Power your next workout with ancient whole grains



Power your next workout with ancient whole grains

Feeling your oats

After many years as a media darling, grain has been under attack lately. "Wheat belly", gluten intolerance, etc. The keys to healthy grains however remain unchanged - grains that are whole and as ancient / un-messed with as possible - good stuff for sure.

Processed stuff however - cereals, pasta and breads, cakes, cookies that come from modern high yield varieties of wheat which is then made into "enriched" white flour - well that's just not worth eating.

Whole grains, especially heirloom "ancient grains" not engineered by man, like those listed below however, now that's how to fuel your next workout. More protein and nutrition than modern varieties selectively bred for more carbs and gluten. 


Oats - steel cut oats are a great start to any day. Chewy, delicious and full of fiber and nutrition. Add dried fruit, nuts, butter and a little honey and breakfast is served!

Quinoa - a complete protein source plus fiber make this grain a good choice. 

Barely - excellent fiber, choose the non pearled variety, sprouted, organic. 

Farro - unlike wheat, farro is an ancient grain that has not been modified as much by man. It's chewy, nutty and satisfying. 

Kamut - more protein and fat than wheat. Rich buttery taste. Good as a flour too.

Spelt - ancient grain, like wheat but better tolerated and more protein. 

Millet - high in protein, adds crunch to baked goods. 


Wild or Brown rice - be sure and soak it overnight. Limit to 1/2 cup servings due to glycemic load.

Rolled oats - a higher glycemic spike than steel cut these are still a pretty decent choice for homemade granola or low sugar oatmeal cookies. 

Whole Grain Sprouted Flours - a mixed ancient grains sprouted flour is great for baking and an easy substitution for the standard but nutritional devoid white / "enriched" wheat flour. 

Traditional Bread - slow rise sourdough bread made from ancient grain flour, hard to make but oh so good. You really have to want this one and learn all about baking, or just find an artisan bakery. 

Pasta - a high glycemic load and a low nutrition profile relegate pasta to being an accent at best. Limit it to just a 1/2 cup - smothered in tomato sauce or olive oil.



White rice - has had its germ and its bran removed. High glycemic load and low nutrition are two strikes.

Processed grains and cereal - That's anything made of white flour which is most everything you can buy. Includes store bought cookies, cakes, crackers, granola bars, cereals. It's all just white flour, manmade industrial oils, sugar and salt. Just say no.

Anything extruded - like Triscuits and most all breakfast cereals. Extruding - the process itself adds negative issues to already weak foods. Nope.

Anything with an big ad budget - Looking at you Captain Crunch, Tony the Tiger, anything in a box shouting nutrition claims like "fortified" with vitamins, "part of a balanced breakfast".  Skip this and eat natural real food instead. 

Energy, fiber and flavor - whole grains

Whole Grains

Are they a good fit for you?

Whole Grains

Are they a good fit for you?

Eliminate Grain?

Grains lack the nutrition all star status of most vegetables and often come with a glycemic load that raises blood sugar throwing a body's metabolism into turmoil. This is especially true of white / enriched wheat flour which is helping drive our epidemic of diabetes and obesity.

Thus today many folks are "going Paleo" and totally eliminating all grains from their diet. They say so long to bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, refined flours and potatoes too. Their resulting weight loss numbers, especially in the short term are often quite impressive.

Some Perspective

Historically a wide variety of grains have been an important part of our diet for 10,000 years and counting. Until quite recently, proper preparation has been emphasized. Why? 

Grains contain phytates that block nutrient absorption in the gut and enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with their digestion. These are part of the plant's defense mechanism - it can't run away and it made those seeds to reproduce itself, not to provide us a free lunch so it does its best to dissuade us from eating it.

Traditional Solutions

Traditional societies developed countermeasures to unlock all of a grains hearty nutrition. Typically this involved soaking the grain overnight, rinsing it clean and then cooking. Other helpful methods of traditional processing included sprouting and souring. 

Not only have we largely forgotten these important grain prep techniques, modern processing makes things worse. The extrusion process used to make novel shapes like puffed wheat, rice cakes, breakfast cereals and extruded crackers like Triscuits - it appears to be very problematic. 

Glycemic Load

Modern wheat has been highly altered through selective breeding and is now very high in starch, low in protein. We then dry and grind it into flour and remove most all of its nutritional components to make "enriched flour". All this dramatically increases the spike in blood sugar it can impart, not good for us. 

GMO Rodeo

And ever wonder where most GMO wheat winds up? As flour in processed foods and restaurant foods. Cookies, cakes, baked goods, crackers, bread, pasta - many folks now avoid all prepared / boxed foods skipping the white flour, trans fats and GMOs. 



The Good News

If we choose whole grains instead of highly processed ones, If we choose ancient / heirloom grains that are the same as they have always been and if we eat them in moderate quantities - then grains can be delicious and health enhancing - plus they pack a lot of fiber, much appreciated by your gut. 

Good Fuel -  Whole grains also fuel activity like running, cycling or your brisk 20 minute daily walks.... You are walking 20 minutes each day right? 

If you are exercising and keeping your weight within your healthy BMI / target range - feel free to include some whole grains in your diet. 

Glycemic Load - to minimize any bump in blood sugar just eat grains in small amounts of a half cup or less or right after a workout during the "glycemic window" when your body can process carbs without the typical spike in blood sugar.

Also, try eating your whole grains cold - that lowers their glycemic index. Shorter cook times do the same. Thus a cup of cold al dente pasta salad you make at home is better vs a cup of restaurant pasta that's been on a long boil and served piping hot. 

You can also add fat to your whole grains - butter, olive oil, full fat dairy. Fat slows the digestion of the grain lowering its relative glycemic index.

Grains - what's for breakfast

Hot chewy steel cut oats with some butter, raisins, nuts and a touch of cinnamon and honey make an excellent start to most any day. You can even make them in a big batch the night before and simply reheat, eat and go.

Grain adds lean protein

  • oatmeal 8 grams /protein / cup

  • lentils 10g/p/c

  • beans 14g/p/c

  • wild rice, brown rice 12 g/p/c

  • quinoa  12g/p/c 

  Learn more at Whole Grains Council