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Grains: Fact and Fiction
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An often forgotten detrimental food protein is the lectin/agglutinin, a natural binder that is found in many and most grains.

The definition of a lectin is any of a class of proteins, chiefly of plant origin, that bind specifically to certain sugars and so cause agglutination of particular cell types.

As described by Lambert and Vojdani in their study titled Correlation of Tissue Antibodies and Food Immune Reactivity in Randomly Selected Patients Specimens, when a lectin/agglutinin binds to tissue, autoimmune reactivity against the tissue may occur. Of the food groups in this study, patients positive for lectins/agglutinins reactivity had the most pronounced tissue antibody production. Lectins and
agglutinins are present in a variety of plants, where they serve as defense mechanisms against other plants and fungi. Because of their ability to bind to virtually all cell types and cause damage to several organs lectins/agglutinins are sometimes categorized as food toxicants.

Outside of a "gluten sensitivity or allergy," a reaction to lectins found in grains may trigger an immune or inflammatory response in certain patients. Some people have found improvement in their health by removing all lectins from their diet which would include removing all grains.

Citation: Lambert J, Vojdani A (2017) Correlation of Tissue Antibodies and Food Immune Reactivity in Randomly Selected Patient Specimens. J Clin
Cell Immunol 8: 521. doi: 10.4172/2155-9899.1000521
Page 8 of 10 Volume 8 • Issue 5 • 1000521J Clin Cell Immunol,



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls the digestive system xiao hui xi tong where xiao and hua collectively refer to digestion and xi tong to system.

In other words, “[I]n Chinese Medicine, digestion equals the dispersion of pure substances to be retained and impure substances to be excreted . . . after these have undergone transformation, therefore, the digestive tract is called the xiao hua dao or pathway of dispersion and transformation” (The Tao of Healthy Eating, Blue Poppy Press).

A traditional Chinese diet has reflected the importance of grains for centuries.  Not only is rice the primary food source in China and Asia, it is the staple to which other foods are added to enhance taste and is used in certain forms as medicine, as in congee.  Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes rice as the foundation of human vitality or Qi.  In fact, post-natal Qi is created from Gu Qi, or the “Qi of grains.”  In Miriam Lee's Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist she elaborates on the cultural significance of eating grains:  "The Chinese have long considered the qi which comes from rice and similar foods to be indispensable to life.  We call it gu qi, the qi of grain.  it is the qi which only grain can best provide."

Switch to the Western hemisphere and the American outlook on grains of late looks a little different, although it was not always this way.  The song "America the Beautiful" depicts the "amber waves of grain" as being a symbol of beauty, bounty, and sustenance.  Wheat has been the American staple for years, in fact the wheat used to create bread is the most consumed grain in the US.  The difference between the wheat of our nostalgic past and the wheat of today, however, is that it is often severely processed before it gets to the table, which can compromise good nutrition.  In addition, the omnipotence of genetically modified grains adds a layer of unease and a political argument as well.  For this reason, many people including some health care providers, have become confused as to where grains fit into a well-balanced nutrition plan.  This course will serve to clear up any confusion regarding the importance of grains in the diet, and certain misnomers about grains that have seeped their way into the collective consciouness. 

The purpose of this course is to provide you with the facts and supporting research that will help you decisively understand, use, and advise to your patients:

•  What defines a whole grain

•  The proper serving size of a grain in a balanced nutrition program

•  Ways to prepare a grain for optimal digestibility and assimilation in the body

•  How various grains can provide many health benefits including specific TCM benefits

•  An introduction to gluten-free grains and where to purchase them

•  Research based evidence on grains for specific health conditions

Meet your Instructor
Listen to Tara expand upon the importance of learning the material in this course.



What is a Whole Grain?

Grains fall into the carbohydrate category and whole grains are what are known as complex carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates tell us that a series of more complex events occurs during digestion compared to that of simple sugars.  Complex carbohydrate digestion of a whole grain is a harmonious, steady, balanced metabolism, providing a complete complement of necessary nutrients.  Processed grains or refined grains digest quickly into the body providing a quick rush of sugar.

Following is the official definition of whole grains, approved and endorsed by the Whole Grains Council in May 2004:

“Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”
  In other words, 100% of the original kernel, including all of the bran, germ, and endosperm, must be present to qualify as a whole grain.

Facts:  Processed vs. Unprocessed

Are processed grains bad for you?  Not necessarily, especially if consumed with a fat or a protein.  The following are some facts about processing grains.

1.    Processing (ex. making brown rice into white rice or white flour from wheat) removes the outer husk and bran layers and sometimes inner germ of the grain kernel.  This removes dietary fiber and nutrients such as Vitamin B, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

2.    Most food manufactures add iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin back into white flour through enrichment.

3.    Food labels should read “whole” grain (wheat, oats, etc.) to indicate unprocessed grains

5.    Processed grains can provide a much quicker rise in blood sugar.  However, mixing it with a protein or a fat allows for a slower rise in blood sugar levels.  Examples are white bread with butter or olive oil, pita with hummus, tortilla with avocado, crackers with peanut butter, and rice with beans.

Talking Point

Listen to Tara highlight the key points of the processed vs. unprocessed grain debate. (To make the screen bigger, you can press the icon with four arrows pointing in different directions to the left where it says "vimeo").


Fact or Fiction:  Grains make you fat

Fiction.  The simple answer is no.  Research has shown that it is the serving size of the carbohydrate - or any food for that matter - that leads to weight gain.  It is not the act of eating a grain that will lead to weight gain, but the amount that packs on excess calories.  

Unfortunately, in the U.S. the serving sizes have become so bloated that most people overeat these grain-type carbohydrates.  A typical pasta meal at an Italian restaurant will provide 2-3 cups of pasta noodles and 2-3 slices of bread.  A serving of rice at a typical restaurant will provide 1.5-2 cups of rice.  Most American’s will serve themselves those same portions at home along with other common portions sizes such as 1.5 cups of a cooked grain or cold cereal for breakfast, 2 slices or toast or bread for a serving, a large muffins or bagel for a serving.  To learn more about how many calories and recommended macronutrient breakdown each individual should have, please refer to the course on Grasshopper Education's website: Nutritional Basics for the Acupuncturist.

Below are the guidelines that people should follow as part of a balanced nutrition program.  Please note that certain populations such as extremely active athletes or growing children or individuals with specific medical conditions may alter these portions during certain phases of their nutrition program, but also note that it is the overall caloric intake that will lead to weight gain or loss.

•  1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain

•  1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta

•  1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal

•  1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain

•  1 slice 100% whole grain bread

•  1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin or bagel

•  1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

Each of these portions equal roughly 16 grams which is the current guideline for the amount of daily grain that should be consumed. 
Some foods might contain significant amounts of whole grains mixed with a refined grain, but this would not change the serving size.  Refined or whole, the serving size should still be 16 grams. 

These serving sizes may seem very small to most people.  In order to have a balanced nutrition and wellness plan, it is recommended to include at least 1-2 cups of a fruit or vegetable with a grain along with a balanced serving (3-4 oz.) of a protein.  Here are some examples of combining whole grains with other carbohydrates and protein:

•  ½ cup of pasta with 2 cups of grilled vegetables mixed in and 3 ounces of grilled chicken

•   ½ cup of rice with ½ cup of black beans and 1 cup of chopped vegetables

•   ½ cup of oatmeal with 1 cup of berries and 3 ounces of low fat milk

•  1 slice of toast with 1 TBS of hummus along with cucumber and tomato slices

•  1 ounce or (1/2) of a whole grain English muffin with 1 TBS of almond butter and a sliced banana

Fruits and vegetables are also complex carbohydrates and are very nutrient dense, meaning they are low in calories and high in nutritional value for their serving size.  They should make up the majority of carbohydrates in a well balanced nutrition plan  (The US Dietary Guidelines for 2010).

Talking Point

Listen to Tara reiterate this message about serving size. (To make the screen bigger, you can press the icon with four arrows pointing in different directions to the left where it says "vimeo").


What is Gluten?

Fact:  Gluten is simply a protein in wheat and related grains such as barley, rye, spelt, and kamut.

Many nutrition and health articles have placed wide attention to gluten-free diets.  Most grocery stores reflect this attention to gluten-free diets by offering and/or labeling gluten-free products.
Is following a gluten-free diet a good idea for everyone?  The simple answer is no.  For those who show absolutely no sensitivity to gluten, a gluten-free diet can be challenging in a number of ways and provide no health benefit.  Some research has even shown that people who follow a gluten-free diet outside of medical necessity often end up malnourished.  Malnourishment may arise due to overall caloric restrictions and an imbalance in carbohydrate/fat/protein ratios.

Gluten-free is appropriate for those with celiac disease or with gluten allergies (more on these topics in a bit).  A gluten-free diet has also been shown to help in other disorders such as Autism and chronic inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.  Please reference the course Diet and Inflammation for more information on this topic.  Even though gluten must be avoided in certain people's diets, it is important to note that gluten intolerant people CAN eat whole grains!  This table below shows a large number of gluten-free grain choices.  An interesting note is that oats are inherently gluten-free, but are often contaminated with wheat during growing or processing.

Grains with Gluten

Gluten-FREE Grains

Wheat, including varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina









Montina (Indian rice grass)












Wild Rice

Celiac Disease

Fact:  Nearly 3 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance.  Foods containing gluten cause an immune reaction in the small intestines leading to damage of the intestinal villae causing an inability to absorb certain nutrients.  Malabsorbption from celiac disease can cause severe damage to most systems in the body.  The following are some signs and symptoms of celiac disease:

•  Chronic diarrhea

•  Abdominal bloating

•  Constipation

•  Weight loss or weight gain

•  Peripheral nervous systems problems (shaking, twitching, itching, etc.)

•  Brain dysfunction (poor memory, inability to concentrate, mood swings)

•  Fatigue

•  Bone loss

•  Liver and other organ dysfunction

•  Hormonal and sexual dysfunction

•  Poor immune system and slow healing

There is no cure for celiac disease.  However most signs and symptoms can be managed by following a very strict gluten-free diet.  Some people may need to supplement with intramuscular B vitamins and other vitamins and minerals in a variety of forms until the intestines have healed and the body is able to absorb nutrients.  An intestinal biopsy is the best way to diagnosis celiac disease.

Gluten Allergy

Other people may not have celiac disease, but may have a gluten allergy causing them to be intolerate wheat and other gluten-containing grains. A multitude of symptoms from GI disorders to skin rashes can arise from a gluten allergy. Some other signs and symptoms of a gluten allergy include the following:

• Headaches

• Blurred vision

• Swelling of the throat or tongue

• Bloating

• Runny nose

• Cough

• Fatigue

• Irritability and other mood disorders

A gluten-free diet usually helps people with a gluten allergy overcome many signs and symptoms. However, it is known that people who tend to have one allergy also tend to have allergies to other top food allergens such as dairy, soy, peanuts, etc. An allergy test in the form of a blood test or a scratch test may be given to help diagnosis a gluten allergy, however these tests are not always accurate. An avoidance of gluten for a 3 week period has also been suggested as a test to determine an allergy. If a person's signs and symptoms improve over the 3 week period and then arise again after eating gluten, that can indicate a gluten allergy.

So why do some people complain of difficulty in digesting grains who have not been shown to have a food allergy?
Grains contain enzyme inhibitors, which keep them dormant until they are soaked and start to sprout. They also contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran, and a variety of toxins to protect them from environmental factors, animals and humans for survival. These enzyme inhibitors, phytic acid and other toxins make grains difficult to digest causing gas, bloating, and acid reflux, irritable bowl syndrome, and weak digestion. Some research has shown that phytic acid may also also react with many essential minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc, and stops their absorption in your intestines.

Soaking/sprouting or pressure-cooking can help to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors present in grains. As they soak, the enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms break down and neutralize the phytic acid. As little as seven hours soaking in water removes most of the phytic acid.

Soaking, fermenting and sprouting also can help to break down gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins into simpler components that are more easily absorbed. Please note that not all toxins are removed with soaking/sprouting with wheat shown to be the worst affected grain after soaking/sprouting.

In conclusion, some people might confuse a gluten allergy for a lack of enzymes from eating grains that have not been soaked/sprouted or pressure-cooked prior to consumption.

All About Grains

A regular intake of whole grains can help prevent the following diseases:  Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders.  The next several pages will walk you through most grains that can be found at the store and uncover some interesting factiods about them.


•    High in protein (13-16%), fiber, amino acids (lysine and methionine), Vitamin C, and calcium (contains more calcium & supporting cofactors-magnesium and silicon-than milk!)

•    Has a unique, peppery taste

•    Especially helpful for people with a consistent elevated need of nutrients such as nursing or pregnant women, infants/children, athletes, or those who do heavy physical work

•    Gluten-free


•    Benefits the Lung



•  The fiber in barley is especially healthy; it may lower cholesterol even more effectively than oat fiber

•  Easy to digest

•  Treats diarrhea

•  Sprouted barley has more fiber, twice the calcium, three times the iron, and 25% more protein than the commonly used “pearl” barley

•  Useful in treating Candida and yeast-induced digestive weakness


•  Barley is the herb "Gu Ya" in TCM. It strengthens the Spleen, Stomach, Intestines, and benefits the Gallbladder and nerves


•    An alkalizing grain that is effective at treating chronic diarrhea, strengthening the intestines and improving digestion

•    Rutin, a bioflavonoid found in buckwheat, strengthens capillaries and blood vessels, inhibits hemorrhages, reduces blood pressure, and increases circulation to the hands.  Studies shown that rutin can improve circulation overall and help prevent LDL cholesterol from blocking blood vessels.

•    Can be used externally for skin inflammation, eruptions and burns

•    Toasted form is known as “kasha”

•    Gluten-free

Dried Corn

Fresh corn was once thought of as a grain due to the way it grows.  However, it is now catagorized as a vegetable.  Dried corn (pop corn, sprouted corn, pressed corn such as corn tortillas) can still be categorized as a grain.

•    Improves appetite and helps regulate digestion

•    Promotes healthy teeth and gums

•    Blue corn contains 21% more protein, 50% more iron, and twice the magnesium and potassium of yellow & white varieties

•    Eating corn with beans creates a complementary mix of amino acids that raises the protein value

•    Has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable – almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples

•    Gluten-free


•    High in protein

•    Benefits digestion

•    Helps overcome diarrhea and indigestion

•    Reduces bacterial growth in the body (especially mouth)

•    Gluten-free


•    One of the richest silicon foods, it can help renew bones and all connective tissue

•    Contains phosphorus required for brain and nerve formation

•    Sold in steel cut, oat flakes or rolled oats form.  Each form contains the same nutrients.

•    Can be used as a mask on the face to improve complexion

•    Scientific studies have concluded that like barley, oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan, found to be especially effective in lowering cholesterol. Recent research reports indicate that oats also have a unique antioxidant, avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol

•    Can be gluten-free if processed in a special way and stated on the package



•    Has the highest protein content of all grains & is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids

•    Has more calcium that milk

•    Very good source of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins, and vitamin E

•    Good for strengthening the entire body

•    Must be rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter residue of saponins, a plant-defense that wards off insects

•    Gluten-free

Listen to Tara highlight this incredible grain:




•    Good source of B vitamins which are beneficial to the nervous system.

•    Short-grain rice has a nuttier flavor and a chewier consistency than long gain rice.  Basmati rice is less dense than most other rice.

•    Easy to digest and is therefore tolerated by most.

•    Gluten-free grain


•    Gu Ya is sprouted rice.  For more on sprouting grains, see page 22.  It's clinical uses are to reduce food stagnation and to strengthen the spleen.  It enters the spleen and stomach channels, and is neutral and sweet.



•    The type of fiber in rye promotes a rapid feeling of fullness and can be a good choice for people trying to lose weight.

•    Rye bread has been shown to have beneficial effects on glucose balance, and therefore may help to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

•    Rye is high in lignans.


•    Easy to digest

•    Sorghum is grown from traditional hybrid seeds and does not contain biotechnology traits, making it nontrangenic or non-GMO

•    The wax surrounding the sorghum grain contains compounds called policosanols that may have a positive impact on cardiac health

•    High in fiber, iron, and protein

•    Gluten-free grain



•    A variety of wheat that can be used in place of common wheat in most recipes

•    Higher in protein than common wheat

•    There are anecdotal reports that some people sensitive to wheat can tolerate spelt, but no reliable medical studies have validated that report



•    A type of millet with a sweet and molasses-like flavor.

•    Very versatile;  it can be used as a hot cereal, added to baked goods, or even made into tortillas.

•    Has over twice the iron of other grains and three times the calcium.

•    Teff is the smallest edible grain in the world!


•  There are two main varieties of wheat that are widely eaten, durum wheat (Triticum turgidum durum) which is made into pasta and bread wheat (Triticum aestivum vulgare) is used for most other wheat foods

•  Bread wheat is described as “hard” or “soft” according to its protein content; as “winter” or “spring” according to when it is sown; and as “red” or “white” according to color of the kernels.  Hard wheat has more protein, including more gluten, and is used for bread, while soft wheat creates “cake flour” with lower protein

•  Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels and are high in fiber and B vitamins

•  Cracked wheat means the wheat berries have been split open allowing them to cook faster (the water helps to penetrate them more quickly).  Wheat flakes are just rolled out wheat berries (similar to rolled oats) as both forms have the same nutritional value.


•  Can aid in calming the heart

Wild Rice

•    Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but rather a seed.

•    The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rice or other grains.

•    Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Tips for Cooking Grains

1. Gently wash before cooking

2. Soak for 8-12 hours in order to make the grains more digestible (optional)

3. Adding kombu (seaweed) to a grain while cooking can also aid in the digestibility of grains

4. Discard soak water and cook with fresh, pure, filtered water

5. Grains can be roasted prior to cooking to make more alkaline

6. Typically ratio is cup grain to 1 cup water. For large quantity of grains, use less water to increase cooking time

7. Grains are usually cooked on low heat

8. Rice cookers can cook most grains

9. Pressure cookers are an easy way to cook grains and do not require soaking

Sprouting Whole Grains

By sprouting grains, their vitamin A content will usually double, various B group vitamins will be 5 - 10 times higher, and vitamin C will increase by a similar order. Their protein content becomes easily digestible, and rich new nutrients such as enzymes and phytochemicals are created. They contain significant amounts of bio-available calcium, iron and zi
nc.  When a dormant seed of a grains sprouts, its starch is converted into simple sugars, and long chain proteins are split into smaller, easily-digestible molecules.  Sprouted beans are like a pre-digested food allowing many people to enjoy grains without any digestive upset.

How to sprout

First, pick through and discard any broken, moldy, discolored or disfigured seeds. In particular, try to remove black, dark brown or green coloured moldy seeds. They can contain harmful toxins that you would want to avoid, whether you are sprouting or cooking them.

Next, soak them. To sprout a grain first wash them and then soak them in cool to tepid, filtered or spring water.  Suggested soaking time varies between 4 and 12 hours, depending on the size and hardness of the grain.  Small soft seeds like buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa only need 4 hours and harder grains like wheat and brown rice may need 6 hours. Rinse them and change the water every couple of hours while they soak.

Successful sprouting depends on a number of factors including:

•  The freshness of the grains and how "alive" they are. Many grains, especially if they have been imported, have been irradiated. Others are just old.

•  Whether the grains are broken, discoloured or chemically treated

•  The water's pH, mineral and salt content.

•  The water's temperature. Cold climate grains such as oats can even be sprouted in your refrigerator.

Keep them damp. After the initial soaking, keep the seeds damp. Put them in a large sieve, and rinse them under the tap a couple of times a day. You can also put them in a jar, with a piece of material over the top, tied on with a string or rubber band. The grains need to be kept damp and aired, but not wet, otherwise there is a chance of mold or spoiling. They are ready when the root (not the shoot, which is longer) is the length of the seed.

 It is suggested to keep your sprouting seeds and grains out of full sunlight. Natural light is OK, but full sunlight will encourage leafing.

Gluten-Free Products

Many companies world-wide provide a huge array of gluten-free foods and ingredients. Most certified gluten-free grains can be found at natural food stores. Some grocery stores also carry and label gluten-free goods. Below is a list of gluten free products, of which many can be found online:

 Sources for Gluten Free Products

Amazing Grains

GoGo Quinoa

Arrowhead Mills


The Birkett Mills

Jovial Foods

Bob's Red Mill

Lundberg Family Farms

Canyon Bakehouse

Mom's Place Gluten Free

Cream Hill Estates

Montana Monster Munchies / Legacy Valley


Northern Quinoa Corporation

Nu-World Amaranth

Enjoy Life Natural Brands

Only Oats / Avena Foods

Gifts of Nature

Quinoa Corporation / Ancient Harvest

Gluten Free

The Teff Company

Gluten-Free Mall

Twin Valley Mills

GF Harvest / Gluten Free Oats

Udi's Gluten-Free

Gluten Solutions

La Tortilla Factory


Naturally Gluten-Free Grains May Be Cross-Contaminated
A Polish team from the Instytut Zywnosci in Warsaw analyzed 22 gluten-free products and 19 naturally gluten-free grains and flours, for gluten content. Gluten content in the products ranged from 5.19 to 57.16 mg/kg. In the inherently gluten-free grains and flours, no gluten was detected in rice and buckwheat samples, but was detected in rice flakes (7.05 mg/kg) in pearl millet (27.51 mg/kg) and in oats (>100 mg/kg). ?(Poland)
Rocz Panstw Zaki Hig. 2010; 61(1):51-5. ??

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant specializing in gluten-free diets, arranged for gluten-testing of 22 retail samples of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours. She found contamination of 20 to 2925 ppm in seven of 22 samples, putting them over the proposed FDA limit of 20 ppm, with lower levels in some others. Both articles point to the importance of gluten-free certification even on foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as millet.?(USA)
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. June 2010; 110(6):937-40.


Sprouted Buckwheat Extract Decreases Blood Pressure

Korean researchers fed raw buckwheat extract and germinated buckwheat extract to hypertensive rats for five weeks then compared the results. The rats fed the germinated buckwheat had lower systolic blood pressure, while both groups exhibited significantly reduced oxidative damage in aortic endothelial cells. The scientists concluded that “these results suggest that germinated buckwheat extra has an atihypertensive effect and may protect arterial endothelial cells from oxidative stress.”
Phytotherapy Research, July 2009; 23(7):993-8.

Buckwheat Starch is A Good Energy Source

In a study found via the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), researchers at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences explored the digestibility of starch derived from oats, wheat, buckwheat, and sweet potatoes. The goal of this study was to determine which of the four starch sources might prove useful in high-energy

diets. Pigs were fed diets containing vitamins, minerals, and starch from one of the four sources, and after 15 days, it was determined that buckwheat, along with oats and wheat, provided a better source of dietary energy than sweet potatoes.
China’s Research of Agricultural Modernization Journal, April 2009

Buckwheat Protein Shows Promise For Lowering Blood Glucose

A study from the Jilin Agricultural University in China investigated the blood glucose lowering potential of buckwheat protein, pitting it against a toxic glucose analogue called alloxan. This insidious chemical selectively destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, causing characteristics similar to type 1 diabetes when found in rodents and many other animal species. Different doses of buckwheat protein were administered, and researchers discovered that the blood glucose levels of test subjects were indeed lowered when compared to the control group.
Journal of Jilin Agricultural University, 2009; 31(1):102-4

Sprouted Buckwheat Protects Against Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease, like alcohol-induced cirrhosis, can lead to terminal liver failure, and it’s increasing, as it often goes hand in hand with type 2 diabetes. Korean researchers found that buckwheat sprouted for 48 hours developed “potent anti-fatty liver activities” that significantly reduced fatty liver in mice after 8 weeks. Scientists found that sprouting the buckwheat increased the concentration of rutin tenfold, and also increased quercitin, both of which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects.
Phytomedicine, August 2007; 14(7-8):563-7. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

Quinoa, Oats, and Buckwheat: More Satiating

A University of Milan study compared buckwheat, oats, and, quinoa to see if any of them showed promise in helping with appetite control. In three experiments – one for each grain – subjects’ satisfaction and subsequent calorie consumption were compared, after eating the study grain and after eating wheat or rice. All three study grains had a higher Satiating Efficiency Index (SEI) than wheat or rice; white bread was in fact lowest in appetite satisfaction. Unfortunately, even after feeling fuller from eating the study grains, the subjects did not cut their calories at the next meal!
British Journal of Nutrition, November 2005; 94 (5):850-8.

Buckwheat Provides Prebiotic-like Benefits; Considered Healthy Food

In 2003, a study out of Madrid, Spain examined the high nutrient levels in buckwheat to determine whether it could behave as a prebiotic and be considered a healthy food. (Prebiotics are indigestible food ingredients that stimulate the helpful bacteria in our digestive systems.) Not only did the buckwheat-fed group emerge with a lower bodyweight when compared to the control, some of the best types of helpful bacteria were found, along with a decrease in some types of pathogenic bacteria.
Nutrition Research, June 2003; 23(6):803-14

Eating Buckwheat Products Produces Lower GI Response
In a joint effort to determine the characteristics of buckwheat starch and its potential for a reduced metabolic response after meals, researchers from Slovenia and Sweden scored human test subject’s responses to an assortment of buckwheat products, including boiled buckwheat groats, breads baked with 30-70% buckwheat flour, and bread baked from buckwheat groats. The highest level of resistant starch was found in the boiled buckwheat groats, while the resistant starch levels in the buckwheat breads were significantly lower, depending on whether flour or grouts had been used. The conclusion? All buckwheat products scored significantly lower on the after-meal blood glucose tests, while also scoring higher in satiety, than the control group’s white wheat bread.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, January 2001; 49(1):490–96. DOI: 

Scientists at Columbia University and Stanford collaborated to reflect on the association between rapidly rising rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in India, and the adoption of refined carbohydrates – especially white rice and white flour – in that country. They advocated re-introduction of whole grains commonly consumed before 1950, including amaranth, barley, brown rice, millet, and sorghum, as a way to stem chronic disease in culturally-sensitive ways.
Nutrition Reviews, August 2011; 69(8):479-488


Foxtail Millet May Help Control Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is a common food in parts of India. Scientists at Sri Venkateswara University in that country studied its health benefits in diabetic rats, and concluded that the millet produced a “significant fall (70%) in blood glucose” while having no such effect in normal rats. Diabetic rats fed millet also showed significantly lower levels of triglycerides, and total/LDL/VLDLcholesterol, while exhibiting an increase in HDL cholesterol.
Pathophysiology. April 2011; 18(2): 159-65

Sprouting (Malting) Millet Makes Some Minerals More Bioavailable

In India and some other countries, sprouted (malted) grains are commonly used as weaning foods for infants and as easily-digested foods for the elderly and infirm. A study at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India, measured the changes caused by malting finger millet, wheat and barley. They found that malting millet increased the bioaccessibility of iron (> 300%) and manganese (17%), and calcium (“marginally”), while reducing bioaccessibility of zinc and making no difference in copper. The effects of malting on different minerals varied widely by grain.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 14 July 2010; 58(13):8100-3.

All Millet Varieties Show High Antioxidant Activity

At the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, a team of biochemists analyzed the antioxidant activity and phenolic content of several varieties of millet: kodo, finger, foxtail, proso, pearl, and little millets. Kodo millet showed the highest phenolic content, and proso millet the least. All varieties showed high antioxidant activity, in both soluble

and bound fractions.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 9 June 2010; 58(11):6706-14.

Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein

Scientists in Seoul, South Korea, fed a high-fat diet to rats for 8 weeks to induce hyperlipidemia, then randomly divided into four diet groups: white rice, sorghum, foxtail millet and proso millet for the next 4 weeks. At the end of the study, triglycerides were significantly lower in the two groups consuming foxtail or proso millet, and levels of C-reactive protein were lowest in the foxtail millet group. The researchers concluded that millet may be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Nutrition Research. April 2010; 30(4):290-6.

Indian Diabetics Turn to Ragi (Finger Millet) and other Millets

Diabetes is rising rapidly in India, as it is in many nations. Researchers at Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College in Tamaka, Kola, India decided to study the prevalence and awareness of diabetes in rural areas, in order to inform health policy. While there was widespread lack of awareness of the long term effects of diabetes and diabetic care, common perception favored consumption of ragi, millet and whole wheat chapatis instead of rice, sweets and fruit.
International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries. January 2010; 30(1):18-21.

Finger Millet (Ragi) Tops in Antioxidant Activity Among Common Indian Foods

The National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India, carried out a study of the total phenolic content and antioxidant activity of various pulses, legumes and cereals, including millets. Finger millet and Rajmah (a type of bean) were highest in antioxidant activity, while finger millet and black gram dhal (a type of lentil) had the highest total phenolic content.
Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics. February 2009; 46(1):112-5.

Sprouted Millet is Higher in Key Nutrients

Researchers in India allowed proso millet to germinate for 1-7 days, and then analyzed the changes in its composition. They found that sprouting increased lysine (a key amino acid lacking in most grains) and concentrated the protein, as the grain overall lost weight. Increases in tryptophan, albumin and globulin were also observed, along with decreases in prolamins, a plant storage protein that may be difficult for some people to digest.
Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, February 1994; 45(2):97-102.


Quinoa Offers Antioxidants for Gluten-Free Diets

Researchers suggest that adding quinoa or buckwheat to gluten-free products significantly increases their polyphenol content, as compared to typical gluten-free products made with rice, corn, and potato flour. Products made with quinoa or buckwheat contained more antioxidants compared with both wheat products and the control gluten-free products. Also of note: antioxidant activity increased with sprouting, and decreased with breadmaking.
Food Chemistry, March 2010; 119 (2): 770-778.

Quinoa’s Excellent Nutritional and Functional Properties

Lillian Abugoch James of the University of Chile reported on the composition, chemistry, nutritional and functional properties of quinoa. She cited the pseudo cereal’s “remarkable nutritional qualities” including its high protein content (15%), “great amino acid balance,” and “notable Vitamin E content.” Beyond its nutritional profile, Abugoch recommends quinoa to food manufacturers because of its useful functional properties, such as viscosity and freeze stability.
Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, October 2009; 58:1-31

More Protein, Minerals, Fiber in Quinoa

Anne Lee and colleagues at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center found that the nutritional profile of gluten-free diets was improved by adding oats or quinoa to meals and snacks. Most notable increases were protein (20.6g vs. 11g) iron (18.4mg vs. 1.4mg, calcium (182mg vs. 0mg) and fiber (12.7g vs. 5g
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, August 2009; 22(4):359-63. Epub 2009 Jun 10.

Quinoa Possible Dietary Aid Against Diabetes

Scientists at the Universidad de São Paulo in Brazil studied ten traditional Peruvian grains and legumes for their potential in managing the early stages of Type 2 diabetes. They found that quinoa was especially rich in an antioxidant called quercetin and that quinoa had the highest overall antioxidant activity (86%) of all ten foods studied. Coming in a close second in antioxidant activity was quinoa's cousin, kañiwa. This in vitro study led the researchers to conclude that quinoa, kañiwa, and other traditional crops from the Peruvian Andes have potential in developing effective dietary strategies for managing type 2 diabetes and associated hypertension.
Journal of Medicinal Food, August 2009; 12 (4):704-13.

Kañiwa's Healthy Components

Researchers in Peru studied kañiwa, a native Andean pseudo-cereal that is a cousin of quinoa, to determine its potential to contribute to health. They found that kañiwa is rich in total dietary fiber and lignin, with high antioxidant activity. Moreover, they found that kañiwa had good functional properties, making it attractive for food processing.
Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, June 2009; 64(2):94-101. (Repo-Carrasco-Valencia et al.)

Quinoa, Oats, and Buckwheat: More Satiating

A University of Milan study compared buckwheat, oats, and, quinoa to see if any of them showed promise in helping with appetite control. In three experiments – one for each grain – subjects’ satisfaction and subsequent calorie consumption were compared, after eating the study grain and after eating wheat or rice. All three study grains had a higher Satiating Efficiency Index (SEI) than wheat or rice; white bread was in fact lowest in appetite satisfaction. Unfortunately, even after feeling fuller from eating the study grains, the subjects did not cut their calories at the next meal!
British Journal of Nutrition, November 2005; 94 (5):850-8.

Better Lipid Effects from Quinoa

At the University of Milan, researchers compared the digestibility of various gluten-free foods in the lab (in vitro) and then with a group of healthy volunteers (in vivo). Their goal was to gauge the effect of the different foods on postprandial glucose and insulin response, as well as to measure triglycerides and free fatty acids after eating. Quinoa stood out in the study, for producing lower free fatty acid levels and triglyceride concentrations than other GF pastas and breads studied.
European Journal of Nutrition, August 2004; 43 (4):198-204. Epub 2004 Jan 6.



1.   Bob Flaws, The Tao of Healthy Eating 2nd Edition, Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, Co, 2002

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March 2010; 119 (2): 770-778

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5.     European Journal of Nutrition, Better Lipid Effects from Quinoa.

 August 2004; 43 (4):198-204. Epub 2004 Jan 6.

6.     Nutrition Research. Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein.

April 2010; 30(4):290-6

7.     Pathophysiology. Foxtail Millet May Help Control Blood Sugar and Cholesterol.

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