Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soaking Whole Grains

I've been interested lately in soaking or sprouting grains. I've read a few things, and generally become overwhelmed. I tried sprouting brown rice once, and nothing happened. There are tons of "how to's" on sprouting grains - each one seems long and convoluted. I just discovered there is a difference between soaking grains and sprouting grains. Soaking grains is easier than sprouting grains, and mimics the sprouting process, though probably does not attain the same results. I'm going to go for soaking, for now.

Soaking seems to be a little controversial. Some people say it is the only way the body can digest grains, others say that it is a big fat waste of time. The following "why's" of soaking grains I found on the blog Kitchen Stewardship. She studies soaking and sprouting in depth, if you are interested.

Grains are nothing more than seeds. If you've ever seen baby poop after a baby has eaten blackberries, or various mammal poop on a nature hike, then you know seeds do not get digested. They come out the way they came in. The body has enzymes specifically to inhibit the digestion of these seeds. Little nutrition is rendered from the grain. Sprouts, however, are vegetables and very nutritious. Sprouting grains essentially turns it from a seed to a vegetable. Grains also have enzymes, phytic acid, that prohibits digestion. This Phytic acid prevents the grain from premature sprouting. Consuming too much phytic acid can cause mineral deficiencies and poor bone density. Soaking and sprouting grains breaks down phytic acid. There is also some suggestion that soaking begins the digestion process thus breaking down tannins that can irritate the stomach and it also starts to break down proteins like gluten. Soaked grains are often more tolerable to those with gluten sensitivities.

By the way, this applies for all beans, legumes, seeds, and NUTS! as these are all seeds. I hardly prepare beans from their dry form (using mostly canned) but I really should get into dry beans. Nuts are a whole other subject. Apparently they too contain phytic acid... maybe another day.

Soaking grains mimics sprouting grains, and I think soaking is easier and faster. Here is the process I'm going to follow:

What you need:
Your grain - must be a whole grain (brown rice, oats, etc.)
An acidic medium
A jar

1. Combine the grains with the appropriate amount of water plus 1 Tbs of acidic medium per cup liquid.

2. For brown rice, for example, combine 1 cup rice with 2 cups water and 2 Tbs lemon juice or vinegar.

3. Allow to soak at room temperature (or above) for 7-24 hours, depending on the grain. Rice needs only 7 hours minimum, oatmeal 12-24. Aim for an overnight soak.

4. Simply cook as normal on the stovetop. If you'd like to rinse the soaking water off your grains, and they are still whole enough to be able to, you may.

I've noticed that people use yogurt, kefir, or whey to soak oats, and I've also seen people use Apple Cider Vinegar for rice and whatnot. I guess it doesn't matter what acid you use.

I'll post an update when I get this right. I soaked my oatmeal last night, but I soaked it in the refrigerator, which is apparently wrong. Because I was soaking it with yogurt, I thought it would get funky. I guess you WANT it to get funky because you are trying to ferment the grain. Will try again tonight.

If you have anything to add, I got anything wrong, or have suggestions, please leave a comment. I'm just trying to navigate my way through sprouting and soaking!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Once a cesarean always a cesarean?

Many doctors today still push a woman into having a repeat cesarean because they were taught it was safer than attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). The good news is that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have recently come out and said this is unnecessary!

ACOG released a statement last year saying: "Attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including for some women who have had two previous cesareans." It also states that 60-80% of appropriate VBAC candidates go on to be successful. (The other 20-40% have a C-Section.)

A previous C-Section does not have to foil a desire for a vaginal or natural birth. Many women also go on to have HBAC - a home birth after cesarean!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Love me some Cal-Mag!

The following is a rather boring yet very informative post on Calcium/Magnesium supplements. I thought it would be useful to review Cal/Mag and its benefits during pregnancy and beyond.

Calcium and Magnesium are two minerals that are vital to the body. Calcium is essential for bone and teeth health while every organ in the body needs magnesium, including the heart. Taking a cal-mag supplement as needed or regularly may be a good idea for some, and especially pregnant women.

Magnesium activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and aids in absorption of calcium, zinc, and Vitamin D. Magnesium helps to maintain a normal heart rhythm, helps prevent type 2 diabetes, helps decrease high blood pressure in women, helps prevent osteoporosis, and can be a good pain reliever for headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, and muscle cramps. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables as well as calcium, and in whole grains, nuts and seeds. Americans tend to not get enough magnesium through their diet. Some diseases can cause a magnesium deficiency, as well as drinking too much caffeine and alcohol.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is stored in the bones and helps the heart and nerves function properly. The best source for any vitamin or mineral is through food, but again, many Americans are not getting enough through their diet. Calcium can help prevent osteoporosis, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. One large study by Bendich, 2009 showed that women who got 1,200 mg of calcium daily reduced PMS symptoms like headache, moodiness, cravings, and another study said that it reduced menstrual cramps.

As with magnesium, some diseases, such as Crohn's, can cause a calcium deficiency, as well as drinking too much caffeine and alcohol. A calcium deficiency causes Rickets, a disease found in children, which is one reason why pediatricians recommend children consume so much milk. However, children can get calcium from much healthier foods such as almonds, bok choy, Brazil nuts, broccoli, cabbage, dried figs, kelp, dark leafy greens (dandelion, turnip, collard, mustard, kale, Swiss chard), hazelnuts, blackstrap molasses, and canned salmon.

During Pregnancy
Taking a cal-mag supplement regularly ensures growth of strong bones and teeth of the baby, while potentially relieving some pregnancy related discomforts. Cal-mag can regulate sleep, help prevent restless leg syndrome, leg cramps, and joint discomfort. Calcium and Magnesium both can prevent or reduce the severity of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy, which is a severe health threat for both mother and baby). Often, the first thing the hospital will do to treat or prevent complications caused by preeclampsia is to give magnesium intravenously.

Since magnesium regulates the absorption of calcium, it is best to take them together. I took a Cal-Mag supplement regularly while pregnant, and take it occasionally now for headaches (works great!) and muscle aches. It is also not a bad idea for nursing mothers, and post-menopausal women to take a Cal-Mag supplement for extra calcium.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Roasted Garlicky Chickpeas with Feta and Mint

I'm a sucker for chickpeas, and Mary Abilene loves them too! Patrick found this great chickpea recipe on a cooking blog. The original recipe is from Bon Appetit, and I added the spinach, as usual.

Roasted Garlicky Chickpeas
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans chickpeas, drained rinsed and dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c feta cheese
1/2 - 3/4 c mint, chopped
1/8 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
juice of half a lemon (optional)
a big handful of spinach, chopped finely

Mix together olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add chickpeas and stir to combine. Place in an oven proof baking dish. Bake on 375 for 15-18 minutes. (Note: I had to bake longer to make my chickpeas a bit crispy. At 15 minutes, they will just be cooked through).

When chickpeas are slightly browned, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and add feta, mint, spinach, and lemon. Yum!

This recipe would also be fantastic with rosemary instead of mint. I'm going to make that next!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Skin Deep

I just came across the website Skin Deep. It is a database by the environmental working group that grades the toxicity of your skin care products. Personal care products are not required to be tested for safety. The consumer has absolutely no idea what they are buying and consuming until they do a little research. Remember skin is the largest organ in your body and is an excellent absorber. Many medicines are being administered transdermal these days - and so are toxic chemicals.

Just type something in to get a level of toxicity. I'll admit, I'm totally overwhelmed. If you hang out on this site for longer than 5 minutes, you'll come out with your head spinning. If nothing else, it is food for thought.