Tuesday, 15 April 2008

WHEAT Part I: Give (RAW, SPROUTED) wheat a chance

Recently I heard a new-to-raw-fooder say 'we all know wheat is bad for us...', and earlier this year a TV journalist declared that raw foodists 'don't eat wheat'. In fact, neither statement is true. Whilst there are some raw fooders who do not eat wheat, and even warn others against doing so, lots of raw fooders do believe wheat (RAW, SPROUTED) has its place in the raw food diet. Flipping through my raw books, I can tell you that the following leading raw fooders all include wheat (RAW, SPROUTED) in their recipes: Alissa Cohen uses wheat in salad, crackers, dessert and main dishes. Juliano uses wheat in his Essene-style bread, 'cheese' burger and 'real toast'. Karen Knowler uses wheat in her raw pizza. And Kate Wood uses wheat in bread, a birthday cake and chocolate cake. (As one reader did misunderstand my point here, let me stress that I am not saying that wheat is a good food because these well-known raw foodists eat it, rather I am using these names to refute the blanket statement that the anti-wheat people love to make, that 'raw foodists don't eat wheat'.)


So why do these raw fooders feel wheat is OK (or even a 'good thing'?), whilst others quite clearly feel wheat should never be invited to the raw food party? Why the divergence of opinion?

One of the things I love to do at RawforLife is to collect conflicting information, try to make sense of it myself, and then save you a little time by putting it into (reasonably) assimilable form and presenting it to you. And, in perusing all the various pronouncements on wheat, one thing did come over quite strongly. It seemed to me that many of the issues connected with wheat are relevant to cooked rather than raw wheat, and that wheat (RAW, SPROUTED), whether or not it should be given an unequivocal 'green light, certainly deserves a better press.

I'll drop the caps now. As, I think I've made my point that there is a difference between raw, sprouted wheat and cooked wheat; and that raw, sprouted wheat will not have the same effect on our bodies as cooked wheat, in the same way that a raw carrot will not have the same effect on us as one boiled or roasted.

Is raw wheat as guilty of the crimes levelled against 'wheat' in general as its cooked counterpart? In dismissing the food that is described in the Essene Gospel of Peace as 'the most perfect among all the seed-bearing herbs' ('herb' in those times meant non-fruit plants) are those raw fooders who reject (all) wheat throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Well, my feeling is that they are. However, I'm not free from bias (as I enjoy raw, sprouted wheat), and I'm neither doctor nor scientist, but simply a raw fooder trying to find a path through a maze.

See what you think about some statements commonly made by (some) raw fooders about wheat, and my comments.

(And, to be clear, when I say raw, sprouted wheat I am talking about raw organic wheatberries (wheat seeds) that have been soaked then sprouted for 24 hours.)


Let's discuss some of the criticisms that have been levelled at 'wheat':


'Wheat has little nutritional value; it's mostly carbs.'

I have heard raw fooders say this. Yes, wheat is a 'complex carbohydrate'. What this means is that it provides a slower and more sustained release of energy than refined, or simple carbohydrates (eg fruit - albeit a significant part of my raw food diet). Wheat is rich in fibre. It contains all eight essential amino-acids, as well as other amino-acids (from which our bodies draw to make protein). Other foods that contain all eight essential amino-acids are hailed as 'superfoods', often marketed heavily and sold at very high prices, but raw organic wheat (£6 for 5 kg) - not trendy...

I wonder if when people dismiss wheat as 'mostly carbs' they are thinking of cooked, processed wheat, rather than raw wheat. Refined wheat products are carbohydrates that are not 'real foods' as they lack many nutrients, eg often the germ and bran are removed, leaving only starch; and the vitamins, minerals and fibre that need to be with the starch to make the wheat a whole food are missing. But this doesn't apply to raw unprocessed wheat.

One of my favourite raw food authors describes wheat as being 'nutritionally deficient' and 'low on Vitamin C.' Well, no, wheat isn't known for its Vitamin C, as that comes more with fruit - which is a bit like criticising a footballer for being weak at embroidery. But wheat does contain the minerals copper, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and selenium, Vitamin E, and is packed full of B vitamins. I accept that cooked, processed wheat is nutritionally deficient, but not raw, sprouted. Raw, sprouted wheat has lots of nutritional value.

'Wheat is acidic.'

For those of you unfamiliar with this topic - in a nutshell, the various processes our bodies go through simply living from day to day produce acid. However, it is important that our internal environment is alkaline. Cooked foods in general - animal foods, alcohol etc all have an acidic effect on our bodies, and acidity can give rise to all sorts of illness, minor and major. Most plant foods are alkaline, therefore helping the body to restore balance.

Consensus is that cooked wheat is acidic. But what about raw, sprouted wheat? I've read that soaked raw wheat is still acidic. What about soaked, then sprouted? I understand that any sprouted seed has an alkalising effect on the body. Certainly, when wheat seeds are fully sprouted and grown into plants, as in wheatgrass, the effect on the body is alkalising. But is this true for wheatberries that have only been sprouted for 24 hours? Any sprouting, for any length of time, renders any seed more alkaline than it was in its dormant state. But can we go so far as to say that a sprouted seed is alkalising per se, or is it simply less acidic?

I haven't been able to find a definitive answer to this one. For me, the jury's out, as to whether raw, soaked and sprouted wheat is acidic, neutral, or alkalising. . If you do have any good data on this, please contact me via the RawforLife website. (Postscript - since writing this article I have found a comprehensive pH chart (greathealth247.com) that lists 'sprouted grains' as 7.0 pH, which is 'neutral'.) It would seem that raw, sprouted wheat is not acidic, but probably neutral.

'Wheat is a cultivar.'

After hearing this a few times, I looked up 'cultivar' in the dictionary. It simply means 'a variety produced by cultivation', and 'cultivation' means 'prepare and use soil for crops'.

The vast majority of the plant foods eaten by raw fooders will be 'varieties'. Our apples will be 'varieties', our carrots are hybrids, and our bananas derive from a hybrid mutation, bearing little resemblance to the wild banana. I'm not sure that anything in my raw food diet is quite the same as it was several thousand years ago.

To what extent has wheat been more hybridised than other foods? There are some strains of wheat that have been bred specifically to suit the processing, the 'refining', that goes with cooked flour products. For example, special high-gluten strains have been developed for bread. But, the raw organic wheatberries that raw fooders buy are unlikely to be these 'varieties'. So, wheat's a hybrid. And so is just about everything else we eat.

'Our wheat is genetically modified.'

Not according to my sources. GM wheat does not seem to have been inflicted upon us (yet?), thanks to the efforts of those protesting against it. Wheat certainly has been genetically modified on an experimental basis in the past, and there have been tales of it being fed to animals with resultant ill effects. Companies such as US agri-chemical company Monsanto have developed GM strains, but, as far as I understand it, have not been able to market them as food for us due to consumer resistance, and commercial resistance from farmers. So, no, our wheat is not genetically modified.

'Wheat is not a food we would eat naturally.'

Some raw fooders believe that if we can't pick a food and make a meal of it there and then, then it's not a natural food for us. Now that assumes that human beings are exactly the same as any other animal. It depends whether you believe (as I do) that we have been given a few more abilities than animals, eg the ability to 'work' the land a little and produce things from the raw materials we are given, although where we go wrong of course is stripping those raw materials of good things and/or damaging them in cooking. But,when we simply soak and sprout wheat, what are we doing? We are taking a seed and bringing it to life with water and sunlight, replicating a process that we have observed in nature. Is that unnatural?

Also, as 'prunus' observed (see blog comments), those who believe we should only eat foods that we can make a meal of 'there and then' are happy to include in their diet hard-shell nuts, such as brazil nuts and macadamias. These would be a challenge to get into without the use of special tools...

Furthermore, in a country like the UK, where fresh food does not grow from the ground or trees for many months of the year, we can store grains specifically for those months. We may not be living in our natural (warm) habitat, but...man is again different from animals in that he appears to have been given the skills, know-how and wander-lust that has resulted in his travelling all over the globe and being able to sustain himself from the foods around him.

Even Dr Herbert M Shelton, father of the natural hygiene movement felt wheat had a place in the diet (notwithstanding many natural hygienists will not eat wheat in any form); he felt that those in regions with long cold winters may need to include grains in their diet because 'the supply of these foods (fruit and nuts) in cold climates is not sufficiently abundant throughout the whole of the year...to meet the needs of a large population through the winter months. ('The Paradise Diet'). Now although we are fortunate that in the UK in 2008 we do have a readiful supply of eg fruit through importing, and therefore may not need to eat grains, if this situation ever changed, it would be a pity if we had rejected wheat (raw, sprouted) as a good food without being very sure of our reasons for doing so.

Susan Schenk ('The Live Food Factor') is an author I agree with on many counts, but I can't agree with her on wheat. Susan believes that wheat is not a foodstuff that we would instinctively eat, as 'even if you sprout it, it won't taste that wonderful.' Well, I find raw sprouted wheat tastes pleasant, and sweet. And the interesting thing is that the longer I've been raw, the sweeter it's tasted! (But I'm sure it wouldn't have tasted good to me when I was cooked and my taste buds had been perverted by the cooked grains used in bread and pizza! I would have found the taste of raw, sprouted wheat very 'boring'!).

Susan says 'grains need a lot of processing to become tasty and edible.' Well...to me, that's 'cooked-food-speaking'. As mentioned above, our taste buds do become perverted by a lifetime of cooked food to the extent that, sadly, we find the pure food 'lacking in taste'... Susan goes on to say that the wheat of today is so hybridised that it will not produce a 'taste change' among instinctive eaters. Of course, I had to try this! After the sixth mouthful I experienced an unmistakeable taste change - the wheat was no longer sweet and I didn't want to eat any more. Perhaps this is because, as I suggested earlier, the organic wheat I buy is not 'over' hybridised.
So, wheat is a natural food and the sprouting of it to make it palatable is a natural process.


'We would not eat wheat alone; therefore it does not qualify as a food.'

Some people say that if we wouldn't enjoy a plate of a food on its own without any other foods served with it, then it doesn't qualify as a food (it's the strict Natural Hygiene viewpoint). Although I like the taste of sprouted wheat, no, it would not be my first choice for 'mono-eating' - I usually have it with an accompaniment, such as mashed avocado, or dates. Whilst I feel that it we would do well to eat it alone, most of us are not far enough away from our cooked food diets to be happy to mono-eat regularly. But then I don't normally eat a plate of green leaves alone either. Lettuce I would normally eat with other foods, but I (and, interestingly, Natural Hygienists) regard green leaves as an essential part of our diet. And if lettuce qualifies as a food on that measure, then wheat must as well. I can eat wheat alone, and it tastes 'OK', but I prefer it with one or two other foods.


'Wheat contributes to diabetes, hypoglycemia' (etc)

One reason for this is that processing of wheat produces sugars that the liver cannot recognise. Also, the body may have problems in general with sugars stripped from the nutrients that surrounded them in the natural food. But this will not apply with raw wheat. Studies linking the consumption of wheat and various illnesses do seem to be talking about processed wheat, ie wheat as used in flour in bread, biscuits and cakes. The body should recognise the simple sugars in raw, sprouted wheat.

'Some people are intolerant to wheat/gluten.'

Yes, they are. Many people have problems with gluten, and problems may well have arisen because of the use of specially-bred high-gluten varieties of wheat in the processing of cooked wheat products. Again, I would suggest that raw organic wheatberries are unlikely to be high-gluten varieties. Also, when seeds are sprouted, both starch and gluten reduce. Kate Woods ('Raw Living') says that when raw oat groats are sprouted, the gluten content becomes negligible. As I know wheatgrass is gluten-free, I would assume that the gluten in sprouted wheat must be significantly reduced after even 24 hours of sprouting.

This would suggest to me that those who are sensitive to gluten may better tolerate raw, sprouted wheat. Elaine Bruce (UK Centre for Living Foods): 'It is noticeable that people with sensitivities to a whole grain may well be able to use it when sprouted
'
'Wheat is starchy, so difficult to digest'.
I've always understood that in sprouting starches are converted to simple sugars. Raw, sprouted wheat should present no digestion problems.

'Wheat is addictive.'

Some say that all grains are addictive because they contain opioids - a group of addictive substances causing food cravings. Investigating this, I found that opioids result from the partial digestion of gluten. As described above, gluten will be significantly reduced when wheat is sprouted. Although I enjoy raw, sprouted wheat I certainly don't feel a compulsion to eat it daily, as I used to with cooked bread. I'd suggest that 'addiction' might not be an issue with raw, sprouted wheat.

'Wheat produces mycotoxins.'

Mycotoxins are a health hazard, and are produced by fungi. Commercially- stored grains can ferment in 90 days, during which time mycotoxins are produced. But many foods will grow fungus if they're kept too long and/or in incorrect conditions. The simple answer to this is to buy wheatberries from a reputable supplier and store them at home in a cool place. I store mine in a bucket in a kitchen cupboard, and have seen neither mould nor fermentation in a year of doing so. So there is no reason for these fungi to be produced if wheatberries are stored properly.

So...
if you've never tried raw, sprouted wheat, and would like to do so, here's a little advice from a seasoned raw, sprouted, wheat-eater!

(NOTE - if your reactions to cooked wheat in the past have been life-threatening.....please leave the raw wheat - just in case!)

Eat raw, sprouted wheat with alkalising (raw) plant foods.

As to whether raw, sprouted wheat is acidic, neutral, or alkalising, I'm on the fence with this one! But it's certainly the case that if we eat raw, sprouted wheat with green leaves (which are highly alkalising), or in fact with any alkalising raw plant food (as I described above, I like mine with avocado), the overall effect of the meal should be alkalising.

Don't eat sweet fruit with or within 3-4 hours of raw, sprouted wheat.

Fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach or with very easy-to-digest foods, such as green leaves. It digests quickly, often in 1-2 hours or less. If you eat fruit with or on top of wheat (or in fact with or on top of any longer-to-digest food such as pulses, grains, nuts) the fruit will want to exit, but it won't be able to, as its way will be blocked by the other food. Result: fermentation, gas, bloating...

Do buy organic, from a wholefood/raw food source.

Firstly, because I believe this maximises the chances of the wheatberries not being an over-hybridised strain. Secondly, because, as with all organic produce, as well as being free of pesticides, it will be richer in minerals than non-organic. Bob Smith, a trace minerals lab analyst, in his 1993-5 studies, found, 'Organically-grown wheat had twice the calcium, four times more magnesium, five times more manganese, and thirteeen times more selenium than the commercial wheat.'


To date, I haven't found anything that persuades me that raw, sprouted wheat should not be considered a good food for us.

In fact, the net effect of my investigations has been to reinforce my feeling that, although it may not be essential to eat wheat (or any grain) in our raw food diet, as long as it's raw and sprouted it can hold its head up high along with all the other foods that nourish us.

So many times when I hear someone in the health food field (ie including the raw food world) tell others that they shouldn't eat wheat, I find that their arguments really only apply to cooked wheat.

And, if anyone does know of any research that indicates adverse effects on our bodies from the consumption of RAW, SPROUTED wheat, do let me know via the RawforLife website.

In Wheat Part II, I will be giving step-by-step instructions for making my 'daily bread' - Essene bread - which is bread made from raw, sprouted wheatberries, and...nothing else.

23 comments:

Airen Hanley Summers said...

I have been doing a lot of research myself on the subject of grains and hybridized foods, and i stumbled upon some information that suggest,`Grains are Hybridized versions of Grass Seeds! I myself are trying to cut out as many hybrid foods as I can out of my diet, so if you have any more information on this subject please let me know. Also regrading the subject of Gluten iv heard that,`Refined Grains(rich in gluten literally converts into glue in the colon'. I have reference on this subjects and look forward to hearing from you. Peace, One Love The Artist AHS (",)

Debbie Took said...

Hi Airen

I touch on the subject of grains as hybrids in the article. Re cutting out hybrids, I think it's good to be aware of the possible drawbacks of hybridisation, especially with fruit. Much of the fruit sold in the shops nowadays is much sweeter than in the past, through hybridisation. But...I also think it would be a tough call to avoid all hybrid plant foods. Beetroot, carrot and pineapple are all hybrids, but I'm still happy to juice them, in moderation. Re refined grains and gluten - yes, certainly a problem for cooked grain foods, which, again, I discuss in the article, but my reading suggests that if grains are eaten raw and sprouted gluten shouldn't be such an issue (if at all). As I say in the article, we must be careful not to blame raw unsprouted wheat for problems that really apply only to cooked grain.

prunus insititia said...

As far as not being able to pick something up and eat it..I think nuts would be left out, yet alot of raw foodists eat those. I think everything has a time and place, and i've really been considering giving wheat a chance. But only after I have done a candida cleanse. :)

Debbie Took said...

Yes, good point. I do think some who feel we shouldn't be eating wheat as we can't eat it 'just as it is' would happily eat nuts, which of course would be in shells in natural form. I can open walnuts with my teeth, but brazils would be a challenge...in fact, I make an edit along those lines - thanks, Prunus!

Kamen said...

I remember as a kid sometimes I used to eat young wheat - i.e. before it is mature - it was gentle, soft and white inside.... So I guess it is something that one eats instinctively

Debbie Took said...

Kamen, that's very interesting to hear - thank you!

Keenan said...

Hey Debbie

When you sprout starchy seeds not all of the starch is converted to simple sugars or they would be very very sweet. Some are converted but the majority is not, this is the reason I do not eat sprouted grains/seeds. Starch makes a plaster when mixed with water and heated to 100 degrees.

Keenan said...

By the way you can easily smash a Macadamia Nut open with a rock. I've done it.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Keenan

I'm fine with a little starch in its natural form, in foods not damaged by heat.

Natural substances will certainly change into unnatural substances when heated. I'm guessing you mean 100 degrees centigrade. Lucky I'm not boiling my wheat (but, there again, some people do...)

Debbie Took said...

Re macadamia nuts, yes, I've also smashed them open with a rock. See my latest articles on nuts. I suppose I should have said 'if you have a rock handy' :-)

Keenan said...

Hey Debbie

No I meant 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to do an experiment sprout wheat and cook it at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, if there is a decent amount of starch it will turn into a plaster.

Debbie Took said...

How strange - I googled this after your comment and the links most definitely said boiling or near boiling (ie Centigrade) were needed to turn starch into plaster. I have dehydrated sprouted wheat before at 105 degrees Fahrenheit for a relatively long period and I can ensure you I have never obtained plaster! But thanks for commenting, Keenan.

Carleen said...

I think the wheat/plaster comment is intresting (in a humorous). If wheat made good plaster I guess a raw foodist who believes this could use it to build there house. God made wheat to be eaten by man but I guess if somebody want to use it for plaster then go ahead. This is so simple to me and no argument can persuade me otherwise, wheat is truly good, for most men. I am considering a raw food diet and really appriciate your research Debbie.I also appreciatted your comment regarding wheat being good for people in colder climates, to me this just make sence. Wheat stores well in cool dry climated and was probally meant to be eaten by people in these climates. Furthermore it stores for long periods of time so it is something you can have stored for emergency situations. What would a raw foodest do durring a famin if they didn't have stored grains to sprout?

Debbie Took said...

Hi Carleen

I've heard people use the analogy that when you mix flour with water you get a paste, that hardens. But raw sprouted wheat isn't (processed) flour, 'mixing with water' is not the same as our digestive processes, and water is not the same as the digestive juices/various chemicals that our bodies employ to digest our foods.

So, like you, I don't believe wheat will plaster up our insides.

I think you've made some good points. Those of us that live in chilly countries may not be living in our natural/optimal habitat, but, there again, it's natural for man to be a wanderer, and grains are an example of foods that have been provided for us (if we're willing to work a little to get them) to nourish us in whatever climate we find ourself in.

Protein Girl said...

I wanted to thank you for this post! AMEN! As a Nutrition and Supplement Consultant, I often get bombarded with the 'bad'vs 'good' theories on myriads of foods. I was about to tackle a post on wheat, but instead will just point people to your post. I don't believe there is one BAD food; only BETTER or worse. How we metabolize and react to wheat is so individual, and I believe it is being over-vilified. Thank you for writing about SPROUTED wheat and its health benefits!
Sincerely,
Barbara

Debbie Took said...

Thank you, Barbara.

I may 'do' avocados soon...recently heard a high fruit raw fooder say she had been guilty of 'avocado abuse'. (She was serious.)

Coach G said...

I am a huge advocate for eating wheat. It is one of the best foods man can eat.

Here is something you might find interesting. One of the best antioxidants that scientists have been able to find is called Superoxide Dismutase. It is 3500 times better at scavenging free radicals than Vitamin C. The problem that scientists have is that they can't put it in a pill because the acidity of the stomach destroys it.
However there is something that naturally escorts Superoxide Dismutase through the stomach and into the intestines where it can best be used by the body. What is this miracle substance? Gluten.
And what plants are the best sources of Superoxide Dismutase?
Wheat and Barley.
Yes, God had good reason to make gluten in wheat and barley, and the world would be a much healthier place if more people ate sprouted wheat more often.

P.S. Gluten has only been shown to be a problem is refined products.

Debbie Took said...

Coach G, many thanks for that excellent information.

Unknown said...

aA lot of people who HAVE NO CLUE say: "eat this, don't eat" that. I don't listen to them (in most cases, just one look at these people's physique is enough to understand one shouldn't follow their advice, ever). Raw wheat is food from heaven. I'm an athlete and I love to eat soaked (not sprouted) raw wheat blended in a blender. Listen: I used to have a 96 year old patient, with crazy levels of energy, excellent memory, iron immune system (which was better than mine at 30 y.o): guess what was her favorite food? Raw sprouted wheat. She chewed the whole grains, without even blending them.
So, I don't care what clueless people say...until they make it to her age... may be then, they'll qualify for giving "advice". I'll continue to eat raw wheat.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Unknown

Well, although 'one swallow doesn't make a summer', and it's also possible to find 96 year-olds who appear in good health for their age who eat/drink things that probably you and I shouldn't think they'd be eating/drinking, you know my biases, so...I'll say -an excellent testimonial for raw wheat-eating!

Vondi said...

Hi Debbie, I just found your blog! I read all the wheat comments with interest. I have a ffriend who has been put on a gluten free diet.

I was thinking that unprocessed wheat, raw wheat or even the unground wheat has the gluten bound up in such a way that it will pass through the system... but I don't know.

Can you help me?

Vondi Howe

Debbie Took said...

Hi Vondi

The only knowledge I have on this is encapsulated in the section about intolerances to wheat/gluten, and it does seem likely that those with a gluten intolerance will be OK with raw,unsprouted wheat,as long as it is not a high-gluten variety.

Debbie Took said...

Posted on behalf of Mayela:

Thanks for this post. I include raw, soaked spelt grain in my diet. I eat a handful of spelt berries mixed with Goji berries every day. Also, I make raw spelt crackers, by putting the soaked spelt grain and water in a blender, making a paste which I then put in the dehydrator for 16 hours. The crackers are very filling without feeling \"plastery\", as the paste feels before going in the dehydrator. I have very little options because I am allergic to nuts and fatty seeds like flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds.

From Debbie: thanks for this, Mayela. I've found it difficult in the past getting hold of raw spelt grain in the UK, but if you can find it,I've heard from others it makes a good alternative to raw wheat.