There are diverse ideas on whether grains should be in the diet and if so, What type of grains? Some diets, like the Paleo diet, don’t include grains. The underlying theory for the Paleo diet is to eat food that early cavemen ate, which means avoiding cultivated grains and opting for pseudo-grains that grew wild. There are some good arguments that grain is bad for you, but also some compelling ones for why you need it in your diet. Let’s look at the evidence to weigh the pros and cons of each.
Grains can cause digestive issues.
Grains are seeds. Mother Nature protects the species by ensuring it can reproduce. It’s why grains have hard shells. It protects the seed from the digestive juices, which allows it to be consumed, remaining in the digestive tract intact, then excreted with its own fertilizer often in a new area. Like most seeds, grains have an enzyme inhibitor so the seed doesn’t sprout unless the right conditions exist for germination. The inhibitors are so potent that some grains that were thousands of years old and found in pyramids grew when they added water. However, those same inhibitors also block digestive enzymes, slowing or stopping digestion.
Complex proteins are difficult to digest.
Grains contain complex proteins, like gluten. The more complex the substance, the harder it is on the digestive system. Just as complex carbohydrates are difficult to digest and take more steps to break down than simple sugars, the same is true of complex proteins. Grains can cause chronic inflammation from glycation. It leads to AGEs–which are toxic and can lead to gas, bloating, inflammation, and irritation of the gut. It can also cause food allergies, food intolerance, autoimmune disease, leaky gut, and an imbalance of the gut microbiome.
Today, the way grain is processed has eliminated many of the benefits of grains.
At one time grain was soaked, sprouted, and fermented. It was ground with a stone, either a simple rock or a stone wheel, and all the parts were used. There were no additives to make it look better. The refined flour of today only contains the endosperm, the starchy part, and the bran and germ are removed. The endosperm is mostly starch, protein, and a bit of oil. When you remove the bran and germ, the fiber and nutrients are also removed, leaving mostly empty calories. The flour is then bleached. What is left is flour almost devoid of nutrients.
- Once grains are sprouted, soaked, or fermented, the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized. It’s why many people suggest sprouting or fermenting grains before using them to make flour. Sourdough bread and sprouted bread are examples.
- Grains have phytic acid that’s considered an anti-nutrient. It can bind to minerals, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium, impeding absorption.
- If one type of grain creates digestive issues, try alternatives. Sorghum, amaranth, millet, and Kamut are ancient alternatives. Millet, quinoa, oatmeal, barley, brown rice, bulgur, and barley are a few others.
- Using whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and obesity. It can even aid digestion with the fiber it contains. It has vital nutrients your body needs for good health.
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