The story is told that after thousands of years of storage in the pyramids of Egypt, grains were found that still germinated well! Grains in their whole form contain natural preservatives so that they can still sprout after prolonged periods of dormancy and when conditions are right. Unfortunately these natural preservatives often wreak havoc on the digestive systems of those who consume them. Phytic acid for example is an organic acid which is bound to phosphorus. It is found primarily in the bran of grain that is removed to make white flour. This phytic acid binds with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc and inhibits their absorption in the digestive tract. Although we are eating more nutrient dense foods by consuming whole grains, we are actually not digesting many of these nutrients. Improperly digested grain contains difficult to digest proteins and enzyme inhibitors which some believe can lead to allergies and aggravate digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, gluten sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, colitis and even diabetes. Undigested grain can lead to serious mineral deficiencies, bone loss, and other conditions.
During the 1800s and before, grain was usually fermented using a natural leavening process. Natural leavening is several strains of yeast and several strains of beneficial bacteria that grow harmoniously together in an acidic environment. Around the early 1900’s most of society began baking bread using isolated yeast strains. This yeast isolation was ideal for the bread industry to reduce leavening time and improve reproducibility. However, the absence of the bacterial portion of the leaven has been detrimental to our health. Yeast works very well to create a tall airy loaf of bread, but beneficial bacteria in the natural leaven neutralize phytic acid to release minerals. The bacteria also break down enzyme inhibitors, gluten and difficult to digest substances. Amino acids are altered to produce flavor and aroma; and B vitamins are produced. Many of the nutrients released are found in high quantities from whole grains when naturally leavened.
Although our ancestors ate whole grains in abundance, it is important to note that they usually soaked or fermented grain before making breads, porridge, or cakes. Avoid the harmful effects of grain by using natural leavening in your whole grains.