10 reasons to give up grains
Warm flaky croissants, hot buttered toast with jam, pancakes dripping with maple syrup. Sounds divine doesn’t it? Something that good can’t be that bad for you right? Life’s little pleasures and all that. I am hoping that what I have to share with you today, will help you see these foods in a different light.
I need to be honest at this point – I love these foods too. I am from Italian stock and was practically raised on pasta, ciabatta bread and Panettone. Unfortunately, I still often succumb to temptation. Put my sister-in-laws carrot cake in front of me and you won’t have to twist my rubber arm. I will gladly accept a slice and cite the 80/20 principle to justify the indulgence.
Going against the grain
Grains include wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, couscous, bulgur, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and there are a few other lesser known varieties too such as spelt and amaranth.
Apart from them tasting good and being a source of cheap calories, there is absolutely no reason why we need to include grains in our diets.
(1) But what about getting my fibre? If you want to avoid constipation, you are better off getting your fibre from fruit and vegetables. Fibre from grains actually irritate the digestive tract.
(2) But don’t they contain important vitamins and minerals? Yes, we all need B1 and B2, magnesium and iron, zinc and potassium, but do we need to get them by eating grains? Show me a serving of “healthy whole grains” that can compete, nutrient-wise, with a great big delicious salad with all the trimmings.
(3) But grains have been around for like, forever? Not true – humans only discovered agriculture 10, 000 years ago. That is really just a blip on evolution’s timeline. It is nothing compared to the couple of million years that we have inhabited the planet as hunter-gatherers. Isn’t it amazing how we managed to survive as a species for all those millenia without whole grains, yet now we are told that whole grains should constitute the biggest portion of our diets?
(4) But ads on TV tell me that whole grains are good for me? Companies sell products that people want, and people have been conditioned to want grains, either physiologically or through misinformation. Often the research that food companies use to back up their claims has been paid for by themselves, so understandably it might be a little biased.
(5) But I feel fine eating my muesli, bread and pasta? If you are happy just feeling “fine” then maybe this blog isn’t for you. Just because most of us can tolerate grains doesn’t mean that they are healthy for you. If you would prefer to feel “great” , and/or lose some weight and have more energy, then carry on reading.
(6) But what am I going to fill up on? Give the Primal diet a go and you will be pleasantly surprised how satisfying animal protein and healthy fats can be. I used to get hungry 1.5 hours after eating a bowl of cereal in the mornings. Now, if I start my day with a couple of eggs or left over meat and veg from the night before, I don’t even think about food for at least 5 hours!
(7) But what can I eat instead? Here are some good substitutes you can use instead of grains. Cut thin ribbons of baby marrow and fry on a griddle pan (instead of pasta) and top with a bolognaise sauce. Boil and mash some gem squash (instead of rice) and top with a delicious lamb curry. And instead of having asian noodles with your ginger and garlic chicken, rather stir fry some thinly shredded cabbage (extra delicious using coconut oil).
(8) But surely everything in moderation is fine? I too believe in moderation, but what I often struggle with is establishing or defining what exactly “moderation” means. Is it the occasional slice of cake at a birthday tea or can it become more insidious than that. Think about it – a quick bowl of muesli in the morning, a brown bread sandwich for lunch, a rusk with your afternoon tea and a plate of rice and stew for supper – there you go, in one day you have consumed grains at every single meal.Yes, many grain-based foods are delicious, but more often than not it is what you put on them that is more delicious. Here is something to think about: If we know that smoking damages your health, then do you believe that smoking in moderation is fine?
(9) But my great granny baked and ate lots of grain and she lived to be 100? The wheat flour your great granny baked her scones with in no way resembles the genetically modified wheat we are sold today. Wheat strains have been hybridized and crossbred to make them more resistant to drought and pathogens. During all of this virtually no questions have been asked about whether these features are compatible with human health. No human or animal testing has been conducted. Small changes in the structure of wheat protein can mean the difference between a devastating immune response versus no immune response at all.
(10) But how do I give them up? If you get anxious at the thought of giving up grains then maybe consider whether you might be addicted to them. In his book, Wheat Belly, Dr William Davis claims that “the digestion of wheat yields morphine-like compounds that bind to the brains opiate receptors, inducing a mild euphoria” and that “when these foods are withheld, people can experience distinctly unpleasant withdrawal”.
When I ditched the grains I felt terrible for a short while – headachy, tired and tetchy. But how I felt afterwards more than made up for the initial discomfort of the detox. I am also starting to realise that falling off the wagon spirals me back into carb cravings and hunger – which is a real test of my willpower. Saying no is much easier for me when my blood sugar is stable, and grains will destabilise them -every time! In case you didn’t know this yet GRAINS = SUGAR. They might take a bit longer to breakdown into glucose than a chocolate bar but the end result is exactly the same.
Wheat Belly – Dr William Davis
The Paleo Solution: Robb Wolf
The Primal Blueprint: Mark Sisson