by Cat, May 2010
See also: Wheat (about); Other True Grains (about); Sprouted Grain Flour (about); Soaking & sprouting grains; Grains: Grinding (for flour) and Flaking/Rolling (for porridge); Sprouting Grains, Legumes, Nuts & Seeds, for Eating; Barley; and Working with Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds (links to the Diet and Health section of my personal website)
Cereal Grains are grass or cane plants cultivated for the edible fruit seeds (although several non-grass seeds are also included in this category, because they are used as grains). It is the seed that is ground into flour, eaten as a cooked porridge, or processed to a dry breakfast cereal.
The most common cereal grains are wheat, barley, rye, oat, corn (maize), rice and millet. Kamut, spelt, teff and other ancient grains are making a comeback. And still other seeds are used like grains, tho they are not technically a cereal grain, such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and wild rice.
For more, including a discussion of gluten and lectin, see my article Grains, in the Diet section of this website.
Grain seeds are dried (or cured) and then ground into flour. In some cases, the bran and germ are removed to create a white flour.
In older times, the seeds were sprouted first, before grinding, a process that should be revisited today, because sprouted grains are more healthful and bio-available. A reasonable alternative to sprouting, is to soak the flour in an acidic medium before baking. See my post on Sprouting Grains and Soaking Flour for recipes & more.
Flours are used as thickeners for sauces, puddings and gravies; as breading (such as for frying meats and fish), cereals, breads, and baked goods. Also for non-food uses such as glue or paste.
Long-cooking of whole grains produces a creamy pudding most commonly eaten at breakfast. Today, the grains are often pre-cooked before packaging, to reduce cooking time in the home; but this decreases the nutritional value of the end product. A return to sprouting the grain before cooking would produce the most nutritious porridge.
NOTE: 1 cup oat groats make about 2 cups rolled oats using a hand-operated or electric grain roller/flaker mill. (per Azure Standard)
Cold Breakfast Cereals:
Dr Kellog invented the process of producing corn flakes, the first of the cold cereals. The modern process involves pressing the grain through an extruder to produce the final shape, but this high-pressure process is very damaging to the nutritious aspect of the grain, resulting in rancid (oxidized) oils from the original seed, and destruction of the enzymes and many of the vitamins in the raw grain. cold cereals should be avoided.
A version of cold cereals known as granola, can be made in your kitchen, not involving the extrusion process. However, you should take care to use a cold pressed oil, and dry the mix at temperature less than 120 F, to avoid oxidation of the oils and destruction of enzymes and vitamins. See my post on Granola and Porridge for recipes & more. See also Sprouted buckwheat (kasha) granola and “Buckwheaties” (sprouted and dried kasha cold cereal).
Most livestock in the wild graze on pasture grasses (including leaves of wild grains and legumes, but not the seeds), but modern CAFOs (Confinement Animal Feeding Operations) feed domestic livestock on grain and legume seeds. This use of unsprouted grain seeds is problematic for the health of the animal and degrades the nutritional quality of the meat, and leads to problems in the environment, including the development of new strains of infectious bacteria such as E. coli.
It is far better to allow the animals to graze in pasture and supplement with hay and sprouted grain seeds when pasture is not available.
Similarly most pet foods (for dogs and cats) contain grain and legume seeds or flours, the most common being GMO corn and soy. Dogs and cats are carnivores – they thrive on a diet of meat and other animal products, but develop chronic health issues when consistently fed a diet that contains grain and legume seeds. Why? Because their intestinal tract is designed to digest meats, not plants. Their intestines are not very long – unlike humans – and thus cannot adequately digest food from plants. When consistently fed a diet of grains and legumes, the pH is upset and the animal is more open to infection, gas, cramps, and other digestive dis-ease.
If you feed your pets dried food, look for foods free of grains and legumes. Such dried foods include other starches such as potatoes or yams, which are less harmful to the animal than the grains and legumes, but are still NOT optimal.
An optimal diet for your pet is rich in meats, animal fats, and eggs. Most pets have difficulty digesting pasteurized dairy products, but raw dairy is OK, especially for puppies and kittens not old enough to be weaned.
A recent development has been the use of grains to produce alcohol and other fuels for transportation and heating. But this practice has a definite down side in that it raises the price of grains as food and diverts land from growing food to growing fuel. Not a good idea, in my opinion.