Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Best Blog Tips

I like to make hearty salads in the summer, based on potatoes, whole grains, pasta, and/or beans, and have them on hand for quick and cool dinners. I make them in the cool of the morning, and the flavors meld and intensify in the refrigerator over the next few days. Sometimes we have several such salads on hand and can make a lovely summer salad plate.

For grain salads, I’ve been using not only the usual rice and bulgur, but quinoa, barley, and whole grain kernels (or “berries”) such as wheat, rye, and spelt, especially since I've been on the Weight Watchers' Core Food Plan, which emphasizes whole grains-- and I mean whole, rather than ground into flour. These salads have proven to be delicious, chewy, filling, and nutritious, like the recipe below, which I promised to post.

But there’s a whole movement against grain out there. It’s the latest trend. The author of the "No-Grain Diet" is the same person who claims that the coconut oil he sells on his site will: "Reduce the risk of heart disease; Lower your cholesterol; improve conditions in those with diabetes and chronic fatigue; Improve Crohn's, IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome], and other digestive disorders; Prevent other disease and routine illness with its powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents; and (my favorite!) "The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill herpes and Epstein Barr viruses …. They kill Candida and giardia. They kill a variety of other infectious organisms, any of which could cause chronic fatigue." (UPDATE: you now have to register on his site in order to read the articles.)

Mercola serves on the board of directors of one of the most anti-vegetarian organizations on the planet, the Weston A. Price Foundation. On his diet regime you are supposed to eat no grains (except a little bit of sprouted grain cereal), on the theory that whole grains contain too many phytates which will block absorption of minerals, a theory easily disproved), no sugars, no simple starches (potatoes, carrots, etc.), certain fruits only, most vegetables unless very starchy, meats, fish and poultry (organic and preferably "wild")- preferably organic, butter, cream and cheese; and he barely mentions exercise!

On the strict version of the Mercola diet, you are also to avoid beans; on less strict versions you can have some, but you must add other proteins! He writes: "If you have high insulin levels, you will want to avoid beans until you have normal insulin levels." Just the opposite of the results Dr. Neal Barnard's clinical study on diabetes and diet. (Check out his book on reversing diabetes-- I did the recipes for it. Beans were #1 on the list of foods to use!) Dr. Barnard is the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine-- check out their diabetes resources.

Here's a review of the "No-Grain Diet" on amazon which I think is very to-the-point:
"We all agree that refined grains are not health foods, so the only question pertains to whole grains. But Mercola doesn't address it. Yes, there is an epidemic of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, but it certainly is not due to whole grains, because, for the most part, people are not eating them, and certainly not obese people. Mercola's case centers around insulin, and a train of havoc that follows from its release. However, in his rant ravings, Mercola makes a flying leap from what is, in fact, normal physiology (the metabolism of carbohydrate by the human body) to disease. The whole idea that I eat potato, or a bowl of brown rice, and therefore alarms go off inside my body, my blood sugar goes soaring out of control, and metabolic mayhem follows is pure fantasy. The burning of carbohydrate as fuel is as natural for a human being as breathing air (in fact, it's the main reason you need to breathe air). In the topsy-turvey world of Mercola, plain carrots are fattening. That's right, they raise your triglycerides and get deposited all over your body as fat. Haven't you noticed that among carrot eaters? But whole raw milk, with that rich, thick layer of cream on top, that's not fattening. Like other newsletter writers, Mercola picks and chooses articles from the medical literature which he thinks supports his position, while glibly ignoring the ones that contest it, like for instance the myriad of studies which show that increasing whole grains in the diet promotes slenderness, arterial health, and protection from diabetes. I am a 52 year old man. I am 5'6" and I weigh 135 pounds. My body fat percentage is very low. I eat a diet that is high in fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. I eat practically no animal food of any kind. I am practically a total vegan. My blood cholesterol last checked was 150. My triglycerides were 35! (Normal triglyceride according to Medicine is supposedly 75 to 150) My blood sugar was 84. These results are totally in contrast to what Mercola's ideas would predict. And believe me, there is nothing special about me. It has nothing to do with me having some unique metabolic type or other fanciful notion from the mind of Mercola. I do not think that grains are as valuable as fruits and vegetables, nor do I think they should be given as much importance in the diet. Yet, leading nutritional doctors whom I respect (including Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Andrew Weil, Michael Klaper, Neil Barnard, and others) all believe there is a place for whole grains in a healthy diet. The Egyptian workers built the Pyramids on a grain-based diet. The Roman Army conquered the world on a grain-based diet. There are many causes of degenerative disease in modern life, but eating whole grains is not one of them." Ralph C. Cinque (Buda, Texas)

Then there's the argument that allergies to grain (especially wheat) are rampant, so we should all avoid them, just in case. Now, I understand that those with celiac sprue disease cannot eat anything with gluten, but they can still safely eat (according to celiac.com) rice, buckwheat, wild rice, corn, amaranth, quinoa, millet, teff, and Job's tears (and oats processed in a gluten-free facility). And I know that there are some people who are allergic or intolerant to grains, but that only affects a small percentage of the population (excluding celiacs, wheat allergy, for instance, is estimated at 0.5% of the population and wheat intolerance at 15% of the population).

Many people say they are “allergic” to wheat, but a true wheat allergy is very rare and can cause extreme reactions, such as anaphylaxis. What more likely is actually occurring is intolerance, which is the inability to digest wheat protein properly, and which can cause bloating, cramps, etc.. Grain intolerance is most common among young children, the majority of of whom will outgrow it within 5 years, especially if that grain is totally avoided for a time. (This happened with my oldest grandson, now 16 , who was intolerant to corn, but now is not and he eats tortilla chips regularly!) If either of these conditions applies, there are other grains than the one(s) you are allergic/intolerant to that will be perfectly fine for you.

Despite these facts, people keep buying these books (like the one mentioned above) claiming that you will lose weight AND cure all of your ills if you just stop eating grains! You WILL most likely lose weight because you’ll be cutting calories! But, if you aren't losing on Dr. Mercola's diet, guess what his advice is? You should go on a 1000 calorie a day diet...something only to be attempted by very, very petite, inactive women! (It's hard to get enough nutrients with less than 1200 calories a day.) Most of the people who bought those books in an effort to lose weight will be on some other diet a few months from now, no doubt.

Grains, primarily wheat, rice, and corn, have sustained mankind for 12,000 years, and allowed civilizations to flourish.

Let's not "throw the baby out with the bathwater". Instead of saying “no grain”, why not “whole grain”? You'll probably lose some weight, save some money, and have far less risk of diabetes, constipation, degenerative dieases, gallstones, and stroke. (See this article about wheat, for instance, and their entries on other grains.)

An interesting take on this comes from “The Second Seasonal Political Palate” by the Bloodroot Collective, a feminist vegetarian collective that runs a well-known restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and writes vegetarian cookbooks. (Quite interesting ones with very opinionated articles in them!. The books and restaurant are not vegan, but have vegan options.) “Grains have been associated with the earth’s abundance or what patronizing writers call fertility goddesses. Grains are our mothers. Demeter and wheat and the corn mother are but two examples. All over the earth, oldest images of both mother and food are personified in Goddesses of grain...Now the latest wrinkle is allergies to wheat, corn, and fermentation...We prefer to remember the value of grains, legumes (“that which is gathered”), fruits, whether fresh or fermented, yeasted, brewed, in all stages from seed to decay. These are what sustain us.”

Printable Recipe

Serves 4
This was inspired by a recipe from the California Avocado Board. It’s suitable for the Weight Watcher’s Core Food Plan.

1 cup wheat kernels (sometimes referred to as “wheat berries”) ( OR you can use rye, spelt, or kamut kernels)
3 cups water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
4 sundried tomato halves (NOT IN OIL)
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, chopped and covered with boiling water for 10 minutes, then drained (OR use raw chopped red, sweet, or green onion)
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs: parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, etc.
1/2 large avocado, or 1 small peeled and pit removed, diced
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbs organic bottled)

Wash the wheat or other grain kernels. Add the water, dried herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sundried tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer, covered, until tender. This can take from 1-2 hours. Alternately, pressure cook for 45 minutes.

Drain off any extra liquid (save to use in soup stock).

Place cooked kernels in a bowl. Chop the sundried tomato and add back to the cooked grain. Add the olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, and last 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix thoroughly. (Up to this point, the salad can be prepared ahead and held in the refrigerator for 1-2 days).

Add the red bell pepper, onion, and tomato. Toss and add the fresh herbs. Toss the diced avocado in the lemon juice. Add to the salad and mix in gently.

Nutrition (per serving, made with wheat): 242.4 calories; 28% calories from fat; 8.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 522.0mg sodium; 542.4mg potassium; 40.7g carbohydrates; 8.8g fiber; 4.2g sugar; 31.9g net carbs; 6.3g protein; 4.7 points.


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KleoPatra said...

Bryanna, i didn't know whether to laugh or cry or get nauseous from a lot of your post. That is so preposterous as to not be believed. Holy cow (no pun intended)!

And this quote of his: " "The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill herpes and Epstein Barr viruses..." Oy, that's really beyond commentary!

Thank you for taking the time to share this and also to dispel myths and misunderstandings of wheat allergies, etc.

Love the colours of the salad photographed and shown on top of this informative and infuriating post. Gorgeous.

i *heart* grains.

Now and forevermore.

King Carmen said...

I love grains, too, and I get really tired of all those pseudo-science health fads that seem to be going round recently.

My uncle and also a friend of mine both have coeliac disease, and yes, they can eat all those grains you mentioned, so clearly cutting all grains from their diet would probably make no difference at all. Btw - my uncle once found an article on coeliac disease which suggested that the illness could potentially be a side effect of lactose intolerance (i.e. your body having to work extra hard to digest lactose, and therefore overreacting to other foods). I've never checked this out, so it could easily be pseudo-science too!

Thanks for all the lovely recipes you keep posting! With the recent 'heat wave' (26C - not bad for Edinburgh!), I've mostly stuck to salads as well, and the grain ones are a nice change from potatoes.

Anonymous said...

That salad looks beautiful! It reminds me of something I used to make in my crockpot with wheat berries and kombucha squash! Super filling.

Mercola's "facts" have been torn apart by Dr. Fuhrman, too, and I agree! He goes too far. Instead , he should be encouraging more whole foods with emphasis on vegetables and fruit, and warning against refined foods which are really contributing to disease.

MeloMeals said...

UUUGGGHHH... anyone with a basic understanding of physiology should be able to figure out his claims are bogus.

I have debated with so many people on atkins like diets about the same sort of thing.

Beautiful salad.. avocado makes any cold salad exquisite. I love the chewiness of wheat berries (which is a good thing since I have 20lbs of them!)

Anonymous said...

Just today I read in one of my professional (nursing) journals a report on a study that tested 4 different diets and their effects on reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

The 4 diets tested were:

High carbohydrate (55% of total energy intake), with high Glycemic Index

High carbohydrate (55% of total energy intake), with low Glycemic Index

High protein (25% of total energy intake), with high Glycemic Index

High protein (25% of total energy intake), with low Glycemic Index

The glycemic load was highest in diet 1 and lowest in diet 4.

The diet most effective for reducing risk of strokes and heart attacks was the second: High carbohydrate w/ a low glycemic index. Let's hear it for whole grains!!

Harmonia said...

Creative and refreshing is what it sounds and looks like to me! Thanks for posting it! Also, thanks for the link to my place on your sidebar. Happy Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

Grains are good. That guy has lost it. Great article, by the way. I always love your recipes!

Just call me Orangie said...

These stupid "no grain" diets (like atkins) make me sick. I'm a celiac, and I make sure I still get my grains by eating brown rice, corn and quinoa (I want to try buckwheat and amaranth soon).

I love the salad it looks delicious, could quinoa be substituted for the wheatberries?

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

You probably could substitute quinoa (might need less dressing), but I wonder if brown rice might work better, as it has a heartier flavor and substance, more like the wheat or rye?