Grain Brain? Paleo? Keto? What once was the war on fat is now the war on grains but will it have the same results? Just like fats, grains can be a great source of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Although we’ve spent years consuming grains, there are now some conflicting points of view on if grains are actually as good as we once believed.
Why Go Grain Free?
The number of healthy diets to choose from nowadays is extensive. Depending on your goals, your discipline, and conditions or disease risk, you should have no problem finding a style of eating that is best for your needs.
One popular option is the grain-free diet, particularly for those with gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or autoimmune conditions along with those seeking to lose weight. Eating grain-free involves eliminating wheat products containing gluten, but also any gluten-free grains, such as rice, corn, oats and barley.
One problem with grains involves their modern growth techniques and modification.
Our once nutrient dense flour, has now been stripped of its nutritional properties. This has lead to a rise in health problems and the fear of all foods white and brown. They have now been replaced with semi-dwarf wheat, which is a genetically modified version of wheat.
Now, gluten-containing grains along with some other grains are considered to be a source of inflammation and chronic digestive problems. This isn’t just for those suffering from celiac, either. We’ve seen a rise in gluten sensitivity issues by 400 percent over the past half-century.
Cutting down on your consumption of common starches like processed wheat, rice and corn protects your health and improves you microbiome, plus it lessens the environmental impact of industrial agriculture. Corn, wheat, and rice are the most popular grains in the world, but growing them consumes a lot of resources, including water, fossil fuels, and fertilizer.
Even if you don’t have celiac disease, it’s best to avoid gluten as much as possible. This is because of the negative impact it can have on one's physical and mental wellbeing. This doesn’t mean avoiding grains entirely though! If you eat grains, they should be in their whole, natural forms and ideally sprouted to help with easier digestion and better absorption.
Whole, natural grains deliver a variety of important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and other healthy plant compounds. Due to whole grains being rich in fiber and magnesium, they can help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and stroke. Also, due to their high fiber content, whole grains help support healthy digestion by giving bulk to stools and feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Not all grains are created equal, but there are more gluten-free options than you may have guessed. Stick with gluten-free grains and pseudograins which as amaranth, millet, oats, quinoa, brown/red/white/wild rice, bulgur, sorghum, freekeh, buckwheat, and teff are the some of the ones that I would recommend using.
So, now what?
I’m never one to advise clients to completely eliminate any food group unless medically necessary, but grains are not for everyone. This is why in my Gut Recharge Program we work on figuring out which foods work for you as an individual.
If you’re someone that is struggling with poor digestion or autoimmune diseases, it might be worth a try to go grain-free. You can also try to swap out your grains for gluten-free options and considering sprouting them for easier digestion.
Grain-free diets aren’t for everyone, and for good reason. Many ancient grains and whole wheat products have great benefits for health that can’t go unnoticed. It’s safe to say that there isn’t enough research to indicate what the long-term effects will be. Will this be just like the no-fat phase or will this be something that sticks?
Either way, it all starts with some self reflection and analysis of you as the individual. There is no reason to fear the grain unless medically necessary. Begin to pay a little bit more attention as to how your grains affect your digestion, mental clarity, and overall well being to decide what works best for you.
How often should we eat grains? I would stick to a serving size of ½ a cup, once a day, max. I see them as an occasional indulgence, but not an everyday thing. You can try out this grain bowl here for a little lunch time inspiration.