Monthly Archives: October 2013

Barley – a Traditional Grain and a Health Powerhouse

stalks of barleyThis is post number 2 in our series of grains we can turn to if eating wheat is a problem, as it is for so many people.

Part 1 of this series on Wheat and Grains is here

Whether you have wheat allergy or wheat intolerance it is best not to continue eating wheat which just stresses the body and diverts the body's resources and energy.

Why feel lousy and suffer indigestion and worse from wheat when you can easily switch to barley instead?

And there are plenty of positive reasons to choose barley as a regular food.

Barley is the basic or default grain for many around the world. Whether you are from Northern Scotland as my Mother was or throughout Africa and the Middle East  – in fact right through to Tibet – Barley was the staff of life.

So I grew up as a "Barley boy" nourished by frequent Barley soups and happily make them now myself from Pearl Barley – our selection at home.

What's special about Barley is not on the simple ingredients of the nutrition label. Yes it is a worthwhile source of B vitamins and of the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc, all of which it's worth saying most people are short of.

What is special is the…fibre and please don't zone out or dismiss this as something to do with "being regular".

Fibre is really very complex and the effects on the body are really exciting.

  • Effects like powerfully regulating your blood sugar which is vital not just to diabetics but to all of us who may be hypoglycemic or even stressed.
  • Effects like powerfully regulating the inner environment in the gut so that healthy bacteria flourish there excluding disease causing bacteria. The health of your body depends on the health of your gut and if that is poor everything else will suffer. This one benefit is enough of a reason for any health conscious person to seriously consider including barley in their eating plans.
  • And effects like lowering blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol, reduces visceral fat – belly fat – and increases satiety that important signal from the brain that tells us with a satisfied sigh that we have eaten enough food and it's time to relax and digest it.

I could go on but the beneficial health effects mentioned so far are so important that I believe that anyone who wants to find simple and tasty foods to include in their diet and get all the health boosting effects in the bullet points is well served by using barley and it can be as simple as …

Barley Soup

For Pearl or Pot Barley

1 cup of barley grains

3 cups of water or vegetable stock

Add veggies according to taste. I will usually add

A handful of carrots cut into small pieces

I onion – diced

Half a Swede cut into small pieces

I don't add salt or spices to this I just let the veggies speak for themselves. Try this basic recipe first and then on the second time add some of your favourite foods and vary it.

That will give you a simple and nourishing soup ideal for all dull and cold days – ideal with your main meal or as a hot supper. Pearl barley takes 45 to 60 minutes and Pot barley may take an hour and a half.

And that is just the beginning. You can make Barley Tabular, Barley Bread – anyone who likes to experiment in the kitchen has a lot of fun ahead of them playing with Barley and giving the lucky souls eating their recipes one of the best superfoods in the world.


Whole Grains Council

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition



What’s Wrong With Paleo?

The word "Paleo" means "old", but in the context of food and eating pattern the word refers to the modern fad diet amusingly dubbed Paleo by its followers. I won't weigh in here with what I think is wrong with Paleo, because I'd prefer Dr Milton Mills to speak for himself.

Buckle in for a superb talk – get a cuppa, this lasts for nearly an hour…the sound starts rather quiet but is fine after 2 to 3 minutes.


What To Eat When You Can’t Eat Wheat

Red Amaranth flowersWheat is a problem food for many. They may not be allergic to it but eating it often leads to deep energy dips, headaches and many other unpleasant symptoms.

To be allergic or sensitive to the "Staff of life" is off-putting at first and people want reasons and alternatives.

Reasons will come soon in another post but here we are going to look at some of the other grains which are the "Staff of life" too.

Wheat has many alternatives so it makes sense to take a look albeit a brief look at the main contenders.

I could try to order these in order of a nutrient – that is, of how good they are for us and if I knew of a number we could use, apart from the basic anti-oxidant power I would use it. So for what follows I'll use alphabetical order so we have









and Teff

to look at.

So let's start…

Amaranth was a staple food of the Aztecs and has been cultivated for 8,000 years. It is a gluten free grain and unlike many contains the amino acid lysine, making amaranth protein a more complete protein than most grains.

It is also, according to the Whole Grain Council  the only grain to contain Vitamin C and the leafy greens contain vitamin A in the form of both beta carotene and lutein.

So who needs the GM so called "Golden Rice" when such a powerful nutritious food is so easily available? No one apart from the multinationals and vested interests selling it!

There's an interesting quote on the possible medicinal powers of Amaranth that I know you'll enjoy…

" More recently, molecular biologists in Mexico set out to study the bioactive peptides in amaranth’s protein and, in 2008, were the first to report the presence of a lunasin-like peptide.  Drawing a blank on lunasin?  It’s a peptide that was previously identified in soybeans and is widely thought to have cancer-preventing benefits as well as possibly blocking inflammation that accompanies several chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. " Whole Grains Council

Double helpings of Amaranth anyone?

This is an ancient food, found not just in South and Middle America but in India, and throughout the world. It has been baked into cookies and eaten by Space shuttle Astronauts as part of their diet. It grows easily in thin soil and cooks easily in 20 minutes in some boiling water.

Read the yellow highlighted bits above again and do yourself a favour and go buy some Amaranth!

Photo credit Wiki

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Air Pollution, Cancer Deaths and the WHO

air pollution in LondonThe media is currently publishing updates from the World Health Organisation, WHO, showing that air pollution is killing us.

That this is regarded as news is odd really. Back in the 1950s in London, my home town, we had the "Pea Soupers" – thick fogs caused mostly by householders burning sulphur rich coal in their homes.

Some of the horror of those times and a little science too is well explained here

"The London smog, compared with a normal fog or even other urban smogs, was especially lethal because it contained high quantities of sulphur oxides (from the cheap sulphurous coal) that reacted with the moisture in the air to produce a dilute, but lung-corrosive, sulphuric acid mist. The killer brew, to some people, triggered massive inflammation of the lungs – in other words thousands of people died almost through suffocation."

Hundreds of people died. In a major episode of fog in 1952 4000 extra deaths were recorded in the space of a few days!

Eventually the government stirred itself into action and passed "the Clean Air Act" banning the type of coal concerned and London air got cleaner and those of us suffering from asthma had an easier time of things.

As the years went by our new clean and sweet air was tainted by the number of cars increasing on the roads.

And the asthma cases got more common again!

We need another clean air act! And this time we get vehicles to stop burning fossil fuels! Electric only has to be the rule!

Given the above when the WHO published recent data showing Cancer deaths I barely batted an eyelid.

Air pollution has been killing thousands all round the world for decades and whether they die from asthma or heart attacks or cancer hardly matters. A love one dead may be a minor statistic to the authorities but it is a major life event to anyone else.

But Cancer is iconic. It inspires a unique and characteristic fear quite unlike any other disease so I guess that is why folks are noticing deaths now that in other causes of death would just slip under the radar.

From the point of view of a health conscious person wanting to help themselves as much as possible then avoiding exposure to toxic fog and smog is desirable. Sometimes however we have to work in polluted cities at least for a while.

So we turn to self help methods to build our defenses and detox the body.

1. First we can limit our exposure. We may not be able to live in a less polluted place right now but we should avoid needless exposure. Some people run and exercise near heavy traffic and this can be easily avoided.
2. Eat an anti-oxidant rich diet. The body needs lots of nutrient to counter act the toxic gas we breathe in and Vitamin C would be a main helper on this task. The toxic fog causes inflammation so several grams of vitamin C would be useful as well as a few desert spoons of ground flax seeds. Including greens and onions daily would give the body much needed support from these powerful plant families.
3. Many herbs can be used to give extra energy and support. Some for general endurance like Ginseng and others such as lobelia and thyme specially target the lungs
4. Personal help from a health practitioner is strongly recommended in such a trying situation so that your personal strengths and weaknesses can be accounted for.

We always have the option of responding with intelligent action s using the natural healing power of nature whenever we encounter tough circumstances. A good diet along with appropriate stress reduction can get us through most challenges.

Smog and other environmental challenges come and go and are best dealt with knowing how powerful your own choices are and how powerful natural remedies are.


London Smog gwire

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