Continuing the recent interest in fermentation (See discussion of Seth Roberts’ posts on Probiotics and Your Immune System and The Staggering Greatness of Homemade Yogurt) comes this post from Stephan at Whole Health Source discussing how to eat grains.
There are two ideas that seem to be repeatedly coming to the surface here:
- Carbohydrates seem to be better for human consumption when fermented as fermentation reduces anti-nutrients and even introduces some new nutrition in the process.
- Foods that don’t seem “paleo” at first blush maybe just need some fermentation, which is really just another way of saying they need to be pre-digested prior to eating.
Regarding that second point, our hunter/gatherer ancestors had little food storage tech. This has two implications in my mind:
- Food is consumed fresh if at all possible, to the point of gorging. Our bodies have an amazing ability to store excess carbohydrate consumption efficiently as fat.
- Food found but not readily consumed rots or ferments. Our bodies do well with this (Evolutionary luck or design?) by receiving immune system boosts from the introduction of bacteria, reducing toxins via fermentation and maximizing nutrient absorption.
Anyway, here is Stephan:
The second factor that’s often overlooked is food preparation techniques. These tribes did not eat their grains and legumes haphazardly! This is a factor that was overlooked by Dr. Price himself, but has been emphasized by Sally Fallon. Healthy grain-based African cultures typically soaked, ground and fermented their grains before cooking, creating a sour porridge that’s nutritionally superior to unfermented grains. The bran was removed from corn and millet during processing, if possible. Legumes were always soaked prior to cooking.
These traditional food processing techniques have a very important effect on grains and legumes that brings them closer in line with the “paleolithic” foods our bodies are designed to digest. They reduce or eliminate toxins such as lectins and tannins, greatly reduce anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and protease inhibitors, and improve vitamin content and amino acid profile. Fermentation is particularly effective in this regard. One has to wonder how long it took the first agriculturalists to discover fermentation, and whether poor food preparation techniques or the exclusion of animal foods could account for their poor health.