The Gaelics of the Outer Hebrides regularly consumed large amounts of oats, but they did not suffer from scurvy, rickets, or tooth decay. In contrast, rickets was very common in more modern parts of Scotland where oats were also consumed. The difference between the two oat-eating groups was the fat-soluble content of their diets, and how the oats were prepared. Oats were stored outdoors after harvesting and the oats partially germinated for days or even weeks in the rain and sun. The outer husk was collected and fermented for a week or longer. This could have been used to produce an enzyme-rich starter for souring oats. Oats may have been fermented anywhere from 12-24 hours and as long as a week.
I am unclear if the oats were consumed whole, or if the bran was removed. I am further unclear on all the details on how oats were prepared. Modern oatmeal flakes typically have the bran removed. The diet of the Outer Hebrides was extremely rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D from cod’s head stuffed with cod livers which would protect against phytic acid. Their diet was also very rich in minerals from consumption of shellfish which could replenish potentially lost or blocked minerals if there was any phytic acid left in the oats. The combination of soil tending, careful oat preparation, and a mineral- and fat-soluble rich diet allowed oats to be a healthy staple for the isolated Gaelic populations.
Unlike the careful harvesting and storage of oats by isolated cultures, even organic whole oats you buy in the store are heat treated and they are not left in the fields to germinate and dry. Oats are heat treated because the high fat content of this grain can easily suffer rancidity during storage. The heat treated oats lose their entire phytase enzyme content however, so soaking or souring oatmeal will not destroy any phytic acid prior to cooking. There is a surprising percentage of people I have talked to who have cavities or whose children have cavities who are heavy oat eaters. This confirms the results of the Mellanby’s years of human and animal trials. In the rickets experiments, oats that are first sprouted and then soured for two days lost their ability to produce rickets.
The problem with preparing truly healthy-to-eat oats is that you need to special order oats that are still alive in order to sprout them. I am uncertain if you can make heat treated oats safe for the health of your teeth. My suggestion would be to sprout oats for two days and then to dry them and remove the oat bran through grinding and sifting or flaking. Then you would need to sour oats at a warm temperature with a starter for 24 hours before consuming. The consequences of oats that are not expertly prepared for our teeth are a documented cause for concern.
In rice-eating countries across the globe, rice is rarely consumed in its brown form, with the whole bran. In a quest to find the most ancient and traditional preparation methods, I found several accounts of partially polished rice. Rice is traditionally stored in its husk, and then fresh pounded before cooking. How much bran is removed in traditional brown rice preparation seems to be dependent on the breed of rice, and the other foods available in the diet. Ancient rice preparation included low tech milling, such as tumbling the rice with stones which removes a significant portion of bran and germ from the rice. But some portion of the bran and germ remain. That exact amount of bran to be removed will depend on how long the rice is fermented, and the specific type of rice used. A good guess would be 50% of bran should be removed from rice. Milled rice has usually a little bit of germ, polished rice no germ.
Rancid rice has a bitter aftertaste. In several nutrient absorption studies brown rice consumption did not lead to more nutrient absorption compared to rice with the bran removed. In one specific study, brown rice was compared with milled rice (rice without most of the bran and germ, but not polished totally white). There was no difference in nutrient absorption even though the brown rice actually contained more nutrients.
This apparent contradiction would be explained by the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients in the rice. One study showed that the anti-iron phytate levels in rice were disabled by the vitamin C in collard greens. Because rice goes rancid rapidly or because insects and rodents eat it quickly, in rice-eating cultures rice is stored in the husk, or stored as white rice. In most of the rice-eating populations across the world it is very difficult to find brown rice.
In a rice-based diet rice toxins are neutralized by sour fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C, land or sea organ meats rich in fat-soluble vitamins, and sometimes via the fermentation of rice or beans. Completely bran- and germ-free rice, known as white rice, can cause a vitamin B-1 (thiamine) deficiency in a diet very high in or exclusively of white rice. The condition is known as beriberi. Beriberi rarely occurred in people eating partially milled rice which retained a small portion of the bran. I know of people in rice-eating cultures with beautiful white, cavity-free teeth who grew up on white rice.
Brem is a special rice-cake bread from Indonesia. It goes through a truly heroic fermentation process in which the rice is fermented for 5-6 days, and then it is sun dried for an additional 5-7 days. Millet and rice are also traditionally fermented with fish, pork or shrimp for several weeks to produce fermented condiments. The healthiest rice I have eaten is a partially milled rice (it has streaks of bran on it) that has been soaked with the brown rice starter as described in a later post.
Even more than rice, the healthy preparation of corn as a grain is largely dependent upon the variety of the corn being used. This leads to a wide variety of traditional corn preparation methods which range from simple roasting to fermenting for two weeks.
Corn is universally nixtamalized when prepared for consumption as flour. This is a process of soaking corn in an alkaline solution to release niacin (vitamin B3) and then hulling. Modern corn tortillas, chips, and corn meals have either no corn bran or germ, or have very little corn bran or germ. They also are nixtamalized. Typical corn products with the bran and germ removed would be lower in phytic acid and lower in toxic properties than whole grain corn. I cannot clearly advise on how much of these corn products is safe to eat in relation to dental health.
They seem comparable to unfermented unbleached wheat flour. If a food has the entire corn kernel in it, and it has not gone through a thorough fermentation process it probably is very high in anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins. I am certain that food products containing the entire corn kernel, either as it is, or as sprouted corn should be avoided. Another issue of concern with corn is genetically modified corn. Because of cross pollination, even many not genetically modified corns may have some genetic alteration. Animals typically will not eat genetically modified (GM) corn unless they are forced to do so. Those that have eaten it have had reproductive problems among other problems.
Ogi, a traditional fermented cereal from West Africa illustrates the efforts needed to make corn, sorghum or millet safe to eat for children. To begin, the grains are already sun dried after harvesting and stored in their hulls. The corn is then soaked for 1-3 days. The corn bran, corn hulls, and corn germ are completely removed. The mixture is then fermented for 2-3 days, cooked and then dried for storage.
Pozol is a fermented corn dish from South America. The corn is cooked with calcium hydroxide to release niacin. The hull, or pericarp, of the corn is removed. Pozol is fermented for 1-14 days.
Not every single indigenous grain recipe removes the bran of the grain or even ferments the grain. Injera is an Ethiopian bread traditionally made from teff. The recipe I have for injera uses from whole grain sorghum. The sorghum is fermented with an enzyme-rich starter for 48 hours. Chapati is a flat bread from India made with whole wheat and it is not leavened.
In both of these cases it appears the cultures took a recipe that was fine with one grain, such as teff in Ethiopia and rice in India, and then used that same recipe with another more recently introduced grain. Over the past several hundred years new levels of trading, immigration and adoption of customs from other cultures have created whole grain recipes that appear superficially to be traditional, but are in fact adopted and do not effectively remove grain toxins.
Sometimes it requires digging deep to find truly ancient and holistic grain recipes. There are so many examples of time-consuming and energy-intensive grain processing methods. If it was possible for cultures using these intensive methods of grain preparation to be healthy with less work, or to retain a higher yield by keeping the bran and the germ, I am certain they would have done so. I therefore believe these slow fermented and time-consuming ways of preparing grains, typically with the bran and germ removed, are the ones which will produce the greatest degree of health.