Whole Grain Bread Versus White Bread
How is bread made? How do you know what grain is best? This article will help you understand sources of grain, what is fiber, and the effects of food fortification.
Photo by Mariana Kurnyk
What Is Grain?
Grains are the seeds of the grass plants. The grass plants are a special genome or species within the plant family called Poaceae. They include wheat, barley, rye, rice, oat, millet, and corn. All of these grains are seeds of the grass plant. Yes, even corn. Corn is the seed of the maize grass. Besides the cereal grasses, the Poaceae family includes bamboos, the grasses of natural grassland, cultivated lawns, and pasture. Sugarcane also belongs to the grass family, but we do not eat the seed of the sugarcane; we actually eat the grass or stem portion of the plant. This differs significantly from the cereal grasses. With the cereal grasses, we eat the seeds and are unable to digest the stem or stalk portion of the plant.
Cultivation of grasses began about twelve thousand years ago as a major part of the shift from hunting and gathering to plant and animal agriculture, a transition that stimulated rapid social and cultural evolution. From the beginning of their domestication, wheat, barley, oats, and rye in the Middle East; sorghum in Africa; rice in Asia; and corn in Central America have supported the rise of many civilizations.
The economic importance of grasses lies in their role as an important food source. One could say that civilization has grown and progressed on the back of a blade of grass. Grass is agriculturally able to grow almost anywhere and in almost any climate. It has proliferated because the seed of grass is harvestable, storable, and shippable. It has been used to prevent famine during the Depression, was shipped to our allies in times of war, and has propped up nations devastated by natural disasters. When all else has failed, a bag of grain has shown up in every nation to keep people fed. They are starvation crops. Up to 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land is given to crop grasses, and more than 50 percent of the world’s calories come from grasses. The seed of the grass plant is what has been developed into an edible cereal grain.
Who Eats Grass?
So who eats grass? Have you ever seen a cat or dog eat grass? Generally, when the dew is on the grass or after a fresh rain, you will see a dog or cat eating grass and you know what is coming next. Within ten minutes, they vomit on your carpet. The grass is whole and mixed with saliva and digestive juices. Their body is unable to process grass. Humans do not eat grass except in the form of processed sugar or the seed of the cereal grass plant.
Eighty percent of the human population is unable to digest grass, and this includes the grain from grass.
Corn is the seed of grass. Have you ever seen it come out whole in your waste and wondered why? The answer is simple. No, your stomach and intestines did not just “miss one.” Your body lacks not only the digestive juices to decompose it but also the digestive system to absorb it properly into your body. Therefore, it is generally undigested in the human diet, and if you were chewing fast, it comes out whole. Most of the corn that is manufactured and produced for the consumer market is ground down and hidden in our food. It is refined. The refined or processed grain or grass seed is much smaller than the corn seed and combined with other ingredients to fool our body into “processing” it. Just ask someone with celiac or ask the wife of the guy who drinks beer filled with barley every night and fumigates the house with his methane by day.
Basically, all food is going through a fermentation process or a process of being broken down as it passes through our body into waste. There are two main types of digestive systems: foregut fermentation systems and hindgut fermentation systems. The foregut fermenters are also called ruminants, and “foregut” refers to the area of the digestive system where the predominant amount of digestion or fermentation is occurring. This class of animal includes cows, sheep, and deer as well as many other animals. These animals are known to be multigastric or to have many chambers in their stomach, so that their food can be chewed over and over again, which is where the phrase “cow chewing its cud” originates. The cud is regurgitated food that is being re-chewed and re-digested.
Foregut fermenters also have thousands of bacteria in their stomach, which include cellulase. Cellulase are specialized enzymes that are found in certain bacteria or fungus that specialize in the breakdown of cellulose. Cellulose is the main component of the cell wall of any plant. Since it is made by all plants, cellulose is the most abundant organic compound on Earth. To digest cellulose, an animal requires cellulase to provide extra digestion, or breakdown, for the body to be able to absorb or digest the cellulose. Ruminants have cellulase in the form of bacteria to break down the cellulose. Therefore, ruminants are able to process cellulose, including grass. These animals and the bacteria that live inside their body evolved specifically with the ability to break down grass.
As for humans eating grass, we are not multigastric nor does our body contain the bacteria with cellulases that allow for the breakdown of grass. A human’s mouth, stomach, and liver can secrete enzymes to digest almost every type of sugar except cellulose. We are not designed to break down the cellulose in grass or any other plant and neither are we designed to absorb the nutrients that are attached to cellulose. Although humans are unable to digest cellulose, we are able to absorb the nutrients from the seed of the grass plant, including the vital nutrients in the seed contained in the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.
Grain, or the seeds of grasses, is also referred to in dietary speak as “insoluble fiber.” Insoluble fiber is fiber that does not break down in the digestive system, but instead bulks up as it passes through. Insoluble fiber is what makes your stomach feel full for a longer period of time. It also makes your food move slower through your body, and makes your poop solid. In comparison, “soluble fiber” is fiber that our bodies contain the bacteria to break down and whose nutrients we can absorb. A piece of fruit or a vegetable contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. For example, the skin of the apple is insoluble fiber, but the inside of the apple is soluble fiber. We need both types of fiber.
So what does this mean?
One of the staple foods in our diet is the seed of the grass or grain. If we look at just the seed of the wheat grass in the Standard American Diet, however, we separate out the valuable portion of the seed. The nutrient-rich portion of any seed is the part that feeds the seed in the ground so that it will grow into a plant. This portion of the seed includes the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Generally, during processing, the bran, the endosperm, and the germ are separated and discarded from the seed and only a portion of the endosperm is left for human consumption. We grind it into an ultra-fine, white powder called flour and use it as a bulking agent in food such as breads, pastas, and cereal. Nature does not naturally produce any food substances in bright white. Flour does not start off white, sugar does not start off white, and rice does not start off white.
Since we have removed the portions that feed the seed as it grows into a plant, we have also removed the portion of the seed with the most nutrients to feed ourselves. The only job left for a processed or refined grain is to add to the sensation of satiety and reduces hunger. It is essentially a filler food with no additional value. In The World’s Healthiest Foods, George Mateljan supports, “The problem with grains is that they are the processed portion of our food. They need to be unprocessed. Oats are just oats. Brown rice is just brown rice. The process that produces brown rice removes only the outermost layer, the hull, of the rice kernel and is the least damaging to its nutritional value. The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Fully milled and polished white rice is required to be ‘enriched’ with vitamins B1, B3 and iron.”
In the mid-1800s, manufacturers began processing rice in mills, which stripped off the vitamin-rich bran, husk, and germ of the rice grain. In the making of white rice, the portions of the brown rice that are stripped off contain vitamin B (thiamine). As white rice became increasingly common, so did a disease called beriberi. The symptoms of beriberi include weight loss, muscle weakness, paralysis, mental instability, and even death. One would naturally assume that when researchers found the cause of beriberi to be the consumption of stripped-down white rice, producers would have returned to its natural state and sold it only with the bran included or just as brown rice. Of course, this is not the case.
Source: National Library of Medicine
Since the 1950s, producers began to fortify foods, meaning that synthetic vitamins were added to foods when the natural vitamins had been removed during the manufacturing of the product. The fortification of cereal grains became mandatory for enriched grains in the United States as of January 1, 1998.
Cereal is another product in which the naturally occurring vitamins, or the healthy portions of the grain, are stripped out during processing. The cereal is then fortified, meaning that synthetic vitamins are added back in. The most predominant cases of food fortification occur in cereal and milk that have been “enriched,” which is another word for adding back in synthetic vitamins when the naturally occurring vitamins have been removed.
Today, manufacturers have managed to fortify sports drinks, cereals, grain bars, orange juice, pudding, almond milk, soy milk, cow’s milk, pasta, bread, flour, and many more foods. The average consumer who is eating processed foods has extreme difficulty in tracking how many vitamins that they are actually consuming or their progress toward the recommended daily allowance because synthetic vitamins are added continuously to staple and processed foods. These synthetic vitamins are fortified vitamins, which did not grow in the ground and have not obtained their energy from the sun. These chemicals were never alive or part of anything alive. They are manufactured drugs; they are not nutrients from plant-based food.
In 2004, Denmark passed a law to minimize fortification in their food products. When the law in Denmark regarding fortification and additives took effect, Kellogg’s applied for eighteen products to be approved by the government in Denmark, including breakfast cereals and cereal bars. Some of the products had been popular for generations in the United States. All eighteen were refused by the Danish government because they were enriched with excessive levels of iron, calcium, vitamin B, or other supplements.
Now, obviously, the problem is how fortified or enriched grains are incorporated into the Standard American Diet.
Fortified or enriched grains are contained in our breakfast cereals, pancakes, pastas, and breads. At breakfast they our found in our bagel, toast, cookie, doughnut, or pastry. At lunch, they are in the bun on our burger or the bread beneath our lunchmeat. For dinner, pass me a roll with my spaghetti or tuna casserole. Fortified or enriched grains might equal 50 percent of your diet. If you generally eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner, they probably make up a minimum of 50 percent of your diet.
We love grains, but grains do not love us. If processed grain is busy being our filler food, where is the room in our stomachs for nutrients? Where is the room for the significant amount of fruits and vegetables that our bodies require? We are filling up on the portion of the seed that are bodies are unable to digest. And this portion of the seed is generally wrapped in sugar, oil, and other man-made, processed foods that do not provide nutrition. Simply, refined and processed grain is making us fatter and sicker as a nation.
So what should we be eating?
We should be eating the seed of the grass plant is in its whole form. Even though corn is processed into thousands of unrecognizable products from gasoline to chicken nuggets, it is still recognizable in its whole form and desired state of the corn kernel or corn on the cob. This is the corn that we should be eating. Oats are the seed of the oat plant. “Instant oatmeal” is not included as a healthy oat because the valuable part of the oat seed has been stripped out to make it. The oats labeled, “Old–fashioned” contain the whole oat and are good for you. The nutrient-rich part of the rice seed has been stripped out of all white rice and, therefore, brown or wild grain rice are the only healthy options.
Quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are not grains. They are derived from a plant that is not a grass. The structure of these plants is different from the seed of the grass plant. It is nutrient rich and provides significant dense nutrient content. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from food. Quinoa contains the amino acid lysine, which helps the body produce protein. It also helps the body process the protein in the quinoa and in other foods. The World Health Organization has rated the quality of protein in quinoa to be equivalent or superior to that found in milk products.