Why are Grains "Bad"?
Hellooooo! So this post is going to address the main reason why I avoid grains. As you can tell from my Blog name, I am a "no-grainer". After reading this post, you may be able to see why avoiding grains is a no-brainer. Ha....
Before I discuss why I typically avoid grains, I want to note that I am not one of those people who wouldn't stand within 5ft of a piece of rice. This is real life, and sometimes grains are unavoidable. They are listed as one of the Standard American Diet's (abbreviated as SAD, yep...fitting!) main food groups. They're believed to be a healthy source of carbohydrates, and the FDA wants everyone to believe that eating "whole wheat" bread is significantly better than Wonder Bread. Hardly. Anyway, back to the point. Sometimes we cannot stick to something 100%. This is a lifestyle, and a lifestyle includes bumps along the road. We strive for adaptability and flexibility, not perfection. With that being said, its important to note that while I will say I am a "no grainer" for the sake of my blog title, I do indeed eat grains on occasion. I won't cook myself oatmeal or toast for breakfast on the reg, or have rice or quinoa with dinner, but if I am on vacation and a piece of bread looks really delicious and I am in a completely relaxed, happy state, I do not see the harm. If I am eating out and decide to get the delicious salad filled with nutritious vegetables, nuts, seeds and protein, but happens to have quinoa in it, I'm not bothered. I know that grains do not make me feel my best, and cutting them out for a majority has already done my boy and mind a huge favor in itself. I am doing the best I can, acknowledging that I wouldn't typically eat the grain, but also acknowledging that balances trumps perfection. It's a difficult skill to master, acceptance that is, but its a healthy skill and one that I think provides me with happiness, health, and freedom! So, that's my spiel on why I cannot admit I am 100% grain-free. I am living a healthy, paleo-ish lifestyle but will say for the most part, I am grain-free. Here are the main reasons why I stay away from grains and grain products, even if they are advertised as 'healthy'.
Firstly, what is a grain? Good question! A grain is basically a seed of wheat that is processed and used to make grain products (bread, cereals, porridge, pasta, etc) or eaten on its own. Common grains include wheat, all rice, oats, cornmeal, millet, amaranth, quinoa (yep) , bulgur, millet, buckwheat, wheat berries, etc. They're found on their own or they're processed into cereals, pastas, wraps, and breads. Some are advertised to be healthier than their wheat counterpart, just because they're not wheat, when in fact they have the same carbohydrate, starch, glycemic profiles as wheat, they're just a different seed. Basically, millet bread can be advertised as being better than wheat bread, but in reality, it isn't much better. Here's why....
1. Grains aren't Paleo: This is the main reason I stay away from grains, they're not paleo. While not everyone follows the paleo lifestyle, which is totally OK, eliminating grains is one of the main pillars of the 'diet'. Paleo experts will give you long detailed, scientific explanations as to why they aren't Paleo, which is truly informational and eye-opening. Who knew one of the FDA's largest recommended food groups could also be one of the most toxic??? Oh, maybe that's why everyone's so sick these days? Hm, just thoughts...
2. Lectins and Phytates: This article, from Mark's Daily Apple, will give you a detailed synopsis on lectins and phytates, the 'toxins' of grains. In short, lectins are proteins found on grains and legumes and they disrupt the beauty that is a healthy gut. They damage the intestinal lining, which in turn causes a leaky gut. With that, toxins in foods may be leaked into parts of the body that they shouldn't, and instead healthy vitamins and minerals are often not absorbed by the body...yep, you're eating all that kale for nothin'. They also cause leptin resistance, which will basically make you feel hungry when you're body has enough energy stored already. Phytates basically prevent nutrient absorption as well, not necessarily what we need.
3. They aren't like they used to be: Basically, according to this super-informative article by Paleo Leap, grains are not what they used to be. They're the most processed food on the planet, leaving little to no nutrition left once the seed becomes a flour. It's processed so that it can withstand the time it takes to be exported and the time it sits on the shelf before someone buys it to make some bread. As the article lists, a HUUGE amount of nutrients, proteins, vitamins are lost in the process of making grains edible. Its also extremely genetically engineered to withstand weather conditions and drought, to make the crop last longer and produce more. Basically you're ingesting nutrient-void calories that someones just trying to make money off, which is not the most effective way to get healthy. I'd rather stick to roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary and salt for my carb source, thank you. I tend to prefer flavor over nutrient-void flour. Grains aren't the hardy, survival tool they used to be before modern engineering gave the crop a complete makeover.
4. Inflammation: Grains cause inflammation, inflammation causes disease. Simple. For me, inflammation affects me most on a skin level. Acne, eczema, dry patches, I've had it all. And I source it directly to grains. One reason is because of gluten.
Basically, I try to avoid grains to achieve ultimate health. It's not easy, and I try not to get too wound up about slipping up. We're trying to create a lifestyle here, right? So, maybe try to eliminate a few inflammatory grains to start, or challenge yourself to go grain-free right off the bat. I can assure you, you will look and feel better which is the ultimate goal. See how it goes and let me know! What's your favorite grain-free dish that makes you feel satiated?