Did you know that as much as 80% of all illnesses are said to originate from within the digestive tract? This includes cancers and autoimmune diseases. This is why you will hear so much about the benefits of better/best digestion in the eating of real foods prepared by traditional methods. It's not a weight loss gimic, although many people find they do lose weight just by the lesser amount of sugars consumed. But more, it's about recovery, as we begin to feed our bodies in such a way that all available nutrients within the nutrient-dense foods we eat are at last able to be absorbed and assimilated.
One of the first things I changed as we began to sort through the maze of nutrient-dense eating, was to follow a suggestion on page 621 of Nourishing Traditions. I don't personally advocate throwing out all your food and immediatly replacing it with better, real foods. Most of us can't realistically afford such an immense move and the drastic change would most likely be too much too fast...a sure precursor to becoming overwhelmed and consequently giving up. In this case, however, that's what we did. We started by throwing out the sugary cereals that the grandkids were eating, thinking that the less sugary ones we adults liked were 'ok'. But the more we learned, the more we realized that we were wasting both time and money by trying to be nourished through these boxed wolves in sheep's clothing. Truly, they are not worth the time it takes to pour them into a bowl and add milk. And don't think for one minute this was an easy process. We loved our heart-burn causing boxes of crunchy-sweet convenience!
But as I have said before, we take baby steps. This was a bigger step for us because it wasn't merely adding something neat or new or appetizing to our diets, like kombucha. This time, we were actually giving up something we liked and enjoyed, as when we gave up smoking over twenty-six years ago. Simlarly, it wasn't until much later that we fully realized the many rewards of letting our cereal go, but one immediate reward was the loss of after-breakfast heartburn - a definite plus and affirmation that we were headed in the right direction.
Earlier in the N.T. volume, the process of cereal making is revealed and although some cereals nix most or even all of the sugar, when there are flakes/molding (shapes) involved, the process of refining adds ingredients of little or even bad nutritional value and subtracts intrinsic, valuable nutrients such as vitamin B and E, several important minerals (like iron), and fiber. We are not getting nutrients within those consumed calories...If you are calorie conscious, just call these wasted calories, if you will.
Although you may pick up a box that claims fortification with vitamins and fiber, what you are really getting is synthetic forms of them. Basically, manufacturers are taking the real stuff out and putting in a lesser synthetic...and sorry to say, but some of them, (like synthetic Vitamin E), have been found to be hazardous to health and best consumed in their natural state. Fortified with extra iron? Shouldn't that be a good thing? Sounds good but again, too good to be true...Extra iron in 'fortified' flour has been linked to heart disease and tissue damage. Also, when manufactures try to impress us by adding vitamins B1 and B2, but not B6, the ability to process any B's is hindered.
There is one super big 'bad boy' involved with grains. It's called 'phytic acid'. This is a good term to remember if you're going the real food route and you want to be able share an important 'why' to those who question your actions. Phytic acid is found in whole grains along with all the good stuff. In the intestines, phytic acid adheres to minerals, (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc), and prevents them from being absorbed. In essence, it takes naturally occurring, nutrient-dense calories and renders them useless.
We talked some in the past about the need for our intestines to always have healthy enzymes waiting to help us assimilate nutrients. Unfortunately, whole grains, with all their positive qualities, also contain enzyme inhibitors, so now we not only have phytic acid blocking mineral absorption, we get these inhibitors going the extra mile and wrecking havoc with our enzymes...Now the entire digestive process is in turmoil. For some, this creates all the symptoms we have come to call a 'grain allergy'.
Little have many of us known, but if we had followed the traditional methods of our ancestors...The traditions of sprouting, soaking and sour leavening/fermenting, (think sourdough bread), we probably wouldn't have the 'allergy' in the first place. Such 'old-fashioned' processes, applied to grains prior to consumption, kills both ugly birds with a single stone by neutralizing the infamous abilities of both phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. A simple, mechanical act creates beneficial chemistry that solves a somewhat complex problem.
Some say that since our pre-industrial ancestors had no access to the science we have today, this knowledge was intuitive, much like how a bird knows when it's time to fly south. I have questioned this in my own thinking, since it never even remotely occurred to me to soak grains prior to consumption...And yet, there is this wondering...Perhaps when we are without all the trappings of the age, perhaps then, we are more in tune with the things God would place in our minds to do for the best stewardship of these magnificent temples He's entrusted to our care.
But getting back on track...Because of these facts, my husband and I made the choice to eliminate boxed cereals from our pantry. Are there manufacturers that cater to those of us not wanting these things, but still wanting the convenience of boxed cereals? I don't know. Even meusli needs to be soaked. Still, if I ever stumble upon any, I will share what I find. In the meantime, we have found that soaking our steel-cut or rolled oatmeal or farina (cream of wheat), overnight in a small crock-pot makes the kitchen smell yummy first thing in the morning and all we have to do is spoon it out and add our own 'additives', like organic blueberries, bananas, soaked walnuts, raw honey, butter or coconut oil, Grade B maple syrup, raw milk or cream...You get the picture. We alternate this type of breakfast with hard-boiled egg breakfasts, and the ocassional, if-we-get-up-early-enough breakfast of bacon or ham, eggs, and sourdough toast or muffins with raw butter and raw honey. The cereals are less expensive than the boxed type, by far. Pasture-grazed eggs and grass-fed meats are more expensive, but look what you saved by not pouring your money down the drain on calorie-high, nutrient-poor non-foods!
Notice I haven't even touched the subject of sugar. That's because I know that if you've been interested enough to read this far, you already know the dangers of all the highly refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup added to so many breakfast cereals. I'm sure you already know that it causes/increases behavioral, as well as health problems in children and adults. And certainly, you know how addictive it is and that because of this, manufacturers are continually increasing the amounts of sugar they put into our foods...(Have you seen Dr. Robert Lustig's report on sugar where the original Coke is compared to the Coke of today? -See below-...) So, because you know all that already, I'll save that discussion for another day when others who don't know about it can read an entire post about it.
In speaking specifically about cereals...perhaps you think the puffed varieties are safe? They have often been presented to chronic dieters for their ability to satisfy hunger, but with less calories, (even if they do leave us hungry again within an hour after consuming them.) But the truth is, these cereals have been shown to cause quick death in laboratory animals because of the level of toxicity derived in the process of creating the 'puff'.
Flaked and shaped cereals are made by first creating a sort of slush from grains that is then formed into it's final shape by using very high heat and pressure, which kills any nutrients the grain had in the beginning. Now we have wasted calories that don't stop with merely making breakfast moot, they also negatively impact the body's blood sugar level. Studies have shown these types of cereals to be even worse for blood sugar than white flour and refined sugar. (Mama mia!)
The final culprit in the industrialized market of grains has become one of the hardest to avoid...Genetically modified grains (GMO's) are the protected babes of our industry-driven nation. Such grains have been treated with products that stave off six- and four-legged critters as well as mold. Sounds good until humans do ingest what nature refuses. Proteins within GMO grains are not native to the plants and aggravate the intestines, and therefore, disrupt proper digestion.
How do you know if the grains you are eating are or are not genetically modified? If the label doesn't mention it, it is genetically modified. Suppliers of non-GMO products are proud of it and want consumers looking for pure foods to buy from them. They will be sure to label their products non-GMO. So far, this area seems to be well-regulated, so I don't think a GMO can pass for a non-GMO. However, when it comes to government regulation, it seems there are always those who want their products to pass as organic, free-range, etc...and they find loop-holes for labeling. I would much sooner trust my non-certified farmer whose methods, ethics, and convictions regarding pure, real food, I know, than someone who has barely covered the minumum requirement just to be able to smack a label on their product. That's exploitation. (In supermarkets, however, I do still go for the label...and breathe a prayer that I'm not actually forking over more for less!)
And remember this. Please remember this. We hold out for the ideal. But if we can't find it, we do our best. We are imperfect people surrounded by other imperfect people in an imperfect world. Do your best. Be sure to pray. Eat with forgiveness as your greatest spice. Expect God to fill in the gaps.
He's really good at that.
Next post: How to soak grains for cereals.