The quick answer: For good health eat your grains whole. That’s a simple statement—to implement it you must reinvent your food culture and avoid factory foods.
Tracing One’s Footsteps
I’m a stay-at-home guy but with some encouragement the Beautiful Wife and I are taking a trip to the Derwent Valley in north England. Derwent Valley is notable for two things: First, it was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution—the water-powered textile mill was invented at Cromford in 1772. You can read about it here.
Second, the Derwent Valley is where my Hellewell ancestors worked in the textile mills before they immigrated to the Utah Territory in 1853. So it’s sort of like coming home—we want to walk the cobblestone streets they trod. (If readers live in this area, please leave a comment, or send an email.)
We’ll also visit the ancient upland village of Todmorden in nearby Upper Calder Valley. Todmorden is the center of a recent food revolution. A grassroots sustainable farming movement has arisen here with the goal to become locally self-sufficient for food. It started because a guy named Nick Green—the perfect name—planted a cabbage and rhubarb garden in a vacant lot (without permission) and posted a sign inviting people to help themselves. That was the start; now there are dozens of such lots and a local food movement has found traction. People who didn’t own cookbooks and got their food from packages are rediscovering real food, and cooking. You can read about Todmorden here.
The Roller Mill
The Industrial Revolution changed everything, including the nature of food. Not long after Cromford’s textile factory, the roller mill was invented. The roller mill separated the starch in wheat from the nutritious germ and bran (the latter became animal food). The benefits were irresistible: Now you had white flour that was sweet and lasted forever because the perishable nutrients had all been removed. It wouldn’t even keep a weevil alive. Soon similar processes were applied to the other grains—polishing for rice, and degerming for corn. It was a nutrition catastrophe we’re still trying to cure.
Staff of Life
If we didn’t have grains most of the planet would starve to death—grains really are the staff of life but for best health you should eat them whole. We talked about the importance of this at In Praise of Whole Grains.
Gluten is problematic for a few people. Gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose but if you’re in this group you need to heed the guidance of your doctor—it’s a serious issue. We’re not sure why gluten intolerance is a growing problem but there are two factors: First, many new wheat hybrids have been developed which contain new forms of gluten to which mankind is unaccustomed. Second, we have gone from slow-rising sourdough breads to fast-rising yeast breads so there is less breaking down of the gluten before consumption.
In our home we’re buying sourdough mostly whole wheat bread these days and want to start baking our own. (We also grind our own flour at the time of use for freshness.) Does anyone have sourdough experience or a recipe to share?
Comment: Whole grains are one of the best food values but we think it best to enjoy a variety. Please comment on how you include whole grains in the diet of your family, or share a favorite recipe.