I am not a Doctor or a Nutritionist. I don’t claim to be an expert on health or nutrition.
I am, however, passionate about learning to nourish my family. I’ve learned to listen to my body and to use my background in chemistry to sift through the research. Both my body and my research have told me that grains are not the optimal fuel for my body.
I don’t believe that grains are extremely destructive to our health like sugar or rancid vegetable oils. They certainly do have some redeeming qualities.
I just think that their are more nutrient dense foods that we could eat in place of grains.
I have lived on a diet high in refined carbohydrates. I have lived on a diet high in whole grains. I have lived on a diet high in soaked or fermented whole grains. None of these high-grain diets have worked for me.
Grains make me tired, sluggish and foggy. They keep me hungry and increase sugar cravings. Most of all they make it extremely difficult for me to maintain a healthy weight. Insulin and leptin seem to be the key hormones in all of this.
For a while I thought it was because I had eaten the wrong kinds of grains (and lots of sugar) for my entire childhood. I figured I could just lose some of the weight brought on by my childhood and then grains would become a nutritious part of my diet.
But then our family went off of grains, beans and all sweeteners for two weeks at the end of December. We were eating grass-fed meats, pastured chickens and eggs, nuts and seeds, fermented dairy and lots of vegetables and fruits. We all felt really good.
We are now eating this way again. My husband just commented last night that he feels really good since we cut out grains again. And that man could consume large amounts of carbohydrates at every meal without gaining a pound, so weight is not an issue.
Let’s be honest. These are the reasons we eat grains:
- We are told to by a food pyramid. This pyramid, given to us by our government, was created by a mega-PR firm, Porter Novelli International. Their past clients include McDonald’s and the Snack Food Association. Is anyone else seeing a red flag here?
- They are cheap. You can use them as a bed for other more nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and grass-fed meats. Basically, they are a filler.
- They taste good. Who doesn’t love a comforting bowl of oats or rice?
Reasons Not To Eat Grains:
- They are carbohydrate dense. Carbohydrates can be helpful in supplying energy for those who are extremely physical and active. For the rest of us who don’t work as a field hand all day, carbohydrates can convert into the extra inches on our hips. They can also trigger an insulin response that can leave us hungry an hour after a meal or craving sugar.
- They contain anti-nutrients. Grains contain both phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid is an organic acid contained in the bran or outer hull of grains. This acid can combine with minerals such as calcium and zinc and block their absorption in our intestines. It is possible to neutralize phytic acid through soaking in an acidic medium, but for some grains, such as oats, the phytic acid levels are just too high.
- They are difficult to digest. The enzyme inhibitors contained in grains are just as they sound – substances that inhibit the ability of enzymes to aid in digestion. Grains also contain complex sugars that are difficult to break down as well as allergenic proteins like gluten. Again, soaking grains does aid in their digestion, so if you do eat grains it is very important to properly prepare them.
- They are not as nutrient dense as other options. Per calorie vegetables contain far more vitamins and minerals than grains. Let’s compare one of the more nutritious grains, quinoa, with one of my favorites – collard greens.
For 49 calories worth of collard greens you take in:
|Collard greens, boiled
|vitamin K||704.00 mcg||880.0||320.6||excellent|
|vitamin A||5945.10 IU||118.9||43.3||excellent|
|vitamin C||34.58 mg||57.6||21.0||excellent|
|dietary fiber||5.32 g||21.3||7.8||excellent|
|tryptophan||0.05 g||15.6||5.7||very good|
|potassium||494.00 mg||14.1||5.1||very good|
|vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||0.24 mg||12.0||4.4||very good|
|vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||0.20 mg||11.8||4.3||very good|
|vitamin E||1.67 mg||8.3||3.0||good|
|omega 3 fatty acids||0.18 g||7.5||2.7||good|
|vitamin B3 (niacin)||1.09 mg||5.5||2.0||good|
|vitamin B1 (thiamin)||0.08 mg||5.3||1.9||good|
|vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)||0.41 mg||4.1||1.5||good|
For 158 calories worth of quinoa you take in:
|manganese||0.96 mg||48.0||5.4||very good|
Sprouting grains certainly does increase their nutrient density, however. I am convinced that sprouted grains are optimal if you are going to consume grains.
What Do You Replace Grains With?
I have found that when I first stop eating grains I want to replace them with something higher in carbohydrates, such as fruit or starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes and winter squash. After a while you get used to eating more leafy greens and high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage.
Without a doubt I consume far more vegetables when I am not eating grains.
I can’t imagine that anyone would argue with eating more vegetables.
I would recommend going grain free for a couple of weeks to see how you feel. You might just find that your body responds very well. And you might not want to go back.
Looking for other ideas that “go against the grain”? Check out fight back Fridays.