Do you think Angelina Jolie poops a lot? I don’t normally think of the toothy actress much but the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about her and her dietary habits, especially as I’ve been spending a lot of time on the potty thanks to her. Constipation is very rarely an issue for me and the past week it’s been really not an issue, if you know what I mean. The problem, as I’ve decided through the process of elimination (hahah!) and toilet-googling (don’t lie, you’ve done it!), is the hemp seeds. Or maybe the problem is I took food advice from a celebrity. Or maybe the problem is I took food advice from an “unnamed source close to the Jolie-Pitts” when I read a concern-trolly article about Angelina’s new-found devotion to ancient grains (aka the “birdseed diet”).
Really it all started decades ago with my many years as a vegetarian. Here’s my dirty little omnivorous secret: I don’t love meat. I mean, I don’t hate it either and I certainly eat plenty of it now as I’ve found that I need it in my diet to be healthy, happy and sane (well, sane for me). But I’ve never been a huge meat lover and I’m still not. I don’t crave steak. Hamburgers never sound good to me (unless I’m pregnant). Pork gives me the unexplained willies. And chicken wings are the one food 100% guaranteed to give me an IBS attack. My cravings are almost exclusively for popcorn and sweets (fruit and fruit-flavored candy mainly). Let’s face it: I’m a carbivore. I’m a carb-lover in a world that’s increasingly carb-hating. Have you seen the headlines on wheat lately? Serial killers get more positive press.
Yet grains have never really hurt me. (That I know of. Lots of people like to point out that gluten causes systemic inflammation which I may not even notice until it’s too late. So perhaps my insides are secretly exploding like confetti raining down on the welcome parade for mobsters C.Diff and E.Coli.) But whether it’s just from cultural osmosis or because the research on wheat is becoming quite convincing, I’ve sort-of subconsciously started avoiding it. The past couple of years have found me eating a lot of eggs for breakfast. And while I do think eggs are a great source of protein and a delicious breakfast, all things being equal I’d still rather eat muesli. (Holy crap I love that chewy-crunchy blend of raw grains, dried fruit and seeds.)
I’m really, really, really sick of eggs.
So when I read about Angelina’s “ancient grains diet” I thought maybe this was my perfect breakfast compromise: I could have my cereal and eat it too — minus the GMO-warped, gluten-laced, franken-grains that modernity has gifted us. (Also, my super-smart friend Shellie was eating them too and singing their praises and I love her so much I’d lick peanut butter off pinecones if she told me to.) Everything ancient is cool these day! Squatting to potty, oil pulling, not washing our hair, eating dirt and sunning our lady bits are not only trendy but they’re old-trendy!
Here’s a quick and dirty list of most of the foods people are talking about when they refer to “ancient grains”:
1 – 4. Farro, spelt, kamut, freekeh: These are all varieties of wheat but before you freak out, they all have much better nutritional profiles than the modern, common dwarf wheat that’s been bred to be more hardy than nutritious. Obviously they all contain gluten but some people who are mildly intolerant of regular wheat find they are able to digest these better. (Note: lots of people are worried about GMO wheat but that actually doesn’t exist in the marketplace… yet. It’s still considered experimental and isn’t grown commercially. If you are worried about GMOs, corn and soy are your frenemies.)
5. Sorghum: The 5th most important crop world-wide due to drought intolerance. Yet most Americans haven’t heard of it, even though it’s the 3rd largest grain crop in the US, because we feed it to animals. It is a grain but it’s gluten-free.
6. Millet/teff: Known as the cutest grain (christened by me, you’re welcome), these itsy bitsy widdle grains are a worldwide staple, high in calcium and magnesium. Millet is actual a subtype that includes five different types of which teff is one of the best known. Gluten-free.
7. Amaranth: A grain known for having three times the fiber and protein of modern grains like wheat and corn. Also gluten-free.
Stuff People Think Are Grains But Are Actually Seeds
8. Quinoa: Probably the trendiest of the trendy and also the most expensive, this seed is one of a few plant-sourced complete proteins.
9. Chia seeds: Not only do they grow “hair” on comical clay statues that provide equal amounts of entertainment for my kids and my cat but they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
10. Buckwheat groats: Despite their name, they are neither wheat nor buck so all you gluten- and deer- averse folk can relax. (They’re totally groat though. Um, enjoy?) This seed is known as the “ultimate cholesterol-lowering food”. Take that smug Cheerios commercials!
11. Hemp seeds: Let’s just get this out of the way first — no you can’t get high off them (the THC is in the leaves of the plant) and you can’t smoke them. You can’t make them into suburban-subversive necklaces either. (What up Middle School!) Rather, these seeds are known for have a perfect fat/fiber/protein balance and, like quinoa, are a complete protein.
12. Wild rice: This is not rice. It’s also not a grain. These seeds, taken from marsh grasses, are known for being very high in fiber and having a unique blend of antioxidants and minerals dependent on the area in which they are grown.
(Here’s a great article going into more detail about the health benefits of each grain/seed in case my sarcastic, inane commentary isn’t enough for you.)
My Birdseed Experiment
I have tried all of these grains/seeds. All. of. them. Plus a few more I didn’t include on this list because they’re not widely available and/or I thought they were vile. So after giving them all a whirl (including an ill-fated sprouting experiment that I won’t go into right now), I picked my breakfast blend based on nutritional qualities (specifically high in fats and protein), ease of preparation (I didn’t want to have to pre-cook them, sorry wild rice I love you anyhow!) and taste.
So I bought chia seeds, hemp seeds and buckwheat groats in bulk, shook them up in a large container and stuck them in my fridge. (You should refrigerate chia and hemp as the oils can break down and go rancid faster at room temp.) Every morning I’ve poured out about 1/4 cup.
It totally does look like birdseed! Aren’t they so pretty??
Then I topped them with some raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds which I impulse-bought at the store.
I’m not shilling this brand but I had to include the package because it cracked me up. “Gluten Free! Wheat free! Nut free!” — I should hope so seeing as they’re not a grain and not a nut, unless there are some pumpkins having a serious identity crisis. Also love that they’re “all hand made” – what does that even mean?? Do they not use spoons to stir them?
I then pour a bunch of milk over them. I use unsweetened coconut milk but you can use full-fat cow’s milk, almond or whatever liquid you like. Even water works although it’s not as tasty. I know that doesn’t sound like much food but a) they’re highly caloric and b) they expand in liquid like sea monkeys! They totally fill me up.
I let it sit for a few minutes to let the seeds soak up the liquid.
Does it look like I’m eating cereal in bed? I would never do that! Never. That is so gross. Pay no attention to the duvet under my bowl.
And boy do they soak it up! Do you see how thick it is? I can turn my spoon upside down and they don’t fall off! Those of you who are fans of “chia pudding” are probably laughing right now as y’all have been doing this trick for years but it’s definitely different with the other grains in there. I cannot stand chia pudding. It’s like eating chunky, slimy snot. That gets stuck in your teeth. This cereal, thanks to the hemp and groats is like CRUNCHY snot thank you very much. And it still gets stuck in your teeth. (Thanks to poor planning, I spent a whole morning running errands yelling MY KINGDOM FOR A FLOSS PICK!) But in my humble opinion they taste way better. The hemp is kind of grassy while the groats are kind of nutty. The groats are by far my fave. I can eat them straight by the handful.
And you can do any kind of combination of the above grains that you like. I think next time I’ll add some quinoa and maybe toasted millet for funzies. It’s delish!
UPDATED TO ADD: A couple of people requested the nutritional info. For one serving (1/4 c or 4 Tbsp) of my concoction: 130 calories/8g fat/4g fiber/7g protein/11g carbs/0g sugar
Although now that I’ve talked it all up I have to give you two warnings:
1. This is not sweet. At all. Most people see breakfast cereal/porridge and think sweet but unless you add sugar, stevia, syrup, dried berries or Taylor Swift then this is a savory breakfast. I personally don’t mind savory breakfasts (I used to eat my oatmeal unsweetened too) but for some people this feels like a bait-n-switch.
2. HEMP MAKES YOU HAVE MAD POOPS. Which brings me full circle to Angelina Jolie and her defecation habits. According to the articles I read (yes plural, shut it), Angelina is eating a mixture of ancient grains for three meals a day. I eat it once in the morning and it causes some serious gastric gymnastics like whoa. I can’t even imagine what it’s doing to her. It took me a while to figure out which grain was causing this effect but it’s definitely the hemp. If you are the stuck-up sort (and I don’t mean snobby) then this will be your new fave breakfast. If you’re like me, it will be a bit surprising. Either way don’t eat it and then get right on the bus for an hour-long commute. Or head straight to the gym. I learned this the hard way.
Any of you eat ancient/weird grains – what’s your fave? Do you feel better about eating these types of grains than traditional wheat products or do you think this all marketing hype? What’s the last weird impulse buy you made?
*Now I’m going to blow your mind: Corn is not a vegetable. It’s a grain. It is gluten-free but it’s not considered “ancient” even though it’s been around forever — I’m guessing the GMOs got it kicked out of the club. That and poor rice.
** There is a boxed cereal called “Ancient Grains”. I’ve never tried it. It’s processed and loaded with sugar. Anyhow, note that this is NOT a review of that cereal.