Whole Foods: Grains & Beans

We all know whole grains are better for us than refined, so why did people ever start refining them?

  • Status – people who had ground flours normally had slaves
  • Digestibility
  • Shelf-life increased since refining removes the natural oils.
  • Calories – calorie dense food in times of need



(Image from Google Images)

When a grain is “refined” the bran and germ are removed leaving just the carbohydrate rich endosperm.

“Enriched” refers to flour that is fortified with B vitamins and iron which were removed during refining.

Why Whole Grains?

  • Fiber – keeps us fuller, longer and is beneficial to our digestion tract
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Phytochemicals – naturally occurring compound in plants
  • Slow releasing carbohydrates – no blood sugar spikes and keeps you going
  • Research – preventative for heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and infertility



  • Gluten-free
  • Grown by the Aztecs
  • Somewhat gelatinous when boiled
  • Intense flavor so mix with other grains to tone it down.
  • High in lysine which most grains are low in.
  • High protein: 15-18%; high in vitamin A, C, and calcium


  • Middle age peasant food
  • Pearling removes outer layer so only whole hulled barley is a whole grain
  • Barley flour works well in baked goods! (I’ll have to test this out!)


  • Gluten-free
  • Actually not related to wheat; in the rhubarb family.
  • Seeds are called “groats”
  • Toasted buckwheat is called “Kasha”
  • Coarsely ground groats are called “grits”
  • Finely ground is flour.
  • Insects don’t like buckwheat and the grain died if grown with chemicals so it’s not so important to eat organic buckwheat.
  • High in fiber (12g/cup) and low in calories and fat.
  • Also rich in lysine.


  • Cultivated in Central America
  • Deficient in lysine and tryptophan.
  • 50-80% of corn’s niacin is bound up with a molecule making it indigestible to humans. That’s why it’s important to boil in lime solution before grinding to release the niacin.

Farro (Emmer)

  • Grown in Washington(!)
  • High in fiber; 17-19% protein
  • “Italian” farro is pearled (refined).
  • Lower in gluten than wheat.
  • Cooking ratio is 1:2.5 and is much easier to cook if you soak it first.


  • Originally grown in Egypt and now grown in Montana(!)
  • 2/3’s of people with wheat allergies can tolerate this grain.
  • Delicate texture


  • One of the oldest foods known to man
  • Least allergenic of the grains
  • 16-22% protein and appreciable amounts of calcium and iron.


  • Originated in Russia and Africa
  • Oat groats = hulled whole kernels
  • Steel cut = thinly sliced oat groats
  • Rolled = oat groats that have been heated until soft and pressed flat
  • Quick-cooking = sliced, heated, then rolled
  • Flour = ground groats and oat bran
  • Bran has a high percentage of water-soluble fiber.


  • Comes from South America
  • Essential amino acid balance is close to ideal
  • Highest protein profile of the grains
  • Less than 1% gluten
  • High amounts of calcium and iron too.
  • Must wash before you cook them or they will taste bitter!


  • Gluten-free
  • Brown rice = rice with the hull removed
  • White rice = if the bran and germ are removed


  • Hybrid of farro
  • Not usually treated with pesticides since it’s thick husk protects it.
  • Higher in protein, fat, and fiber than wheat.


  • Tiny seeds native to Ethiopia
  • Known for calcium and mineral content; also carries protein and water-soluble bran
  • Slight molasses taste and gelatinous texture


For sure whole grain: whole grain, whole wheat, stoneground whole, brown rice.

Might be: wheat flour, semolina, durum wheat, organic flour, multigrain

Definitely not: enriched flour, degerminated, bran, wheat germ

Phytic Acid

All grains have this compound that binds with certain minerals like calcium and iron, preventing their absorption.

To reduce this according to Sally Fallon, soaking grains and beans activates the seed embryo which neutralizes the acid. Also adding sea vegetables provide absorbable minerals.


  • Airtight, cool, dry place.
  • 6-9 month shelf-life
    • 1 year in freezer
  • Flours:
    • 1-2 months
    • 6 months in refrigerator
    • 1 year in freezer

Cooking Grains

  • Always rinse the grain to remove dust and debris.
  • Toasted or cracked grains do not need to be rinsed.
  • Salt at beginning of cooking
  • Never stir while they are cooking
  • Make sure all the water is absorbed by tipping the pan.


Know as the poor man’s meat, there are 14,000 members in the legume family yet only 22 of them are suitable for human consumption. Even with this few amount available to us, every culture has their own kind of way of cooking beans.

  • 17-25% protein
  • Low in fat
  • High in soluble fiber
  • inexpensive

Eat them with a whole grain! They are the perfect partners since what one lacks the other one has.


  • Caused by the oligosaccharides
  • Human digestive enzymes do not easily handle them
  • Large bacteria in our lower intestines have to break them down producing a lot of various gases as waste products.
  • To reduce:
    • Soak beans overnight
    • Cook with kombu seaweed
    • Cook with digestion-enhancing herbs
    • Let beans cook slowly for longer
    • Par-boil beans (skim off foam)
    • Salt at the end of cooking
    • Eat small amounts to get your body used to them
    • Marinate while still warm
    • Don’t add baking soda! – takes the nutrients out.

As we all know I have bad issues with digesting beans and get extremely bloated and sharp pains in my belly after consumption. I have tried the first two suggestions in this list and it hasn’t helped. =/ Let me know if you have better luck!

I don’t know about you all but I want to try different whole grains! Next time I’m at Whole Foods, I’m picking a few to try from their bulk bins.


3 thoughts on “Whole Foods: Grains & Beans

  1. Hi Robyn, Great post! Very informative and useful.
    For beans, under “tooting,” you mention “Soak beans overnight.” The next step is to toss the soaking water and then cook the beans in fresh water. The soaking water is tossed because it contains some of the oligosaccharides (sugars) that lead to gas and bloating. In Mexico, beans are cooked with the herb epazote to help with gas. I haven’t tried this. There’s also a product called Beano. It contains enzymes needed to digest beans. Directions are to chew or swallow 2-3 tablets about 30 minutes before first bite of beans. Maybe one of these options will make beans more tolerable for you.

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