Experts weigh in on the benefits of whole grains

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- At the Gourmandise School at Santa Monica Place, a whole-grain conference educated both consumers and food professionals alike.

"The classrooms are focusing on sourdough bread production and whole-grain flours and that long fermentation process really helps with digestion," said Nan Kohler of Grist and Toll mill in Pasadena.

Kohler is not only passionate about great grains, but really wants people to understand the importance of using local heritage grains.

She explained how slow, natural fermentation baking may reduce grain intolerance.

"Time is actually helping activity that's going on in the bread, inside the bread pre-digests," said Kohler.

Kohler's mill also grinds grain slowly since heat reduces flavor and nutrition.

"Heritage grains have less gluten in them," said Jon Hammond of the Tehachapi Grain Project.

Hammond suggests additives, bake time and flour quality might be the challenge.

"The whole issue with white flour is people have taken the wheat berry. They've removed the bran, the germ, the actual seed itself and all that is left is the endosperm which is starchy food for the plant," said Hammond.

A collective of farms known as the Tehachapi Grain project grows spelt, Einkhorn, Abruztie rye and other local grains that are up to 400 years old.

The Gourmandise School's Sabrina Ironside wants consumers to use them or she fears we'll lose them.

"Supporting the farmers. The varieties of seeds that are left in the food system are so few. There are all these ancient heirloom grains that are not in the food system," said Ironside.

The two-day conference is over now, but the Gourmandise School offers baking about twice a month, which provides the opportunity not only to learn how to make heritage grain foods but also the importance of eating them.
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