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Nut Balls, Whole Grains, and Fiber: Soaked and Sprouted Common Sense

Neurotechnology with Culinary Memoirs from the Daily Nutrition & Health Reporter - Hart Anne Hart, Hart Anne Hart Nut or seed balls sweetened with chopped fruit: Raw vegan snacks.

Nut ball cookies with grains. Use grains with as little processing as possible, soaked, and still chewable. You can use buckwheat soaked and chewable, oats in a soft and chewable state, or other grains such as quinoa or soaked lentils. Don't use grains to which you're sensitive, such as  various grains with gluten if you're sensitive to gluten. Photo by Anne Hart.


Some people use oats, others use soaked and sprouted quinoa or other grains. Or you can substitute legumes instead of grains. You also may wish to see my You Tube video on how to make vegan, raw nut balls.


Do 2 slices of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar levels more than a Mars candy bar?

Whole wheat bread is high in sugar, higher than some candy bars and sugary sodas, and some scientists and physicians say two slices of whole wheat bread probably will raise your blood sugar levels as high as if you were eating some popular candy bars. There's a 'controversy' about the effects of whole grains. Some people can't eat any grains at all due to sensitivities, allergies, and Celiac disease -(celiac sprue).


Others say whole grains help to rot some children's teeth. Still others ferment their whole grains, and some kids endure dental cavities just from eating whole grain cereals and sandwiches. What does the research note?


Physicians are writing articles in major consumer health publications saying that it's primarily whole wheat that creates havoc with blood glucose levels, perhaps being one more stressor behind the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics in all ages. Let's take a look at what some physicians and scientists report on the 'dangers' of whole wheat.


For example, two slices of whole wheat bread increase your blood sugar to a high level than sucrose--table sugar, according to the article, "Wheat, the unhealthy whole grain," in the Oct. 2011 issue of Life Extension Magazine, page 82. Too much bread or cake can raise your risk of cataracts, diabetes, and rapid aging inside and out, say some scientists and physicians.


Researchers at the University of California, Davis study phytosterols in whole grains. For example, see the article, [PDF] Phytosterols lower cholesterol levels in a dose-dependent manner - UC Davis CHNR. Phytosterols are plant compounds that form the membranes of cells, a role similar to that of cholesterol in animals. Scientists research how and why plant phytosterols may help reduce cholesterol in humans and/or animals.


Why does it take the mainstream media so long after a new study to report health benefits? The answer to that question is that the media is looking for other scientists to speak up and say whether or not any given study is flawed.

When it comes to health, in the Sacramento and Davis area, the UC Davis studies whole grains, including rice, and scientists around the nation are researching whether whole grains can keep your blood pressure in check. Sacramento and Davis scientists may sometimes jokingly tell people to eat like a horse, meaning eat your whole grain oats.


Check the Glycemic Index Before You Shop for Favorite Foods

Just check out how high whole wheat bread is in 'sugar' or on the Glycemic Index. See "The International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76(1):5-56. See the sites, Full Text - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dietary glycemic index and load and risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults.


It's truly shocking. According to the Life Extension article, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is worse than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar. The original 1981 study at the University of Toronto found that the Glycemic Index of white bread was 69 and whole-grain bread was 72. Wheat cereal was 67, but table sugar (sucrose) was only 52. That means the Glycemic Index of whole grain bread is higher than that of table sugar, which is also known as sucrose.


In fact the Glycemic Index of a Mars Bar nougat, chocolate, is just 68. The Glycemic index of a Snickers bar is just 41. All those values are less than whole grain bread, especially whole wheat bread. But what you do get with the whole grain bread besides the sugar spike is some fiber that you don't get with the candy bar or the sugary soda beverage.


On another Glycemic Index chart, a Mars Bar, medium is listed at 64. It's listed under the category, "Snack Food and Sweets." But on that web site which also is about the South Beach diet, whole grain bread is listed as low on the Glycemic Index at 50, and white bread is listed high on the Glycemic Index at 71, with whole rye flour bread listed as medium at 64.


Rice cakes are listed as high on the Glycemic Index at 77, and Whole Meal Bread (not whole grain bread) is listed as medium at 69 on the Glycemic Index. But you have to remember that that Index is on the South Beach Diet Plan website. And you'd have to check out other Glycemic Index listings to see whether any match. The Glycemic Index listings seem to be different at various websites, but why, are various brands being tested or listed?


Or are various candy brands different, but the Glycemic Index, itself, remains steady. It's just that one manufacturer may make different types of candy bars under the same brand name. For example, Glycemic Index of a Mars Bar nougat, chocolate, is listed as just 68 in the Life Extension Magazine article, Oct. 2011.


Is Whole Wheat the Culprit, According to Studies In Wheat's Ability to Cause Your Body to Make More Insulin?

So, wheat seems to be the worse, according to the studies, in assaulting your body in its ability to keep making insulin. Could this be part of the cause of the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the USA and in other countries, and especially among young people? And do you fight carbs with other carbs? Or is any food high on the Glycemic Index also causing your body to secrete more insulin, aging your organs and arteries faster as your body seeks to lower the glucose levels to what's supposed to be 'normal'?


You want to watch out for advanced glycation end products called AGEs, which stiffens arteries and may lead to cataracts, clouded lenses of the eyes. See the sites, Glycemic Index Food Chart. and Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods - Harvard Health.


Check out the study, "Glycemic Index of Foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981 Mar; 34 (3):362-6. Also see, Glycemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange.


Or read the article in the Oct 2011 issue of Life Extension magazine, "Wheat, the unhealthy whole grain," in the Oct. 2011 issue of Life Extension Magazine, page 82. Usually, it's online the following month it came out in print.


Do Whole Grains Improve Blood Pressure? Studies on whole grains and the health benefits of phytosterols

Read the published scientific study, Pins JJ, et al. "Do Whole Grain oat cereals reduce the need for antihypertensive medications and improve blood pressure control? Journal of Family Practice 51: 353-359, 2002.


For example, it took three months after a new July 2009 study on the health benefits of whole grains, especially bran in whole grains, and how whole grains help to lower hypertension, had been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition before the mainstream media (Reuters) reported it October 7, 2009.


The Whole Grain Stamp now appears on over 3000 products in 14 countries, according to the body that issues the Stamp, the Whole Grains Council. Also see the October 10, 2009 Windsor Star article, "Whole grains may help keep blood pressure in check."

The most recent USA nutrition guidelines recommend that people get at least 3 ounces, or 85 grams, of whole grains daily, and that they consume at least half of their grains as whole grains, according to the recent Reuters article of October 7, 2009, "Whole Grains May Keep Blood Pressure in Check."


"There's evidence, the investigators note, that women who eat more whole grains are less likely to develop high blood pressure, also called hypertension, but there is less information on how whole grains might affect men's heart health," according to the Reuters article, based on a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Eating lots of whole grains could ward off high blood pressure, according to that study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You can read the abstract of the actual study in the July 1, 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90: 493-498, 2009, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27460.


The title of the research is, "Whole grains and incident hypertension in men." Although the study had been performed with only men, women can benefit also, provided that you don't have sensitivities to whole grains such as celiac disease. It doesn't matter which whole grains you eat so much. You could substitute quinoa or amaranth, oats, brown rice, or rye for wheat because wheat in some people causes a rise in insulin. But what did the study actually find?


According to the study, men with the highest whole-grain consumption were 19 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than men who ate the least amount of whole grains. But you need to know something about how to prepare whole grains so that you don't get the phytates in grain.


Whole grains contain phytic acid in the bran of the grain. Phytic acid combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract, according to the article, "The Two Stage Process: A Preparation Method Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Whole Grains."


According to Introduction to Whole Foods, page two, "Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralize the phytic acid, releasing nutrients for absorption. This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten. For many, this may lessen their sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular grains."


The healthier way to prepare whole grains, according to the article, " is to soak the whole grains or whole grain flour in an acid medium such as buttermilk, yogurt, or other cultured milk, or in water with whey, lemon juice or vinegar added. As little as 7 hours soaking will neutralize a large portion of the phytic acid in grains. Twelve to 24 hours is even better with 24 hours yielding the best results."


Basically, you can soak grains overnight in a covered jar of filtered water in your refrigerator. The grains will become soft. I soak my grains two days. The whole buckwheat becomes soft enough to eat for breakfast without cooking with heat. Just put some cherries and blueberries or dried fruit such as raisins on top of it, add a handful of chopped nuts or hulled sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, and you have a great breakfast cereal, as long as you're not sensitive to the nuts and seeds or the particular grains. Buckwheat isn't the same grain as regular whole wheat.


Usually, there's an alternative whole grain you can tolerate, with some exceptions for persons with various sensitivities or those with celiac disease who must eat gluten-free foods. Then choose the gluten-free substitutes.


Brown rice, buckwheat and millet are more easily digested because they contain lower amounts of phytates than other grains, so they may be soaked for the shorter times. According to Introduction to Whole Foods, other grains, particularly oats, "the highest in phytates of the whole grains, is best soaked up to 24 hours."


The article reports that there are two other advantages of the two-stage process. "Several hours of soaking serves to soften the grain, resulting in baked goods lighter in texture, closer to the texture of white flour. The longer the soaking, the less necessary is the baking powder. Baking soda, alone, will give enough rise. Secondly, this is a great step in convenience, dividing the task into two shorter time periods, cutting the time needed to prepare the recipe right before cooking and baking when you feel rushed to get food on the table."


The difference between whole grains and refined grains is that refining takes off the grain's outer coating. But whole grains are left with the rich nutrients, bran and germ.

If you want to make soaking grains simple and basic, just soak what you want to eat overnight in a covered jar of water in your refrigerator. The grains will do a little fermenting, and that's the result you want.


Science research teams often look at the The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study on various topics. The Follow-Up Study explores men's health issues, relating nutritional factors to the incidence of serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. This all-male study is designed to complement the all-female Nurses' Health Study, which examines similar hypotheses.


For further information, see the Harvard Science article, "Eating whole grain cereals may help men lower heart failure risk." In the recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, the research team first looked at data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which has followed 51,529 men since 1986, when the study participants were 40 to 75 years old.


Researchers viewed a subset of 31,684 men free of hypertension, cancer, stroke or heart disease at the study's outset. During 18 years of follow-up, 9,227 of them developed hypertension. Men in the top fifth of whole grain consumption, that averaged about 52 grams of whole grains daily, were 19 percent less likely than the men in the bottom fifth, who ate an average of about 3 grams of whole grains daily, to develop hypertension during follow-up.


What Did the Separate Components of Whole Grains Reveal?

When the researchers looked at separate components of whole grains, only bran showed an independent relationship with hypertension risk, with men who consumed the most at 15 percent lower risk of hypertension than men who ate the least. However, the researchers note, the amount of bran in the men's diet was relatively small compared to their total intake of whole grain and cereal fiber. See the article, "Bran, whole grains may fight high blood pressure in men."


According to the HealthDay News article, "Whole grains as a part of a prudent, balanced diet may help promote cardiovascular health," the lead researcher and project director at Harvard School of Public Health of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Dr. Alan J. Flint explained to the media. The latest analysis followed up previous studies that's why it's called a Follow-Up study. "Higher intake of whole grains was associated with a lower risk of hypertension in our cohort of over 31,000 men," Flint told the press.


The relationship between whole grain intake and hypertension risk remained even after accounting for the male participants' fruit and vegetable intake, use of vitamins, amount of physical activity, and whether or not they were screened for high blood pressure.

This suggests that the association was independent of these markers of a healthy lifestyle behavior pattern. It's possible, the researchers say, that the men that ate more whole grains gained less weight over time. The current findings, Flint and colleagues explained, "have implications for future dietary guidelines and for the prevention of hypertension."


This is not a new idea. The most recent scientific studies help to lend credibility and validity to the claims and to studies using fewer people. For years, books have touted the health benefits of whole grains. In the 2008 book, The Cholesterol Hoax, Dr. Sherry A Rogers notes on page 181, "Whole grains are actually much higher in antioxidants than fruits and vegetables."


The section, "They Forgot the Whole Grains," explains the research regarding whole grains and the effect of whole grains on reducing heart disease risk, "Folks who have diets containing daily whole grains have 26% less heart disease, 36% fewer strokes, and a 43% lower cancer rate. In another study of 88 folks with high blood pressure, 73% of those who had two meals of whole grains a day dropped their blood pressure medications in half in addition to dropping their cholesterol and blood sugars (Pins, Jones)." Read the published scientific study, Pins JJ, et al. "Do Whole Grain oat cereals reduce the need for anti-hypertensive medications and improve blood pressure control? Journal of Family Practice 51: 353-359, 2002.


Raw vegan nut balls recipe

Your blood sugar and insulin levels may still rise if there's not enough fiber in your foods. You also don't want to have too much fiber in your foods. Have you had raw vegan nut balls sweetened with chopped fruit lately? There are many kinds of soluble and insoluble fiber-containing raw vegan dessert balls that can be made -- with or without seeds and nuts with a basic 'dough' of flaxseed meal and/or oat bran meal and/or raw oat meal stirred with chopped fruit such as apples or peeled kiwi, goji berries, sliced bananas, and chopped prunes or raisins. Without nuts or seeds, you could add chopped apples. With added nuts, you roll the balls in sesame seeds to coat them just before chilling.

If you're on a reversal diet of a maximum of 10 percent oils or fats daily without added nuts or seeds, use raw rolled oats (raw oat meal), and oat bran, chopped apples, raisins, goji berries, a dash of cinnamon, two medium-sized sliced bananas and a dash of cloves and ginger. You can add chopped pitted prunes if desired.


You also can use one cup of rolled oats (raw oatmeal) to 1/2 cup of oat bran (fine). Another variation is a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the mixture, but it will have a slightly bitter taste. So the chocolate flavor is optional.


Just chop your apples and dried fruit such as prunes, raisins, goji berries, and two sliced bananas and add the oat meal and oat bran. Don't cook anything. Moisten with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of almond milk if you're vegan. You can also moisten with Greek-style strained nonfat, unsweetened yogurt if you're into dairy products. If you're vegan, any milk substitute works whether it's almond milk or soy milk.


The finely chopped dried fruit and two sliced bananas sweeten the mixture enough

If you're cooking for kids and are not on a reversal diet where you strictly limit your daily oils, fats, nuts, and seed intake, you can make nutballs. Or you can roll the vegan balls in unhulled sesame seeds, if you're allowed to eat seeds. This dessert doesn't require baking. When it's chilled, the oat bran and oat meal keep the balls together so they don't quickly fall part when you pick one up and eat it. It's a great substitute for cookies when kids come home from school asking for the more familiar commercial processed cookies and milk. A plus is the fiber.


Raw vegan cookie balls with fruit and raw oat meal

Here's a way you and your children can make healthier snacks together without cooking the raw vegan 'cookies.' Make nutballs with your kids. Why serve cookies and milk to kids as a snack when they arrive home from school?


As an alternative snack, ask your children to help you make make raw, vegan snack foods with you from nuts, oat bran, and oat meal moistened with a little soy or almond milk, and formed into balls. These snacks are great for including in lunch boxes. Just pack them in baggies next to the luncheon foods kids take to school.


The nuts and oat meal/oat bran combination with ground sesame seeds and a tablespoon or two of flax seeds (ground to a meal consistency) along with the almonds and walnuts supply some omega 3 fatty acids to help balance the dietary needs of people of all ages.


Instead of overloading on snacks containing too much omega 6 fatty acids, try a combination of nuts, seeds, and oats along with some dried fruit. Eat in moderation. It's healthier than eating a box of cookies between meals. Eat a handful, not a can full of the nuts and seeds or dried fruits. And these raw vegan nut balls also provide some fiber.



1 cup of raw almonds

1 cup of raw walnuts

1/4 cup of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of flax seeds

1 cup of raw oat meal (Old Fashioned Quaker Oats is fine).

1/3 cup of raw coarse oat bran

1/3 cup raw oatmeal

1/2 cup of pitted prunes, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup chopped pitted dates and/or dried figs (optional)

1 organic banana, sliced in thin circles

(Optional) - 1/2 cup of finely chopped raw apples to mix in before you form the balls.

1/2 cup of liquid such as soy milk, juice, water, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, or any non-dairy milk substitute. If you eat dairy products, you can use Greek-style nonfat, unsweetened yogurt. Use enough to keep the grains sticking together.


Optional: Roll the formed dessert balls in sesame seeds to coat them before chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours so that they hold together better. The oat bran in the dessert balls helps keep the raw oatmeal moistened with almond milk sticking together as finger food.


You can substitute for the prunes dried nectarines or apricots for prunes. Or use your favorite flavors of chopped, dried fruits such as dried blueberries, dried cherries, or any dehydrated chopped fruit of your choice.



1. Grind the nuts and seeds in a dry grinder, coffee grinder, or other grinding machine, such as a Vita-Mix dry grinder, until the nuts and seeds combination is the consistency of meal. Place the ground nuts and seeds in a large glass bowl or other container.

2. Add the oat meal, oat bran, and chopped dried fruit.

3. Add the liquid, such as soy milk to create the consistency of a meat ball so that the nuts and oats stick together to form a ball. If too dry, add more milk substitute, juice of your favorite fruit, or water. If too wet, add more oat bran and oat meal.

4. Mix everything together and form into balls about the size of meat balls. You can add 1/2 cup of finely chopped apples spiced with a dash of cinnamon (optional).

5. Put the nut balls into a large covered glass bowl or similar container and refrigerate for two hours.

6. Serve chilled as a raw, vegan snack, dessert, or cookie substitute. Or serve with a cup of mint or decaf green tea on the side.

The ground nut balls can last in the refrigerator about two to three days. You also may wish to see my You Tube video on how to make vegan, raw nut balls.