- Last Updated on Saturday, 20 April 2013 02:12
- Written by Judd Handler
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One of the biggest health fads over the last few years has been the Paleolithic--or Paleo, for brevity's sake--Diet. Shunning all carbs besides vegetables and a little fruit (remember carbs and veggies are both technically carbohydrates), and eating mostly protein and fat, those on the Paleo diet, some critics of the strict food plan argue, are missing out on many antioxidant compounds because of the avoidance of grains.
As I wrote in an article for the Mother Nature Network on the Paleo Diet, it is not true that grains did not exist during the caveman or paleolithic era. Though it's true that many of today's grains are devoid of much of the nutrition that ancient grains contained, due to food processing, pesticides and mineral depletion in soils, it is possible to eat a diet rich in what would be considered healthy grains.
These healthy grains are called "heirloom" varieties. Heirloom grains (or vegetables and fruits) have been grown the same way for generations, never hybridized or genetically altered.
Let's take a specific grain as an example, starting first with a little true or false: brown rice is healthier than white rice.
The answer: barely.
Brown rice does contain more nutritional value than white rice as well as more fiber. In the production of brown rice, the husk is removed, but the bran remains, which is the reason why brown rice contains more fiber than white rice.
But brown rice is not the healthiest grain you can eat. There are heirloom varieties of brown rice, assuring that the batch has not been stripped of its nutritional value, but there are better, more nutritious, and some would say tastier rices, such as wild rice (technically a grass).
A little-known rice called Wehani is red in color and is reminicent of Indian-style Basmati rice.
Many people who watch what they eat try to reduce their consumption of wheat because it can cause food allergies. But heirloom varieties of wheat exist, meaning that their nutritional component and method of processing more closely mirrors how it was cultivated thousands of years ago.
Barley, bean flour pasta, spelt, kamut and emmer wheat are other examples healthy grain alternatives that provide an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, a macronutrient that probably should not be avoided for excellent health, despite the glut of fitness articles recommending grains all together.