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should people eat any grain?

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
A friend was recently talking about what makes her innards happy.  And it seems that she has come to the conclusion of eliminating grain.  Apparently, grain is cool with being eaten, but it has coated itself with stuff to keep it from being digested.  It would seem that what it really wants is to end up in a bunch of poop on the ground to start a new plant. 

It does seem like we aren't really designed to eat grain.  Of course, when we smash it with rocks and mess with it a lot we get some really yummy treats - but it doesn't seem like we are designed to grab it off of the stem and put it in our mouths and chew it. 

This line of thinking has been rolling around in my head for several weeks now and I have started cutting back on any and all grains. 

I'm curious if anybody else has more information down this road.


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Robert Ray
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Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1331
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Gluten intolerance/celiac disease is something you hear more and more about. My wife is gluten intolerant and her innards get really unhappy when she eats wheat especially. But any grain that is high in glutens affect her.
  I make most of the bread I eat and make gluten free baked goods for her.
Seems to be hereditary one of the grand kids is afected as is our daughter.


"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
(Buckman)
Jami McBride
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1783
    
  11
The book you want to investigate is Nourishing Traditions -
http://www.amazon.com/Nourishing-Traditions-Challenges-Politically-Dictocrats/dp/0967089735/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255468030&sr=8-1

Much practical wisdom about soaking grains to eliminate their defense, as you mention.  Fermenting of many foods to greatly improve digestion and nutrient assimilation are covered too.

My children are gluten intolerant with other food allergies.  However, I sprout all our grains, dry the sprouts and grind into flour.  This flour does not cause the gluten reaction

So much good information can be found in that book.

~Jami
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
paul wheaton wrote:
but it doesn't seem like we are designed to grab it off of the stem and put it in our mouths and chew it. 



the same thing could be said of meat and many vegetables that have anti nutritive qualities when consumed raw. part of the reason the "raw food" diet is on my list of snake oil. humans evolved with brains that allowed them to manipulate the enviroment to suit them. including the food sources. our digestive tracts have evolved to accomodate.

if you examine differnet ethnic backgrounds you will see that many ethnicities tend to have a higher proportion of people that have difficulty handling certain foods. their ancestors didn't rely on or evolve to accomodate those foods. as a whole the world is becoming a mixed bag of ethnicities and these intolerances appear more likely to crop up randomly.

I don't think these intolerances can be used to create a black and white picture of what is good or bad for people or what is natural or not. eating primarily seal blubber all winter may be natural and healthy for people of inuit descent . likewise cultures that relied on milk from the early days of domestication are capable of handling milk protein. others may not be.

it is too complicated to make generalizations. do what works for you and your body.


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Robert Ray
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Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1331
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Paul, would your question include beer!  If so, I know I would have to be on the grain eating side of the fence.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I never did like beer.  I've tried it a dozen times or so and never understood why people seem so keen on it.

So .... how long does it take for humans to evolve .... and how long ago did we start eating grain?  And how long ago did we start cooking food?

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1783
    
  11
I like beer occasionally with certain foods, but a nice Riesling is good anytime 

Ohhhhhh.... idee idee idee idee, idee idee oh!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqg6BNSUG5Q

Sorry..... I always break into song when I'm drinking - yea!

Jami
Robert Ray
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Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1331
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Fermentation has always been a way to preserve the harvest, so we've probably been using grains and fruits in a fermented form as long as we've been eating grain.
Even in a fermented form some people have adverse reactions to beverages made from certain grains.
Not reisling but I do have to rack some bottles of raspbery wine this week.
Pennie O'Grady


Joined: Jun 09, 2007
Posts: 367
Okay, I admit it, I'm that friend.  I discovered Sally Fallon's ideas through the Weston A. Price foundation and found that some of my unhappy innard symptoms were drastically reduced or disappeared altogether.  Nourishing Traditions, the book, is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, Paul.  You must check it out!  And you will love it because it's very irreverent -- the subtitle reads:  The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.  I'm glad you brought it up, Jami.

The substance that is in the outer layer of grains that makes them indigestible, yearning to germinate in a pile of poop as they are, is phytic acid.  Processes that help make grains more digestible are not only soaking and fermenting, but also removing, or at least cracking, that outer husk!  Yes, we do need roughage, but get plenty if we eat good amounts of fruit and veggies.

From NT, pg 452:  "The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and.... other adverse effects.  Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid.  As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains.  The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits."

We live in a fast food society, which includes "healthy" things like granola, quick breads and "instant" oatmeal.  We love to feed these things to our kids and think it's healthy.  When we consider what first grains babies are often given -- uncooked, unsoaked, raw powdered oats with water, juice or milk added -- it's no wonder so many kids have allergies!  (Old boxes of Mothers Oats included an overnight soak in the cooking directions.  How far we've come!  Progress just looks like ignoring what we knew....)  I've noticed over the years two primary groups of people in my circle who are most likely to report allergies:  heavy junk food consumers and heavy "health food" consumers.  Such a stunning pattern how many very health and nutrition advocates I've known are affected -- and how many of them have kids with life threatening levels of asthma and food allergies!  That was my first suspicion that maybe we were headed in the wrong direction.  Also, MS is linked to gluten intolerance by some research.  The rate of MS is peculiarly high in the Northwest.  I wonder how much of this could be correlated with the very "health food" conscious population?  (I know, there's a huge vitamin D connection, too.)

I do not avoid all grains all the time, as Paul dramatically suggests.  I find that I can be judicious -- sprouting really helps, though interestingly I find that the store bought "manna bread" gives me serious symptoms, while other sprouted breads do not.  Fermented foods are great for me.  Beer definitely makes me bloated and gassy (which I take as a sign that it is not digesting well, thus the famed "beer farts".  I'm not really a purist when it comes to eating grains -- I mostly avoid what I know gives me problems, and occasionally eat what is available because that's the available option and I'm hungry -- or just because I like it and am willing to suffer the consequences.  If I consume this infrequently, I don't seem to have problems.  I seem fine with rice and quinoa (the low gluten stuff).  Even soaked oats are a problem for me, but I'm still experimenting.

Pennie O'Grady


Joined: Jun 09, 2007
Posts: 367
One more thought I want to add.  When you think about humans evolving as omniverous, single stomached hunters and gatherers, grains would have been consumed in small quantities (labor intensive), and probably more often by eating the contents of the multiple stomachs used to digest grains by animals designed to eat them.
Jami McBride
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1783
    
  11
Progress just looks like ignoring what we knew....)


.... but lost, because it was not passed onto the next generation ♥

I agree, one has to watch carefully common 'health' advise.  Like urban legends a lot of 'stuff' get's passed around, but a deeper look will reveal truth.  We all need to manage our own bodies to their best performance. 

Reviving old wisdom/ways and passing those on is a big part of these forums.

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1783
    
  11
As for eating grains....

Many new studies have been done on grains (originally thought to be the source of gout, which was at epidemic levels in old England around the 1700's and has made a come back here since the 1950's).  Seems the studies discovered much more than intended, most shocking is the link between gout, obesity, weight gain, high blood pressure, blood sugar levels (to high, to low), abnormal kidney function, stroke and heart problems of all every kind.

First they suspected processed grains (only the rich had access to).  Then the finger pointed to meat consumption, and ale beer and lastly at sugar (refined frutose and sucrose, high frutose corn syrup being the worse) - seems in the end it was labeled as afflicting those who can indulge in living the high life, like the rich in marry old England and like us Americans today.

As mentioned already a little indulgence in such 'high foods' you might be able to handle, but meat at every meal, refined grains and sugars too, washed down with some brew and disease is apt to follow.

Grains are not the only problem, like most things it's complicated.  There are a group of people, I discovered by accident, who believe in eating meat only once or a couple of times a week.  Not vegetarian, but not typical American either - they are minimalist when it comes to 'consuming' for health reasons.  I like this philosophy - reduce, restrain, sounds more like the simple diet of natives without our modern health problems.

Robert Ray
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Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1331
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Oats have been shown to help maintain glucose levels as well as reduce bad cholesterol. In moderation some grains might be helpful.
As with anything I think moderation is the key.
  It is suprising the amout of processed foods that have glutens in them. Severe gluten intolerance realy inhibits what is available out there in the consumer market for those that suffer.
Fermentation and sprouting help in the consumption of some grains. Sprouted bread does not seem to have the same effect on my other half as some have already mentioned. Finding that combination of gluten free flours that give the same texture and body as wheat bread has been a challenge.  Some of the bean flours have good results but give an off taste that I really don't like. I have what I think is a good compromise now and will continue to fiddle with it to try and get that perfect loaf of GF bread.

Joel Hollingsworth
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Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:So .... how long does it take for humans to evolve .... and how long ago did we start eating grain?  And how long ago did we start cooking food?


Our ancestors have been eating significant quantities of grain for about 10,000 years or about a hundred, depending on the individual.  One of the evolutionary changes is the amount of amylase enzyme in saliva: people from a long line of grain-eaters will be better at making sake or pozol.

http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v39/n10/abs/ng2123.html

A plausible estimate for the development of cooking is 1.9 million years ago, when human (near-human?) teeth became abruptly smaller.  The prevailing opinion seems to be 500,000 years.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=cooking-up-bigger-brains

Evolution can happen very rapidly, depending on how much advantage a particular gene confers.  For example, the Black Death caused proliferation of an otherwise very rare gene that controls how T-cells work.  It makes people more susceptible to West Nile virus, but two copies of it confer almost complete immunity to both bubonic plague and HIV, and one copy gives partial resistance.  That sort of evolution only took a few generations. 

Things like nutrition can be very powerful in natural selection, even if they never cause lethal problems: sickly-looking people might be less likely to have kids, and parents might feed more mouths if their children aren't as biologically wasteful of food.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
poly put it well.

In times of great enviromental stress, famine, disease etc.....natural selection and therefore evolution works rapidly. weeding out those who are weaker or less able to survive or reproduce for whatever reason including dietary deficiencies.


in a situation where grain farming was implemented and some of the people could utilize the products better than others (digestively speaking) then they would be much more likely to be able to survive, have children and pass on the traits to the next generation that allowed them in turn to survive, creating a population with a much higher incidence of the traits neccessary to utilize grain.

it is thought that much grain production, farming and domestication of animals started in parts of the middle east. a small area suitable for farming in a larger dryer area....including some of  iraq, syria......this could be the mythical "garden of eden". although it appears that farming was also developed simultaneously (think historical time though) in some other parts of the world and this area is not the exclusive birthplace of agriculture. but most grain requires a somewhat picky enviroment that excludes many tropical regions. temperate regions including parts of europe sustained the most grain farming. 

As with any historical science there is controversy, competing hypothosis, and holes in our knowledge. and timelines and theories are always open to new evidence and information but theoretically  people from direct descent from areas that developed grain farming first, most likely would have the most grain friendly digestive tracts.

remember that all the modern studies and the resultant "conclusions" are generally based on a random sampling of a population often of a modern society that is also a pretty big melting pot. this is where "good science" can get confused with "bad science". normally, to come to a meaningful conclusion it is important to utlilize a wide range of genetically diverse humans to establish basic trends. but the area of nutritional science is frought with problems because of the great diversity.

the negative associations with grain consumption must be seen in the light that they are often conducted on broad populations. and populations that are subject to our modern guttony. both of which totally mire the results and are often not even remotely applicable to an individual.

if you take 100 random americans to study the health effects of a diet rich in wheat.

40% of them are overweight (largely due to overconsumption)
20% of them are from tropical regional descent (tubers, tropical fruits)
1% of them are from mongol/inuit descent (almost exclusive marine meat)
14% of from american indian descent (*hunter gatherer, corn )
another 5% are of asian descent (rice, seafood, vegetables)
the remaining 20% are of european descent (wheat farmers)

then it stands to reason you will find negative health consequences associated with wheat consumption for 80% of the population. is it a fair conclusion to say that wheat is a bad food for everyone? bad for you?  of course it would be infinitly more complicated even then that when you factor in that there are few people of direct descent from anywhere in the U.S.

from my loose observations, the studies that find "good foods" seem to be often centered around a much more narrow population. when you look at the asian diet, mediterranin diet, indonesian diet, in populations that are almost exclusively of their respective region, then they suddenly find all these food that are "good for us" and imply that other foods that are not present in large quanities in the diet of those populations must be responsible for the terrible nutritionally related disease in the modern world. maybe, just maybe though...those people have adapted to the foods availiable in their enviroment. and it is as beautifully simple and simultaneously as complicated as that.  they are not free of disease because of what they eat. they are free of disease because they have adapted to eat what they eat. and you may not be.

imo. unless you are of fairly direct descent from...... somewhere .........., moderation and paying attention to how your body reacts to certain foods and avoiding modern processed foods and amounts of foods that would not have been available 1000 years ago to anyone, is the only prudent road to follow. everything else is often spinning your wheels or a wild goose chase. It is why we have this rollercoaster of nutritional reccomendations and the huge variety of opinions and accusations. it is sooooo much more complicated then anyone wants to admit. the factors surrounding the analysis of how nutrition relates to disease is beyond imagination. that is not even factoring in the cultural, political, and monetary gain that can manipulate conclusions. 

Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
oy. something else to think about is the problems lumping all grains together. oats are low in gluten, wheat is high in phosphorous, corn is low in it. for instane a diet high in wheat might be fine if other componants of the diet are high in calcium wherein it could cause serious problems within a diet of low calcium foods.

how grains relate to other things in the diet is important. high fiber diets decrease the absorption of iron. so a diet high in grain fibers might need to be complemented with good sources of dietary iron. primarily meat.

you can see how it starts snowballing into a very very difficult question.
Jami McBride
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1783
    
  11
While I don't agree with you completely on this one, I do see the problem with 'studies' and their findings.  They are not the final-word that is for sure.

However, I do believe no matter what your decent, a diet employing moderation when it comes to store bought, refined grains, sugars, alcohol and meat would be beneficial to all. 

To my way of thinking these foods are not the same as that which we might raise organically/naturally for ourselves.  Even so moderation and a diverse food diet are good general rules to follow for better health.  And over consumption of grains for some people and some animals has had well documented adverse affects.  No one has mentioned yet the huge marketing ploy to push grains on the American people..... much of what we believe is just good marketing since the end of WWII.

So what do we do - avoid grains.... No!  Just be smart where we get them, how much we indulge in them and when to cut back.  Listen to our own bodies for what works best in our systems.  There is more than one way to lower cholesterol, and balance is the key.

Jocelyn Campbell
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Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2694
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  72
This is a fabulous, informative discussion! I'd love to check out that book Jami and Pennie - thanks for mentioning it.

I have some food for thought to contribute, too - three things.

1. some theorize that hybridized plants, especially wheat, limit the genetic diversity of the food we eat, creating a higher propensity toward food allergies - let's not even get started with the whole GMO issue here, too. I have friends who can't eat American wheat and bread, but can digest bread and wheat in Europe just fine. What's that about?

2. leaky gut syndrome - the typical American diet and high antibiotic use (including antibiotics in the the meat we eat) means food is not broken down properly in the intestines. This leads to "too large" particles of food entering the blood stream that the body sees as invaders. Hence the huge rise in food intolerances which can be IgG antibody related (NOT the anaphylactic-shock-risky IgE antibody related food allergies).

3. as we age, we produce less digestive acid and/or enzymes. Heartburn is usually from not enough acid in the stomach to close off the opening to the esophagus, hence acid reflux. (I've heard you can test this for yourself by swallowing a teaspoon of vinegar to see if the heartburn diminishes. If it does, you have not enough acid, instead of too much.) We think it's too much acid and take antacids, which decreases our digestive ability even further. Oy vey.

I know a woman who had severe heartburn all the time. She took antacids constantly throughout the day - Rolaids, Tums, etc. - until her digestion basically shut down and she became allergic, or had food intolerances, to all but perhaps 6 or 8 foods. In this list she had one meat, one oil, no grains, and the rest of the foods were a couple fruits and a couple vegetables. That was IT until her gut could heal, which was taking a long, long time. Can you imagine?

Without having read the book yet, in my mind and experience, the answers to healthier food include:

  • [li]organic, non-GMO, no antibiotics, no chemicals food (duh)[/li]
    [li]heirloom or diverse plant genes as much as possible[/li]
    [li]more fruits and vegetables in place of grains (a current goal of mine, actually)[/li]
    [li]more fermented foods, especially for those of us in the 40-plus crowd (currently, I'm lousy at this and need to improve!)[/li]


  • That turned out longer than I intended, but the food issues like this are a big deal in my world.


    Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services - www.jocelyncampbell.com
    Joel Hollingsworth
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    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:I have friends who can't eat American wheat and bread, but can digest bread and wheat in Europe just fine. What's that about?


    I bet it's a sourdough thing.

    American bread tends to be made with an optimum (minimum) rise time.

    Almost anywhere else, giving bread time to rise is economically OK.

    A loaf of bread from my oven tends to have risen for about 24 hours, and my starter has had many generations (fewer yeast generations than bacterium generations, but what can you do?) to learn how to use every part of the wheat...everything but the squeal?  Letting the starter run out of food once in a while is just the way I live, but I think it has benefits, too.

    Active-dry yeast, by contrast, has been bred to make quick use of the most-available stuff and belch as rapidly as possible.  More importantly, it has been cut off from its bacterial symbionts.  I bet most bakers in Europe would literally sneer if you handed them an envelope of it...I know most bakers in Berkeley would.
    Jami McBride
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      11
    Wonderfully put Jocelyn!  Working as I do doesn't always give me the time to lay things out as I would like and I hate this fact.  But you have boiled the main points down very nicely.  Fermenting is a whole new skill/habit set.  I find you have to start slowly and make the processes your own.  I really want to add to my diet pickled vegetables and sauerkraut both covered in Nourishing Traditions.  Since this thread was started I haven't been able to find my copy, to much reading it all over the place   She writes the best stories in the margins of each page.

    Poly - It is so good to be reminded that things haven't always been done as they are now.  I love it, got to go make some starter.... We are just getting back into bread now that the colder weather has returned, took a break from the kitchen heat this summer.

    This is why my lacto-fermented soda recipe is so long - yes you can speed it up by using yeast, but I use an extra step of waiting three days for the fermenting process to occur on it's own, naturally.  I love soda made with 3 ingredients + water, and none have to be purchased at the store.  That's a great feeling of freedom I can't really explain. 
    Leah Sattler


    Joined: Jun 26, 2008
    Posts: 2603
    excellent points jocelyn!

    you reveal even more compounding factors that affect the answer to the question. but that is just the reality. how we live other parts of our lives can profoundly affect how food affects us. when you consider the new varieties of foods both before and after they have been run through an animal, how farming and cooking changes the properties of food. even the basic set backs that people have been subjected to before they have a choice such as soy or cows milk protein based formulas that instigate an immune response that can continue through a lifetime or damage the intestines through colitis. disease such as crohns that can wreak havoc on intestines, even the poplulation of good bacteria that we happen to support can affect how well our bodies can digest particular foods. 

    I do think that in general we as american tend to overconsum grains. but I think the major point of that is "overconsume".

    are all those problems associated with grain present in people who are otherwise in stellar health? with excellent diets? who avoid processed foods adn additives? were they raised on human milk as infants? did they not have solid foods (usually grains) pushed on them when their digestive systems weren't ready to handle it when they were just a few months old? do they avoid medications?

    until someone can show me that the people that fall into that category have serious health affects from eating grain in moderation then I refuse to believe grain is the problem.
    Jami McBride
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    Posts: 1783
        
      11
    Ha!  Well said . . . .
    Here's hoping we all can embrace moderation <img src="http://www.currentwave.com/Images/beerchug.gif" alt="" border="0" align="middle">

    ~Jami
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15477
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    pennielinkpc wrote:
    Okay, I admit it, I'm that friend. 


    There you have it folks.  Written proof.  She confessed.  I have friends. 

    Wow - what an awesome thread!  Based on some of the discussion here, I can see the beginnings of some new threads. 

    In a nutshell .... my impression is that it may be rather wise to reduce grains in general - especially anything particularly cheap, unsoaked, unsprouted, non-organic.  Thus, more fruits and veggies.  I would guess more organic meat too - but there was at least one post that advocated against that (and probably good fodder for a new thread). 


    Leah Sattler


    Joined: Jun 26, 2008
    Posts: 2603
    it can be difficult and expensive to find grain that is truly similiar to what our bodies learned to cope with thousands of years ago. And obviously our lifestyles and bodies tend to be much different out of desire, neccessity or chance.

    it is a very interesting topic in that we could apply it to just about any food. meat, potatoes, fats/oils, even some fruits, vegetables and legumes and nuts.  not all foods are good for all people in all situations in all quanitities. but......we have to eat something........ 
    Brenda Groth
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    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    well i do know that most people on these forums consider the bible just a dusty old book..but Jesus and his disciples did walk through the fields picking and eating grains of wheat..guess if it was good enough for them 2000 years ago..it should be good for us

    i did see a thing on food network about corn going through your body undigested..yet almost every culture int he world uses one of 4 grains, oats, corn, wheat or rice.


    almost every ancient writing reflects on bread...bread of life..etc..

    and also almost every ancient writing considers fat as a blessing..rather than a curse..

    i guess we are in a day and age where judging your food and anorexia..are the norm..the blessing..but in my opinion ..if it was good enough for the ancients ..it is likely good enough for us today.

    milk and honey, meat, fish and grains, vegetables and legumes..yup..good stuff..


    Brenda

    Bloom where you are planted.
    http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
    Leah Sattler


    Joined: Jun 26, 2008
    Posts: 2603
    I whole heartedly agree brenda! humans haven't somehow changed over the past 100 years. we should eat what our ancestors ate. well...maybe just a little chocolate every now and then.....
    Fred Morgan
    steward

    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 972
    Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
        
      12
    Leah Sattler wrote:
    I whole heartedly agree brenda! humans haven't somehow changed over the past 100 years. we should eat what our ancestors ate. well...maybe just a little chocolate every now and then.....


    Hey, we have chocolate straight off the cacoa bush down here at times. We have wild cacoa in some places, very tasty when you have been bushwhacking for a while.


    Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
    Neal McSpadden


    Joined: May 04, 2009
    Posts: 269
    I'd love to grow some cacao bushes.  Do you know what kind of conditions they need?


    Check out my Primal Prepper blog where I talk about permaculture, prepping, and the primal lifestyle... all the time!
    Pennie O'Grady


    Joined: Jun 09, 2007
    Posts: 367
    A survey of diets around the world indicate that people traditionally soaked and fermented grains before eating.  People haven't changed in the last 100 years, but the way people prepare and eat grain has, which results in the prevalence of medical conditions that are recent.  The whole point is that diet is the foundation of health -- always has been. 

    As for oats, I have had recent success soaking oats for 24 hours, along with a couple tablespoons of yogurt.  Yippee!
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15477
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    I thought I read somewhere that to do the human evolution trick, we need at least 100,000 years and that would mean that the favored trait would be favored because the folks with the other trait would mean people didn't reproduce.  So, the grain eaters would reproduce more than the non grain eaters? 

    So, I guess we are as evolved as we were 100,000 years ago?  Maybe a little more?

    I suppose there is that whole fire thing.  And I do suppose that people that eat cooked food have a better chance of reproducing than the people that didn't.
    Jami McBride
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    pennielinkpc - well put

    great tip, about the soaking in yogurt, I'm going to try that.
    Pennie O'Grady


    Joined: Jun 09, 2007
    Posts: 367
    I posted more along these lines in the Raw Foods thread.  Grain eaters vs. non-grain eaters reproducing more?  I know there are cultures where traditional high calorie foods involve no or few grains, but taro, blubber, yam, etc.  For our culture, it's not EITHER grains OR no grains, which is what I think we're really talking about.  People do eat grains all over the world in all manner of cuisines and in varying quantities.  People have eaten partially digested grains ripe from the stomachs of ruminants, gathered wild grains periodically and in minimal quantities, grow grains and eat them soaked, cooked and fermented, as well in ways that involve little cooking, from toasted dry grains (granola), extruded dry grains (box cereals), quick breads, raw cookie dough, pasta, etc.....  I think we're talking about kinds of grains (some more easily digested than others), amount of grains eaten in a serving, a day, a week, and type of preparation of grains.  The less digestible the grains are, and the more frequently they are eaten and the larger the quantity, the greater the strain on a person's system.  That strain can have immediate and obvious consequences for some of us, or be longer term and more subtle.  Very likely there is variation in individual and population specific digestive abilities of grains.

    As for evolution, the major grain groups were domesticated from 10,000 - 5,000 years ago.  Wild versions of these grains (wheat, rice, corn, millet, rye, barley, oats and sorghum) were smaller than the domesticated versions, harder to harvest, and consumed, if at all, in smaller quantities and far less frequently.  In evolutionary theory, there is something called punctuated equilibrium, where a change in environment (which includes the availability of food) can put selection pressure on certain traits, followed by stretches of stable environmental factors and little evolutionary change.  Perhaps 100,000 years is a rule of thumb for a statistical average over the lifetime of species or the genus homo, but certainly not applicable evenly to all situations.  Sometimes natural selection works very rapidly (an extreme example being the comet strike that wiped out whole species and families and orders of organisms, while others adapted quite quickly to new environmental factors and niches).  Other times natural selection pressures turn "off" for very long periods of time.

    But nature doesn't care whether the outcome of selection results in perfect or elegant processes (like digestion).  Mere adequacy for the production of offspring -- and perhaps the continuation of culture which supports the longevity of the human species -- is good enough -- not all adaptations get "de-bugged" (think of wisdom teeth and the appendix). It may be that our digestive systems don't function optimally and that's as good as it gets.  My personal longevity isn't particularly important to natural selection, but my personal longevity is important to me, personally!!

    Also, keep in mind when thinking of doing personal dietary experiments how subtle some of this stuff is.  As quoted below, there is a body of evidence suggesting that the consumption of a substantial amount of grains in the diet is implicated in a wide range of auto-immune diseases.  If you discover you have rheumatoid arthritis in your 50s, how would you know it had any relationship to eating large quantities of under-prepared grains over your lifetime?  Or that there was an underlying connection between your RA and your daughter's diabetes?  This is what good science is for!  Seeing things (like the Big Bang and stellar evolution) that we as individuals could never even guess at!

    I have included some quotes, for those interested, from "The Late Role of Grains and Legumes in the Human Diet, and Biochemical Evidence of their Evolutionary Discordance," by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.  You can look up the longer article at http://www.beyondveg.com/cordain-l/grains-leg/grains-legumes-1b.shtml.   

    "All human groups regardless of their genetic background have not been able to overcome the deleterious effects of phytates and other antinutrients in cereal grains and legumes. Iranian populations, Inuit populations, European populations, and Asian populations all suffer from divalent ion (calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium etc.) sequestration [which impairs bone growth and metabolism] with excessive (>50% total calories) cereal or legume consumption. All racial groups also have not evolved gut characteristics which allow them to digest the food energy which is potentially available in the major type of fiber contained in cereal grains. Further, most of the antinutrients in cereal grains and legumes (alklyrescorcinols, amylase inhibitors, lectins, protease inhibitors, etc.) wreak their havoc upon human physiologies irrespective of differing genetic backgrounds.  Most of the available evidence supports the notion that except for the evolution of certain disaccharidases and perhaps changes in some genes involving insulin sensitivity, the human gut remains relatively unchanged from paleolithic times."

    And further on:  "There is substantial evidence (both epidemiological and clinical) showing the role cereal grains may play in the etiology of such diverse autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis (MS), insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), rheumatoid arthritis, sjogrens syndrome, dermatitis herpetiformis, and IgA nephropathy.  [My maternal grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis, my mom developed adult onset diabetes, I clearly don't do well eating low processed grains.]

    "Although this proposal may at first seem preposterous, there is strong data to suggest that cereal grains may be involved in all of these diseases through a process of molecular mimicry whereby certain amino acid sequences within specific polypeptides of the gramineae family [grasses, i.e. grains] are homologous to (have the same structural form as) a variety of amino acid sequences in mammalian tissue. These homologous amino-acid (AA) sequences can ultimately confuse our immune systems so that it becomes difficult to recognize "self" from "non-self." When this happens, T-cells, among other immune-system components, launch an autoimmune attack upon a body tissue with AA sequences similar to that of the dietary antigen.

    "It seems that grass seeds (gramineae) have evolved these proteins with similarity to mammalian tissue to protect themselves from predation by mammals, vertebrates, and even insects. This evolutionary strategy of molecular mimicry to deter predation or to exploit another organism has apparently been with us for hundreds of millions of years and is a quite common evolutionary strategy for viruses and bacteria. It has only been realized since about the mid-1980s [Oldstone 1987] that viruses and bacteria are quite likely to be involved in autoimmune diseases through the process of molecular mimicry. Our research group has put together a review paper compiling the evidence (and the evidence is extensive) implicating cereal grains in the autoimmune process, and with a little bit of luck it should be published during 1998. [Editorial note as of June 1999: The paper has now been published; the citation is: Cordain L (1999) "Cereal grains: humanity's double-edged sword." World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 84, pp. 19-73.]

    "Without the evolutionary template and without the evidence provided us by the anthropological community showing that cereal grains were not part of the human dietary experience, the idea that cereal grains had anything to do with autoimmune disease would probably have never occurred to us. This new electronic medium has allowed instant cross-fertilization of disciplines which probably would have rarely occurred as recently as five years ago.

    And finally, "Cereal grains are a particularly good example of both the promise and the perils of the evolutionary process--in both its physiological and cultural guises. Without cereal grains as the agricultural base for modern civilizations, it is exceedingly doubtful whether humanity would have developed the culture or the technologies that have led to the accomplishments and scientific insight we now enjoy. Obviously, modest amounts of cereal grains can be a part of the diets of most people with effects that, at least given our current state of knowledge, can be considered negligible."
    Pennie O'Grady


    Joined: Jun 09, 2007
    Posts: 367
    By the way, Loren Cordain's article is helpful to understanding the issues we are talking about, but his dietary prescription is NOT something I support!  Here's a book review of that diet that I can get behind.  The information is different regarding presence of grains in the diets of early humans, but I think some of this is hair splitting.  Ultimately, Fallon is in favor of what I've been saying, which is looooong preparation times of grains in smaller quantities.

    The Paleo Diet

    By Loren Cordain, PhD
    Review by Sally Fallon

    Peter Paleolith goes ahunting and catches himself a plump prairie hen. Using tools of stone and bone, he removes the entrails and throws them away. Then he plucks off the feathers and peels off the skin--he'd like to eat the succulent fat underneath but he learned during his rites of passage that the fat is taboo. Next he cuts off the dark meat and discards that too. Deftly he separates the white meat from the bone. The bones go in the trash heap and Peter Paleolith is left with. . . skinless chicken breasts!

    Then Peter prepares his meal. Because salt didn't exist in those days, he bathes his chicken breasts in lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. He greases his Paleolithic pot with canola oil, the kind his elders recommend. He seasons his meal with ground black pepper or perhaps chili powder which he always carries with him in a leather pouch. And, because he doesn't have any sugar, he washes down his Paleolithic meal with. . . a diet soda!

    If this sounds absurd, it's because absurd things happen when a professor of exercise tries to write a diet book that captures the current interest in the so-called caveman diet and adheres to political correctness at the same time. This book is as pc as pc can be--and totally ignorant of what we know about hunter-gatherer diets. Everyone who has described the diets of primitive peoples--Stefansson, Samuel Hearne, Cabeza de Vaca, Weston Price--has detailed the great emphasis these groups put on animal fat. Animal foods rich in fat were the basis of these diets. Animals were hunted selectively to procure those richest in fat. In good times, only the fattest parts were eaten, the lean meat was thrown away. In fact, the one thing Paleolithic Peter would never have eaten was a skinless chicken breast. He wanted the fat, the entrails, the bones, the contents of the stomach. . . the lean meat went to his dogs.

    Cordain makes a lot of other crazy claims. He says that Paleolithic peoples had no carbohydrate foods like grains or starchy root foods--never mind reports of grains found in the fire ashes of some of the earliest human groups, or the widespread use of tubers among primitive peoples, usually fermented or slow cooked. He says that there isn't much fat in wild animals (did he check with any hunters while writing his book?) and that what fat these animals had was highly politically correct--low in lethal" saturated fat and rich in monounsaturates and omega-3 fatty acids. Did he look up the fatty acid profile of buffalo fat while researching his book? Obviously not. If he had, it would have ruined his whole theory because buffalo fat is more saturated than beef fat. And obviously he didn't check up on canola oil, which he recommends as a source of omega-3 fatty acids--because virtually all canola oil is deodorized, a process that gets rid of the omega-3s.

    Cordain says that primitive man did not eat salt. Yet we know that salt was available in many parts of the world, principally from brine on the seacoasts and salt flats in the interior. Salt-rich blood from game was collected and used in food preparation. In Africa, ashes of sodium-rich marsh grasses were added to food.

    Unfortunately, Cordain's Paleo Diet is not only absurd, but also dangerous. High levels of lean meat lead to vitamin A deficiency and a host of health problems, even heart disease, which Cordain's high-protein diet is supposed to prevent. There's no good source of calcium in his diet and no salt, so vital for digestion. He recommends rubbing flax oil on meat before cooking--a recipe for creating carcinogenic oxidation products. And then there are those diet sodas. . . bound to cause trouble in a diet so lacking in protective nutrients. Fortunately, Peter Paleolith never ate this way, or we would not have made it this far.

    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    paul wheaton wrote:
    I thought I read somewhere that to do the human evolution trick, we need at least 100,000 years and that would mean that the favored trait would be favored because the folks with the other trait would mean people didn't reproduce.   


    Approximately right, but subtlely and importantly wrong, on both counts.

    paul wheaton wrote:So, the grain eaters would reproduce more than the non grain eaters? 


    Could be.

    Or, in a traditional society, a family who digests grain well (and can economize on other sources of food) might be able to supply a dowry for more daughters, and have fewer old maids in the family.  It isn't just the rate of death, or the rate of reproduction, but the number of viable offspring.  And "viable" can be partly defined by culture.

    As I mentioned before, some things can lead to very rapid evolution in a population.  It didn't take 100,000 years for the black death to noticeably influence the prevalence of the gene I mentioned earlier in this thread, and Tay-Sachs Disease seems to be a byproduct of adaptation to early-modern ghettoes.  Phenylketnonuria seems to be related to immunity to misscarriage via ochratoxin A: if some culture were to use that drug (or the fungus that produces it) as its standard mode of contraception, I guarantee that it would not take 100,000 years for people in that culture to evolve a high rate of Phenylketnonuria.
    Leah Sattler


    Joined: Jun 26, 2008
    Posts: 2603
    it is important to remember that natural (or unnatural  :roll selection can be at work in subtle ways. it may take 100,000 (actually generally waaaaaaaay more) to see a change in the species that seperates it from its predecessors geneticaly as a species.......meaning......its no longer a horse its a donkey.....or whatever.....but rapid change in simple function can occur.

    A host of babies that have heads too large to be born due to some subtle twist of genetic fate are going to quickly eliminate that trait in a primitive population! it may not change the species in the sense that it is a different species all together, but it most certainly is evolution.  all the variation we see in plants and animals today, including humans, is selection at work now or previously. hair and skin color, digestive enzymes, differing level of immunities, even facial features and innate personalities that affect social dealings. those could all have an effect on who lives and who dies and who reproduces. we are where and who we are today because someone before us lived and reproduced when others couldn't..... for an almost infinite number of reasons.
    Pennie O'Grady


    Joined: Jun 09, 2007
    Posts: 367
    This is great to be having this discussion on evolution on the forums!  I think it's so pertinent to that 4th dimension (time) in permaculture!  Good points and examples, Leah and Joel (many good points, but not enough time to acknowledge each along the way).

    Actually, a significant amount of variance of traits appears to be due simply to "genetic drift," where differences arise and are neither an advantage or disadvantage to an individual or population, they just are.  Natural selection occurs when there is a change in environmental circumstances (which includes diet and culture, as has been pointed out in this thread) that favors one trait over another that is already present in a population.

    And I did want to thank you, too, Jocelyn, for bringing forward your points and experience waaaaaaaay back on the early thread.  And everyone else, too!  Great discussion!
    Leah Sattler


    Joined: Jun 26, 2008
    Posts: 2603
    pennie- great posts about how the body might view grain.

    it is an evolutionary battle just like with animals. who gets eaten and who doesn't! only humans have given grains a helping hand saying  "you will get eaten and I will make sure you get to reproduce even more successfully then your wild counterparts"

    I have long suspected that alot of grain related immune responses are present due to the oft reccomendations in the past (and now) to give babies with very immature immune systems and digestive tracts grain products. 

    understanding natural selection and evolution is crucial in my view to understanding and coming to peace with the world and our place in it. if you first view everything you see from a standpoint that asks "why does this exist they way it does" it can give you such a deeper understanding of the world and life.

    Suzy Bean
    steward

    Joined: Apr 05, 2011
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    Location: Stevensville, MT
        
        8
    Paul and Jocelyn's podcast reviewing the movies Supersize Me and Fathead: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/?s=supersize


    www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
    Len Ovens
    pollinator

    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
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    paul wheaton wrote:
    I never did like beer.  I've tried it a dozen times or so and never understood why people seem so keen on it.


    Dead American lite (there is only lite beer made in the US... and supper lite) beer is enough to turn anyone off. Its ok to get drunk on... I guess.

    Thats the way I feel about that. (Canadian beer is about the same)
                                    


    Joined: Sep 06, 2009
    Posts: 16
    Location: Two Rivers, WI
    I posted my experience on a saturated fat-intensive diet on the "lard" thread... it was the best I've ever felt, and it pertains to this thread in that it also happened to be a totally grain-free regimen.
    On the subject of grains, I've been strictly gluten-free for a year now and it's all positive, many of the benefits of a superrich fat diet (no carbs!no trash veg oils) but not nearly as much weight loss nor as quick, fat is dropping off at about a pound a month.  I have subbed rice, sorghum, millet and corn for gluten-containing starches. 
    For me, gluten was unquestionably a problem.  Eliminating it has had numerous benefits, way too many to list here, and I look and feel ten years younger.  All food cravings vanished around week two, another nice plus.  I eat considerably less.  I could go on.

    However, eliminating it has not brought me to the peak of functioning that I experienced on super-high fat diet with total elimination of all high-glycemic foods, including all grains.  It still isn't the dietary holy grail....
    As pennielinkpc noted, this dietary experimentation stuff is subtle and complex... there are many factors to consider, and not all people react the same way to foods. 
     
    I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
     
    subject: should people eat any grain?
     
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