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Why no Grains?

I can’t give up my bread, or cereal, or pasta, or (insert grain of choice here). I get it. We all grew up eating pancakes, sandwiches, muffins, cookies. I grew up with an Italian father…..pasta! As a matter of fact, just the other day he said, “If I have to give up pasta, I’d rather be dead!”

I get it, I get it. Trust me I get it. I had a hard time with it too until I took the plunge and just did it. Once I committed to just not eating it, no excuses….the cravings stopped. It’s amazing really. Through the reading I have done I have learned that sugar and starches are actually addictive. Sugar and carbohydrates help release serotonin (the happy hormone). The problem is you eventually crash and end up craving more. It become a vicious cycle. So, if you are ready to make a dietary change to feel better and look better this is one of the best decisions you can make.

So, why grains in particular Laura? Well, we all know sugar is just bad right? At least I hope we do. It is the simplest and most damaging source of carbohydrates we consume. There really is no good level of sugar consumption. Fruit and natural sources can be tolerated but that is for a post on its own. So, if you are a sugar-holic like I was, start with that too or first.

The reason I want to discuss grains right now is that they tend to be masqueraded as health foods far more than any other carbohydrates, when in reality they are inflammatory and PROVIDE ABSOLUTELY NO NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS THAT WE CAN’T GET FROM A MUCH BETTER SOURCE.

Let me be clear…there is nothing we gain nutritionally from eating any grain that we can not get in other less damaging food sources.

Let’s start with the fiber argument: “I only eat whole grains, complex carbs, lots of fiber, that’s ok right?”  First of all you can get more fiber in vegetables and fruits. And veggies and fruits have lower levels of lectins and phytates and they don’t contain gluten. More on those later.

How about the old standby: “They provide vitamins and minerals.” Once again, vegetables and fruits win here too!

Or, “It helps me feel full.” Sure it does, it is taking up space in your gut with no real nutritional value and making you feel bloated (and probably gassy if it was high in fiber.) Kind of like that unwanted house guest that takes their old sweet time leaving and making you feel uncomfortable.

What are lectins, phytates and gluten anyway?

They are anti-nutrients. For a further definition of an anti-nutrient visit the links to Body, Primal Mind or Marks Daily Apple or Livin’ La Vida Lowcarb for a whole run down. But if a picture forms in your mind by the term, you pretty much have it right.

Lectins are a protein found in grains and legumes that binds to insulin receptors, they attach to the stomach lining and cause leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that tells us we are full and stimulates our metabolism to burn more calories. If we become resistant to that hormone….not good. We just want to eat more.

Gluten is another protein found in wheat, rye, and barley to name a few. Gluten allergies and gluten sensitivities are becoming more and more prevalent. Read the book Wheat Belly or The Paleo Solution or visit any of the afore-mentioned web links for more details on the problems many humans have digesting Gluten.

Phytates are antioxidant compounds found in grains and legumes that bind to minerals making them biologically unavailable to us thus rendering them null and void for our use.

Now, there are ways to prepare grains for better absorption and reduced lectin and phytate exposure. (Unfortunately gluten is gluten, not much we can do about that.) You can soak them, sprout them and ferment them. These processes can make eating grains less troublesome. Here is a link to why and how to soak grains if you want to give it a try. However, the number of people I have met who are willing to go that far I can count on one hand. The number of store bought products available that provide this type of preparation are limited at best and are only really found in health food stores.

I for one, would just rather avoid them altogether with a few exceptions. Occasionally I might be caught eating some white rice. White rice is a pretty gentle to the gut and when I am actively looking for the starch to refuel the glycogen stores, this is a good option. Not to mention everyone once in a while I can really go for some sushi! Another is Buckwheat. Buckwheat isn’t actually related wheat at all. It’s not even really a grain, it is more related to rhubarb and is packed with fiber.

There is so much more to this whole thing but I figure that this point I’ll lose my reluctant audience.

In a nutshell, if you chose to eat grains, it is absolutely your choice to do so. Dive into that yummy, gluten ridden, lectin laced, phytate loaded bowl of pasta and enjoy it. That isn’t written with sarcasm at all. I hope when you choose a less nutritious “food”, or in many cases a food that will make you sick in the long run,  you make that choice from an educated place.  These are not healthy foods, they are just sources of calories and energy. They are at best a filler and at worst inflammatory and illness promoting.

To keep things simple, I can name dozens and dozens of other calories and energy sources that do not raise insulin levels, do not cause leptin resistance, and have vitamins and minerals your body can actually use. Nutrient density first is my motto!

(This is an updated re-post from a few years ago. This conversation has come up a few times recently so I decided to repost it.)

Until Next Time,

Laura, Mom Gone Paleo

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