Myth: Grains are Good for You
Myth 7: A Plant-Based Diet is Healthiest Myth 6: Counting Calories Myth 5: Government and Nutrition Organizations Provide Healthy Advice Myth 4: Eating carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, is vital for health Myth 3: Grains are Good for You Myth 2: Exercise is Integral to Health Myth 1: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease
Hear me out on this one. To save face up front, I’ll say that grains can be good for you. More on that in a second.
(In case you don’t know what grains are)
Grains have been exalted in the past few decades as the foundation for a healthy diet. However, grains today, and the way they’re prepared, pose many risks to health. I’ll go over those risks here.
Grains contain phytic acid, a substance that acts as a nutrient inhibitor. This chemical helps to preserve the seeds of the plant until they’re ready to grow. Over time, phytic acid (if not removed from the grain) causes serious mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, tooth decay, growth problems, and more. Of course I have a well-sourced essay to back this up. Find it here.
‘Healthier’ whole grains contain even more phytic acid, which may be the reason they generally do not taste as good as their white counterparts. Perhaps our bodies are smarter than we think and our taste buds are trying to tell us that those whole grains, with their phytic acid, won’t be digested. In fact, one study that I can’t for the life of me find again, showed that our bodies absorb more nutrients from white bread than from whole wheat. The study found this by testing stool samples (yuck!).
Another problem with grains: they’re very rich in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, especially those in grain products, spike blood sugar and get stored as fat by the hormone insulin. Farmers have known this since the dawn of farming, and have fed grains to their animals to fatten them up! It’s not hard to imagine that a diet rich in grains–the same food group used to fatten other mammals–may play a role in our obesity epidemic. Additionally, the problem of phytic acid is also well-known; feed manufacturers add phytase to animal feed to neutralize the phytic acid so as to prevent stunted growth in animals.
These problems may be hard to believe; after all, haven’t humans always eaten grains? Well, from the perspective of evolution, no. Humans, with their large brains and fantastic ability to run, are not adapted to eat grains, but to hunt. From a Christian perspective, there is a big difference between the grains of today and the grains of our ancestors, and this is where we run into another problem with grains.
Cross-breeding and genetic engineering of modern times has altered grains, and grains today are very different than grains in ancient times. Also, in ancient times, grains were prepared differently and different grains were combined to increase the nutrient content, decrease the phytic acid content, and lowered the glycemic load on blood sugar. The Wellness Mama has a wonderful article on this.
Hold on though! To conclude, I am not saying that we shouldn’t eat grains, and I realize that saying grains are bad for you is like saying George Washington wasn’t American. Humans can eat grains and grains can be good for you, but they should come from a source and be processed in a way that yields a high-quality product. Anyone who has been to France knows that there is a huge difference between the bread there and the pre-packaged, pre-sliced “bread” here. If you want more info, there is a book entitled Wheat Belly, written by a doctor, which shows how modern wheat has greatly contributed to the diseases of our country. And if you’re wondering what might be a healthy option when it comes to wheat products, look in your local farmers market. If you’re a baker, get your wheat organic; sprout it and/or ferment it first, then make a nice loaf of sourdough bread. And then share some with me!
Please share your thoughts below!