Against the Grain

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10 Reasons to Give Up Grains

from Nourished Kitchen

grain1

I’ve been toying, off and on, with the idea of eliminating grains for
a while.   I love them though – they’re delicious in all their slightly
sweet, grainy goodness.   Still, there’s little reason to incorporate
them into the diet on a regular basis with the exception of one:
personal preference.   I know, I know.   I can hear you now: “But they’re good for you!”   “But they reduce heart disease!” “But they have fiber!”
Here’s a little food for thought: there’s no vitamin or mineral you can
get from grain that you can’t get in better quantities elsewhere.   So
let’s take a look:

Why You Should Go Grain-free

1. If you can get it from grain, you can get it elsewhere.

The big heroes of most grains’ nutrient
profile are dietary fiber and B vitamins.   Take heed, every grain is
different and different grains offer different nutrient profiles.   Yet,
one thing remains constant: if you can find the nutrient in grain, you can find the nutrient in better quantities in other foods.
For example, 100 grams of whole wheat flour contains 44 mcg of folate;
however, a 100-gram portion of lamb liver will give you 400 mcg of
folate and a 100-gram portion of yardlong beans will give you a whopping
658 mcg per 100-gram portion.   Similarly with the B Vitamins niacin
and thiamin, while a 100-gram whole wheat flour contains 30% of the RDA
for niacin and 32% of the RDA for thiamin, you can find these nutrients in higher quantities in other foods
– namely flaxseeds and sesame seeds.   Whole grains are often touted as
health foods for their fiber content, but you can find dietary fiber in
better quantities in other, more nutrient-dense foods.   For example:
100 grams of cooked brown rice offers up 1.8 grams of dietary fiber; by
contrast, a 100-gram serving of cooked collard greens offers 2.8 grams;
100 grams of raw fireweed contains a whopping 11 grams of dietary fiber
and even green peas contain about 5 grams of fiber per serving.

2. Grains aren’t good for your gut.

Intestinal health is critical to your overall health.
  If you’re gut isn’t healthy, you can’t absorb nutrients from the
foods you eat.   If you can’t absorb nutrients from the foods you eat,
your body is malnourished and is more prone to disease.   Grains are
associated with a condition called leaky gut syndrome.   Tiny particles
of grains, when ingested, can slip through the intestinal walls causing
an immune response.   With your immune system excessively taxed
by constantly attacking these out-of-place particles of grain, it cannot
effectively fight against true threats like pathogens
.

3. You’re probably gluten-intolerant.

If you’re white, there’s a good chance
that you’re gluten-intolerant to some degree.   Current research
estimates that about 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease,
an auto-immune condition related to the ingestion of gluten-containing
grains like wheat and barley; however, some researchers on celiac
disease and gluten intolerance estimate that 30% to 40% of people of European descent are gluten-intolerant to some degree.   That’s a lot of people who are regularly consuming a food that makes them sick. (And, yes, I’m one of them.)

4. Grains cause inflammation.

Due to a high starch content, grains are
inflammatory foods.   The more refined the grain, the more inflammatory
it is.   For example, unbleached white flour is more
inflammatory than whole grain flour; however, whole grains are still
moderately inflammatory foods
and certainly more inflammatory than other foods like fresh vegetables and wholesome fats.   Chronic inflammation is linked to a myriad of degenerative, modern diseases
including arthritis, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, bone
loss, emotional imbalance and even cancer.   Unbleached white flour
earns an inflammation factor of -421 or strongly inflammatory on NutritionData.com
while whole wheat flour earns an inflammation factor of -247 or
moderately inflammatory.   Similarly, whole cooked millet earns an
inflammation factor of -150 and cooked brown rice earns an inflammation
factor of -143 – also moderately inflammatory.

5. Grains are fairly new on the scene.

While still a traditional food, grains are, nonetheless, the new kids on the block.   Prior to the advent of agriculture, humans relied on hunting and gathering for their foods.
  They foraged for wild greens, berries, fruits and other plants.  
They hunted wild animals.   They fished for wild fish.   They didn’t
plant a garden, or grow any amber waves of grain or, for that matter,
drink dairy from domesticated animals since there simply wasn’t any
domesticated animals.   Humans survived like this from the development
of the appearance of the first homo sapiens sapiens about 47,000 years
ago to the advent of agriculture some 10 – 12,000 years ago. So, for the better part of human existence grains did not comprise any notable portion of the human diet. In essence, what has become the bulk of our modern diet was missing from the diet of our prehistoric ancestors.

6. Grains aren’t good for your joints.

Due to their inflammatory nature, grains –
even   whole grains – are linked to joint pain and arthritis.    
Grain’s amino acid composition mirrors that of the soft tissue in your
joints.   Because both synovial tissue and grains are chemically
similar, your body has difficulty differentiating between the two.   So,
when your immune cells get all hot and bothered by inflammation
caused by grain and begin to attack it as a foreign invader, they also
begin to attack the soft tissue in your joint
– leading to pain, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and, of course, more inflammation.

7. Poorly Prepared Grains prevent mineral absorption.

When improperly prepared as they most often are, grains can inhibit vitamin and mineral absorption.   Grains contain substances like phytic acid which binds up minerals and prevents proper absorption.   Essentially, though
your diet might be rich in iron, calcium and other vital nutrients if
you eat improperly prepared grain, you’re not fully absorbing nutrients
from the foods you eat
.   However, please note that souring,
sprouting and soaking grains neutralizes phytates and renders the
nutrients in grain more absorbable.

8. Grains are bad for your teeth.

Due to those high levels of phytates in
grain, grain is linked to dental decay.   With high levels of
mineral-blocking phytic acid coupled with low mineral absorption rates
and plenty of starches for bacteria to feed on, grain contributes to dental decay.   Anthropological records of our pre-agricultural ancestors indicates very little to no tooth decay;
however, that changed after the dawn of agriculture.   Indeed, some
anthropologists use the presence of tooth decay is an indicator of an
agricultural society.

9. Grains aren’t good for your skin either.

Grains have a very high carbohydrate content, and while the carbohydrates in grain are complex they are still broken down into sugars nonetheless.
These sugars instruct your body to produce more insulin and
insulin-like growth factor (IFG-1).   Elevated insulin levels lead to a
cascading hormonal response and these hormones activate the
sebum-producing glands in your skin – encouraging them to produce more
oil.   IFG-1 is also linked with the increased production of
keratinocytes which also contribute to acne.

10. Eating grain makes you crave grain.

You know how the smell of bread creates a
longing in you   – a yearning for a slice, slathered with butter and
maybe jam.   Or consider a plate of cookies set in front of you – so
delicious – and you can’t just have one?   Foods rich in carbohydrates
give you quick energy, but that energy wears off just as quickly as it
came. Since grains break down into sugar, they create a rise in
insulin levels when those levels fall you crave more grains and, thus,
the vicious cycle continues
.

Of course, if you’re not quite ready to give up grains in
their entirety, take care to make sure you eat the best quality grains
prepared for optimal nourishment
.   Choose organic grains and
make sure you eat them sprouted, soaked or soured. Or go on a grain-free
trial with me for the month of ________.

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