Are Whole Grains Bad for You?
Whole grains-up there with mom, apple pie, and service to country, right?
Well, a lot of people (myself included) after years of accepting that viewpoint, are now saying ‘think again’.
Gradually (and thankfully), information has been getting out about grains. While they are often the staples of many national cuisines (especially ours in the western world), consumption of grains (even ‘whole’ grains) can cause a number of problems.
Most people can nowadays agree that white bread and other refined grains are not the best source of nutrition. However, the question continues to arise whether whole grains are bad for you, and the answer, sadly, is yes.
In just a bit, I’ll give you some far healthier alternatives to wheat flour. But first, let’s address a few concerns:
How Can Something So Widely Accepted Be So Bad?
Arguments for whole grains often come back to the fact that grains are inexpensive and have been used to a large degree in our food supply. The organizations making those points are right on one account: wheat is extremely common in our food supply.
Wheat is inexpensive as compared to other foods, and used in shockingly many aspects of our food supply. Not only is bread made of wheat, but also things like crackers, cerial, sauces, chewing gum (I’m not making this up!), malted drinks, cream soups, and a host of other foods.
Wheat is a crop that the government subsidizes. In other words, lobbyists for wheat growers do everything they possibly can to get the government to pass laws that give money to wheat growers, making the realtive cost of wheat products much lower than the actual cost.
In turn, the companies who benefit from the increased sale of wheat foods are able to influence many organizations (including the FDA) to make recommendations promoting the use of wheat. But make no mistake-just because there is a lot of promotion for wheat doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com, “Lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses use billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the commodities that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food — corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. This manufactured price inequality helps junk food undersell nutritious food”.
What problems make wheat so unealthy?
The Phytic Acid Problem
Phytic acid is one component of grain-especially ‘whole grain’. It blocks minerals, and it prevents your body from absorbing a number of vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, zinc, and copper.
Additionally, phytic acids drag out a number of nutrients and minerals when your body passes them through the intestines. At the same time, they spike your blood sugar levels.
One of the most famous bad boys of grain, whether ‘whole’ or refined, is gluten. Gluten actually breaks down your microvilli in your small intestine. It also slows down the metabolism and spikes blood sugar levels as well.
The microvilli breakdown causes more apparent problems though-it can eventually break through your intestine and let bits of food leak into your blood system. This is known as leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome can cause excruciating pain, lower your immune system, create allergies, and increase the risk of a number of other problems such as infertility, ADHD, ADD, diabetes, depression, and even some forms of cancer.
Yes, you read that right-consuming gluten (as we do when we eat ‘whole’ grains) can actually leave you more likely to get cancer.
Lectins are another key component of whole grains. Unfortunately, they’re also bad, and they are quite often one of the main reasons that you’ll have problems losing weight.
Lectin binds itself to the insulin receptors and create general leptin resistance. In the long term, exposure creates a slowed metabolism, developing into the classic symptoms of a metabolic syndrome, another name for obesity.
I used to think whole grains were a good thing, but no longer buy into this myth. Since removing them from my diet quite some time ago, I can’t say how much healthier I’ve become.
The Solution? Easy-Switch To Non-Grain Flours
Coconut flour, almond flour, and hazelnut flour are not only free of the above-mentioned hazardous anti-nutrients, they’re also jam-packed with nutrients your body can actually use. In addition, they’re low-carb, don’t spike blood-sugar issues, and don’t set you up for a ‘crash’ later. In case you can’t find them in your grocery store, you can probably find them in your health food store.
Want to see for yourself? Try this simple recipe for low-carb pancakes made with almond/coconut flour. Top it off with a good cup of coffee and side of nitrate-free bacon, and I promise you’ll be looking for more recipe ideas :)
BTW-have you ever tried coconut or almond flour?
Please leave your thoughts below :)
Peter Curcio, “Dissecting Anti Nutrients: The Good and Bad of Phytic Acid,” Breaking Muscle, http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/dissecting-anti-nutrients-good-and-bad-phytic-acid (2011).
“How Grains Are Killing You Slowly,” Wellness Mama, http://wellnessmama.com/575/how-grains-are-killing-you-slowly/ (2010).
“Why Grains Are Unhealthy,” Mark’s Daily Apple, http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/#axzz2asLEbCAT (2013).