SEEDS, GRAINS, CEREALS, NUTS, and LEGUMES
Botanically speaking, all cereals are grains, and all grains are seeds.... confused ???
A "seed" is the fertilized, mature ovule of a flowering plant, containing an embryo or rudimentary plant... still confused ?
Let's try another approach... "cereals" are any plant of the grass family yielding an edible grain (e.g., wheat, rye, millet, oats, kamut, triticale, rice, barley, or corn). "Grains" are a small, hard edible seed of a flowering plant, not limited to grasses (e.g., purslane, chia, hemp)... except for buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa, which are called "pseudo-cereals", and then there are nuts (almond, hazelnut, pecan, walnut, etc.), which are botanically a hard, dry fruit with an edible kernel. No, peanuts are not true nuts, but actually a legume... and that brings us full-circle to legumes, which are nitrogen-fixing plants bearing pods with edible seeds... if you're not TOTALLY lost by now, you must be a botanist !!!
What is important to understand here, from the Paleo/Primal perspective, is if you have to cook the seed, it's not allowed as part of the diet. "Processing" seed is a relatively recent occurrence in human history... early hunter/gatherer/scavengers were not cooking their food, let alone going thru the labor-intensive process of separating seed from chaff, grinding the seed, and then immediately consuming it (it would have gone rancid quickly, unless roasted or thoroughly dried).
For a very brief organic biochemistry lesson, grains contain chemical compounds called "phytates", "lectins", and "gluten".
"Phytates" are known by eight different names but the most common are phytic acid, inositol hexaphosphate and IP-6. Phytate is found in all plants because it stores the phosphorus needed to support germination and growth. An enzyme called phytase neutralizes the phytate to release the phosphorus. Plants and most animals have their own phytase. Unfortunately, humans do not. Bacteria in the small intestine produce small amounts, but not enough to digest phytate. The phytate then binds with iron, calcium and zinc, which means the minerals can’t be properly absorbed. The amount of phytate you'll get from any food source varies depending on growing conditions and processing techniques. Measurements used to report phytate content are sometimes stated as a percentage of dry weight and other times as milligrams in a 100-gram portion. Regardless of these differences, you’ll find wheat bran, rice bran, whole wheat, corn, rye, oats and brown rice at the top of the list. Phytate is highest in bran-based products. Whole-wheat flour has about half the phytate of bran but double the amount in corn, oat, rice or processed white flours. You can count on beans and nuts to contain phytate, but the amount ranges from approximately .4 percent to as high as 2 to 3 percent of dry weight. Soy, pinto, kidney and navy beans, as well as peanuts, are at the high end. They have double the amount of phytate found in peas, lentils, chickpeas, white beans, walnuts and mung beans. Unlike grains that have a large concentration of phytate in the bran, phytate is equally distributed throughout seeds. When dry weights are compared, potatoes have almost as much phytate as seeds, according to a study published in the April 2004 issue of the “Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.” Even though cooking typically eliminates some phytate, that’s not true in potatoes. Whether potatoes are baked, boiled, microwaved or fried, they retain virtually all of their phytate. Based on average consumption, the researchers noted that phytate consumed in cooked potatoes may account for a substantial portion of the average American’s daily intake of phytate. Some methods of commercial food processing destroy phytase, which means that the food retains more phytate. Other processes that actually reduce total phytate are soaking, fermenting and sprouting. Soaking rice, beans and raw nuts for 24 hours, followed by cooking them for the longest time possible, can reduce phytates by 50 percent, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation. When beans are sprouted, total phytate goes down by as much as 75 percent. Sprouting retains nutritional value, but the longer you soak and cook food, the more essential vitamins and minerals you’ll lose together with the phytate.
"Lectins" are a class of molecules called glycoproteins (molecules that contain a protein and a sugar). Because we don’t digest lectins, we often produce antibodies to them. Almost everyone has antibodies to some dietary lectins in their body. This means our responses vary. Certain foods can even become intolerable to someone after an immune system change or the gut is injured from another source. The presence of particular lectins can stimulate an immune system response. There are some lectins that no one should consume. Ever wonder why you don’t see sprouted red kidney beans? It’s due to phytohaemagglutinin – a lectin that can cause red kidney bean poisoning. The poisoning is usually caused by the ingestion of raw, soaked kidney beans. As few as four or five raw beans can trigger symptoms. Raw kidney beans contain from 20,000 to 70,000 lectin units, while fully cooked beans usually contain between 200 and 400 units. While many types of lectins cause negative reactions in the body, there are also health promoting lectins that can decrease incidence of certain diseases. Furthermore, the body uses lectins to achieve many basic functions, including cell to cell adherence, inflammatory modulation and programmed cell death. Ingesting lectins can often cause flatulence. Consuming legumes and grains in their raw form can even result in nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Indeed, some researchers have speculated that many apparent causes of bacterial food poisoning may actually be lectin poisoning. Often, GI distress happens because lectins can damage the intestinal lining. As food passes through the gut, it causes very minor damage to the lining of the GI tract. Normally the cells repair this damage rapidly. Since the purpose of the gut lining is to let the good stuff past and keep the bad stuff contained, it’s important for the cellular repair system to be running at full efficiency. But lectins can blunt this speedy reconstruction. Our cells can’t regenerate as fast as they need to in order to keep the intestinal lining secure. Thus, our natural gut defenses are compromised after the damage occurs and the gut can become “leaky,” allowing various molecules (including stuff we don’t want) to pass back and forth amid the gut wall. We may also not absorb other important things, such as vitamins and minerals, properly. When enough lectins are consumed, it can signal our body to evacuate GI contents. This means vomiting, cramping and diarrhea. It’s similar to consuming large amounts of alcohol, which can damage the GI lining and cause GI evacuation. When lectins affect the gut wall, it may also cause a broader immune system response as the body’s defenses move in to attack the apparent invaders. Symptoms can include skin rashes, joint pain, and general inflammation. Other chronic disorders may be correlated with leaky gut — for example, researchers have even noted* that children with autism have very high rates of leaky gut and similar inflammatory GI tract diseases. *http://ebm.sagepub.com/content/228/6/639.full
"Gluten" is made up of several families of proteins. The scientific name for the most studied of these sub-fractions of proteins is called "Gliadin".
Our distant ancestors ate almost no gluten grains. Grains started to be cultivated only ten to twelve thousand years ago, and even then, only in some parts of the world. The American continent, for example, had no gluten grains until they were introduced a few hundred years ago. Of all the grains, wheat is the number one culprit. Modern wheat is also very different from the wheat that grew in the Bronze Age and before because the United States genetically modified the grain to contain a higher percent of the wheat protein under the misguided premise that it would “feed the masses better” and be more nutritional. What they did not realize was the digestion of this protein was too broad a step for our genetics to go from hunter-gatherer and expect the body to genetically adapt to a higher concentration of this protein in the grain. Many of us have simply not yet adapted to tolerate grain, unlike ruminant animals that live off grasses and grains. Gluten constitutes 78 percent of the total protein in the modern wheat. Countries that adopted the use of this genetically modified wheat for a higher gluten content show a direct correlation to inflammatory and auto-immune diseases! This may explain why grain sensitivities are so widespread. There is now plenty of research to show that it is the specific subset of gluten, gliadin, that is an intestinal irritant and causes the inflammation to multiple tissue systems. Tragically, gliadin frequently causes the immune system to react as if it is not a component of nourishing food, but an invading microbe or worse, as though it is indistinguishable from normal organ tissues found in our bodies. The effects of gluten on the immune system, and brain, along with profound nutritional deficiencies that so often accompany gluten sensitivity, contribute to many modern inflammatory diseases that did not exist before the widespread use of gluten products. In those people who are genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity, eating these grains has serious detrimental effects on the body’s immune system. Gluten grains often trigger autoimmune disease (such as insulin- dependent diabetes, hypothyroidism, etc.) where the immune system, instead of protecting the body, aggressively turns against it, causing these chronic, debilitating inflammatory responses. If not a direct cause, gluten/gliadin’s presence in the body aggravates these conditions significantly. Other inflammatory diseases having potential links to gluten/gliadin proteins are Crohn’s disease, Celiac sprue, irritable bowel, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.