Ancient Grains

Hi friends, how are you all? All good at my end too, thank you.

If you read on health topics, you might have come across a relatively recent term “ancient grains”. As for me, anything with the word ‘ancient’ about it gets my attention fast.

Ancient history, ancient literature, ancient civilizations and their customs, ancient wisdom…you name it and I find it fascinating. Do you too? Not that I don’t find modern wonders equally enchanting. New discoveries, new science and modern approaches to many things are equally awe-inspiring. But the pull of ancient is too great, for me!

When I first came across the term ‘’ancient grains’’, I was stumped! I even imagined archeologists finding a huge storage of grains dating back to very, very old times and selling it now. When I explored further, I realized that ancient here means something different but equally wonderful. Why wonderful? Just imagine something witnessing and withstanding all the major events our Earth has gone through, and surviving still!

What Are Ancient Grains?

Technically, the ancient grains are grains (or grass or seeds) that have been planted and harvested for thousands of years on Earth, genetically undisturbed.

Not exactly what I originally thought (as a huge grain-store found buried somewhere). There is no official definition available anywhere for ancient grains. Also, many whole grains can be loosely termed as ancient grains!

This could be a fancy marketing word too, to entice people like me! I mean we already know of many of these grains or pseudo-cereals. These grains might have been a new concept for western world but for us Indians (and for those in China, Africa and Middle East etc), many of these grains have always been used a lot. To name a few:

  • Barley
  • Amaranth or Rajgira/Ramdana
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat (Kuttu)
  • Millets – such as Pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni/kakum), sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi) etc
  • Tuff
  • Chia seeds
  • A few varieties of wheat e.g. kamut, spelt, farro, freekeh, einkorn etc
  • Some wild or heirloom varieties of rice, barley and corn etc

Benefits of Ancient Grains

Am not going in detail of each of these, today. Each warrants a post of its own and I might do it as a series some day. Do you want me to, or not needed?

Since these are generally non-processed or less-processed, ancient grains are relatively:

  • Denser in nutrition values such as vitamins, minerals, protein etc
  • Higher on antioxidants and flavonoids
  • Better source of fibre

And hence, these grains, when included in regular diet, can be linked to many health benefits such as better digestion, lower risks of heart diseases and cancer, better blood-sugar level management, reduced inflammation and many more.

Is it Worth It?

No doubt these are very healthy grains. Consumed whole and largely unprocessed still (at least till now), these grains are quite rich in fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Many of these grains are also gluten-free which is an added bonus, for people who are gluten-sensitive.

Healthy whole grains don’t have to be exotic. Most of the heirloom varieties are quite expensive too. The common varieties when made a part of well-balanced diet, are good enough for most of us.

Having said that, we can definitely add some of these ‘ancient grains’ to our regular diet. Not the exotic versions but the commonly available ones, for sure. They have always been around, actually!

However, before you do so, make sure the grain suits you. There isn’t a thumb rule. Each of these grains might do wonders or might make situation worse for certain medical conditions or specific goals. Do research the grain properly or consult your nutritionist for more details if you want to add these grains to your daily diet.

Hope you found today’s post useful and interesting. Do share it around if you want and do join me on Instagram for regular stories on Health, Nutrition and Fitness. DM me on Instagram if have a feedback or if you want to consult me on a one-on-one basis.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: All About Gluten

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How has the New Year been, so far? I know it has just been a week but did you make any New Year resolutions and have you managed to stick to them? I didn’t make any this time around. New Year is a great day to make new resolutions, with a fresh slate and all…for a better and healthier life no doubt. But, any day is good enough…as long as we keep at it!

Last Friday’s post was the part 1 on Gluten and let’s carry the discussion forward.

Today, going vegan and going gluten-free are one of the biggest health trends. Though I am neither at present, I DO see the point to some extent. I don’t prefer extreme diets and moderation is perfect for me when it comes to food. An ovo-lacto-vegetarian by choice, I don’t believe in food group-restrictive diets for me and my clients, unless there is a medical concern.

There is a lot of confusion on both the topics but for today, let’s stick with gluten. Some people ‘must’ avoid gluten to avoid certain health complications as we read last week. This could be due to gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease.

Many products today proudly claim on packaging that they are gluten-free. Many people world-over believe that going gluten-free would change their life, aid in weight loss and make them healthier automatically.

However, while trying to have a “healthier diet” especially if you are not gluten-intolerant, I would like to not fall into such marketing traps and consume processed “gluten-free” products just for the sake of it. Just because it’s gluten-free, it doesn’t automatically becomes healthier! These foods could be high in sugar, sodium and other refined flours too.

Why Blame Gluten?

Gluten is not one single compound but a family of proteins found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley etc. These glue-like proteins are what make our breads and cakes fluffy.

Gluten is quite resistant to digestive enzymes in our digestive tracts and this might lead to intestinal damage, malnutrition and digestive disorders. The undigested protein molecules also pass through the intestinal wall into our body. This can lead to triggering to immune-response in our bodies such as inflammation, rashes etc – as happens in the case of celiac disease. The question is, does this happen to everyone? It doesn’t.

Then?

Many experts feel that people who don’t have a gluten-sensitivity but still report feeling better with a gluten-free diet, do so due to many other reasons such as:

  • wheat and gluten both have gotten a bad name today because most of the processed food/fast food/bakery products that we eat today, is wheat-based (and such…) and it’s not the wheat that is bad. The processing and refining makes it bad e.g. the bread in itself is not a bad food…it’s the white-soft version we buy at shop – to be blamed as it is made of refined wheat flour, is full of preservatives, is bleached and all
  • all these processed and fast foods are high in carbs, sugar, unhealthy fats and empty calories as well, by default
  • avoiding gluten means avoiding all these foods and might result in better lifestyle and eating habits, resulting in less fatigue, mood swings and healthy weight loss etc

Unless you really are gluten-sensitive, avoiding processed foods, sugary cereals etc would make you feel just the same, won’t it?

So Gluten Or No Gluten?

It makes sense to avoid processed foods and foods made from refined flour. And to avoid junk food and foods high in sugar, trans fats, sodium and empty calories. To Avoid sugary drinks too.

And

Add a variety to your diet, don’t exclude any foods or foods-groups unless you have medical concerns because of them.

Add whole-grains, whole fresh fruits and vegetables too. Don’t exclude wholegrain wheat from your diet, moderate it. Just add millets, pulses and other whole grains to your diet such as oats, amaranth, jowar (sorghum), barley, ragi (finger millet), buckwheat (kuttu), Bengal gram etc…along with some wholegrain wheat.

Gluten Free Options

If you decide to adopt a ‘gluten-free’ diet or a ‘less-gluten’ diet, make sure to choose foods which are naturally free from gluten rather than buying processed gluten-free foods as they might be high in other refined grains and sugars while low on nutrition. The natural options are:

  • Rice, buckwheat (kuttu), amaranth (rajgira), millets, jowar (sorghum)
  • Oats, quinoa
  • Flax
  • Tapioca
  • Meat, fish and seafood
  • Eggs, oils and butter
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits, vegetables
  • Legumes and nuts

Personally, I prefer my wholegrain-multigrain rotis (wheat is an important part of the blend, too) over rice any day. They keep me fuller for long and are way more nutritious than the de-starched rice! Whole-wheat blended with millets etc that I use is quite healthy and provides necessary fibre, vitamin Bs, magnesium and iron etc. If I go gluten-free, I will have to make up for all these in some other way. Too complicated and unnecessary for me without any real need, as of today.

But then, I am not ‘wheat/gluten intolerant’! I am just ‘junk food-intolerant’! 🙂

{{“The gluten-free food industry has grown 136% from 2013 to 2015 with almost $12 billion in sales in 2015. Interestingly, studies show that people who do not have celiac disease are the biggest purchasers of gluten-free products. Consumer surveys show that the top three reasons people select gluten-free foods are for “no reason,” because they are a “healthier option,” and for “digestive health.” For those who are not gluten-intolerant, there is no data to show a specific benefit in following a gluten-free diet, particularly if processed gluten-free products become the mainstay of the diet. In fact, research following patients with celiac disease who change to a gluten-free diet shows an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. This could be partly due to improved intestinal absorption, but speculation has also focused on the low nutritional quality of processed gluten-free foods that may contain refined sugars and saturated fats and have a higher glycemic index.”}} *Source and credit: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: All About Gluten

Hi Friends, happy Friday and a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021!!!

Wish you lots of happiness, health and peace this year…and always! We are thankfully done with 2020 and now with 2021, let’s hope for new beginnings, new horizons and new opportunities!! A better version of humanity and us!!

Though, the year 2020 hasn’t been a complete waste for most of us. We have managed to survive, even evolve despite all the losses, roadblocks and hardships. Many of us have found time to finally stop…and figure out what makes us happy. We know our priorities better today, don’t we?

Now, I know you are also busy spending time with family (and on phone, calling and texting) celebrating New Year so, will keep the post today small. It is the part 1 of gluten series. Next week would be part 2.

Gluten is a confusing, controversial topic today. Some experts believe in completely eliminating gluten from our diets no matter what and many others believe that unless one has Celiac Disease or a gluten-sensitivity, gluten is completely safe and even beneficial for us.

I have never come across a person with a severe gluten-intolerance though Kia, our pet was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance. It caused her to itch her ear badly and since we stopped giving her our rotis (it has some wheat, yes), she has been fine on that front!

Maybe, there are a few of us who don’t even know they are gluten-sensitive while there definitely are many who blame gluten for their discomfort while the real reason lies somewhere else.

First, What Is Gluten?

Gluten word is derived from the word “glue” – gluten being responsible for ‘glue-like’ sticky property of wet dough. This sticky consistency makes for yummy rotis, fluffy bread etc and provides a chewy, satiating flavour to the food.

Gluten refers to a family of protein found in grains e.g. wheat, rye, spelt, barley etc. Two main proteins in this family are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is the one considered responsible for gluten-related concerns.

What Is Gluten Intolerance?

Most of us have no adverse effects of gluten and we are free to enjoy it. If you are not gluten intolerant, there is no need for you to avoid it. However, today “gluten-free” is almost considered a healthier way of life and there is no major harm in it either – if you can stick to the naturally gluten-free whole grains and whole foods. Plenty of options too! However, not harmful = healthier….not necessarily!

In general, most packaged/processed products are wheat-based and so are most bakery goods these days. If you decide to avoid gluten and avoid all these as a result, good for you, isn’t it? Gluten or no gluten!

A few among us, with certain health concerns like Celiac disease, gluten allergy/sensitivity etc are advised to completely lay off wheat and other gluten-containing foods.

Celiac disease, also called the Coeliac disease is the severe form of gluten intolerance and could be genetic in nature. It’s not a food allergy but an autoimmune disorder where our own immune system attacks the gut-lining causing damage, inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, anaemia and serious digestive issues.

This disease can easily be confirmed by a blood test or a gut-tissue biopsy.

Some people, though confirmed negative for celiac still show gluten intolerance and this condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The symptoms of gluten intolerance (upon gluten-consumption) include:

  • Bloating, gas
  • Exhaustion, even depression
  • Diarrhoea, constipation or both
  • Stomach pain/cramps

Experts believe that a lot of people think they are gluten intolerant while the real reason for their discomfort lies somewhere else.

If you feel that gluten or wheat causes you discomfort, you should rule out celiac disease (through a medical expert) and if found negative, eliminate all wheat/gluten products from diet for 2-3 week and see if the symptoms improve. Slowly re-introduce wheat/gluten to the diet and see if the symptoms return. This way, one could find out if they really are gluten sensitive or if it’s something else!

Foods High In Gluten

One needs to read labels carefully if gluten is to be completely avoided as most processed foods contain wheat. Do check for the clear gluten-free mention, just ‘wheat-free’ might not help.

  • Wheat, spelt, rye, barley
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Beer
  • Cereals
  • Cakes, cookies, most bakery products etc

Now that we know what exactly is gluten, what is gluten-intolerance and which foods are high in gluten…let’s come back to main questions:

  • How do I know if I should avoid gluten?
  • Is gluten always bad?
  • Does ‘gluten-free’ mean healthier automatically?
  • What is the downside of avoiding gluten?

For these answers and much more, don’t miss the sequel next Friday. Also, though many people are gluten-intolerant, I have never come across one somehow. If you are, please do let me know. I would like to know a little about your experiences. Thank you.

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace