Apologies to all you bread lovers out there, but I’m going to get straight to the point on this one. Grains aren’t as healthy as you think, yep, even ‘healthy whole grains’. I explain why below.
Firstly lets look at the natural order of things and how plant species live in the wild; they grow, survive, and reproduce. Its pretty obvious that plants don’t have legs so they can’t run away from their predators and they don’t have claws or razor sharp teeth to fight for survival and protect their young. So how do they ensure the survival of their species? Through toxins that protect their seeds from being digested so they can germinate once they have passed through the digestive system of their predators. Dr Chris Kresser explains a toxin as being something capable of causing disease or damaging tissue when it enters the body. This is exactly what the protection components of grains are. Lets take a look at these components more closely.You can read the hyperlinked articles for further information, do some more research if you like and then decide for yourself. I suspect most people won’t give them up, but at least you will know the facts. For some people, it may flick on a little light bulb…
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley (plus a gazillion products on the supermarket shelf). You’ve surely heard of this bad boy before, probably because you see gluten free products everywhere! You may have even wondered why there is a need for all these products to contain no gluten in them? The reason is because gluten damages the lining of our intestines and then we start having trouble digesting our food correctly. Some people can’t tolerate it very well and end up with an ‘upset tummy’, others can’t have it at all because it causes an autoimmune response. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but the problem is that a compromised digestive tract will undoubtably lead to other complications…down the track. And even if you can’t tell now, it is compromising yours too. Further to this, gluten also causes our gut to become ‘leaky’ or permeable to food items that it shouldn’t be. This can lead to all sorts of food sensitivities and unpleasant side effects, not to mention putting the body in a state of constant systemic inflammation. Read more about gluten here, here or here.
Lectins are another protein, found in animals (including humans) and plants and have a protective role in both. They are particularly concentrated in grains and the protective role they play here is to cause digestive upset to any predators that eat it, in the hope that it won’t come back to eat more. The damage caused during this protection further contributes to a ‘leaky gut’ (as mentioned above). Lectins are a known anti nutrient and are resistant to our digestive enzymes, meaning we can’t digest them and this causes our body to create antibodies to them. Mark Sisson refers to lectins as natures pesticides. “They can perforate the intestinal lining and disrupt our immune systems”. Read more about lectins here.
These little buggers bind to minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron (to name a few) and make them unavailable to the body. Unfortunately, we humans only have a tiny amount of phytase (the enzyme required to digest phytates) which means that the majority of the bound minerals don’t get absorbed. In this study it states that “Excessive ingestion of undegraded phytates can cause mineral deficiencies in humans.” Know anyone with an zinc deficiency? Well, this study says that “High phytate content of the cereal proteins consumed in the developing world, results in decreased availability of zinc for absorption.”
Grains are seeds. Seeds need to sprout in order to grow. But there is no point in a seed sprouting if it is lying in soil that has no water in it because it will just die. To ensure this doesn’t occur, enzyme inhibitors stop the germination process from occurring unless they are deactivated by moisture. Once deactivated, sprouting occurs. Who cares right? Well the issue is that some of these enzyme inhibitors also inhibit our ability to digest the grains.
Lets summarise all that into a bite size piece:
Ok, so your not gluten intolerant and you don’t get an ‘upset stomach’ from eating grains. That means your all good to eat them right? Well sure… unless you want to be healthy in the years to come. The thing is, your not going to drop dead tomorrow if today you eat some grains. But, it will slowly compromise your health and contribute to the common diseases of today. Why? Because humans are not adapted to eating grains – Full stop. Our genes are still 99.9% the same as they were when we were cavemen, and they didn’t waste their time eating this nutrient poor, toxin containing food.
- Do you have access to fresh vegetables, meat, fruit, eggs? If you do then why not get your nutrients from these sources, they won’t come back and bite you on the bum! Grains really aren’t the wholesome nutritional source they are made out to be. Whatever nutrients you are getting from grains, you can get from other foods, in equal or higher amounts.
- Grains are stored in massive silo’s for weeks, transported, processed, transported again and then sit on our supermarket shelves for weeks and often months. How many nutrients do you think still remain by the time they reach your plate?
- Have you read the label on your grain product lately? Is it fortified? This means that nutrients were added after it was processed. If they are so good for us why do we have to add nutrients?
- The body isn’t designed to deal with the massive amounts of carbs we consume (eh-hem, wheat flour) and it wreaks havoc on our blood glucose levels. Carbs are broken down into glucose which means that the pancrease needs to produce insulin to remove the glucose from our bloodstream. The constant insulin spikes do a lot of damage. Diabetes is a huge issue for modern society and grains are a big player in this
- Have you seen the Sick and Tired adverts on TV lately regarding ciliacs disease? See them here
There are still other things I would love to talk about regarding grains but I don’t want to bombard you with too much information (or bore you!). What you have just read has probably already got your head spinning. It most certainly had mine spinning when I first started to learn about this. You don’t have to agree with me on this topic and you definitely don’t need to fear it. The sole reason that I am writing about this is to bring it to your attention. Because you have a right to know and a right to make an informed decision. Do with this info whatever you choose, its your life.
If you aren’t willing to give up your beloved grains, you may consider preparing them correctly to help reduce the effects of all the toxins. See here for details, but be aware that this won’t remove all of them and some negative effects will still occur.
If you are interested, I think it is really worth your while to eliminate grains from your diet completely for at least a month (preferable 3) so that you can judge for yourself exactly what they are doing to you. The key here is that you will never know that they way your feeling isn’t normal until you don’t feel that way anymore. When I first eliminated grains I lasted 2 and 1/2 months and these are the surprising results I discovered:
- My digestive upset went away (this is an obvious one)
- I fell asleep so much easier and when I woke up, I felt refreshed.
- My fingernails were strong, rather than thin and peeling.
- My knees stopped aching.
- My acne improved heaps.
- I felt happier. Yep.
I hope your intrigued enough to give it a go. You really won’t regret it!