All About Grains

Minoo had selected a theme of grains to introduce to the community kitchens. She brought a variety of grains to the Gilmore Park Church Community Kitchen to share with us.


We learned that we can incorporate various grains in our diet beside the staple rice or oats that we are familiar with. We can add grains into our soup, stew or salad.

Here is an article which Minoo shared with us:

Grains are the mainstay of human sustenance. About half the world’s arable land is devoted to the cultivation of grains in some form or other, and 80% of the calories that human consume come from grains. Civilization as we know came into being as we transformed from wandering hunter-gatherers into farmers with secure and stable communities nourished by the fruits of our labours.

Grains are amazing plants, developed from weed like plants, grasses actually, that were able to spring up from any odd patch of ground on which a seed happens to fall. Among their many characteristics that make them so valuable is spacing, they take up little room, sending up stems topped by crowded spikes of nutrition packed seed kernels. They mature in just a few months and all of the seeds ripen simultaneously. They are easily prepared for cooking, even with primitive tools. Best of all, grains are often dry enough when fully ripe or after a brief parching in the sun to be stored without going moldy, so a good harvest ensures a year long supply of food.

There are many types of grains that lend themselves to culinary purposes. Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats, corn and rice are the most common but there are many others. Ancient grains like kamut, spelt and faro are becoming more popular. Millet is another grain that though it is most often associated with bird seed here in North America is gaining acceptance. It is used throughout Africa and Northern Asia because it is drought tolerant and will grow in almost any soil conditions. There are also many pseudocereals crops we treat like grains but are actually not grains at all. Quinoa is one of the most popular pf these. An ancient seed crop from South America that was highly valued by the Inca and was almost lost to us when the Spanish tried to ban its use in the Inca’s religious ceremonies. Amaranth is another of these seed crops as re teff from Africa and buckwheat, most common in Eastern Europe.

A few Quinoa recipes that had been featured in the community kitchen are:

Quinoa-Black-Bean-Salad-300x200Quinoa and Black Bean Salad Quinoa-Stuffed-Pepper-300x200Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Quinoa-Spinach-Salad-300x200Wilted Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Grapes and Tomatoes Quinoa-Mango-Salad-300x200Quinoa Salad with Mango and Black Beans

Grains are packed with nutrition in their whole or natural form after the inedible hull is removed. They are high in protein, most average about 10 – 12% content but lack one essential amino acid. This can be remedied by eating grains with legumes like peas, beans and lentils which have the amino acid missing in grain but lack one that grains have. Many cultures have mainstay dishes that combine the two staples such as red beans and rice. The pseudocereals on the other hand, like quinoa and amaranth, have nutritionally complete proteins and at much higher levels than true grains, approximately 15 – 18%

Here are a couple blog posts which involved a combination of grains and legumes to make a complete protein meal featured in the community kitchen:

Pilaf-300x200Pilaf Korean-Rice-300x225Korean Rice

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Eugene Kan

    I agree that grains have provided sustenance and allowed the world to grow at a pace unfathomable on a meat-based diet, however it’s a long shot to call them “packed with nutrition”.

    Inflammation, lectins ( and an increasingly obese population are all things to worry about with carb-intensive diets.

    Someone will inevitably say eating in moderation is fine and I generally agree, but people really need to re-think its place in their diet.

  2. Teresa

    There’s so many different ways to use grains. My family has started to use other grains like wild rice and black rice in place of regular white. If I’m not mistaken, T&T actually has a black rice roll filled with pickled veggies and minced pork. It’s actually quite good.

    And wishing you both a happy 2011 🙂

  3. Matt Cooke

    Eugene Kan:

    although i would agree that eating a diet consisting of only grains would not be beneficial to anyones health, i am going to back up Suanne and say that grains ARE “packed with nutrition”.I would suggest that one should eat a balanced diet, and learn how to properly prepare grains for optimal digestion and to better absorb nutrients in the grain. (Canada’s food guide suggest’s eating at least 3 of 4 food groups at each meal)

    I will go on to quote your source:

    “Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, and nuts, may be harmful if consumed in excess in uncooked or improperly uncooked form. Adverse effects may include nutritional deficiencies, and immune (allergic) reactions[7]. Possibly, most effects of lectins are due to gastrointestinal distress through interaction of the lectins with the gut epithelial cells.”

    I would then further suggest that with proper preparation of grains (especially whole grains) our bodies will avoid the problems you have posed. If you would like to look further into the matter, i would suggest you read up on phytic acid. It plays a huge role in the consuption of grains (especially high-gluten grains). Without the proper preparation (soaking, cooking, sprouting, etc), whole grains can be just as destructive to our diets as a high refined grain diet.

    Here is some further information:

    Phytic acid can combine with magnesium, calcium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract, thus blocking their absorption. That means there is less nutritional uptake by your body. This is precisely why a diet that is very high in unprepared whole grains may lead to great mineral deficiencies and even bone loss. Calcium and zinc are not absorbed as well in the presence of phytate.

    So yes, whole grains are very good for us, but to optimize their nutrition and decrease this phytic acid content and also the enzyme inhibitors, we must properly prepare them before we consume them. I urge you to consider this soaked grain process.

  4. Eugene Kan

    The very premise of needing to process our grains to such a degree to ensure we can consume them should be in itself a sign that maybe it isn’t the best thing for human consumption. You can turn the corner these days without more talk about eating non-processed/Paleo style food and grains definitely fall into that category. I just think that sprouted grains lessen the blow of something that we can live without per se.

    For economical reasons, I agree that grains must play some part in the diets of some but not for healthful reasons.

    Why do carbs and grains not provide the essential amino acids that animal proteins provide? Canada/US both place grains high in the food-pyramid, but why have cases of heart disease and obesity risen dramatically?

  5. Matt Cooke

    “The very premise of needing to process our grains to such a degree to ensure we can consume them should be in itself a sign that maybe it isn’t the best thing for human consumption. ”

    in response: I dont think you understand… the only process is to cook or sprout or soak etc… (something we do anyway) and you think this is processed to a further degree than meat? most meats humans eat are cooked as well. I would also suggest that the most unrefined grains (ie ‘whole grains’) are the most nutritious, but require more care and preparation to properly digest.

    Many ‘super-grains’ contain high levels of protien and carry almost as many amino-acids a meat. But when combined with a legume (and other combinations as well) it creates a full protein. The amino acids not present in grains are found in legumes and vice-versa. (creating the same kind of protein found in meat)

    Here is a listing of combinations making a complete protein:

    * Legumes with Grains
    * Legumes with Nuts
    * Legumes with Seeds
    * Nuts/Seeds with Legumes
    * Grains with Dairy
    * Nuts/Seeds with Dairy
    * Legumes with Dairy
    * Dairy with Nuts/Seeds and Legumes

    “For economical reasons, I agree that grains must play some part in the diets of some but not for healthful reasons.”

    im glad we can agree on this ! 😀

    Why do carbs and grains not provide the essential amino acids that animal proteins provide? Canada/US both place grains high in the food-pyramid, but why have cases of heart disease and obesity risen dramatically?

    why heart disease and obesity have risen dramatically can be attributed to MANY factors. I would agree in saying that North American diets consist of unhealthy levels of SIMPLE-carbohydrates (ie processed grains and sugars). which would include ~90% of all grain intake in North America. Another factor would include excessive amounts of processed and saturated fats.

    even now days people think eating a whole grain bun is eating healthy or having a diet coke… i can’t imagine telling yourself a bigger lie. And if the vast mojority of the public is just plain stupid or ill informed… then the producers of our food are the biggest liars and cheats of all. (goverment/regulation/health organizations also get a large burden of the blame)

    Canada’s labelling laws are putrid as well.

    ps. i dont mean to be offensive or mean… i just really frustrated about this topic… food/health/farming etc… im glad i have someone to bounce my ideas off for the first time. 😀 and by no means am i an expert in the field… i just go from experience, research, and a gut feeling.


  6. Matt Cooke

    i didn’t elaborate on why eating many things labelled as whole wheat and such are fallacies.

    many thing called whole wheat are bran and white flour. In fact much whole wheat flour is the same. In many cases the grain in processed into the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. (these three components make up a grain excluding the hull and some grains vary, thus whole grain should incorporate all of these components) Many flour producers only use the bran and endosperm, only sometimes containing a small amount of the germ.

    The germ is the part of the grain that carries beneficial oils and amino acids. thus a natural whole wheat flour should go rancid within months. Yet, for some reason we can buy whole wheat flour that cn stay on our shelves for years at a time? (preservatives, chemical processes, and lack of germ can all be the reasons) To go further there are chemical processes that are patented and kept secret by companies which can keep the grain whole in its entirety, but somehow strip the oils from the grain allowing it to keep longer.

    im sorry for spelling errors or going off on a tangent or making little sense!

  7. April Reeves

    Eugene, I think if you look at just the grain itself, you will find it a nutritional commodity. Where grains get into trouble, is in the refinement and processing. I think you need to have some “age” attached to you to understand this, but 50 years ago, we ate grains and no one was overweight. It was “how” they were prepared that differs from today. Also, soil management was different back then. We don’t have the soil we use to, due to pesticides and erosion and farming methods. I eat a fairly carb intensive diet, and I am thin and exceptionally healthy. It’s all in the “how” of the doing, not in the absolute.

  8. souggy

    There’s a couple of fallacies here.

    1) Human population didn’t explode until the useage of steam, oil and gasoline. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, agricultural improvements only increased the carrying capacity of that specific region. It’s only after the troubleshooting of the transportation of goods were resolved, people were able to store large surplus good in large urban centres.

    2) We weren’t really meatarians by nature. In fact, before the discovery of the New World, most of our ancestors are semi-vegetarians. Even after the discovery of the New World, many of the European and Asian settlers continued their semi-vegetarian dietary habits.

    3) The disorders associated with obesity were traditionally “rich people’s diseases,” and back the only the rich could afford meat. In fact, diabetes and obesity is tied with meat-eating in the day of serfdoms and peasantry.

    4) To argue a specific diet is better is fallacious. In the old days, there were disorders associated with eating only meat, eating only rice, eating only corn and so on. We don’t see these disorders these days in the 21st Century North America because we live in a hypernutritious society. In response to the hyper-nutrition, we became obese.

    So the problem doesn’t lie in the type of food we eat. It lies in the lack of balance.

    1. Matt Cooke

      “So the problem doesn’t lie in the type of food we eat. It lies in the lack of balance.”

      couldn’t have said it better myself.

      and to go a step further.. not only balance but a consciousness of how we grow, prepare, and consume our food as well.

    2. Eugene Kan

      1/2: Agrarian society is only something that has been within roughly the last 10,000 years of human civilization making grain a relatively new phenomenon. I never made a vegetarian/carnivore argument more so a grain/no-grain argument. Prior to that, how were humans able to maintain the necessary calories for evolution via grains? Take the time to check out the Expensive Energy Hypothesis:

      3. Meat does not induce diabetes and obesity, inflammation is the root of this cause. If I take on a grain-less diet and stick to meat and vegetables, or anything I can essentially pick from the land and consume right away I will be more than healthy. Why is it that if the body needs glucose, it can make its own via gluconeogeonesis ( making the need to consume carbohydrates and grains redundant.

      Much of us eat grain-fed animals and here’s a recent study involving grain vs. grass fed cattle and the subsequent benefit of non-grain fed consumption on health markers (

  9. souggy

    10,000 years is ample of time for peasants to evolve to a semi-vegetarian lifestyle. Lactose tolerance evolved 3,000 years ago. So comparing humans living under selective environmental pressure to consuming grains and animal byproducts to ancient humans or meatarian societies is not a good comparison. However we can’t evolve fast enough within a century to cope with our current problems.

    No, I didn’t say a meat-based diet caused diabetes or obesity, but rather it was a correlation among those who could afford meat prior to the 20th century. No amount of scientific data can debunks a social construct which led us into this mess. Now the role has reversed: meat is taken for granted and food is cheap; only the upper-middle and middle class are seeing the health benefits of what our farming ancestors took for granted– fresh vegetables, fresh organic slaughters, and whole grains.

    Grain-fed livestocks is also a recent event with the onset of the factory production of food in the 1940s, 1950s. Prior to then, most families were supplied with grass-fed cattle.

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