Day 6 Kick Start 2022 Plant-Based Challenge
Welcome to Day 6! How are you feeling so far?
Today we look at the subject of whole grains. We’ll cover their benefits, the difference between whole and processed grains, which grains are gluten-free, and how to avoid the GMOs and pesticides found in many commercial grains.
Whole grains are nutritional powerhouses. Whole grains are high in fibre! They protect against heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. They lower inflammation, keep your digestive system healthy and are great for getting and staying lean.
When grains are whole and fully intact — which means they contain the bran (husk), germ (think of it as the plant “embryo”), and endosperm (food for the growing embryo) — they are chock full of vitamins, essential minerals, and fibre.
When you eat grains in their whole, unprocessed form, you digest them slowly — which means they’re much less likely to spike your blood sugar.
Examples of grains typically eaten whole include quinoa, millet, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, and barley.
Processed grains, on the other hand, have had the bran and germ removed and have been refined or ground. Manufacturers prefer processed flour because it has a longer shelf life, and many consumers prefer the taste of products made with refined grains because they are lighter. Most people get the majority of their carbs from these fragmented grains, in the form of cookies, muffins, crackers, breads, cereals, and pastas. Processing removes a lot of natural nutrition, although some vitamins and minerals may be added back artificially. The lack of fibre and the conversion to more rapidly digested flour makes processed grains high on the glycemic index and more likely to spike your blood sugar.
Many people are worried about gluten these days. While grains are the only place you find gluten, not all grains contain gluten. In fact, among the grains most commonly consumed, the only ones that do have gluten are wheat, barley, and rye. Oats are often cross-contaminated with gluten, so people with celiac disease may react poorly to oats especially if they aren’t processed on gluten-free machinery. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious gluten-free grains to choose from — like millet, rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, just to name a few.
But, not everyone needs to worry about gluten. Gluten is a protein, and may even be protective for your health if you don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
GMOs and Glyphosate
Most genetically engineered foods have been modified to withstand herbicides like glyphosate (the primary active ingredient in Roundup). glyphosate is a known endocrine disruptor, an antibiotic, and a probable carcinogen (according to the World Health Organization). The only genetically modified grain in widespread cultivation is corn. If you eat corn and you want to avoid GMOs and glyphosate, it’s a good idea to look for organic or certified non-GMO.
GMO corn isn’t the only grain that may be contaminated with glyphosate, though. Industrialized agribusiness frequently uses glyphosate as a desiccant, to dry the crop out before harvest. Wheat, oats, and some other grains can also contain glyphosate residues. Fortunately, organically grown foods are grown without glyphosate, so going organic solves the problem. If you can’t afford that, though, don’t stress. Hundreds of studies show us the health benefits of whole grains, and most of the grains consumed in those studies were not grown organically.
TODAY’S ACTION: Eat 1 ½ cups of whole grains today.
Three to five half-cup servings of cooked whole grains per day is the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for most countries’ dietary guidelines. This might look like oatmeal or overnight oats for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch, and a power bowl for dinner. You can spread your whole grains out and have a bit with each meal, or if you prefer you can get all three servings in one meal.
To prepare dried grains, it’s ideal to soak them for at least eight hours or overnight. This will activate their germination process and make their nutrients more bioavailable. Make sure to rinse them before cooking.
Sprouting grains before cooking will further reduce some of the anti-nutrients like phytate that naturally occur in grains, making it easier for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients. This may aid digestion in people with mild grain sensitivities.
Tip: Like beans, there are two main cooking methods for grains: stovetop or rice cooker/pressure cooker/slow cooker. You can cook grains with water, or try vegetable stock to give them more flavour.
Todays Recipe: Cashew and Coconut Rice
1 cup organic brown basmati rice (uncooked)
1 can light coconut milk (BPA-free)
½ cup of toasted cashew nuts
½ cup water (see Chef’s notes)
2 tbsp organic lime juice (+½ Tbsp as desired, freshly squeezed, zest before juicing)
¼ tsp salt (optional)
1 ½ tsp organic lime zest (zest before juicing)
lime wedges (for serving)
In a saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, water, lime juice (start with 2 tbsp), and salt if using.
Bring to a boil on high heat, stir, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 35–40 minutes, or longer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through.
Toast the cashew nuts until light brown in a medium oven.
Turn off heat, stir in lime zest, and let sit for 4–5 minutes.
Taste test, add additional lime juice if desired.
Add the toasted cashew nuts.
Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on individual portions.
It’s helpful to have 1–2 tbsp boiled water on hand, in addition to the ½ cup used to cook the rice, to moisten the rice as it sits before serving.
Photograph by Holy Cow Vegan
Research from Food Revolution Network