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 Naturopathic Medicine: Grains 
 
Whole Grains
What is a whole grain? Basically a grain is a seed and is made up of three parts: the GERM, which contains vitamins (especially E), oils and proteins and can sprout under the right conditions; the ENDOSPERM or starchy bulk of the grain which nourishes the seedling; and the BRAN or tough outer covering that protects the grain, containing protein, minerals, fiber and small amounts of vitamins. As long as the grain or seed remains intact it will live for some time in a dormant condition. When exposed to warmth and moisture, it will begin to wake up and sprout. A processed grain will not grow if planted, and similarly provides less food energy when consumed. If the integrity of the grain is disrupted by grinding, cracking or rolling, it cannot remain alive. It dies, and decay will eventually begin. For this reason, any whole grain which is not in its natural state, such as whole grain flour, cracked wheat, corn meal, etc., will eventually spoil unless it is refrigerated. Even under cold storage, it will remain fresh only for a limited amount of time.

The history of civilization closely parallels that of agriculture and growing of cereal grains. The word cereal derives from the Latin "cerealis," pertaining to Ceres, the Roman goddess of vegetation. It refers to all food-grain bearing grasses, such as barley, buckwheat, maize (Indian corn), millet, oats, rice, rye and wheat. The cereals originated in Central Asia and the Far East, with the exception of Indian corn, native to South America. They have been cultivated since prehistoric times, and their distribution became worldwide as civilization advanced. The practice of agriculture allowed the development of great states and empires. The cultures of antiquity were all built around the agricultural centers of grain growing peoples: the Chinese, Indians, Koreans and Japanese in Asia; the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Phoenicians, Israelites and Syrians in the Near East; the Egyptians, Lydians, Nubians and Carthaginians in Africa; the Cretins, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans in Europe; the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs in South and Central America. Industrialization led to the establishment of western nations as great world markets, but to this day in large parts of South America, Africa and the Far East the agricultural methods and farming tools are still nearly the same as in Biblical times. The civilizing influence of agriculture was, originally, the need for inherently peacible farming folk to devise ways to organize and protect themselves and their lands from the more quarrelsome hunters, accustomed to stalk and kill their food. Furthermore, grown food is more sophisticated by virtue of its high energy efficiency: It takes approximately 12 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat.

Because they are low on the food chain, grains remain today the cheapest, and thus most common, source of unrefined carbohydrates, which most nutritionists advise should make up at least 60% of a healthy diet. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Washington DC) have intensively campaigned for the adoption of a new "Four Food Groups:" Whole Grains, Vegetables, Fruits and Legumes, all of which are largely complex carbohydrates. In selecting grains, beans and seeds, look for those that are organically grown. Whole grains should be well-formed, without blemishes, distortions or discolorations. Green grains are only immature kernels and should be used along with the others. Grains are best stored in a cool, dry place. Keeping them in paper bags allows them to breathe.

Cereal grains are the source of many food items such as bread, crackers, cooked or ready to eat cereals, all the pastas, noddles, rice and corn. The word for corn in medieval English meant "grain," and the Chinese pictogram for rice is the same as that for "food." Cereal grains provide an average of 75% carbohydrate, 10 to 15% protein and 2% fat. Diet and health are increasingly correlated. Other than a few relatively rare metabolic diseases (such as Celiac sprue) whole grains are never implicated as culprits. Sadly, however, much of the grain produced in this country is used only indirectly for nutrition. Clearly it is the addiction to animal fat and protein that is creating environmental havoc, both inside and outside our bodies. We cut down oxygen- producing, medicinal herb-sheltering, water-pumping rain forests in order to grow grain mono-species with inorganic fertilizers and pesticides to feed livestock. The livestock contaminate our dwindling groundwater supply with their feces and disrupt the ozone layer with their gaseous eructations. The various diseases of these, and other, domesticated animals are controlled by antibiotics which become inexorably involved in the food chain. This in turn creates a need for more powerful antibacterial drugs which propels the greed of the petrochemical and pharmaceutical merchants. Eat smart: Replacine excess animal fat with grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

References
Ballentine, Rudolph, "Diet & Nutrition." Himalayan International Institute, Honesdale, PA, 1978.

Lehner, Ernst and JoHanna, "Food and Medicinal Plants." Tudor Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1962.

McNeill, William H, "The Rise of the West." The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL 1963.

Levin, Cecile T, "Cooking for Regeneration." Japan Publications, Tokyo and New York, 1988.

Robbins, J, "Diet for a New America." Stillpoint Publishing, Walpole, NH, 1987

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 About The Author
Emily Kane NDA graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China,......more
 
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