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Research on Being

Towards a Hierarchy of Pseudo-Grains and Pulses

This is something that I’ve been wondering about ever since I decided that pulses and pseudo-grains should come back into my life. When it comes to plant foods there is always a balance that must be made between toxins and the value of the food. In the end, a lot of this nutrition stuff is about finding the highest value, lowest toxin food. Animal foods are virtually all value and no toxin since they have no need of producing endogenous chemicals to discourage consumption of their flesh, however, when it comes to plants we have to consider toxicity as this is how plants protect themselves. There is the issue of phytic acid, saponins, PUFAs, and so on which must be taken into account in addition to how much enzyme activity is available to break down these toxins and if the value of the food is high enough to negate whatever toxicity remains. This need for high value, low toxin plant foods is what has lead me towards the reintroduction of pseudo-grains and pulses as these are some of the highest value plant foods you can get with toxicity levels that are low or average, however, among them there are ones that are better and ones that are worse and that is what I shall now discuss.

Pulses

Among pulses, we have the common bean which is split into many varieties. All members of the common bean, however, contain the phytohaemagluttinin lectin but with varying degrees. White kidney beans (Cannellini) and red kidney beans contain the highest amount of this lectin. In fact, there is so much that you can get food poisoning from eating a few raw beans and there have been cases of this happening for people after having consumed improperly prepared kidney beans. It is for these reasons that I recommend avoiding red and white kidney beans, however, all other members of the common bean should be fine if properly soaked before cooking (black beans, navy beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, anasazi beans to name a few). Soy is well known for its high toxicity and consequently should ideally be eliminated from the diet except in fermented form (miso, tempeh, natto, soy sauce). Fava beans also have some toxins that you may or may not be reactive to and peanuts are widely contaminated with aflatoxin. Many pulses fare much better than these as far as toxicity goes and these are the ones I recommend you make the bulk of your pulse consumption from. These pulses are lentils, adzuki beans, mung beans, black eyed peas (cowpeas), split peas, lima beans, chickpeas, and urad.

To summarize:

Avoid: Red kidney beans, white kidney beans (cannellini), fava beans, soybeans (except when fermented), peanuts

Prefer (from least to most PUFAs): Black eyed peas (cowpeas), adzuki beans, lima beans, mung beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas (garbanzo)

Pseudo-Grains

Pseudo-grains are one of the few plant foods with a full amino acid complement making them very valuable. These foods have varying levels of toxicity, enzyme activity, and PUFA content. Unfortunately, there is also a lot less information on pseudo-grains than other foods so I could only come up with a ranking in terms of PUFA content. As far as toxicity is concerned, I know that millet is relatively low in phytic acid (but also in phytase) and that buckwheat is high in phytase. This makes buckwheat the best overall pseudo-grain due to high phytase content, high nutritional value, and low PUFA content.

From lowest to highest PUFA content:

Buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa

There are also some less common gluten free grains which may be viable as well.

From lowest to highest PUFA content these are:

Teff, sorghum, millet

Rice and Corn

Rice can also be eaten. If you want to eat brown rice, ensure that you soak it with something rich in phytase which means water from a buckwheat soak or ground buckwheat. White rice, though somewhat refined, is very low in toxicity thus making it allowable on the toxicity versus value spectrum. In general, white rice is preferred. Corn may be okay occasionally as long as it is properly prepared, however, much of the corn supply is also contaminated with aflatoxins and mycotoxins not to mention being of GM origin so corn is still best avoided.

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Filed under: Diet, phytic acid, pseudo-grains, PUFA, pulses

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