Do We Really Need Grains?

11:13 AM Posted by jo


The government makes it sound like grains are essential for survival, but do we really need to eat grains? The government offers agricultural subsidy programs and wheat, soy, corn, and sugar just happen to be the most subsidized crops.

 Just as a comparison:

Meat/dairy receive almost 74% of the subsidies while fruit/vegetables receive 0.4%. Grains receive about 13% and sugar/alcohol/oil/starch receives almost 13%. (Mercola)

I find it interesting that the nutrition group that we should eat more of receives the least amount of money from the government. Hm, if the government really cared about our health you'll think they would support the fruit and vegetable growers more. Think about this next time you'll get a nutrition advise from the government. 

"I believe many of our society’s chronic health problems could be resolved if attention was paid, at the highest levels of government, to the root problem – our agricultural subsidies.
They could promote the growing and eating of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables by offering greater subsidies, which would significantly drive down the cost of those foods—but they don’t. Instead, US food subsidies have, and still are, creating a diet excessively high in factory-farmed meats, grains and sugars, with very little fresh fruits and vegetables or healthy fats from nuts and seeds." Mercola

I'm not going to lie, I have always loved bread and all the other things that include grains. Yes, that means cookies and cakes too.  I switched to "healthy" whole grains when I became  aware of the negative effects of refined grains. I thought I was being healthy by making whole grain muffins, banana bread, waffles, and oat meal cookies for the family.

Healthy or not?

I thought I was eating pretty well. I mean, grains provide energy, iron, fibers, and B-vitamins so we are told to eat several servings daily. Interestingly enough, more and more people are drastically turning their health around  by not eating grains. How can so many people feel healthier without grains?

Do we really need grains?

So, the question is, do we really need the grains? I guess it depends on who you listen to, if you listen to the government you learn that you need plenty of grains.  If you do your own research you'll you realize that you'll do fine without grains. Robb Wolf wrote something interesting in his book The Paleo Solution, he said that there are no such thing as essential carbohydrates. It's true when you think about, we discuss essential amino acids and essential fatty acids but not essential carbohydrates. Essential fatty acids and essential amino acids need to be provided because the body cannot produce them.

Our food pyramid

The Swedish food circle

As you can see, both countries are promoting grains as part of a healthy diet. In reality, they are protecting their "investments"  (subsidies).

Can we really exclude the grains from the diet?

Can we successfully remove the grains from the diet and still live a healthy life? You'll bet we can, and we will actually be healthier without them.  As mentioned above, there are no such thing as essential carbohydrates. It is possible for our bodies to make the needed carbohydrates from fat and protein. Robb Wolf talks about how it is better if we can make the body to run on fat . He says we should just provide enough carbohydrates to meet the needs of the glucose-dependent tissues. The brain uses glucose as fuel but it doesn't mean we need to eat lots of carbohydrates. The best is to reduce the body's total need for carbohydrates to protect it from blood sugar crashes. We should eat fruit and vegetables instead of grains.

 "It is a fact that we do not require glucose in the diet, and that we can make it from amino acids if we don't eat it. However, rather than viewing this as evidence that glucose is not important, we should view this as evidence that glucose is so metabolically important that we have evolved way to make sure we always have it." Kurt Harris

 Grains are not very nutritious when compared to fruit and vegetables. You will not suffer from  nutrient deficiency if you switch out the grains for vegetables and fruit instead. There's no need to worry, the greens contain plenty of fiber too. If you were to follow a typical Paleo meal plan for one day, you'll eat roughly about 42, 5 grams of fiber with the added benefit of receiving plenty of minerals and vitamins from the non-processed whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, and meat.

You might wonder why anyone should exclude grains in the first place

First of all, grains don't want to be digested since their job is to protect the reproduction of it's kind. Grains contain the anti-nutrients phytates. They tightly bind to metal ions such as iron, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper because the grains need them for development and growth of the grain. It is important that germination happens when it is supposed to. When we ingest the grains, they phytates are still active and bind to calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. As you can see, this means that we don't absorb those nutrients when we consume the grains. 

I'm working on a post that will cover the damaging effects of grains more in detail in to be released soon, but for now it is important to have an understanding to what kind of harm grains can do to the body. I previously mentioned the damage lectin can do to the intestines

Here are some quick facts how grains damage the body:

  • Grains damage the gut lining which means that we don't absorb nutrients whether they are minerals, vitamins, protein, fats, or carbohydrates.
  • When the body doesn't absorb fats and fat soluble nutrients such as A,D, K and other nutrients, then you have a hard time utilizing the few minerals that you may absorb. This leads to damage to the gall bladder and bile production.
  • A damaged gut lining can lead to autoimmunity and cancer. We suffer a high risk of autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and several cancers. The pancreas is suffering from grain-induced inflammation which may be the potential cause of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis. Depression, lupus, autism, narcolepsy, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, infertility, schizophrenia are just a few conditions associated with a leaky gut.

Soaking and fermenting grains

I just want to touch the subject about soaking and fermenting grains briefly since I know that some will say we can solve the problem by soaking and fermenting them. I don't intend to start a debate whether or not soaking and fermenting grains are enough in order to remove all the anti-nutrients.  I have  heard that you cannot completely remove all the damaging anti-nutrients from the grains. Some say that enough anti-nutrients are removed in order to make grains suitable for eating. It is my understanding that there is still an issue with glutenbut that a gluten sensitive person can handle soaked grains better. 
I encourage you to do your own research about the subject. Either way, we can agree that most people suffering from the damaging effects of the grains will not soak and ferment their grains. I found it easier to completely avoid the grains and my blood sugar is also more balanced now.

Soaking the grains increases the glycemic load, and I think this is something important to consider since more people than ever suffer from diabetes. Soaking makes the grains more digestible and therefore more available to the digestive enzymes.  More grains in the diet often means that less protein is consumed which leads to blood sugar problems.  Protein is important  and I'm picky about what I consider good sources.  First of all, protein is best measured by biological value. BV is the measurement on how much protein is retained in the body. Whole eggs are the benchmark standard and are given a score of 100. 

Here are some standard scores of common foods:

As you can see, beans and wheat have a fairly low BV compare to eggs, beef, and fish. Milk scores high on the list but it affects the blood sugar, and unless it is raw, it is very low in nutrients.  You have to eat a lot more beans and wheat to get sufficient amount of protein while you at same time you increase your carbohydrate intake, which is not good.  Robb Wolf calls beans, rice, and nuts the "third world proteins" that will keep you alive but it will not make you thrive. It is also important to remember that it doesn't matter what kind of carbohydrates we eat, they all convert to glucose or fructose (sugar) so it can enter our system.  We also have to remember that beans increase the intestinal permeability

We do just fine without grains

As you can see, the body can make it's own carbohydrates if needed. It makes more sense to just provide enough carbohydrates to meet the needs of the glucose-dependent tissues. Grains are not very high in nutrients and it is better to eat carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables instead. They are high in minerals, vitamins and fiber, and they don't irritate the gut, raise the insulin level (aim for the low glycemic kinds), and mess up the fatty acid ratios like the grains. Grains are also highly addictive, and that is especially true for gluten containing grains. You see, they contain molecules that fit right into the opiate receptors in our brains, yes, the same ones that are influenced by morphine, heroine,  and Vicoden. As you see, it can be tricky to wean yourself of grains in the beginning, but not impossible. Let me know if you are interested in cutting grains out of your diet and I'll help you out

I do better without grains and I don't regret cutting them out of my diet. Keep an eye out for a future post about my experiences on a grain free diet.

Thanks for visiting!  Please stop by my new blog, The Paleo Lifestyle, where I am adding new information about grain,dairy, legume, and sugar free diet.

Johanna is an aromatherapist and she is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives.   
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information. 

This post is linked to:
Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop
WFMW hosted by We Are THAT Family 
Fight Back Friday hosted by the Food Renegade 
Fresh Bites Friday 
Monday Mania hosted by the Healthy Home Economist 
Food and Health Carnival July 7th  

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes