“Bringing Traditional Foods Back – Legumes, Grains & Nuts” written by Jillaine Williams and published in Great Health Guide (Sept 2015). Traditional foods are making a comeback. Grain, legumes & nuts provide a great source of nutrition. Read other nutrition articles on our website. Great Health Guide is a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.
Nutrition: Bringing Traditional Foods Back – Legumes, Grains & Nuts written by Jillaine Williams
Welcome back to our series on Traditional Foods – the foods which our forefathers enjoyed, back when modern diseases like obesity and diabetes were a rarity (1). Having read part one and two in this series, you’re now aware of the importance of good quality fats in your diet along with the powerful healing capacity of organically produced, fresh, heirloom vegetables and fruit. Today we will look at nuts, seeds, grains and legumes, a group of foods which are similarly nutrient-dense and at the same time, the source of much confusion and discussion around the health blogosphere.
A couple of new diets that you may have come across include the Paleo Diet (2) and the Specific Carbohydrate Diets (SCD) (3). I mention these because legumes, nuts, grains and seeds are either over emphasised or omitted in these diets. Take the Paleo Diet for example – we are advised to avoid all grains and legumes along with all processed and modern industrialized foods such as refined oils (4). Now refined and industrialized foods can go, you’ll get no argument from me, however the subject of legumes is somewhat contentious and in my experience ‘the science’ sometimes requires a good dose of skepticism.
When we look at the traditional diets of healthy, nourished groups including Jewish, African, Oriental and Latin Americans, we find that careful preparation and cooking methods were adopted to reduce so- called anti-nutrients. Paleo aficionados site these compounds such as phytic and oxalic acids as the reasoning behind their recommendations to eliminate them from the diet. Soaking, rinsing and slow cooking has been the solution throughout history and continues to this day in well-versed kitchens.
Cholent, for example is a traditional Jewish dish that continues to use these methods. Pre-soaked and well-rinsed beans are very slowly cooked on an open fire together with herbs spices, vegetables and meats. When legumes are prepared in this way complex compounds are broken down in preparation for sprouting.
Phytates and trypsin inhibitors are designed by nature to prevent digestion within the stomach of birds and animals that eat them causing humans considerable digestive discomfort when not correctly prepared. Sure it takes a little time and effort to soak and rinse your beans and lentils, however I’m sure you’d agree that your health is worth the investment. Not to mention the social up-side to reducing bloating, pain and gas production when legumes are carefully prepared (5). For more information and recipes follow this link to ‘Putting the Polish on those Humble Beans’.
You will have noticed in the articles referenced above that all grains have similarly been ousted by the Paleo movement. Granted, there is a time and place for their removal, such as in the case of the ever-growing incidence of digestive inflammation and irritability (6).
This is where the SCD and GAPS diets (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) play an invaluable role in restoring digestive function such that most grains can then be restored to the diet for most people (8). However people with a genetic susceptibility or history of allergy or intolerance to gluten-containing foods will likely do better to avoid these for the long term (7). These healing protocols involve restoring the gut microbiome (healthy gut bugs) as well as slowly returning fiber to the diet from vegetable sources including legumes to bring about intestinal healing via short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate. These fatty acids are produced via fermentation of insoluble fiber by intestinal microbes and have been found to reduce inflammation and immune reactivity in the digestive tract thus facilitating healing (9)Now I think we agree that soaking beans and lentils before slowly cooking them (with some juicy organic chicken or lamb sausages please) is simple enough. However grains require a more thoughtful approach if we are to avoid damaging our health (10).
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