Some people are concerned about storing grains because they have heard carbohydrates are not healthy. Others wonder about the importance of following a gluten-free diet. Here’s what experts say about these concerns.
Benefits of carbs
Harvard School of Public Health says, “Don’t be misled by fad diets that make blanket pronouncements of the dangers of carbohydrates. They provide the body with fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function, and they are an important part of a healthy diet. ... Choose good carbs, not no carbs. Whole grains are your best bet.”
The benefits of eating whole grains are significant. According to the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley, “Many studies have linked higher intakes of whole grains, including whole wheat, with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as improvements in blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Other studies have found that whole wheat can help people control their weight and/or lose body fat, especially when they eat it in place of refined-wheat products.”
Oatmeal and whole wheat are the most common whole grains stored, with a shelf life of 30 years. They also have the advantage of being inexpensive.
A popular book is promoting the idea that wheat (and wheat products) actually cause weight gain and a fat belly. It also claims that modern wheat is the worst culprit of all the grains because it has been altered over the years via selective breeding.
About these claims the UC School of Public Health says, “Wheat is a staple in most parts of the world, and there’s little or no correlation between regional intakes and rates of obesity. A century ago Americans ate much more wheat than we do today, and very few were obese.”
The school's wellness website continues, “Food scientists have developed hybrid varieties of wheat to be sturdier and have higher yields, better quality and greater resistance to disease and insects. That’s true of most crops. There’s no clinical evidence that differences between today’s wheat and older varieties have adverse effects on our health.”
What other whole grains can be stored? Whole wheat pasta does not store well. Oil in the outside coating of wheat, as it is exposed to air when ground into flour, causes whole wheat products to go rancid quickly. Brown rice is another whole grain that does not store well. Even without being ground, oil in its outside coating causes rancidity within a relatively short time. Store a small amount of whole wheat pasta and brown rice only if you rotate them constantly.
Barley, though not considered a whole grain, is a great option because it has almost twice the fiber of brown rice and stores well.
What about storing and eating long-grain white rice, regular pasta and white flour? These foods still contain good nutrition, and rice and pasta will store up to 30 years. Of all the kinds of rice, long-grain white rice stores the best. People have eaten these foods over many years in the past without experiencing the rate of obesity we see today. Our problem is consuming large serving sizes and large quantities of processed, sweet and fatty foods. We have eaten more than we need. At my house, we store and eat these foods regularly in moderation. They offer important variety in food storage.
A growing number of people are concerned about gluten intolerance. In the past few years the production and sale of gluten-free products have exploded. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, has become unpopular, raising concerns that this is becoming the latest food fad. Many people are going on highly restrictive gluten-free diets without being diagnosed to determine if they truly need them.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune illness, triggers a host of serious symptoms when gluten is consumed; it can be diagnosed through medical testing.
People who test negative for celiac disease can be gluten sensitive, a condition that causes bloating and other celiac-like symptoms. It is hotly debated today how many people are genuinely gluten sensitive. A growing number of people conclude they are gluten sensitive after they go off gluten and feel better.
However, this result can simply come from eating less junk food containing gluten. If you suspect you’re gluten sensitive, “give up gluten for two weeks, then reintroduce it and see how you react,” says Trudy Scott, president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. "That's a very powerful way to find out if gluten affects you."
People who do have celiac disease or gluten intolerance can store more rice and corn, which can be ground for use in recipes. Gluten-free oatmeal is also available. Gluten-free cookbooks can provide ideas for using these and other gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat.
Keep in mind that a sudden change to eating high-fiber foods can initially upset the digestive system. But systems settle down within a few days as they become used to increased fiber. If you are not used to high-fiber foods, add them gradually to your diet.
Including grains, especially whole grains, in food storage is important for energy and good health. Using stored grains in everyday meals makes good nutrition sense. Bodies become accustomed to the fiber in whole grains, and rotating stored grains is simple. Fast and delicious recipes make it easy.
Leslie Probert, a graduate in home economics from Brigham Young University, has been a popular speaker and is co-author of "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition" with over 400 fast, creative recipes. Email: [email protected]