Food for thought on grains

Are Whole Grains Healthy?

According to the FDA

About seven years ago I started hearing the message that whole grains are good for you. According to the FDA, you should eat three or more servings of whole grains daily. If you’ve switched to whole grains or are thinking about it, please read this first.

Switching to Whole Grains

When I first learned whole grains are good, my staple single girl dinner was mac ‘n cheese mixed with a can of tuna or a cut up hot dog and preferably eaten while watching the Simpsons. I started buying whole grain macaroni elbows to make my mac ‘n cheese. I also bought whole grain bagels for breakfast most mornings and any time I found whole grains on a menu I would order them instead of white flour products.

Fast forward a few years: I cook just about everything myself from scratch. I learned to make my own whole grain sandwich bread, pizza dough and even whole grain cookies with organic soft white wheat and spelt flour grown in upstate New York.

But then I learned there was a problem…

The Anti-nutrient Problem

Most people have heard of Celiac or gluten-intolerance, but there are many more problems with grains that effect us all, and gluten is just one of the proteins that can cause problems. A little over a year ago I learned that whole grains contain anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, which block your body from absorbing nutrients in the grains, and worse, bind with other minerals you consume (such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron) so you don’t absorb those either.

When I learned this, I started soaking grains to neutralize phytic acid. (This includes oatmeal, which I ate for breakfast almost every day.) I also bought sprouted flour, which according to this book changes the structure of the grain to make them digest like a vegetable. I’ve since read that this may not be true (see the Wheat Germ Agglutinin link at the bottom of this post).

Today’s Wheat Isn’t Even Wheat

To make matters even worse, today’s grains are a result of “some of the most intense crossbreeding efforts ever seen” to “develop a higher-yielding crop.” “The wheat products sold to you today are nothing like the wheat products of our grandmother’s age, very different from the wheat of the early 20th Century, and completely transformed from the wheat of the Bible and earlier.” (See link The Dark Side of “Healthy” Wheat for more information.)

Leaky Gut

I recently learned about “leaky gut,” which is a widespread but little known problem associated with grain consumption. Basically your intestines become permeable and proteins and toxins then enter the bloodstream and cause all kinds of havoc throughout the body.

Millions of people have leaky gut syndrome and don’t know it. I personally only noticed gas and migraines before this year. The only reason I figured out I have leaky gut is because allergenic proteins from cow’s milk, peanuts and other foods were ending up in my breast milk and causing apparent food allergies in the baby.

Here are just a few possible outcomes:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Arthritis
  • Seasonal Allergies
  • Apparent Food Allergies
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infertility
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight Gain/Weight Loss Resistance
  • Yeast/Fungal Overgrowth

Passing on Grains for Now

For the past six months I’ve drastically reduced my consumption of grains and for the last month I stopped eating grains completely. I believe that eating whole grains for so many years damaged my intestinal lining. I don’t think I was like this before because when I was in college I went to Mexico and ate fresh fruit, brushed my teeth with the water etc and had no issues, while two other people in my group were hospitalized for E. coli. (I started reading the GAPS book last night and learned that a healthy gut has helpful strains of E. coli that fight off the dangerous ones.)

I don’t know if this would have happened if I had gone straight from white flour to properly prepared grains (see Weston A. Price Foundation links below for more information on traditional preparation of grains). Since I can’t change the past, I am leaving grains off my plate for the duration of the Whole30 and beyond. I don’t plan to reintroduce grains until I’m sure my body is ready for them. If or when that day comes, you bet the grains will be traditionally prepared and in limited quantities.

Further reading: