Remember when the food guide pyramid recommended 6-11 servings of whole grains per day?
Are the grains we have been told to eat actually good sources of essential nutrients?
In reality, whole grains are NOT good sources of essential nutrients relative to foods such as non-starchy vegetables. Whole grains ARE better than processed grains, BUT that still doesn’t make them as optimal as foods packed with water and protein.
We have been led to believe that whole grains need to be a part of a healthy, supportive nutrition plan when in fact, carbohydrates are NOT an essential nutrient needed by our bodies.
What is a “Whole Grain?”
The United States government has very few regulations for whole grain labeling. Most of the time when a label contains the phrase “whole grains,” it is simply a marketing ploy to get the public to buy the product.
“If a food label makes a health claim, don’t buy it.
You find health claims on processed foods not on vegetables, fruits, and proteins.”
– Michael Pollan
When we build our plates we want to make water, fiber, and protein our highest priority. Cereal, bread, or “healthy” whole-grain starches are dry and contain very small amounts of protein. The only thing they could potentially have going for them is fiber. Whole grains do contain six times as much fiber as a doughnut, but non-starchy vegetables have fifty times more fiber than whole grains!!! That right there tells us that we need to be consuming 6-8 servings of non-starchy vegetables each day.
The Problem with Grains
Refined grains contain
zero complete protein which is a critical factor in keeping us satiated (full). Grains used in processed foods promote chronic overconsumption, elevated blood sugar levels, reliance on glucose for fuel, accumulation of body fat, and an increase in free fatty acids and triglycerides in the blood.
The main grain in the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is wheat, which is full of gluten. The main problem with gluten and modern wheat is that many people can’t properly digest them. More and more evidence is coming out that a significant percentage of the population may be “sensitive” to gluten. This sensitivity can cause various symptoms, which include but are not limited to:
- Acid reflux
- and the list go on and on…
Whole grains also spike your blood sugar. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains, but they are often ground into very fine flour that gets digested quickly and therefore spikes blood sugar quickly. When blood sugar spikes quickly, insulin (fat storage hormone) has to come in to bring our blood sugar back to normal. Overtime, when we consistently eat foods that are high in whole grains/processed carbohydrates it can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Studies, such as the Nurses Health Study, demonstrate that if white processed flour products are replaced with whole grains one of the health benefits includes a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. What they do not prove is the impact on health of eating whole grains versus eating NO grains. The following are all negative consequences that are seen when someone who doesn’t eat wheat or grains begins consuming “healthy whole grains.”
- Increased triglycerides and increased very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). VLDL contain the highest amount of triglyceride. Having a high VLDL puts you at greater risk for coronary artery disease.
- Increased small LDL particles. This causes more inflammation, and small LDL particles contribute to coronary heart disease by forming plaque in our arteries.
- Increased fasting glucose. Eating “whole grains” spikes your blood sugar. Repeated high blood sugar creates resistance to insulin and eventually may lead to diabetes.
- Increased visceral fat accumulation. Visceral fat (fat that accumulates around the organs) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease 2-4 fold.
- Impaired nutrient absorption. Phytates and lectins that are present in grains reduce the absorption of magnesium, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. This can eventually lead to increased cardiovascular risk.
This information is very controversial, but grains really are not all they have been made out to be. The problem is that a lot of companies, organizations, and people make a TON of money off of the Standard American Diet, which primarily consists of wheat and grains.
As a population we seem to be getting heavier and sicker, and chronic disease is on the rise. If everything we have been told to believe about nutrition is true, why is this happening?
If you have not gone grain free for an extended period of time (30-90 days), I encourage you to do so. I can almost promise that you will look, feel and perform better than you have in years – maybe, ever!