Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Ancient Grains"

Words are funny. Grains like quinoa, sorghum and teff are called Ancient. Okay, corn is just as ancient as those, as is wheat, potato, and rice.

But what they MEAN by ancient is that it has not been messed with by us as much. There is a wide sense that much of the conventional grains we eat -- and by extention, the products made from them -- are so stripped of their original nutrient content as to be functionally inert.

This is an extreme point of view. It's counterpoint states that corn is corn is corn and Genetic Mutant Corn from Mars is no different than Mayan Maize. This, too, is a point of view that "lives on the edge."

The truth, as always, is in the middle because the nutrition decrement you find in these products is there, but it is only slight.

Regardless of the exact quantitative difference between new grains and classic grains, this article by "Food Industry & Consumer Trends" makes the point that people are looking for more from the original. In this way, it really doesn't matter whether quinoa is as "original" or "ancient" as GMO grains, because consumers are seeking them out.

And the demand will drive the supply, just as the demand to remove High Fructose Corn Syrup drove that ingredient from food products. This is the power of concerted public opinion in food selection: demand drives supply.

The take-home message here is clear. What truly IS ancient is that altering our foods in any way from their natural state will have a short shelf life, as consumers are ultimately conservative on the basic strategies for being healthy. Eat real food.

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