Hi CrossFit Asheville Community!
I have been given the opportunity to share a few words on diet through the CFA Blog. This post will focus on how to prepare nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes for maximum nutrient absorption and a happy gut. The Paleo diet, hugely popular with CrossFit athletes, does not include grains or many legumes as part of the diet. However, I want to address what gives grains and legumes a bad rap and how you can change that with some additional forethought and planning in the kitchen.
- Visit Jessica’s Blog for more information and a recipe on Sourdough Sticky Buns
- Download a printable version of this entire article.
About Myself and How I Address Diet:
To identify and adhere to one specific diet can unintentionally lead to ignoring individual needs and great research from other diets. A recommended template of eating, created from a pool of information and research from several diets, can be more accommodating to the individual. Over a lifetime the human body experiences plenty of change and growth. Individual body nutrient requirements change to reflect the physical and mental changes happening in that specific body. Our food system also continues to be reshaped through many new practices in agriculture (unfortunately most of these changes are negative) and global import/export of food, therefore reorganizing what is available in our grocery stores and farmers markets.
My choices about what to eat and how to act in the kitchen are directed by information and studies from not one diet, but many. Local climate is another key factor, guiding in meal planning and shopping throughout the seasons. As a practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga, its philosophies also influence my decisions by teaching me to understand compassion towards all beings. However, I do not by omit animal products all together, rather I am a proud omnivore fighting for animal and small farmer rights with both my mouth and money.
I am a believer in butter, bacon, and broth. However, I aim to be a mindful and well-informed consumer when it comes to food quality. Preaching one diet over another rarely seems appropriate, rather I like to teach food quality, next to food preparation, as the most important thing to consider when deciding how to feed yourself. These two factors dramatically impact how easily foods are digested and the bioavailability of the nutrients in our food. I also believe that within every diet there is room for further research and continued learning. So, take from this post what serves you and leave the rest. Thanks for reading!
Defining Grain, Legume, Nut and Seed
Grains, legumes and nuts are seeds of plants that human beings consume for food. Grains include wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice and corn; legumes are seeds that come in pods, such as black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts and cashews; nuts include walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios.
Nobody Wants an Irritated Intestinal Track
Contrary to ridiculous USDA recommendations, you do not need to include grains in your diet. Wrongly prepared whole grains have a dangerous side and can lead to irritated intestinal track, so that is enough to turn most people away. There are other ways to get the same minerals and vitamins present in properly prepared whole grains. Though if you love tradition and eating a variety of whole foods, then including grains can absolutely be a healthy and delicious addition to the plate. Let me begin with grain and bread, the staff of life for many families around the world.
Truly great bread is a passionate endeavor in the kitchen, a work of fine artisan skill, and a practice of patience. Bread has long been a staple in the human diet. Our ancestors rarely gathered around the table without a loaf of fresh bread. I am not talking about the squishy supermarket bread made from rancid flour and filled with artificial vitamins and preservatives. That is not the bread our ancestors put on the table to provide sustenance at the end of the day. I am referring to freshly milled heirloom grain sourdough or naturally leavened breads.
What got lost overtime were the necessary steps taken by our ancestors to prepare grains: soak, sprout, and sour. When prepared through these methods, grains can germinate and release their beneficial properties while simultaneously increasing vitamin content. Even more important, during these processes (soak, sprout, sour) enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid are neutralized, making the grain far easier to digest and more nutrient rich.
What about Gluten?
Sprouted Grain and Whole Grain: NOT the Same
When scientists of nutrition finally came to realize that heavily processed white flour was an empty food lacking in any useful nutrients, they failed to consider the dangers of whole grains before promoting them as health foods. Nature put a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals into whole grains but you have to ease them out because nature also gave grains protection.
The un-germinated seed inside the bran of a grain is fragile. In order for nature to run its course, for the seed to successfully spread, it needs protection from wildlife and weather until the right conditions for germination are present. So there is a reason and purpose for the characteristics in a raw seed that detract from their nutritive value. So, what makes them “bad” for you is the presence of: phytates, enzyme inhibitors, complex sugars, and aflatoxins. Okay, that is a lot of stuff, but fortunately we can mitigate the effects of these compounds through the process of germination.
Soaking and sprouting does three fundamental things: 1) activates food enzymes; 2) increases vitamin content; 3) neutralizes anti-nutrients that prevent the body from fully absorbing bound up minerals. Sprouted wheat, for example, contains four times the amount of niacin and nearly twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate as non-sprouted wheat; moreover, it contains more protein and fewer starches than non-sprouted grain. Sprouted grain is also lower on the glycemic index.
The Many Benefits of Sprouted Grains:
– Increases level of vitamin C
– Increases levels of vitamin B, especially B2, B5, B6
– Increases level of carotene
– Neutralizes phytic acid, a substance located in the bran of grains that prevents the body from absorbing the key minerals offered from grains: calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc
– Neutralizes enzyme inhibitors found in all seeds. Enzyme inhibitors stress the body’s digestive tract, by neutralizing our digestive enzymes that work to break down legumes
– Numerous additional enzymes are produced through germination that aid in proper digestion
– Inactivates aflatoxins, undesirable carcinogens found in grains
– Better flavor and texture
Similar Benefits with Sprouted Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are surely some of the best sources for nutrients and energy when you are looking for quick, snack foods. Ever heard of Chapul bars? Those delicious bars made with nuts and cricket flour… Mmmmm. I wish I could order those by the case but, like many companies making nut-based bars they fail to properly prepare the nuts. I am hitting this topic of nut bars because I think they are a number one snack for many athletes.
While they have less phytic acid than grains, raw nuts have very high levels of enzyme inhibitors. So even if we go the extra length to buy organic peanut butter, we are still getting all the enzyme inhibitors that will block the uptake of the good stuff.
Nut & Seed Quality
Different nuts require different preparation. Nuts like pecans and walnuts no longer in their shells cannot be sprouted, rather they need to soak overnight in lightly salted filtered water. Skinless almonds and peanuts will sprout nicely when you can find them raw and unpasteurized. Buying them already peeled often lets you know the skins were removed mechanically, rather than boiled or roasted. Cashews sold are ‘raw’ are likely not raw. While in their shell, they get heated to around 350 degrees to neutralize a toxic oil called cardol. Soaking cashews still increases the bioavailability of nutrients, but it now necessary to dehydrate them at a low temperature like with all other sprouted nuts. It is also important soak them for a maximum of 6 hours. After that point, they may begin to spoil and develop a bad taste.
The difference between a raw seed and germinated seed is remarkable. Enzyme activity is increased nearly six times. Lucky for us any seed can be made to germinate, unless it has been irradiated. It is ideal to purchase seeds organic and hulled in sealed packages, rather than bulk bins that increase oxidation. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds sprout easily. Flax and oat seeds take more care and different equipment. Flax seeds become too mucilaginous (think chia seeds with that gelatinous outer membrane) making them difficult to rinse properly during sprouting. Oat seeds need to be in their outer hull in order to sprout.
The only seed that is not recommended to sprout is alfafa. These seeds contain an amino acid called canavanine that can be toxic to humans when taken in quantity.
Easy Method for Home Sprouting
The basic method is the same for sprouting all grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The length of time to reach full germination varies. You will need wide mouth glass mason jars and either store bought sprouting lids or homemade ones using a round cut out of window screen. Then you will need whatever nut, grain, or seed you wish to sprout. Take care to choose organic, untreated (when possible) products that tend to sprout more reliably and evenly.
Fill a mason jar a 1/3 full (leaving room for the seeds to expand when hydrated) with any grain or seed. Cover with warm filtered water, filling the jar completely. Allow to soak about 8 hours (easy to time this to soak overnight). With your sprouting lid on tight, tip the jar over and drain water. If you have a dish drying rack it helps to leave the jar sitting at an angle to continue draining fully. After this initial soaking, rinse the seeds several times a day, or at least two times per day. Sprouts will appear in one to three days. Be mindful not to let the sprouts get too long! Once they shoot out, just an 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch is usually ideal. Rinse them well one final time before using or storing.
Depending on what you want to do with/when you plan to eat your sprouts, you may choose to transfer them to the refrigerator in a sealed jar or dehydrate them at a low temperature for making flour, dry trail mixes, or storage. I like to keep any dried sprouts in a sealed bag in the freezer to keep longer and prevent any possibility of moisture seeping in causing them to go rancid.
No Time to Sprout?
If this is all too complicated for your kitchen routine but you have the resources to buy top quality products, there are several companies (mostly from online suppliers) who are producing sprouted foods. Here are a few great sources:
Radiant Life Catalog
Blue Mountain Organics
To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co.
Everything in Moderation & Mindful Use of Sprouted Foods
Whether you choose to eat properly prepared grains or no grains at all, it is perhaps most important to eat the greatest variety of foods available. Even high quality, well-prepared foods become negative when we do not observe moderation.
Also, take care not to cook out the very nutrients you took time to develop through sprouting. Cooking damages the sprouts micronutrient profile as many of its vitamins are fragile and not heat stable. Sprouted flours can be used in baking without further soaking with yoghurt, whey, or buttermilk. However, they will not offer much to the body when fried in a skillet. Slow baking in the oven is best for sprouted flours.
It should also be mentioned that in order to avoid sensitivity and allergies to nuts, grains, and legumes in children, it is best to introduce these foods only after the child is two years old.
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morell
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A Price
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, Catherine Shanahan
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of Americas Favorite Health Food, Kaayla T Daniel
BioFeedBack Informational Session with Dr. Corey Duvall of the Stay Active ClinicWhere: CrossFit AshevilleWhen: November 22nd @ 11aAbout: The purpose of training is to challenge deeply and recover fully. When this is done consistently your body gets fitter, stronger, leaner, more flexible and more injury and pain-resistant. BioFeedBack Flexibility testing can help you easily determine when you are challenged and when you’ve recovered. Learn a method to determine when you’re not working hard enough, or when you’re working too hard. Learn to use your physical effort for progress and not detriment. Learn when what “feels” hard may not be hard enough to actually improve or when “hard” is too hard for progress. Learn a more effective way to use the foam-roller and other self-massage methods in conjunction with CrossFit to improve BOTH Strength AND flexibility.