It’s a common misconception that “whole grains” and “healthy” are two terms that go well together. If you find yourself thinking, “Well, don’t they,” you’re not alone. The more we examine what we put into our mouths, the more we realize the true definition of healthy.
A Little History
I could throw you 100 citations of medical findings and books; but instead, I’ll give you something that just makes sense: history. Here are some facts:
- From Archeological evidence, we know that 2 million years ago the first member of our genus, Homo Erectus, lived.
- From 2 million years ago until 10,000 years ago, we were primarily hunters and gatherers. This means for 95% of the time that humans have been on this Earth, we have eaten the food available to us from hunting and gathering.
- Our bodies and health changed dramatically after the Agricultural Revolution (only 10,000 years ago). During the Agricultural Revolution, we settled down and had a more sedentary lifestyle and started depending on grains in bulk. The problem is that our bodies were already evolved to eat a certain way, and our genetic makeup wasn’t changing to adapt to these grains. We had evolved with a nomadic lifestyle and a variety of wild foods not including grains. People did not decide to start eating grains because they were healthy; they ate them because they are a good stock food to provide for many. Today our grains are almost nothing like the grains of our ancestors, so it is hard to even compare them.
Note: When something evolves, its genetic makeup is best fit to the environment and thus survives and reproduces. humans were best fit eating the diet of hunters and gathers, not the Standard American Diet.
But wait! “I thought whole wheat bread was good for us? Grains are at the base of the food pyramid.”
Wrong! It’s extremely sad they are at the base of our food pyramid and are partly the reason our country is suffering an obesity epidemic. Gluten is a huge problem.
I heard gluten was in bread. What is that and why are there so many gluten-free diets?
Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, rye and recently, it was found that it is in oats. It is thought now that ⅓ of our population has gluten sensitivity. One-third of our bodies sees gluten as a threat to our body, and this causes inflammation and bad health. Ever had diarrhea, bloating after eating, or stomach aches? Probably all of you have. Best bet is that you may have some intolerance to gluten. It’s not normal to get stomach aches, and gluten is one of the culprits.
Oh okay, so if it’s labeled ‘gluten-free’, can I eat it?
Not necessarily…. When you hear people criticizing gluten-free diets, they’re typically pinpointing people who simply replace their favorite gluten items with processed “gluten free” items. In other words, someone on a gluten free diet may just replace his or her favorite cookies with gluten free cookies. These still may contain other unhealthy grains, sugars, and chemicals that cause just as much metabolic damage. Just because something is gluten free does not mean it is healthy. Instead I suggest foods that are naturally gluten free: fruits, veggies, meats, seafood, nuts (PALEO). And on another note: MANY foods we think of as naturally gluten free, like corn for example, are cross contaminated with gluten and have another set of problems with them.
But I still don’t see the point. I’m going to eat my sandwich anyway.
Here’s the point:
- Our bodies aren’t adapted to eating gluten, or grains in general.
- You are putting yourself in harm by eating it: inflammation, permeability of the gut (which leads to leaky gut), and other autoimmune diseases.
- Foods with heavy carbs like breads and pastas and baked goods all contain gluten and those foods are terrible for you in more ways than one.
- Wheat actually has a higher glycemic index than sucrose (table sugar).
- Try going gluten free and see how much better you feel.
Grains have Anti-Nutrients: Phytates and Lectins
Let’s look at what a grain is. All organisms have survival mechanisms because they do not want to die and be consumed by other organisms. Imagine you are a grain. If you were smart, you would come up with a way to destroy whatever is trying to destroy you. Seeds do not want to be digested; they want to be passed on to be able to grow again. They want you to poop them out; they do not want you to absorb their nutrients, so they attack your intestines in hope that you do not eat them again. ENTER toxic anti-nutrients: phytates, and lectins.
Phytates bind with nutrients (like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron) and prevent their absorption in the intestines. They are literally anti-nutrients. This could be the reason people are deficient in all of these essential minerals.
Lectins can start an immune response in your body, but the problem is they look an awful lot like your body cells. This means the body will not only attack the lectin from the grain, but it will attack your body also. The immune system will attack your intestinal walls and puncture holes in them. This is called leaky gut.
Note: Nuts and seeds contain both of these anti-nutrients and should be soaked well before eaten.
Grains, though promoted as “the healthy alternative,” actually contain nothing essential to your health. They cause significant damage to your body and I think that you will find that giving up grains could be one of the best decisions for your health. You do not want to be consuming things that attack your intestines and make your gut more permeable.