When I tell people the first thing they should consider removing from their diet are all grain based foods I generally see a look of confusion and shock! And the response "Grain you mean Bread"? "yes" my reply "And Pasta, biscuits, crackers...."
Then the other questions begin "All grains"? "But they are healthy whole grains"? I'm o.k with brown and wholemeal bread"? "What about my carbs"?
All valid questions given the information that people are told every day from the mainstream media and government recommendations. Unfortunately this information is flawed and perhaps the only proof we need is to look around us every day at the ever growing unhealthy population, sure it's not the only issue with the modern diet and lifestyle and by reducing grains from the diet will not change everything, but I find it remarkable what improvements you see in people that do.
But why is it such a problem?
Let's begin with the fact that Grain is not what it used to be. Around 10,000 years ago the agricultural revolution began, this was the start of our progressive dependence on grain as a "food" stuff, prior to this time grains were not part of the human diet, but it is also important to consider the kind of grain that was first grown was very different to the kind we are eating now.
The first wheat was called Einkorn and had 14 chromosomes, by biblical times this had cross pollinated and became Emmer with 28 chromosomes. Emmer held its own until the middle ages when spelt emerged with 42 chromosomes. Since the 1960s high yield dwarf strains of wheat have become a staple of our diet, after being crossed bred by scientists to help with the ongoing overpopulation. These grains are very limited in nutrients, and what they do contain is not very absorbable. They also have a high blood glucose response, spiking insulin, inducing hunger and promoting fat storage in a vicious cycle that comes with a high carbohydrate consumption.
We could not talk about grain without mentioning Gluten. Gluten is a protein molecule made up of Glutenin and Gliadin that are highly pro-inflammatory. Most people have some degree of gluten intolerance and at the extreme end of the problem Celiac disease. This is when the lining of the intestinal tract becomes smooth reducing nutrient absorption and leading to malnutrition. There is also evidence that Gliadin protein has links to schizophrenia.
What about Gluten free food that is now widely available?.
Gluten free does not mean healthy, yes the Gluten proteins have been removed but they can still contain ingredients that are not desirable, mostly starches that have high blood sugar responses in the same way that "normal" wheat products produce.
People often worry about where they will be getting their Carbohydrates from. It is important to remember the fact that you can get plenty of Carbohydrates from real food sources, and a wide spectrum of fresh vegetables and fruit can give you healthy Carbohydrates, but it is also worth mentioning the fact that there is no essential intake level of Carbohydrates for the body to operate efficiently. Something we will discuss in more detail in future posts.
Although wheat has taken most of the stick in this post the problems do cross over into other grains to some degree. So is grain really that bad? Thats for you to decide based on the evidence, this subject does go very deep far beyond the scope of this blog post so I do recommend further reading. For me the answer is Yes, my own personal case is that before removing grain from my diet I had to regularly use an asthma inhaler when the weather was cold and particularly before exercise. Since then I have only very rarely used it and usually in response to the very rare times that I may have partaken in something containing grain. Coincidence? perhaps but it's a big one.
Further reading recommendations:
Wheat Belly - Dr William Davis
The Paleo Cure - Chriss Kressor
Keep it Primal