What is a whole grain? Basically a grain is a seed and is made
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
vegetation. It refers to all food-grain bearing grasses, such
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
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
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
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
for "food." Cereal grains provide an average of 75%
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
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.
Ballentine, Rudolph, "Diet & Nutrition." Himalayan
Institute, Honesdale, PA, 1978.
Lehner, Ernst and JoHanna, "Food and Medicinal Plants."
Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1962.
McNeill, William H, "The Rise of the West." The University
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