Today’s post looks at some quick reasons why you should avoid grains. This is part of my 5 quick.. series, which are short and informative articles about important nutrition and lifestyle topics.
If there is a topic you’d like to learn more about then please get in touch via the contact page.
1. Grains are high in refined carbohydrates
Grains are predominantly carbohydrates. Some grains like wheat and rye contain the protein gluten, which is incredibly damaging to the gut. But that is a whole other story.
The main way in which we consume grains is in a heavily processed form, from foods such as bread, pasta, rice and sweet treats like cakes. These foods are high in refined carbohydrates, which means they cause a big spike in blood sugar. High blood sugar is toxic so your body stores it as fat. Overconsumption of these supposed “staple” foods directly causes obesity, diabetes and a huge range of hormonal imbalances.
Cutting out grains from your diet causes a significant reduction in the amount of refined carbohydrate you’re eating, which will lead to significant health improvements. I am not saying cut out all carbs, just the refined ones.
What does refined mean? Read on…
2. Grains contain little nutrients
Refined foods are those that have been processed and stripped of their nutrients. This is particularly the case with grains because we eat them in the form of bread, pasta and white rice.
During processing grains lose almost all their nutritional value (which isn’t that high to start with) so the good bits (such as B-vitamins) that were originally in the grain’s structure, disappear. The end product is a high carb and low nutrient snack that will make you fat, but fail to nourish you.
But what about whole grains you ask? Surely they haven’t been stripped of their nutrients. Not entirely true. All grains require some kind of processing to make them edible, because without this humans cannot digest them. You don’t eat wheat in its natural form, even if it is as wholegrain bread. All grains have been processed and therefore lost nutrition.
Humans can’t digest grains? Read keep reading…
3. Grains block nutrient absorption
Grains contain compounds called phytic acid, also commonly referred to as phytates. Phytic acid is found in varying quantities in plant foods such as grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and acts as the main stored form of phosphorous.
Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient, because it blocks nutrient absorption. Pyhtic acid isn’t inherently evil; however, it does negatively impact human digestion.
Phytic acid binds to important minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron and actually inhibits our absorption of them. This becomes a double whammy effect – not only are grains very nutrient poor to begin with, but they actively prevent absorption of other minerals.
This means when you eat a healthy meal accompanied by bread or rice, you aren’t getting nearly as much nutrition as you thought.
4. Grains cause leaky gut
Like all other living organisms the primary purpose of a grain is to propagate – spread its seeds so that grain family keeps on living. Like all other living organisms grains contain protective mechanisms to ensure that they do in fact propagate.
Grains can’t run away from predators like other animals, so their defence mechanisms are in built into the bran/shell. This part of the grain contains a host of proteins, including lectins. Lectins are also a kind of anti-nutrient that block absorption of important minerals.
Lectins are not properly digested by humans. This is great for the grains because it means we spread their seeds for them when we discharge them at the other end (in nature that is, not in the toilet).
However, lectins are incredibly damaging to the human gut lining. A gut that was not designed for grains. Our digestive system is far closer to that of a tiger than a cow. We are designed to eat a predominantly meat based diet, not grains and grass. Therefore consuming grains, and the lectins within them, can cause leaky gut.
Lectins are highly inflammatory and damage the delicate epithelial cells that line our digestive system. When damaged food particles can escape the gut and enter the blood stream causing our immune system to go into overdrive.
Leaky gut also disrupts the very delicate balance of bacteria that inhabit our gut and can lead to bloating, immune dysfunction and a host of other conditions.
5. Grains are monocrops that are destroying the planet
Grains are often touted as the solution to feeding a growing population because they supposedly produce less green house emissions and don’t require the slaughter of animals. However, grains are monocrops – meaning just one kind of plant variety that requires deforestation and clearing of huge amounts of land.
We often over look this when we compare meat such as beef to grains. All over the world unfathomable numbers of native flora and fauna have been cleared to allow crops such as wheat, rice and cotton to be planted. Then companies like Monsanto come in with their pesticides and herbicides and make sure that everyone has to use their chemicals to keep the crops alive.
We have destroyed most of the world’s topsoil through clearing huge swaths of land for annual monocrops. Unlike much native vegetation, which lives and dies throughout the year on a cycle, grains are designed to live short life spans and get big fast. They will take over anything around them, ensuring there is no chance that native flora can survive. Because we continuously plant the same crops (hence monocrops) over and over we have degraded the soil to the point where it cannot sustain life. So then we bring in fossil fuel produced, synthetic fertiliser to keep things going. Not great for the planet, huh?!
On the other hand if we raised animals properly by feeding them on grass and rotating them across large amounts of land, then we do have the chance to revitalise the earth.
What are the ingredients for healthy soil? Animal bones, blood and poo. The alternative is synthetically produced fossil fuels to add the necessary nitrogen to soil. I know which sounds more natural to me, and what I want to be eating.
Giving up grains was a huge turning point in my life.
Within a week I felt more energised, my digestion flowed better and I lost weight. Taking out these franken-foods has helped me heal my relationship with the stuff that nourishes me.
If this is a challenge you want to take on, then do it with the support of a nutritional therapist. Get in touch via the contact page.