Whole grains are pushed on us like our lives depend on them. But are they a vehicle for weight loss? Or are they making us fat?
We have two beautiful Russian blue cats. One has a sleek figure, and the other is slightly pudgy. They are sisters, so why the different physique? The pudgy one misses her crunchy carbohydrate-filled cat food she got from the breeder, so she gets into the chicken food (grain). Not very appetising, surely, but addictions are funny that way.
The fear of fat is constantly drummed into us, but the real culprits continue to be excess sugar and grain; they both produce a strong insulin response and prompt our body to store fat. This is why livestock are fattened with low fat, whole grains (not fatty foods).
It is often claimed that whole grains do not cause a spike in our blood sugar the way that refined carbohydrates do. However, the fact is, there is very little difference in the blood sugar response of white bread and whole wheat bread. How? Our digestive enzymes convert the starch into glucose very easily, regardless of whether the flour is made with refined white flour or the wholesome variety, especially once the grain is milled into flour.
Many nutritionists use the glycemic index to preach the benefits of whole grains for weight loss. But even that argument doesn’t hold up. Have a look at glycemicindex.com and search for bread. Surprisingly, the whole grain bread is almost just as high on the glycemic index as white bread.
New Australian dietary guidelines encourage us to eat six servings of grain a day. Other ‘health’ recommendations recommend between six and 11 servings of grain per day. I know if I consumed the minimum six servings per day, I would be overweight; no question. In fact, I was overweight in my early 20s when my diet was based on ‘healthy’ whole grains.
If whole grains aren’t good for our waistline, what about our health?
‘Experts’ claim that whole grains help reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. But, many people are unaware that researchers don’t actually agree about the benefit of whole grains. In fact, some very strong evidence contradicts conventional claims, and suggests that eating these grains is detrimental to optimal health.
Researchers have presented studies claiming that whole grains prevent all sorts of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but the subjects consuming whole grains have been compared to people eating white flour and other processed food. This is like saying that filtered cigarettes prevent cancer because in a study comparing filtered and unfiltered, the filtered cigarettes caused less cancer.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. We now are dependent on cereal and grain, with some populations getting 80 per cent of their intake from a single type of grain.
Why are we so reliant on grains? Who does it benefit? With agriculture came the ability to cheaply feed billions of people with products that can easily be stored, shipped and processed; the most common are wheat, maize (corn), rice, sugar, soy, barley and oats. But there are several problems with heavy grain consumption.
When we eat a lot of grain, we don’t eat the food that nutritionally supports us like meat, eggs and fats. When we don’t eat enough protein from animal products, we are low in vitamin B12, which results in anaemia and cognitive dysfunction, and increases risk for arterial vascular disease and thrombosis. Too many grains also inhibit our absorption of vitamin D and our ability to absorb iron. Low levels of iron can impair children’s learning, and cause many other health issues. High grain diets can also interfere with the absorption of zinc and calcium, which dramatically impacts our health and bone strength.
Excess grain also inhibits our assimilation of protein, which can cause growth issues and deficiencies of essential nutrients, including zinc, iron, copper, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B 12 and vitamin A. In addition, the protein in grains is inadequate for us to thrive.
Grains also act as allergens, which is why many people develop allergies to wheat and other grains. Excess grain causes severe autoimmune responses and obesity, and the excess fibre can cause gas, bloating, stomach cramps, rectal bleeding, constipation, and more. Most people are very pleasantly surprised when they discover bloating and gas are NOT a normal part of life once they reduce or eliminate grain.
Why are most grains so toxic to humans? The answer is to do with survival—of the plants! Grasses are eaten by herbivores; to protect themselves, grass seeds contain toxins that poison the digestive track of mammals. Why? So the seeds can pass through undigested and germinate.
As a result, when we ingest most grains, we end up with large amounts of undigested starch in our colon. Bad bacteria thrive on undigested food, particularly sugars and starches. In addition, gluten triggers an immune response that inflames the intestines in most people, not just those who have identified gluten intolerance. It is more serious in some because of further reactions to wheat, but gut damage occurs in the majority of those who consume it.
Cardiologist Dr William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, suggests that the reason wheat is the most toxic is that it has been hybridised several times, and in fact contains the toxins from three separate species. The original grain (einkorn wheat) started with 14 chromosomes. It was hybridised with goat grass, and then later with Triticum grass, resulting in modern wheat, which has 42 chromosomes.
So, if you have been stuffing down tasteless whole-grain kibbled bread thinking it would aid your health, you can replace it with more of the tasty real food like eggs, bacon, lamb chops, chips, fruit, whipped cream and other indulgences, and you and your digestive track may just breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I enjoyed your podcast with Jimmy Moore and am keen to read your books ASAP!
I notice you use buckwheat flour?
I currently use psyllium for pancakes and would like to use buckwheat but its quite high in carbs.
What level of daily carbs do you aim for or recommend?
I try to stay at 50g or less per day and have had great results at this level.
Thanks! I never really measure the carbs, but I naturally stay fairly low. Psyllium husks are low in carbs, but the high fibre content can be very hard on our digestive system. Few people know, but that sort of fibre is very damaging to the bowel wall, especially in large amounts. That is why I prefer buckwheat. Also, because it isn’t actually a grain. I hope that helps 🙂
Refined grains are whole grains that have had the germ and the bran removed (examples include white rice, white flour, grits and cream of wheat). This results in a loss of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Some refined grains are enriched B that is, some of the lost minerals and vitamins are added back. In Canada, manufacturers are required to enrich white flour, resulting in a flour that is a significant source of several vitamins and iron. However, it still lacks some nutrients and the fibre found in whole grain flour.
To learn more about how you can get more whole grains into your diet, visit Choose MyPlate .
I’ve only just discovered you Christine, and grateful to see another loud voice against SAD and conventional food pyramid. Great blog especially after I’ve spent the last week listening to speakers at the Gluten Summit. Loved your blog on sugar as well.
Good article. Just wondering if you have any tips to help with carb, grain cravings when 1st starting to cut out the carbs? Thanks
You say “you can replace it with more of the tasty real food like eggs, bacon, lamb chops, chips, fruit – “. Chips?? What kind of chips???
We make home made chips with coconut oil
revisiting this topic… thinking about fibre and the value of fibre in the human gut…