The Truth about Grains


Wheat forms a large part of the diet for many people in this country. It can be highly nutritious if eaten in the right form, however it can also have a damaging effect on the health of some people.

Wheat is the main ingredient in bread, pastry, pasta, biscuits, cakes and many breakfast cereals. It is also found in smaller amounts in snack bars, soups, sauces and some tinned food.

Try writing down how often you ate wheat yesterday. It is likely you have eaten wheat in some form at every meal, and in between meals as a snack.

This constant overloading with wheat can lead to health problems such as constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome and a generally low mood.

In New Zealand wheat is the main grain we use, so is most likely to cause food intolerance. Whereas in the USA, corn is frequently eaten, so people there are more likely to become intolerant to corn.


Food intolerance is not the same as true allergy. Allergic reactions tend to be fast and dramatic, and can be life threatening. Food intolerance’s have a different response pathway in the body they are more subtle and slow and are never life threatening.


Celiac Disease is a different condition, where all foods containing gluten must be avoided. This includes wheat, as well as other grains such as barley, rye and possibly oats. The special diet must be strictly followed or serious damage can occur in various parts of he body.


Food intolerance in New Zealand is much more likely to be to wheat itself, rather than to gluten. With wheat intolerance you can eat rice, barley, oats, corn, and millet. Rye bread can be hard to digest, so may cause problems; rye crackers are a good alternative. Spelt is a grain similar to wheat. Some wheat intolerant people can eat spelt flour, bread and pasta.


Whether you have wheat intolerance or not it is wise to use a variety of grains in your diet. Always use the whole grain i.e. brown rice, as the outer husk is highly nutritious. Do not use added bran, as it is an irritant to the bowel. When eaten alone it PREVENTS absorption of iron, calcium and zinc. However when eaten as part of the whole grain this does not happen and it is an excellent source of B vitamins and iron.


There are lots of delicious, nutritious grains other than wheat. Millet is a grain high in protein, magnesium, iron, B vitamins and vitamin A.  The hulled grains can be cooked like rice. Millet flakes are cooked as porridge.  Oats make an excellent breakfast, which stabilise blood sugar levels, assist the bowels, lower cholesterol and strengthen the nervous system.  Barley can be used in soups and warming winter broths and as a substitute for rice. Use pot barley, as the pearl barley has had the health-giving outer layers removed. Corn can be made into bread, pasta and pancakes, use the stone ground variety. By using organic grains you increase the nutrient content of whatever grains you eat.


Original Article April 2010

Copyright Jaine Kirtley