have been the cornerstone of the human diet for thousands
of years. Early civilizations believed grains were so important
that each type of grain was thought to be a gift from the
Today, whole grain foods are being recognized by nutrition
experts as key sources of health-promoting substances such
and nutrients including fibre,
and certain vitamins.
Many myths and legends throughout different cultures around
the globe tell of the importance of grains. For example,
the god Demeter gave wheat to the Greeks; in Egypt, the
god Ra gave his people grains; and, the Aztecs gave thanks
to their corn goddess with amaranth grain products.
There is proof that over 10,500 years ago people started
to cultivate weeds and grasses in fertile regions of the
Middle East, which produced what we now know mainly as wheat
and barley. About 1,000 years later, in China, rice and
millet were cultivated from wild grasses. During this period
in Central America, corn was the main grain cultivated.
Since then, mankind has refined the science of agriculture,
which has resulted in cultivating and domesticating grains
and crops. This series of evolutionary steps helps to explain
why we now have so many different varieties of grains. Some
of the whole grains we eat each day have a very interesting
history. Here are some examples:
Wheat The first evidence
of wheat was discovered in an ancient civilization in what
is now Iraq, dating back to at least 6700 B.C. Wheat made
its way to England around the twelfth century and to the
New World with Christopher Columbus. Later, the pilgrims
would share their wheat with the Native American Indians
who were already growing corn. Much later during the civil
war, while the Union Army of the north had plentiful supplies
of wheat, the South worried about how to feed its soldiers
and fight the war too. Over time, the cultivation of wheat
spread all over the world and is still produced in more
quantity than any other crop on earth.
Rice The origins of
rice date back to at least 3500 B.C. in Thailand. Rice found
its way to Europe around the twelfth century and then to
America (South Carolina) in the late 1690's.
Oats The history of
oats dates back to Germany in 1000 B.C., but popularity of
this grain did not spread across Europe readily. This was
due in part to the bland flavour and the commonly held view
that it was "a food more suited for animals." In
the mid 1980's, oats were boosted to "health food"
status by research suggesting that a substance in it helped
prevent heart disease. Despite this, most of the oats produced
in North America are still used for animal food.