The Grain Manifesto
We’re continuing our “manifesto” series (refer back to dairy and peanuts for earlier offerings) with the one topic most likely to spur controversy – grains. Our Whole30
program doesn’t include grains of any kind – no breads, cereals, pasta,
rice, not even fake grains like quinoa or gluten-free substitutes.
We’re about to tell you why. (Note, we are well aware that this
information may run counter to everything you’ve ever been told
by your parents, doctors, personal trainers, government agencies and TV
advertisements. For that, however, we make no apologies… because all
the people who have been selling you Whole Grains for Health all these
years have been just. Plain. Wrong. We understand if this makes you
kind of angry. It makes us angry too.. but that’s a topic for another
Why We Don’t Eat Grains
A. Grains provoke an inflammatory response in the gut
Lectins are specialized proteins found in many plants and foods, but
are found in high concentration in grains (particularly wheat), legumes
(particularly soy), and dairy. The most commonly referenced grain lectin
is called “gluten”, but there are many others which are found even in
pseudo-grains like quinoa. Lectins serve many biological functions in
animals, but foods with high concentrations of lectins are harmful even
if consumed in moderate amounts.
Lectins are hardy proteins that do not break down easily, and are
resistant to stomach acid and digestive enzymes. They migrate through
your digestive tract largely intact, and disrupt the intestinal
membrane, damaging cells and initiating a cascade of events leading to
eventual cell death. (Translation:
lectins destroy the cells that line your intestines, leading to small
“microperforations” or tiny holes in your intestinal lining.) These
holes allow intact or nearly intact proteins, bacteria and other
foreign substances to cross into the bloodstream – where they do not belong. As
the immune system notices foreign substances in the body, it responds
and attacks. The immune response can manifest in an unlimited number of
conditions (not just in the digestive tract!) commonly referred to as
“auto-immune” in nature.
It’s important to note that these cautions are not just critical for those with a diagnosed Celiac condition. These negative downstream effects happen to everyone who eats grains, to various degrees.
B. Grains spike insulin levels
Grains pack a whopping amount of carbohydrates in a very small
package. As most grains are also heavily processed (yes, even whole
grains) they are broken down into blood sugar (glucose) in your body
very quickly. A high amount of ingested carbohydrate broken down very
fast leads to a spike in blood sugar. The body, demanding homeostasis,
then releases a massive dose of a hormone called insulin to pull blood
sugar levels back down. This is often referred to as an “insulin spike”.
When too much sugar in the blood (blood sugar) is present in the system, your body quickly
runs out of places to store it as useful energy, and will store any
excess as body fat. In addition, when too much insulin is present in the
system, the cells in your body become desensitized to the hormonal
“message” insulin is trying to send. Since the message isn’t getting
through, your pancreas is prompted to release even more insulin when
your body doesn’t need it. Finally, chronically high insulin levels lead
to a condition in which your body has trouble releasing the energy
already stored in your cells. This is a bad place to be. If
(via a diet high in carbohydrates) this pattern continues, insulin
levels continue to rise, fat stores continue to grow and the body
becomes completely incapable of responding to its own directions.
C. Grains have an acidifying effect on the body
A net acid-producing diet promotes bone de-mineralization (i.e.
osteopenia and osteoporosis), and systemic inflammation. Grains are one
of the highest acid-producing food groups. By replacing grains and
grain-containing processed foods with plenty of green vegetables and
fruits, the body comes back into acid/base balance
(and a more positive calcium balance). Recent research out of Tufts
University has also shown that a more alkaline diet preserves muscle
D. Grains are “empty calories”
All grains – things like oatmeal, pasta, breads and cereals – have two
things in common. They are calorically dense, and nutritionally meager.
A small portion of grains packs a whopping amount of calories, almost
all in the form of carbohydrates. All those calories, however, contain a very small amount of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals).
Compare the calories, carbohydrates and vitamin profile of two large
slices of whole grain bread (100 grams) to one cup of chopped, cooked
broccoli (184 grams – nearly twice the mass). (Nutritional stats from NutritionData.com)
Note that we’re not saying there is nothing good to be found in grains. They do contain vitamins and minerals in various proportions and amounts. But the serious down sides of grains far outweigh any potential health benefits.
Bottom line – there is NOTHING found in grains that you can’t get from a
better source with NO down sides (like vegetables, fruits, nuts and
seeds). Do your best to eliminate grains from your diet for 2 weeks and watch the weight come off and see your energy and mental clarity rise!