Sunday, October 9, 2011

31 Days to a Cleaner Diet {5}: Grains

Well, I’m back!  Whew!  24 hours without internet (we don’t have a tv) is about all the two of us could handle without going bonkers!  Our laptop is done for and we purchased an all-in-one desktop (as in, there’s no bulky computer sitting off to the side – it’s all condensed and right behind the monitor).  So far I am loving the 20-inch screen and the fact that it’s not going to get so hot all the time like our laptop.  Totally not used to the clicky keyboard though – it’s been about 3 years since I consistently used a desktop computer.  It takes a little getting used to again!

Okay, where were we?  Oh yes…..GRAINS. : )

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You guys, I’m not gonna lie…I have been working on this post over and over and while I have totally loved writing this series so far, this one has totally had the feeling of “term paper” to me. 

I just could not get myself motivated to write it! 

The concept of writing about “grains” should be super easy (eat whole grains, right?) but the problem is that in America our food system is completely and utterly messed up and we’re not just dealing with a whole grain issue – we’re dealing with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) taking over an enormous part of our food supply. 

And that’s why I’ve been dreading this post and I’ve started and stopped writing it a hundred times and wasted time on Facebook and Pinterest to avoid it.  The subject of GMOs was just so huge and bulky and complicated to truly explain well and I just couldn’t fathom actually typing it all out for you guys. 

So I’m going to explain it as best I can in just a few sentences, and then I REALLY, realllllllllllllllly encourage you to do a little internet research.  Remember, you are ingesting this food every day and you owe it to yourself and your vital organs to be educated about this.  Don’t let my short explanation suffice, okay?

GMOs are plants that have been altered at a genetic level.  The greatest problem with GMOs is simply that they haven’t been around long enough for any real research to have proven what effect they will have on humans long term.  We’re messing with something that’s been around in its natural form for thousands and thousands of years; food that was never intended to be modified in this way.  And it’s not something that maybe we eat once a week, or even once a day.  The biggest GMO crops in the U.S. are corn and soybeans – and you guys, they are in EVERYTHING. 

Go through your cabinets right now and look at everything that has corn and soy in it.  I guarantee you will find it in places you least expected – even chocolate chips, for instance, are made with soy lecithin.   And if you’re drinking non-organic milk or eating non-pastured beef or chicken or eggs, guess what?  You’re eating MORE CORN. 

I find this quote from Michael Pollan to be extremely interesting:

“…Carbon 13 [the carbon from corn] doesn't lie, and researchers who have compared the isotopes in the flesh or hair of Americans to those in the same tissues of Mexicans report that it is now we in the North who are the true people of corn.... Compared to us, Mexicans today consume a far more varied carbon diet: the animals they eat still eat grass (until recently, Mexicans regarded feeding corn to livestock as a sacrilege); much of their protein comes from legumes; and they still sweeten their beverages with cane sugar. So that's us: processed corn, walking.”
- Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Here’s another quote from an e-mail that I received just a few days ago from the founder of Stonyfield Farms, Gary Hirshberg:

“Genetic engineering—also known as genetic modification—isn't allowed in organic production. But genetically engineered (GE) ingredients are in 60-70% of non-organic processed foods. Most people don't know this, and food companies aren't required to tell you.
What's the danger? All the health and environmental impacts of genetic engineering are not yet known. We do know that GE crops have increased the use of herbicides and may have introduced new toxins and allergens into our food and environment. Many other countries, including all of the EU, Japan, Australia and even China already require GE labeling on all foods produced with GE ingredients.”

{If you’d like to send a letter to the FDA, asking this for mandatory labeling in the US,  you can do it so easily via this link. It literally takes 5 seconds, and this could be crucial for our food supply.}

That’s all I’m going to say for now about GMOs (please do a little research on your own if this is all new to you) so that we can get more into the nitty gritty of grains. 

So let’s start with our Better and Good options again, okay?

Better: Non-GMO, Organic, whole grain (Organic foods, by definition, can’t contain GMOs, but non-GMO food isn’t necessarily Organic)

Good:  Whole grains as much as you can; Organic/Non-GMO corn and soy as much as you can


Notice that these rice cakes are from Belgium – and they’re labeled!  (Even though I’m not really worried about GMO rice – it’s still nice to see a label!)

Don’t make the decision to go whole-grain overnight.  Gradually introduce it to your family (and yourself!).  For me, whole grain pasta wasn’t a problem, but I really, reeeaaaaallly hated the taste of brown rice.  It was too course and dense for my liking.  Now I really enjoy it, and think white rice hardly has a taste in comparison!  Your taste buds will change over time, but be patient with yourself and your family.  Give yourself some grace. : )


Once you’ve switched over the basics (pasta and rice), begin incorporating other whole grains and experimenting with them! 


In the picture below you see organic bulgur, organic millet, and barley. 


Bulgur can be swapped for rice in recipes such as Spinach-Feta Rice.  (So can couscous!).  I use millet when I make my Morning Cookie.  I honestly haven’t opened the box of barley yet – I keep forgetting to Google recipes for it! (Thanks to Lindsay for the idea to keep bulk grains in glass jars in the fridge – love it!)

Whole grain bread was never an issue for me; I grew up with whole wheat bread so I actually have always disliked the taste of white.   I’ve only eaten white bread probably twice in my life, but it has always felt super spongy and gummy to me.  In case you weren’t aware, sometimes companies will try to trick you with the wording on their product – for instance, “wheat bread” definitely does not mean “whole wheat bread.”  Just so you’re aware!

Always read labels, and eventually you’ll find a favorite brand.  I have 3 brands that are affordable options: Nature’s Promise (Stop & Shop), Arnold, and Full Circle (Big Y).  When the bread goes on sale, I stock up (it’s so nice to have a deep freezer!). 


Notice, however, that even my all-natural bread contains corn flour, soybean oil, soy lecithin, and distilled vinegar (most likely made from corn)!!!! You really can’t get away from it unless you buy completely organic (which clearly I do not do at this point). 

Lastly, try to use whole wheat flours when baking (again, take it slow in the transition stage!).  Worst of the worst here is bleached white flour.  BLEACH.  In your food.  YUCK.  Please promise me you will never buy it again! 

I personally like to bake with white whole wheat flour (I buy the King Arthur brand).  It’s simply made from a different kind of whole wheat; it’s not quite as dark and dense.  I do keep (unbleached) white bread flour for making bread machine bread; I am a newbie and I didn’t want to experiment too much at first.  I also use unbleached white flour for some of my recipes that really can’t handle the denseness of whole wheat; I use this in moderation though. 

Well, there is my very abrupt overview at how to eat clean grains.  I didn’t want to make this post any longer than it already was, so I had to be as relatively concise as possible.   If you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them as best I can, either in the comments or via e-mail. 

Up tomorrow: recipes for Crockpot Salsa Chicken and Homemade Tortillas!  You won’t want to miss this. ; )

P.S. I found this article to be really interesting: “7 GMO Products I Bet You Are Still Using.”


  1. Thanks for this post. I started with going to brown rice, then swapped to whole wheat/grain pastas. I agree with you, small changes. Often I'll use half white and half whole wheat flour in recipes (def. only use unbleached.) I want to try the white whole wheat, I've seen this mentioned different places but never really understood the difference. Thank you for sharing so thoroughly. I, for one appreciate it. I'm going to share this on FB.

  2. MMmmm...I love my whole grains! We do buy organic bread because of the sugar issue, either Rudis or Ezekial 4:9. When I am on top of things, I make bread once a week in our bread machine (I am not right now. Spelt bread is actually Ethan's favorite and it really great for his digestion. I buy the Rudis brand but have just ordered spelt flour to make out own. I actually prefer whole grain pasta. White pasta seems to have no flavor anymore. Ha ha. My biggest tip for moving to brown rice is to go half and half for a while.

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