Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
The Most Important Food
Grains represent the most important single item in the diet. For many nations, grains in some form represent the main dish at all meals. Because of the high quality of the nutrients, eating grains may produce a better disposition, greater ambition, better physical health, increased ability for work production, and greater happiness. With all of these benefits, it is important to study carefully how grains can be used in our menus.
Two features of processing grains diminish their wholesomeness: (1) polishing and (2) failure to cook them a sufficient length of time. Grains grow in such a way that the vitamins and minerals are carried almost entirely on the outer layer. Milling generally removes this layer, leaving a white, easily ground, central kernel, which is almost devoid of vitamins and minerals. The central portion has the starch and the protein, but both of these are more difficult to metabolize without the accompanying minerals and vitamins in the outer layer. The B-vitamins, which are lost, are required in the metabolism of starches and sugars. Bleaching flour is another thief of vitamins and minerals. Many of the minerals found in grains are needed for the metabolism of protein. We can easily see that grains are perfectly made for the body metabolism when used as the whole grain, but become much less efficient when polished.
Long, Slow Cooking
Many people fail to cook grains long enough to denature phytates and to release the chemical bondages holding the nutrient molecules. Our digestion is not strong enough to completely split many of the molecules in grains, and some distress in the colon may be caused from gas or acids. We may also fail to receive all the nutrients possible from the whole grains. The harder grains need more than an hour of cooking, preferably even several hours of slow cooking.
The Real Staff of Life
There are a number of grains, each having distinctive chemical characteristics and flavor qualities. A whole new world of eating experiences comes with each group of grains. Rice, for instance, can be cooked until it is dry and used with a number of sauces, spreads, gravies, and soups. By simply increasing both the cooking time and the amount of water, rice becomes creamy and can be used as a porridge for breakfast. After it congeals, it can be sliced then baked, or shaped while still hot into patties after seasoning with a variety of herbs and "vegebits." Grind rice into a coarse flour, wet it with enough water to make it stick together, and make it sweet or savory by adding your favorite seasonings and nuts. Put it in a prepared stainless steel mixing bowl, steam for 2-3 hours and have a "rice cake." For each grain, the number of different styles of cooking is as varied as the number of grains. A cookbook having a good section on grains is a valuable asset to any kitchen. We suggest the EAT FOR STRENGTH COOKBOOK.
BARLEY: This grain grinds into a very fine, white flour which can be used to make white gravies and to add variation to whole grain breads. It must be used with wheat to make a light, yeast bread. It is high in malt and has a delightful, mild flavor. When dextrinized (lightly roasted) before use, the flavor is enriched.
BUCKWHEAT: This seed is not actually one of the grains, but because of its nutrient makeup, it is widely used in the same fashion as grains. It has a fairly strong flavor, and when used whole or as flour, it is best to mix it with one of the more bland grains such as corn, rice, or millet. It has a high biologic value, because it is rich in vitamins and minerals. It deserves much greater popularity than just being known for buckwheat griddle cakes.
CORN: Corn was first grown in North America and continues to be our most widely used grain. Because it is a large grain on a large ear, it grows luxuriantly and is an important seed crop. It contains vital nutrients and can be used in rotation with the other grains. It should be considered, as with all the grains, to be one among many, and not used as a steady diet. Corn can be used in the "milk stage," as whole kernel or creamed corn, and served as a vegetable in the menu. It has many uses such as hoecakes, griddle cakes, waffles, mixed with soybean flour to make a raised cornbread, chapatis, fritos, enchiladas, and tortillas. By using a coarse grind, grits are produced which can be used in a variety of ways: (1) breakfast porridge, (2) congealed porridge sliced and baked, (3) mixed with other grains, etc. Serving grits can be as varied as the imagination. The classic way in the South is to serve "grits and gravy." A variety of fruit sauces, numerous nut or soy spreads such as peanut butter or margarine, soyonnaise, soy sour cream, etc., are delicious with grits.
MILLET: Millet is a cereal commonly used in Europe which is now gaining more popularity in this hemisphere. It has a bland flavor and can be used in much the same way as corn or rice. It grows well without abundant rainfall and should be developed as a commercial grain.
OATS: Oats have a high nutritive value and are one of our more common cereal grains. Oats can be used as a whole grain, a rolled grain, grits, as coarsely cracked, as a flour, or as a meal. The flours can be used in breads, and the other forms can be cooked as breakfast foods, or used to give body to casserole dishes and stews, and to make patties or burgers. This important grain has many uses and should not be thought of merely as "oatmeal."
RICE: The most important grain in the economy of the orient, rice has kept much of China alive and healthy for the last 3 centuries. Not until polishing the grain became a common practice did nutritional deficiencies exist in China. It has a very high-quality protein and many essential vitamins and minerals. A varied diet of fruits and vegetables will be completed by rice.
RYE: This hardy cereal grain is widely grown for its grain as well as its straw. Some of its species make a quick-growing pasture or lawn grass. The flour made from rye should be used to vary the nutritive content of breads, to make gravies, and to thicken soups and casserole dishes. Very delightful breakfast cereals using Swedish recipes can be found in EAT FOR STRENGTH.
WHEAT: There are many grains in this group of cereal grasses. Each of the different species has a somewhat distinct amino acid content and vitamin and mineral spectrum. Generally, when bread is spoken of, one thinks of wheat bread. Like rice, wheat has been subjected to a great injustice by removing the major nutritive properties in the milling process. It is processed like this for the production of a finer flour and a product that will keep for a long time on the grocery shelf. The long shelf life of processed white flour is due to the loss of rich vitamin and mineral bearing oils, which, if not manufactured out of the grain, are likely to become rancid. Bugs are not eager to attack white flour products, for the bugs instinctively recognize that the product is inferior and will not support their lives.
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