensive (wheat was more expensive than maize or potatoes) so only wealthier city dwellers ate it.

          mtts wrote on August 4th, 2011
        • Though pasta wasn’t a common staple until fairly recently, grains were. Gnocchi della romana was basically a dumpling. Italians eagerly embraced maize; before that, they used semolina to make a similar porridge.

          However, it is just not true that pasta was traditionally a side dish.

          Priscilla wrote on April 6th, 2012
      • While searching this, I read an article that opened by saying that heart disease was the number 1 killer in Italy. I wonder how recent of a development this is, what regions of Italy are hit heaviest and if the influx of Western food and food style 30-40 years ago is to blame…

        My grandmother is second generation and while she absorbed the Italian culture, my dad and his siblings seem to have a grudge against a small portion of anything – pasta most of all! 😉

        Emily Mekeel wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • I have celiac, and in one of my books that I read on Celiac it said that Italians have an extremely high incidence of Celiac disease. Even worse than Americans. So apparently the antipasto isn’t doing that much good…

        DD wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • That statistic is not accurate. Please see the 2011 statistics on celiac disease.

          In Italy, about 1 in 250 people have celiac disease. In Ireland, about 1 in 300 people have the disease. Recent studies have shown that it may be more common in Africa, South America, and Asia than previously believed.

          Recent findings estimate about 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease, or about 1 in 133 people.

          1 in 133 is more common than 1 in 250

          Linda wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • It’s hard to say if Italians actually have more Celiac Disease than Americans (thought they may) because Celiac testing and awareness are much more widespread in Italy than in the US. Italian children (supposedly) are routinely screened for Celiac before entering school.

          Erin wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • have you been to Italy? The middle-age to older folks are mostly obese…the younger probably not so much, likely from the pressures of being located in one of the top fashion regions of the world…Just saying….

        lisa wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Really… it is the #25 most obese country. Less than Germany, Spain, England, (they are #3 actually), Australia, NZ, France… Norway, Switzerland, Japan and Korea are the only lowest (on a list of 30). An obesity rate of 8%. Does that mean that 92% of the people are young people trying to fit into fashion?

          I love this site but sometimes the comments from some people are just plain ignorant. Follow Mark’s example and know your facts before you post something to the internet. People actually read this stuff and believe it.

          Linda wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Thanks for the statistics. Appears there is less in Italy… but still goes to show it’s a high amount and that antipasto isn’t really fixing the problems from the eating of bread/pasta/etc.

          DD wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • I second that. I’m from europe and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a middle aged/older italian that didn’t have a beer belly (men) or schlepped around 40 extra pounds or more (women).
          Since lots of places arent accessible by car, people still have to walk a lot and burn more calories than americans.

          Primal Palate wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • I just came back from Italy. There are definitely fat folks. Not as huge as in the American Southeast or anything. Many of the thinner folks seemed a bit puffy too. I can see how they could come up with good statistics, but Italy is certainly not immune to the same grain-based dynamics seen elsewhere.

          nikki wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Since Celiac is not the only reaction to wheat. The stats.should include ANY reaction to gluten…we know that it causes a low grade inflammation to many folks that are not ‘true celiac’. That would certainly skew the “data”.

          Elene wrote on August 4th, 2011
      • Until the last 30 years, Italians ate pasta in small portions except for special occasions. It was a small course among several courses.

        I’ve taken cooking classes in Tuscany and the chef explained that traditionally portion sizes were much smaller than today. They taught us that a pound of pasta should serve 6 people!

        Since the 80s however Italians have been super-sizing their pasta. And as a result, they are getting fat too.

        greensleeves wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • “I love this site but sometimes the comments from some people are just plain ignorant.”

          Yup, like referring to the UK as England, which is like referring to the USA as Texas.

          Jon wrote on August 4th, 2011
        • Norhern Italy is a thousand miles from Sicily. In the north they eat polenta, made from cornmeal, not seen in the south. What people eat varies from region to region. Read:

          Henry Barth wrote on August 4th, 2011
    • ARE Italians that much more healthy? If they are, it probably has nothing to do with eating grains.

      Like all Europeans, Italians don’t spend as much time in cars as Americans and didn’t adopt a junk food and processed food diet as early as Americans did. Those two things alone can contribute to better health.

      Jack wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • I agree with you 100%. When I was in Italy I didn’t see pudgy people anywhere, the pudgy people were the Americans. Italians walk, walk, walk and the food they eat is whole and healthy.

        Terri wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Not to mention they probably manage stress way better than the average American…

          Will wrote on August 10th, 2011
    • Not sure this is accurate. I’ve heard just through anecdotal sources that Italian Americans in Chicago in the early 20th century typically ate pasta with one vegetable everyday, and not much else. Not sure if this just specific to that place and time or indicative Italian cuisine at large, or just a story. Supposedly the italian beef sandwich was a result of efforts to stretch what little meat they had as far as possible.

      Doug wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • It was poverty food and considered an unhealthy diet by the local health authorities and the charitable organizations that interested themselves in immigrants’ affairs.

        correcty fairy wrote on August 12th, 2011
    • I lived in Italy for three years. Typically, you do start with an antipasta of meat, perhaps proscuitto with melon. Then followed by a pasta, then meat with vegetables and perhaps a side salad. Meals are always ended with an espresso or macchiato. The bottom line is that Italians eat small portions and eat very slowly. Time between courses is generally 20 minutes. I gained weight when I came back to the States! Never had a problem in Italy.

      Renee wrote on August 4th, 2011
    • Italian here. Antipasto is eaten only on certain circumstances, usually when you have guests. OTOH, restaurants always offer it.

      The everyday meal most of the week starts with pasta-based dish, and there is always white bread available at every major meal.

      However, Italians eschew processed foods and fats, especially fried, deem sweets too caloric to be eaten often (beside breakfast) and. Moreover, snacks are usually white bread with something else.

      And I agree about older men growing their belly, starting in their thirties.

      Elena wrote on August 7th, 2011
  5. Great post, Mark. I was just reading a discussion about this in the primal research forum and was wondering about these questions. nail on the head once again.

    Caleb wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  6. Ironically, I ordered a couple of loaves of bread from this morning from this website .

    They seems to follow the more traditional process of making bread. Interesting to read about but too time consuming for me to make my own.

    I’m not planning on making this a staple and will probably not order anymore but I thought I’d give it a try.

    Christian wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  7. What these cultures DON’T eat…sugar. HFCS. Processed foods. Also, in some of the places where people depend on grains, the population is calorie- and nutrient-deprived. So although they aren’t fat (and they aren’t getting heart disease, diabetes etc.)they are not necessarily experiencing optimal health, as Mark points out. There is hunger in some of these places where people are depending on cheap starches and grains (including high poverty areas of our country).

    A related argument that is often encountered goes something like this: “Well, so and so eats lots of grains and carbs and he/she isn’t overweight.” Taubes’ (“Why We Get Fat and What To DO About It”) helped me to understand why: In all humans, insulin promotes fat storage and carbs drive insulin production. But there are individual differences in how much insulin our pancreas’ produce and how our tissues respond to that insulin (eg: different “metabolisms.”) As well, there are other factors (excercise, etc.) About 1 in 6 people who smoke (or 1 in 9, depending on gender) will get lung cancer. The other 5 (or 8) won’t. Thus, saying “John Doe eats a lot of carbs and grains and he isn’t fat” is like saying “John Doe smoked his whole life and he didn’t get lung cancer.” The fact that not all succumb to the diseases associated with the lifestyle choice doesn’t exonerate that lifestyle choice. So what Mark is saying here, I think, is in essence “filter your cigs if you’re gonna smoke.” But we all know it’s just better not to smoke or eat grains.

    DThalman wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • that was supposed to be “the other 5 ( or 8) won’t), i’m not sure why it put in the :)

      DThalman wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • When you place the number eight next to a parenthesis, it makes a sunglass-wearing smiley.

        CNM wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • There are fat hungry people in Africa. Gary Taubes documented a few of them in GCBC. It wasn’t a central point to any of his book chapters but was still worth making note of–it’s a myth that they’re all skeletal or that a fat person is “overnourished.”

      And by the way, you *can* be thin and still get type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Because everyone focuses on the fat people, in fact, the slender people giving themselves chronic disease are flying under the radar. If your doctor has ever told you that you have “hereditary” high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s time to get off the grain.

      (I was interested to learn that even with African-Americans being more prone to high BP, it turns out they are *also* more prone to high fasting insulin and insulin resistance! There’s a VERY strong link between high insulin and hypertension. So even where we think it’s “genetic” or “hereditary,” it’s probably actually linked to diet, and therefore the symptoms at least are curable.)

      Dana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Oh and incidentally, I don’t think AAs are more prone to high BP through some genetic quirk. I think it’s a combination of (1) coming from people with little to no cultural experience with a high-grain, high-sugar diet and (2) having been subjected to several centuries’ worth of poverty and poor nutrition. The body is capable of some adaptation to diet by way of epigenetic changes and also changes in enzyme production. But you need time and several generations before the change really sticks. The same thing happened to American Indians. Neither group is “inferior” to groups with better tolerance of crap; they just haven’t had as much time to get used to it and they are not coming from a background of better nutrition and therefore better resilience to physical insults via bad food.

        Dana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Wait, are you talking about all black people or just African Americans? Because the ones who survived the middle passage and their descendants are a bit different when it comes to predisposition of certain diseases. I mean, Africans and those in the African diaspora are so varied and people often use “African American” as a PC way of referring to all black people. ^__^ I agree with you that diet and socioeconomic factors play a part. But I also think that if your parents and grandparents and great grandparents all had high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease etc. because of diet, you’re not out of the woods, even though your diet may be better.

          Rose Red wrote on August 9th, 2011
        • Actually, it is not a matter of time or several generations. One generation of deprivation or famine can activate genes that will then be passed onto ensuing generations. This is why people of American Indian descent are prone to things like diabetes, hypothyroid disease, obesity, and Wilson’s syndrome. Our ancestors are those who survived through extreme famine.

          You see the same kinds of adaptations, created in a single generation, among the children of Holocaust survivors and the children of those who survived the Dutch Famine of 1944. Epigenetic changes can happen in one generation and then be passed down to ensuing generations.

          American Indian nutrition was fine and dandy until Europeans came in and tried to starve us to death. We did indeed come from “a background of good nutrition”, but the aggressive starvation policies of the invader governments destroyed our traditional foodways.

          Priscilla wrote on April 6th, 2012
  8. EIGHT, it won’t make eight 8!

    DThalman wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • It’s when you put the 8 and the ) together that forms the “Big-Eyed” Smilie.

      Tim wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • 8)

        Elisabeth wrote on June 7th, 2013
  9. This is all great stuff and very interesting, but I think I will continue to be grain free. That is a lot of work for a food I don’t particularly miss that much.

    skink531 wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  10. I totally agree with the point at the end of the post – eating grains in a traditionally prepared manner is a TON of work. It is much simpler to just avoid them. As long as I can swing it with my food budget, that’s my choice.

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  11. That’s useful to know, although I think I’ll stick to food that doesn’t require so much work just to make it edible.

    If I’m going to ferment something, it’ll be grapes 😉

    Stevemidd wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  12. Excellent post once again, Mark! A very comprehensive overview of traditional preparations. What about the omega-6/3 ratio of grains? I’ve read in Craig Liebenson’s Spinal Rehabilitation that grains still contain a fairly large amount of pro-inflammatory omega-6 FA, so even if the anti-nutrients and gut perforating lectins don’t get you, it still seems like grains may be a source of inflammation. What are your thoughts? Any information on the ratio in white rice?

    George Morris wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Yes, most grains have severely improper 6/3 ratios. However, that isn’t a huge consideration as they don’t contain much of that fat and shouldn’t throw your total ratio off unless you’re consuming them in ridiculously large quantities. And that is something we here all know isn’t the wisest course of action for a number of reasons besides 6/3 ratio.

      Jeff wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  13. Sounds like an awful amount of trouble when one could just eat vibrant colorful veggies with EVOO, and a grass fed steak.

    Knarf wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  14. There are Italians who cannot eat wheat. I did not eat wheat for 15 months almost 10 years ago now. I slowly added bits to my diet and now I eat sprouted bread almost daily but cannot eat pasta every day or I end up getting sick.

    Mimi Torchia Boothby wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  15. Very interesting. I like most, still have to say no to grains! Just feel better without them.

    Joanne - The Real Food Mama wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  16. Brilliant. Like so many of your posts, Mark, this is the kind of open-minded, well researched post that will win over people who would recoil from strict, elitist Paleo approaches.

    Harry wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  17. i’m especially grateful, Mark, that you put in the QUANTITATIVE information! the WAPF people make convincing points, but your article defines the risks far more succinctly.

    as a living-historian, i’m odd enough to be willing to spend a week developing a true sourdough and waiting a couple of days for a loaf of bread to be ready to bake. (the time actually required on a daily basis is about two minutes here and two minutes there….) and for a RARE treat, sourdough rye-and-spelt toast is an outstanding vehicle for BUTTER! :-)

    tess wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • My next project is making a good sourdough rye bread. It won’t make up many of my calories, but you said it best; it is a great vehicle for butter! I also love some bread with soup or to put some nutrient dense duck liver pate on (veggies or fruits just aren’t the same).

      Jeff wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Agreed; paté should really only be served on toast. Croutons also do wonderful things to pureed soups. Shame, really.

        Lauren wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • If you have dehydrator, and the patience, you can make some delicious bread/crackers with veggies, and flax seeds.

          Estrella wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  18. Find me a culture whose health thrived on toxin-rich grains as a staple without mitigating said toxins, and I’ll be waiting a long time


    Michal Palczewski wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • The “French” did not thrive on grains – that is a more modern invention.

      Their traditions are steeped in a more primal fashion.

      Some examples of local traditions:
      Locally grown vegetables, such as pomme de terre (potato), haricot verts (a type of French green bean), carotte (carrot), poireau (leek), navet (turnip), aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini), and échalotte
      Locally raised poulet (chicken), pigeon (squab), dinde (turkey), canard (duck), oie (goose, the source of foie gras), bœuf (beef), veau (veal), porc (pork), agneau (lamb), mouton (mutton), lapin (rabbit), caille (quail), cheval (horse), grenouille (frog), and escargot (snails). Commonly consumed fish and seafood include cod, canned sardines, fresh sardines, canned tuna, fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mussels, herring, oysters, shrimp and calamari.

      Jason Sandeman wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Your list gets me thinking about French terrine. Mmm. Might have to have Worker Bee Jennifer prepare one for a future MDA recipe article. Look it up if you don’t know what it is.

        Mark Sisson wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Ohhhhhh, yes please! Terrines are yummy!

          Sarah wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • They seam to thrive on grains these days. Are they?

        Michal Palczewski wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Bread’s a garnish in France, not the main course, and I think they still primarily use sourdough fermentation. They also eat a high-animal, high-animal-fat diet, which is going to be high in minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.

      Dana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Sourdough bread would be more typical for Germany, where I live now. Almost all bread in Germany contains some sourdough, although often it is mainly a yeast bread with sourdough being added mainly for the taste because real fermentation takes too long and would make the bread more expensive.

        The French eat baguette, which is very white fluffy yeast bread. Very processed. You can get whole grain and multi-grain varieties nowadays, (but may just be for the tourists :-) ).

        What may help is that they do not eat much bread. And that French eat quite fatty foods (which makes it easier to eat small portions), value quality over quantity, eat lots of sea food and it is a sunny country (which may also be important for the discussion above on Italy).

        Victor Venema wrote on August 4th, 2011
        • I lived in Southern France for two months, and I found that the people DID eat a lot of bread. Breakfast was centered around toast; in fact, nothing else was eaten with it, except for coffee. The French people I encountered ate pizza and sandwiches fairly frequently, as well. I also saw that people would often eat rolls with their lunch.

          Elizabeth wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • The French traditionally eat sourdough bread. Baguette is traditionally a sourdough, as is pain de campagne. Baguette made with quick yeast is an invention from 1970 or so.

      greensleeves wrote on August 4th, 2011
    • Pre-modern, traditional Japanese (plain boiled rice as a staple with long life and plenty of health) or traditional northern Chinese (white wheat flour made into buns and noodles and more octagenarians than any other culture on earth).

      Blato wrote on August 15th, 2011
  19. Definitely an insightful post. It’s pretty impressive to read about those different methods to make the grains a bit better for you

    Primal Warrior wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  20. I have read Nourishing Traditions, and followed what other people have said about making grains (mainly wheat) more digestible, easier to eat. You have to remember this is predicated off of tradition, BEFORE we had GMO wheat. Can the same nutrients break down as before?
    I am sure the gluten sensitivities issue wasn’t a big deal back when, because of the little amounts people actually ate. Go back before industrial times, and it was mostly the poor who ate the grains – but mainly oats and other stuff.

    Jason Sandeman wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • And you can still look at the physical record, the bodies left behind, and tell the difference between the elites and the peasants. Until refined grain became a status symbol, guess which was more likely to have greater height and better dentition. That would have been the group with greater access to meat. Usually the wealthy.

      Dana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Yup…grains impoverish people’s health so they become weaker and less able to fight for equality, democracy, etc…Could that be an arugment why the USDA recommends 6-11 servings of grains-EVERYDAY?

        Dan Hegerich wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Here are a few of the reasons Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Monsanto.The USDA is only concerned about the financial health of big ag.

          DRK wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Wow, never thought of it THAT way. You’re right.
          Grain consumption causes marbling in the muscle tissue, making it weak. Grains also produce extremely soft bone and joints that break easily apart.
          Animals fed grains are more prone to injuries.
          I see the difference in the meat and bones I order for myself from the local grassfed farmer.

          Primal Palate wrote on August 4th, 2011
    • GMO wheat is being developed, but is not currently in use. Follow the Center for Food Safety for updates!

      nikki wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  21. for years my family of five has thrived on a diet of nourishing traditions: eggs, meat, organ meat, bone stock, raw/cultured dairy products, veggies galore, fruit in season… and limited amounts of very painstakingly prepared beans, pulses, and whole grains. for us, it really comes down to $. we simply can’t afford to feed three rapidly-growing children, one beastly daddy, and one lactating mama all-you-can-eat meat 3x a day, 7 days a week. we CAN AFFORD to to eat a decent amount of meat augmented by vegetables and, say, lacto-fermented kidney beans and sprouted brown rice cooked slowly for 72 hours in rich bone stock and coconut milk. like indigenous tribes the world over, from the north hebrides to the the capes of africa and south america, my family has never suffered any ill effects common to those consuming a “healthy” whole grain-based diet.
    thank you for this post, mark. we who strive with limited resources do so because we believe that health is the province, not of wealthy, but of the informed and the diligent. grok on!

    whitney wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I would love your recipe for both the beans and brown rice!

      art4tab wrote on August 4th, 2011
  22. WOOHOO time to start fermenting big macs…

    brichter wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • You can buy Big Mac in the form of a Angus beef burger in NZ. They claim the bun is sourdough, and the meat top quality, more than average greens. I still only nibble the bun and throw 3/4 away, but as an emergency food it is pretty good!

      Marielize wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  23. As a native San Franciscian, im glad to see sourdough represent. Even before I went paleo, I despised any bread that wasnt sourdough. It tasted like bland and/or sugary crap. Its nice to know that if im faced with good quality sourdough at a restaurant or party every once in awhile I can have a little bit with less worry.

    cTo wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  24. I am an avid sourdough baker, and my family has been eating homemade sourdough bread for the last couple years, with long fermentation times. So at least we have that going for us.

    After reading this site / Primal Blueprint (as well as information on the GAPS diet) I do understand that even the sourdough is somewhat detrimental to our health. It’s definitely better than store bought bread (even homemade baker’s yeast bread would be better than store-bought with all the additives) but not as healthy as going grain free.

    For now, while in a transition period, we’ll keep eating the sourdough but not as much. And I’m also planning on using “ancient” grains (spelt, kamut, red fife, buckwheat) since they seem to be a lot less toxic than modern wheat. Hopefully I can convince the rest of the family to go grain-free soon.

    I do think the soaking & fermentation strategies promoted by WAPF are a good way for families to get closer to Primal, at least for a transition period.

    Note WAPF also recommends freshly ground grains over store-bought flour, which increases their nutrition & avoids rancidity of germ oils.

    Also, for all those who give up grains, but still eat raw nuts & seeds, make sure you read Mark’s linked post about soaking nuts as per WAPF guidelines. Those nuts & seeds have lectins & enzyme inhibitors too!

    Mike wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I’ve ditched coffee, nuts, chocolate, beans and all grains long ago because of the phytates, lectins and enzyme inhibitors.

      Thank you for bringing this up because most people don’t think about this and only focus on the ‘protein’ in nuts and then overindulge on nuts and dark chocolate…if they’d only pay attention!

      I still don’t understand why Mark promotes the consumption of nuts and chocolate to overcome cravings, and shuns (RAW) milk. Sometimes common sense makes more sense than looking at an era in a book to exclude a food so nutritious, it saved MANY lives in not so distant history when mothers died or couldn’t lactate.

      Primal Palate wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Raw milk is awesome. Who cares if Grok didn’t consume it, it’s got amazing healing properties. Some more ‘recent’ discoveries in food are definitely to our advantage.

        Lisa C wrote on August 4th, 2011
        • For those of us with the genetics to consume milk – the majority of adult humans just don’t have those genetics, and are indeed genetically lactose-intolerant as adults – raw milk is the best.

          For folks from ethnic many ethnic backgrounds, even raw milk is likely a no-go. As a northern European, I thrive on raw milk, but my Filipino-American boyfriend just couldn’t go near it. It made him really ill. We can’t deny that the ability to drink milk as an adult is a specific genetic trait that arose probably about 12,000 years ago.

          greensleeves wrote on August 4th, 2011
        • As greensleeves pointed out, that isn’t necessarily so. See this for more information about that.

          P.M.Lawrence wrote on August 5th, 2011
        • Any other animal that switches over to a new staple food that prevents nutrient absorption, causes intestinal perforation, and increases inflammation had better develop some physiological adaptions to deal with the antinutritive factors, and quickly, if it doesn’t want to die out or be forced to move to a new habitat. A human, though? Humans figured out a way to preserve the toxic food, make it palatable, drastically reduce its antinutrient content, and make it more digestible, thanks to the big efficient brain inside our skulls.

          Not any other animal, e.g. termites didn’t, when they started consuming wood (which is often full of natural insecticides, remember). They took the fermentation route one step further, processing their raw materials through fungus gardens. And, of course, that kind of physiological adaption is just precisely what some humans did do, to cope with milk as adults.

          And if it’s carbohydrate you’re after, stick with safe starch sources like roots, tubers, or even white rice (the sole grain that requires no elaborate processing).

          I would have said it needs more than making popcorn – they both need the outer covering removed, but after that you need more elaborate equipment to boil white rice than to pop the maize kernels (a pot of water over a fire versus a hearthstone heated earlier by a fire). Even if you don’t buy that, wild rice (a different grain) can be prepared and cooked the same way as white rice.

          P.M.Lawrence wrote on August 5th, 2011
      • “I still don’t understand why Mark promotes the consumption of nuts and chocolate to overcome cravings, and shuns (RAW) milk.”

        The former are all good sources of Mg. The latter is not, but it is a good source of virulent bacteria. YMMV.

        correcty fairy wrote on August 12th, 2011
  25. I’m so glad you posted about this! In our family, due to gut damage from our modern life style I believe, we really do better off the grains, especially gluten grains.

    I never had trouble getting fat off of soaked grains, but I get a little brain fog and have less energy when I eat them. My kids also have significant behavior issues when eating grains, so it’s simpler for our family to just stick with meat, veggies, healthy fats, some fruits, and we do use cultured airy and legumes as well.

    Cara wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  26. great post and I respect the stance. I say test everything, and do myself. I soak and prepare grains on a regular basis and it really requires no more work than anything else, and often times, is easier. Mark, you state

    “Health is not reliant on a single feature. It’s not just diet, it’s exercise, stress, sleep, family, community, genetics, infectious burden.”

    Is this not a reason to eat grains? to increase our adaptive potential? Would it not be better to subside on MORE foods as opposed to less? And not have issues. Health is about increasing our adaptive potential, right? I’m all for eliminating processed junk and HFCS, but the grains are prevalent in our modern world. I prefer to be adaptable to them, than to limit my potential for being able to utilize them.

    Brian wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • Not really–you’re not going to pass on better grain-eating genes to your kids because you ate grains. There’s not really any good reason to eat them if you have access to higher-quality food (like grass-fed meat). I don’t see how choosing to subsist on less-than-optimal food when you have better options is increasing your potential in any way–just seems stupid.

      Uncephalized wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Is evolution based on one generation? We no longer live in the Paleolithic Era, so should we not adapt to our current state of food? Have you heard of being metabolically flexible?
        Personally, I prefer to be able to switch back and forth as to what I use as fuel… instead of relying on fat alone.

        Brian wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Who is relying on fat alone? Most folks following a primal way of eating generate energy from both glucose and fatty acid oxidation. The argument for grain avoidance has little to do with its macronutrient composition, but rather it’s strong linkages to a host of inflammatory and autoimmune based illnesses. There are plenty of healthful sources of carbohydrate if you prefer to keep your fatty acids stowed away in adipose tissue.

          I’m not sure what you mean by adaptive potential, either. I can’t digest a piece of wood today, nor could I in 20 years even if I ate it every day.

          JT wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • This is fascinating. Adaptive potential eh? You are aware that in order to adapt to grains, those eating them would have fewer children and essentially die off. That’s the second part of evolution, first you have adaptive radiation (someone somewhere has a kid that processes grains really well, maybe even one that makes phytase or something else. Maybe the kid has a bigger stomach that doesn’t empty as quickly for fermentation, etc.). But then there’s the second step: Selection. That kid is selected for and the rest are selected against, which is what appears to be happening right now with diabetes and cancer and heart disease. Medical science has an excellent track record at helping us to survive these conditions longer but the morbidity remains even if the mortality is dulled somewhat.

          I’d rather be eating what I’m made to eat, than roll the dice and hope I’m that lucky new kid who was born to process grains better than most (and experience has shown I’m not). I also wouldn’t roll those dice for my children.

          Tim wrote on August 4th, 2011
  27. I’ve made real sourdough before. It was not what you’d call high-quality stuff–I messed up the recipe a little bit and I need more practice, which I am not inclined to pursue at this point. But interestingly, real sourdough appears to *last* longer than store-bought yeast-fermented bread. We’re talking on an order of *months.* I’m guessing it’s because the lactic acid bacteria eat up a lot of the starch which would have otherwise fed mold but don’t quote me on that, not like I have a laboratory to help me find out one way or another.

    Someone in the comments mentioned all the omega-6s in grain. Yes, those are a tremendous problem–and also, if you buy pre-ground whole-grain flour, you can pretty well assume it’s rancid. The whole seeds preserve the oil much better, but once you grind them, the oil goes bad quickly. Whole-wheat flour is one of the biggest scams on the grocery store shelves as far as “whole food” offerings go, for that reason.

    BTW there is a similar issue with flax. You can grind flax in a coffee grinder, so don’t ever buy it pre-ground. Especially if it is not refrigerated, but I wouldn’t get it that way even then. I also do not trust store-bought flaxseed oil. I get whole flax only and grind it at home. (I use it in LC baking of quickbreads sometimes, though not very often, otherwise I wouldn’t bother with it.)

    Dana wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I made a wonderful wild sourdough sponge several years ago. It took three weeks of feeding before the proper ratio between bacteria and yeast was achieved. The flavor of my artisan bread was like nothing you could find in the stores. If anyone is interested in making their own sourdough, I would suggest using the finest ingredients. Instead of store bought flour, I recommended purchasing online from King Arthur flour.

      Don wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  28. Yeah I don’t miss grains at all. They don’t even taste good unless you add fat or sugar to the mix anyways…

    Rhys wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I agree. Although the science of mitigating the poisons is fascinating, I can’t imagine eating grains outside of a survival scenario. There is a whole world of foods that are far tastier and more nutrient-dense than birdseed.

      Timothy wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • At least we have the choice to eat grains but I worry about cattle that are being force-fed grains for some fashionable fad. One v well-known store, M&S, in England ONLY have grain-fed or finished meat and boast about it as if its a bonus! I could cry!

      Judi Strega wrote on August 5th, 2011
  29. Wonderul post! But…what about treating corn with lime to make tortillas? Homemade tortillas, sopas, and tortilla chips are the only kind of grain product I really miss!! Does anyone know the efficacy of lime to remove corn’s anti-nutrients??

    tkm wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  30. I am from Puerto Rico (been in mainland USA since 198282) but my family and friends in Puerto Rico are overweight because of the “rice and bean” diet. They eat lots of rice and bean with some beef or chicken or fish. If you you see a served plate, you will see the biggest proportion is rice and beans.

    Carlos wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  31. i eat two pieces of ezekiel bread w grass fed organic butter and black organic coffee every morning before i go to a crossfit class. besides, that, as primal as possible (cant always avoid oils and/or preservitives/pesticides in foods eaten outside of the house).

    it doesnt seem to affect me too much

    carlosm wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  32. Has anyone heard of Ezekial 4:9 sprouted breads? foodforlife has plenty of products that are gluten free and they have a 7 grain flour free bread that is great and doesn’t bother my stomach at all.

    David Johns wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • I have and eat Ezekial bread all of the time. They actually have tortillas too. You mentioned corn tortillas in an earlier post…well they have some…and let me tell you they taste as good as those fresh ones you would get at a tortilla making facility in the South countries.

      Claudia wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Um, I used to make tortillas all the time from scratch. I learned how from my Mexican MIL. Ezekial tortillas are not that good at all.

        Jennifer wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • having gall bladder issues I have been told to stick to a vegetarian diet to avoid surgery…can anyone out there suggest books or cites where I can find a good vegetarian diet? I wasn’t all that aware of grains other than refined ones were bad. I do though only eat sprouted organicly grown grains when I do eat grains…I have had to substitute meat with protein filled legumes, grains (Quinoa) and plenty of F&V’s. Love some suggestions or reference to previous posts by Mark to help with this…

        Claudia wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • Anecdotally, the only person I know with gallbladder issues is a stark vegetarian.

          Wyatt wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • When my friend got her gallbladder removed, she was told by her doctor that it was probably the RESULT of being vegetarian, and that if she didn’t start to include at least SOME lean meats in her diet, she could expect her health to keep deteriorating

          Elizabeth wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • Ezekiel breads include soy. And they’re sprouted, not fermented, so be sure to read Mark’s caveats about that.

      I can’t explain it, but I used to eat one slice of their bread a day along with my completely traditional foods diet, and removing just that one slice took me from not being able to lose weight to steadily losing it as long as I kept my diet that way.

      MamaGrok wrote on August 4th, 2011
  33. I read your posts often, and I never comment… but this is amazing and thus comment worthy in my book. Thanks so much!

    Kelly wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  34. I am a home brewer (of beer) and mostly primal otherwise (80-20 rule works) and the beer making process sounds somewhat familiar to this grain treatment posted here. Barley is malted first by soaking until a partial sprout occurs, then is heated to stop the process and slightly roast the grain for flavor. Next the malted barley is mashed by soaking in 155 °F water for an hour to convert the starch to sugar. After separating the solids from the sugary liquid, the liquid is fermented with brewers yeast until all the simple sugars are converted to alcohol.

    I wonder what toxins are left in beer, besides the alcohol. I am not sensitive to grains and can eat them without issue, except for gaining weight, so I don’t. Because I don’t filter the beer, there is plenty of vitamin B from residual yeast. Overall, I think homemade beer isn’t so bad?

    Thanks to Mark for another great post.

    JoeBrewer wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • 80-20 nets you 60. 8steps towards health and subtract 2 steps your progress is 6 steps forward (depending on how large those 2 steps backward are). So in 10 total steps you moved forward 6. Results will be slow and hard to notice except for over a long period of time. Consider shooting for 90-10 then the net is more efficient.

      Dan Hegerich wrote on August 3rd, 2011
      • Dan, you missed the point and the question. I am not debating the 80-20 rule that Mark talks about in this lifestyle. I am actually at my ideal body composition and have had great success with Primal while drinking beer and wonder if the beer making process is similar to what is spelled out in this post. Nobody wants to be lectured, so try to stay on subject here.

        JoeBrewer wrote on August 3rd, 2011
        • I do fine with beer, too, and I have IBS and a gut that is VERY picky about grains. So my guess is that something about the processing renders the grains less harmful. I am lean and also have had good results, eg primal w beer. So the bigger issue with beer for me is that it’s using up a chunk of my carb “budget” and my total daily caloric needs…if I fill up on beer I won’t eat as many nutritious foods. Now that I’ve weaned myself from tortilla chips, it’s the only non-nutritious thing left in my diet, so I’m going to enjoy it at least for the time being but stay aware of it’s impacts (good and bad).

          DThalman wrote on August 4th, 2011
  35. Soaking and fermenting grains? Are we talking about BEER?

    I hope so.

    Glenn Ammons wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  36. The thing that sticks in my logic stack on this is that bad teeth in ancient human skeletons is the marker for transition from pastoralism to agriculture. That and that I personally feel much better when I avoid all grains. That said, we live in a really privileged little bubble, economically. I just made an extra donation to Doctors without Borders for famine relief in Sudan. I don’t know how you get people out of situations like that without grains.

    But, who is to say that an orthomolecular (Linus Pauling’s word) grain won’t be bred soon. It would not be impossible. I hate GM because of what they use it for — to make things Roundup Ready, insecticidal or to survive shipping. What if they used it to make orthomolecular grains without BT toxins, etc? There is some history of “good” grain breeding. It is not impossible.

    slacker wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  37. I avoid grains like a plague, (except small quantities of rice occasionally) but some times I like fermented grains… and then sometimes I like the results of continueing the process and consuming the distilled result. Okay I am not as ripped as I could be, I’m still pretty lean; but a beer, or a shot or 2 of whiskey seems okay. (I don’t kike to over do anything.) Any way seems like these are grains redeeming qualities.

    Richard Harrison wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  38. Another timely blog Mark, as one of the more recent adaptions in my primal journey has been incorporating a couple traditionally prepared grains back in my diet.

    Stephen Guyenet did a post a long time ago about buckwheat pancakes and Chris Kessler recently had a post claiming to have improved upon it. Buckwheat sourdough mix is easy to prepare, and similar to white rice seems like a very safe starch to add to the mix for its pseudo grain nature and high phytase content. And I personally think coconut flour pancakes are too intense and that almond flour pancakes should be avoided due to high PUFA factor (not to mention nuts also have phytate anyway).

    Rye also has a lot of phytase, lots of beneficial nutrients and makes a fantastic sourdough bread. As I mentioned in a previous comment it shouldn’t be eaten in excess but makes a great vessel for wonderful primal foods such as butter and liver pate.

    I know your stance on grains is they are mostly negative and I agree. That is once again why I appreciate posts like this that display how open minded and accepting you are (even if it pushed the reader to feel preparation is too much effort and that its effect is inconclusive).

    The reason I love the WAPF so much is its acceptance of all foods and that they categorize very few foods as pure evil. Most foods have a place when used in a proper informed manner and can be harmful when used improperly. I feel grains are the same way and if used intelligently can become another important cog of a healthy ancestral diet.

    Jeff wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  39. Yeah I have been grain, legume, potatoe- free since November 2010 and I don’t miss them. I use cauliflower in leue of potatoe and I about to start using butternut squash saw some good recipes for that.
    I don’t even eat rice(neither brown or white) anymore because I fear that would trigger the cravings too.

    Gayle wrote on August 3rd, 2011

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