Grain Manifesto- the case against grainsSeptember 2013
During the refining process, the bran and the germ portion of the grain seed are removed—and so are the fiber, vitamins, and minerals present in those two layers. Any nutrients added to “fortified” grains don’t make up for what is removed during the refining process. These grains (usually refined wheat and corn) are then turned into junk and snack foods.
As critical satiety factors are missing (fiber, water, and complete protein),and calories are concentrated (making them easier for our bodies to absorb), these foods are easy to over consume, and tend to promote cravings, blood sugar dysregulation, and unhealthy metabolic effects.
While whole grains leave the bran and germ portion intact (increasing the fiber and micro nutrition content compared to refined grains), they are far from nutrient-dense when you compare them to vegetables and fruit.
In a comparison a daily diet based on “healthy” whole grains provided more than three times the sugar and sodium as a diet featuring vegetables and fruit, but provided less fiber, potassium, and substantially less magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
In addition, many of the minerals technically present in whole grains are not accessible to the body, thanks to anti-nutrients called “phytates” found in the bran. These phytates grab hold of minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium found in the whole grain, creating an insoluble and undigestible complex. As these nutrients are no longer in a usable form, they are not absorbed into the body—and you don’t get the benefits. (If you can’t use the minerals, they may as well not even be there.)
There are different protein structures in grains that have been found to create transient increases in gut permeability. These proteins are particularly resistant to digestion, meaning they arrive in the gut largely intact. They can improperly cross the gut barrier, and may allow other substances (like incompletely-digested food particles, bacteria, or viruses) through the gut and into the body, all of which triggers an immune response and promotes systemic inflammation.
One such class of profoundly problematic proteins belongs to a group called prolamins. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is partly made up of prolamins (in wheat, for example, that prolamin is called gliadin).
Non-gluten grains (like corn and oats) contain different prolamins (and other compounds) that may be similarly irritating. While these protein fractions and compounds have not yet been as well studied as gluten, it’s fair to say that they have a significant potential to create similar undesirable effects on your gut function and immune status.
The interaction between foreign proteins and immune cells triggers an inflammatory response of varying degrees of severity, depending on the individual. (There is considerable person-to-person variation, though the research on individual sensitivity is still fairly incomplete.)
The inflammatory effects can show up as anything: allergies, arthritis, asthma; autoimmune diseases like celiac, Crohn’s, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, endometriosis; these effects can even be seen in the brain. (Inflammatory messengers in the brain are associated with depression, anxiety, and even conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.)
What About Soaking, Sprouting, and Fermenting?
Ancient cultures reliant on grains for survival figured out ways to prepare them to mitigate some of the inflammatory and anti-nutrient downsides. Prolonged soaking, extended cooking, rinsing, sprouting, and fermenting have been shown to partly break down some of the phytates and some of the inflammatory proteins in certain grains. But note the words “partly” and “some.”
These preparation methods don’t guarantee a safe food product in your gut, and vegetables and fruit still provide far more nutritious benefits with none of the downsides of grains.
I have been recommending a Gluten Free diet to my patients for over 22 years. I have been GF myself for 24 + years. As I learn more and get better results with my patients; I am confident in recommending vegetables as your best choice for carbohydrates, (not grains).