The pendulum swings. We never used to eat grains as a society and we did not have the disease epidemic that we have now, some say. Others say, that is because people back then did not live as long. But it is clear that many if not most of our modern illnesses are man-made.
There is conflicting information out there about grains.
Some of us were brought up on whole grains which were touted for providing “wholesome goodness” and being the 'breakfast of champions". Who could argue with that notion?
Perhaps we never really understood what this meant but we all understood that they were good for us. And the old food pyramids recommended that we eat 6-11 servings a day of bread, cereal, rice and pasta every day.
What are Whole Grains:
Whole grains consist of the bran, the germ and the endosperm where a refined grain is just the endosperm consisting mainly of carbs in the form of starch and proteins[i]. Some whole grains appear to be very healthful and have fiber and B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. Some higher recommended grains are oats and whole wheat versus rice and corn which are said to be not so nutritious.
What are Refined Grains:
Refined grains are not healthful because the fiber and nutrients are gone and all that is left are empty calories. When we eat refined grains it tends to spike our blood sugar. Such processing occurs with breads, pasta, breakfast cereals and junk foods like pastries and cookies. Another processed food, high fructose corn syryp, is a refined grain made from corn and is known to be quite unhealthful.[ii].
Eating grains has been shown associated with though not demonstrating a causative effect on:
- Lowered risk of obesity
- Lowering risk of Type 2 diabetes
- 30% lowered risk of heart disease
- 17% lowered risk of colorectal cancer (three servings a day).
Eating grains containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley, may cause digestive and other sensitivities in about 30 million people in the U.S..
After grain diets-- the Mediterranean diet came more to the foreground and included whole grains. Adhering to such diet is associated with less cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer Disease[iii] and lowers the risk of heart disease and premature death.
A diet that does not include grains, the lower carb diet or the Paleo type diet have become more popular now. They have led to:
- weight loss even among obese individuals in a sustained and satisfying way,
- a reduction in belly fat,
- the lowering of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and the increase of HDL
- the lowering of blood pressure[iv] and
- markers of Type 2 diabetes.
Another name for Paleo is low ketogenic diet which has outperformed the healthy carb- whole grain diet pattern on matters as: diabetes, cardiovascular health and weight loss.
The Paleo type diet requires eating whole, unprocessed foods including vegetables (except corn and potatoes) and free range organic meats while avoiding sugars and grains.
Paleo and low glycemic diet plans strengthen the evidence for a diets' healthful effect on the brain.
News about the brain and health abound now with recent best selling books and videos. How ingesting grain leads to making the gut more permeable[v] has also been studied using bread alone. The food particles reach unexpected sites which prompt the immune system to attack. The release of opioid-like compounds can cause mental derangement if such particles leech to the brain.[vi] This "leaky gut" phenomena is often associated with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis or celiac disease as well. Grains are said to be the cause of "leaky gut" and can prompt pain in the stomach and fatigue, rashes, joint pain, allergies, psychological symptoms, even autism. It is recommended that fermented foods be ingested to counterbalance leaky gut and that people also take probiotics.
Some say humans do not need grains to live on. Grains are a new and societally designed way of eating-not something we have done for the past thousands of years.
Grains generally offer a poor source of vitamins and minerals. Whole grains contain high fiber bran which contains anti-nutrients that can damage health. The whole grain that appears in our food is the seed of a plant that is reproductive for that seed and not meant to be eaten by animals, because it leads to intestinal permeability.
Best to check with your doctor on a diet that is right for you!
We Can Choose!
[i] WebMD The Whole Truth About Whole Grains
[ii] Grains: Are They Good For You or Bad? Authority Nutrition By Kris Gunnars, BSc
[iii] Adv Nutr. 2015 Mar 13;6(2): 154-68. Doi: 10.3945/an.114.007617. Print 2015 Mar. Dietary patterns, cognitive decline and dementia: a systematic review. Van de Rest O, Berendsen AA, et al.
[v] Mercola.com Eating Grains can “Tear holes” in Your Gut
[vi] Front Human Neurosci. 2016 Mar 29: 130. Doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00130. eCollection 2016 Bread and Other Edible Agents of Mental Disease.