Why is everybody dissing grains?

While completing the Whole30 restart, grains were not allowed. In any form. Yes, that included quinoa. Now that I’m reintroducing foods,  I just gotta know what’s so bad about grain? I think we all know that white flour is like white sugar: it’s been processed to the point of being devoid of nutrients and can lead to insulin resistance. Here’s a breakdown of  some of the popular lifestyle plans.

Wheat Belly: this lifestyle asserts that wheat raises blood sugar and increases appetite. In addition to gluten, wheat contains a unique gliadin protein that stimulates appetite (it  can actually cause subtle euphoria in some people, leading to addiction). Apparently, that’s one reason why wheat is added to so many processed foods.  Today’s wheat is not the same wheat our ancestors ate. It’s been manufactured and processed in order to be easy to grow and cheap. The creators of Wheat Belly make in an interesting case that, while our ancestors harvested wheat for thousands of years, they weren’t the picture of health and vitality as a result. Wheat Belly says that eliminating wheat also leads to a reduction in deep visceral fat in the abdomen. Eliminating wheat does not equal going gluten-free. There are gluten-free products that are made with ingredients that have an even greater effect on blood sugar: tapioca starch, cornstarch, rice flour and potato flour being the worst. Wheat also contains lectins which impair digestion plus a whole array of other proteins that can react differently in each person’s digestive tract.

Paleo (pay-lee-o): the premise is that humans should follow a diet similar to that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors (hence the name…paleolithic). The basic premise is that we need higher protein, higher fiber, low carbs and lower glycemic index, and a bunch of other stuff listed on the website. Paleo proponents contend that ancient humans did not evolve to eat cereal grains properly (we aren’t built for grains) which has now contributed to the development of chronic diseases in our species.  Grain milling eliminates the nutrients from most of the commonly consumed grains. Manufacturers replace these nutrients with man-made replicas. The gluten in this engineered wheat/grain causes inflammation in the gut, is fattening and addictive.

Modern grains contain lectin which can irritate gut lining as well as suppress your hunger signal which means you feel hungry even when full. They also contain phytates which prevent absorption of minerals and gluten which can aggravate the digestive tract.

Grain Brain: the theory is that carbs, even healthy ones like whole grains, can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and much more. This plan says it’s ok to eat non-gluten grains such as quinoa, gluten-free oats, buckwheat, rice, millet, sorghum and teff. If you soak your own grains before eating, then you can have them as long as you monitor carb consumption. On this plan, you can have a glass of red wine a day. Bonus! Grain Brain creators espouse that gluten is bad for everyone even if you don’t have celiac disease because as many as 30% of the population may be sensitive to gluten (um, sounds like 70% of people may not be sensitive to gut-irritating effects of gluten then).

What about oats? Oats contain some of the same antinutrients found in legumes and grains like phytic acid and lectins. They contain gluten and are high in carbs, even though their high fiber content lowers their glycemic index.

OK, now what. I’ve tried baking with coconut and almond flour. It’s just not the same. Maybe my problem isn’t with the flours themselves, but with what my brain thinks the food should taste like. For example, I made some Fudgy Paleo Brownies last week. If I’d never eaten a brownie before I probably would have thought they were delicious. They smelled and tasted chocolatey and their consistency was fudgy and brownie-y, but they weren’t what my brain expected a brownie to taste like. That’s partly due to the flour and partly due to the lack of sweetness that I’m used to. I’m learning that I can’t substitute Paleo-friendly, low glycemic index, wheatless baked goods without there being some shock and disappointment so why even try. That really sucks. I want to be able to have breads, muffins, cakes, brownies and all the other oven-baked treats I’m used to.

What if I just reduce/eliminate the sugar and processed food but keep the grains? My research has left me very confused on the actual goal of the grain-free movement. I don’t have celiac and I don’t appear to have a gluten sensitivity so why do I need to remove grains from my diet?  My mother-in-law has eliminated sugar but kept grains and had great health benefits as a result. I lost the baby weight after my third child was born by eating only wheat options like pasta, flour and bread. I’m kinda in a tailspin trying to figure out the right path to follow. My takeaways from my research are that cereal grains can cause gut problems, grains are high in carbs and can cause spikes in blood sugar which can lead to insulin resistance if spikes are ongoing, modern wheat can be addictive if you are sensitive to it, manufacturers have striped most cereal grains of their nutrients. On the bright side, rice and quinoa haven’t been totally ruined for us…yet.

No grains on the plate,

Wendy

 

 

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