Are Grains Really Healthy to Eat?

Saturday Oct 1, 2016 | BY |
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Should you eat grains? The debate rages on in the diet community, and many people are still confused about the role of grains in the human diet.

Paleo folks say you should avoid grains because we’ve only been cultivating them for what, like 10,000 years?

Raw foodists say to avoid grains because, well… grains have to be cooked!

And low-carb dieters also avoid grains because grains are a starchy food, full of carbs.

On the other hand…

Advocates of most plant-based diets consume whole grains.

Author Dr. McDougall makes a compelling case that human beings should live on a starch-based diet, rather than a meat-based diet.

Most vegan doctors recommend whole grains.

And some more obscure health philosophies like Macrobiotics are based on whole grains like brown rice!

Arguments Against Grains

Bad For HealthI will go quickly through the main arguments against grains that you find in many books and websites on the subject.

1) Humans are not biologically adapted to grains. Agriculture has existed for only 10,000 years, and home sapiens, our race, is at least 200,000 years old. Prior to the agricultural revolutions, we lived on a diet of fruits, vegetables, tubers and wild animal foods.

2) Grains are not complete in vitamins and minerals. For this reason, a grain-based diet must always contain vegetables to be nutritionally sufficient.

3) Grains contain lectins, a type of protein. Lectins are bad. They can cause immune reactions, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

4) Many grains contain gluten, another protein that is is even worse than lectins.

5) Grains contain phytates, an antioxidant compound. The problem? Phytates can bind with minerals such as iron, zinc, and manganese.

6) Grains contain carbohydrates! Lots of them. Mainly in the form of starch. If you believe that you should limit your intake of carbohydrates in favor of protein and fat, then grains are indeed very bad.

7) Because of the above, the intake of grains causes inflammation in the body.

Who’s Writing This Stuff?

The problem is that a lot of the information you find online comes from bloggers. They do not represent the cutting edge in scientific knowledge but are the opinions of ONE person, often twisted to make a point.

For example, when I type “Are Grains Healthy?” in Google, the first link that comes up is an anti-grain article by “Wellness Mama.”

The article goes into the usual anti-grain points I have already mentioned, but throwing in a few extra surprises for fun:

In the last 130 years of increased grain consumption, chronic disease rates have skyrocketed, fertility has fallen and the average weight of the population has steadily risen. The more consumption of grains rose, the more fertility rates fell. Research from the University of Missouri, the average sperm count of American males has dropped 50% since the 1930s. To add insult to impotence, testicle size tends to have an inverse relationship with grain consumption.

I have tried searching for some evidence to support Wellness Mama’s assertions, but all I could come up with were more people quoting her very article! That, and some vague references to Asian countries, where a lot of grains are consumed and the average size of certain parts of the human male anatomy tend to be smaller, on average, than in North America.

This seems to be a good example of bloggers making up stuff in order to sound interesting and have some contrarian philosophy to share. Yet, what is the truth about grains?

Counter Arguments

Alright, before we take a look at the role of grains in health, let’s see if we could debunk some of the arguments used against grains.

1) We’ve Only Be Eating Grains for 10,000 Years

I don’t know about you, but 10,000 years does not seem like a small chunk of time. Of course, I understand the assertion here that evolution works very slowly, and that humans did not have time to adapt physiologically to grain consumption in that period.

It only took 7000 years for 35% of the world population to adapt to dairy products and be able to digest them. (This is called lactase persistence).

But besides that, there’s growing evidence that grains have been part of the human diet for much longer than 10,000 years.

* People living in what is now Mozambique may have eaten a diet based on sorghum (a type of wild grain) as long as 105,000 years ago.
* Neanderthals appear to have consumed and cooked grains 44,000 years ago.
* Evidence suggests that grains and vegetable starch were processed and consumed in Europe over 30,000 years ago.

But ultimately… Does it actually matter what humans ate 100,000 years ago? The diet that worked best for them then will not work necessarily well for us now.

2) Long-Lived Cultures And Grains

It may be fun to look at extremely flimsy evidence on what humans ate thousands of years ago, and what their health might have been then. But there’s something more relevant that we can do… study the longest-lived cultures in the world today and look at what they eat.

Some researchers have called these spots in the world where an unusual percentage of the population reaches the age of 100 the Blue Zones. Here are the five zones:

The Island of Sardinia, in Italy. Their traditional diet is based on whole wheat bread, vegetables, a little goat cheese and wine. Meat is not consumed on a daily basis.

From the book “The Blue Zones”: “Bread is by far the main food. Peasants leave early in the morning to the fields with a kilogram of bread in their saddlebag… At noon their meal consists only of bread, with some cheese among wealthier families, while the majority of the workers are satisfied with an onion, a little fennel, or a bunch of radishes. At dinner, the reunited family eats a single meal consisting of a vegetable soup (minestrone) to which the richest add some pasta. In most areas, families ate meat only once a week, on Sunday.”

The tropical islands of Okinawa, in Japan. The diet is based on sweet potatoes, traditional soy products, rice, and vegetables.

When a 102-year old woman (who apparently looks like she’s in her 70’s) describes her routine, she says:

“I wake up at about 6 a.m. and make a pot of jasmine tea and eat my breakfast, usually miso soup with vegetables. (…) At noon, Kamada said, she wanders into the kitchen garden behind her house to harvest some herbs and vegetables for her lunch. “I’ll use mugwork to give my rice flavor or tumeric to spice my soup, she said. “I don’t eat much any more. Usually just stir-fried vegetables and maybe some tofu.” And meat, I asked. “Oh yes, I like meat, but not always. When I was a girl, I ate it only during the New Year festivals. I’m not in the habit of eating it every day.”

The Nicoya peninsula, in Costa Rica. They eat corn tortillas, beans, some animal protein such as eggs and some amount of pork or chicken. They also eat a lot of fruit.

The religious group of the 7th Day Adventists, living in Loma Linda, California. Their diet is more aligned with your typical health-food store enthusiast rather than a traditional diet forced by circumstances. Things like fresh fruit, oatmeal, salads and vegetarian foods are part of the menu.

The last blue zone is the island of Ikaria, in Greece. A New York Times article called it “The Island Where People Forget to Die.” Their diet consists of goat’s milk, bread, beans, potatoes, and greens, with some fish and occasionally, pork.

I really have a hard time believing that a a food, which is so central to the diet of the top-5 longest lived cultures in the world, is truly at the source of the “skyrocketing chronic disease rates” in North America.

3) My Observations

I’ve been to 30 countries or so, and spent a decent amount of time in many of them. I don’t buy the theory that “carbs and grains make you fat.”

For example: the Philippines.

I’ve been to places like Thailand where people eat a lot of rice, but it’s nothing compared to the Filipino portions. At the breakfast buffet table, the first thing Filipinos go for is a giant serving of rice that takes up most of their plate. Then after that they grab some of the other stuff, which occupies less space on their plate.

For lunch, the local Filipino guys eat the tallest pile of rice I’ve ever seen, along with smaller portions of meat or fish. I suspect it’s the same scenario for dinner. For dessert, they top it all off with more carbs in the form of fresh fruit, which they seem to devour eagerly. In spite of all this carb consumption, most people are fairly thin.

Any man working outside is downright ripped in the Philippines!

A simple look around the world shows that people who eat natural foods and exercise are ripped and healthy. Most of these people eat large quantities of grains (often because they are cheap and available year round).

4) Calories in Grains

A cup of rice is only 250 calories. How many cups of rice do you think you can eat in a day?

It’s so filling that even if you gorged on rice all day, it would be pretty hard to eat more calories than your body needs.

On the other hand, a tablespoon of oil is 120 calories. It’s quite easy to add extra calories without noticing it by adding some oil to your food like in fried rice, fried noodles, and fried meat. Also, the body can store the fat you eat as body fat with almost no effort.

5) The Rice Diet

White rice (along with fruit) is the basis of one of the most effective diet therapies ever created. It’s called the Rice Diet and was used by Dr Walter Kempner as a very effective treatment for hypertension, type-2 diabetes, diabetic eye damage, arthritis, heart failure (cardiomegaly and EKG changes), kidney disease, and obesity.

6) Phytates, Lectins, and Other “Toxins” In Grains

We’re told that grains contain too many toxins, and “anti-nutrients.” Ok, so eat potatoes instead? They contain toxins. Green veggies contain toxins. In fact, most foods contain naturally-occurring toxins. Let’s not even get started on the toxins in meat, dairy and seafood!

The question is not “does the food contain toxins” but rather “is the quantity of naturally occurring toxins enough to promote disease or malnutrition?”

Phytates are mostly broken down by cooking. Problems with deficiencies might occur if the diet is composed mainly of grains. It won’t be a problem if you add in fresh fruits and vegetables, and other foods.

As for lectins, they are in ALL foods. And again, they are deactivated by cooking. The lectins in the foods we eat raw only cause real discomfort if they are consumed in extremely large quantities.

It’s a mistake to try to isolate foods by breaking them into their micronutrients and micro toxins and recommend to eat or avoid certain foods because of one tiny element. It’s the WHOLE that matter. Does eating this food contribute to health or disease?

Which leads me to…

7) Scientific Evidence Supports Whole Grains for Health

You may be able to find some isolated papers on the harmful role of lectins in health, but when you look at the large picture, grains have never been linked to chronic disease.

Recently, a review was published that compiled the results of over 66 different reviews (including 21 randomized controlled trials), comparing people who rarely consume whole grains to those consuming several servings a day. A significantly lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain were found in the grain-consuming groups.

As for inflammation, the studies show that whole grains lower markers of inflammation and consumption of red meat increases it. You can take a look at all of the evidence I have provided in the footnotes if you are not convinced.

There are no studies of that scale suggesting that eating meat lowers inflammation or that consuming whole grains increases it.

Yes, Some People Should Avoid Grains

Some people are sensitive to gluten and should avoid grains containing it.

And some people don’t feel great when eating grains and prefer to eat other foods. Is that a problem? If a type of food doesn’t work for you, don’t eat it!

But what I’ve shown you is that the hysteria against grains is not based on solid evidence and that, for the most part, including some whole grains in your diet is a good thing.

I like to rotate my sources of carbohydrates between fruit, beans, grains and root vegetables. I consume more calories from the other three categories than I do from grains — but grains are part of my diet. They are not the foundation of it, but they are a part for sure.

We’ll discuss gluten and sugar in future articles, but for now… please leave your thoughts on grains below!

Further Research/Footnotes

On the evidence for grains being part of the human diet for more than 10,000 years, see the book The Starch Solution.

On the Blue Zones:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

On the Rice Diet: Kempner W, Newborg BC, Peschel RL, Skyler JS.   Treatment of massive obesity with rice/reduction diet program. An analysis of 106 patients with at least a 45-kg weight loss. Arch Intern Med. 1975 Dec;135(12):1575-84.

On the Meta-Analysis Studies on Grainshttp://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/7/1304.full.pdf

Whole Grains and Inflammation:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3549403/pdf/394_2012_Article_340.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24284436
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2924598/pdf/nut1401669.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22747841
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658901/pdf/1475-2891-12-62.pdf

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

51 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. The toxins you mention in meats, etc. (excluding seafoods) are mostly found in factory farmed animals, not in pastured animals. I wish those in the so-called health industry would start recognizing this important distinction. Factory farmed animals are raised in a toxic environment. Pastured animals are not and there is a huge difference. Vegan is fine, as long a vegans recognize that it doesn’t work for everyone long term; I have seen that firsthand. Seafoods are an issue because of man-made toxins, unfortunately, so in many cases they should be avoided. We eat seafood very sparingly and mostly in the form of sushi. We know our farmers and only consume meat and poultry from farmers we are familiar with, and that sparingly. We try to concentrate more on veggies and fruits.

  2. Sofia says:

    I have been reading your articles for years – almost 10 – and have enjoyed your personal evolution. I really enjoy your thought provoking articles – they are often funny as well as enlightening!

    My diet has also evolved. I have been “high raw” for about 8 years, and the last year or two has seen me introduce more starches in the form of sweet potatoes, squashes, potatoes, and the occasional grain. I enjoy the heartiness and find it “holds” me for much longer, which is sometimes needed and desired. I have not noticed any negative repercussions from eating these foods. The only thing I find is that, when eating grain, I tend to want to overeat on that grain. Perhaps it is a texture thing, or a comfort thing. Otherwise, I certainly enjoy the variety!

    Keep up the good work, Frederic! You rock!

  3. Heidi says:

    Good article. My husband and I are “high raw” – lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as some grains, a bit of cheese, nuts, seeds and eggs. We add a few nuts or a small amount of seeds to our salad, as well as a small amount of fish oil. We are able to maintain a healthy weight and have been eating high raw for a few years.

  4. Lauren says:

    Interesting article. I am one of those who does not do well on grains. I feel bloated and sluggish with starchy carbs, including sprouted quinoa (cooked), and even yams and potatoes. That’s me, and I respect that others are different. My husband can eat a bowl of oatmeal and eggs together and be fine — crazy! 🙂 And, yes, I do recognize that my flora is surely out of whack, not to mention other digestive challenges. So far, though, no enzyme or probiotic has changed this reality for me, and I’m now experimenting with bile thinners and betaine HCl.

    Anyway, I’ve been reading the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, and he sure makes more supported arguments than Wellness Mama. I wonder if you or others are familiar and what you’d say to his point of view backed by a lot more research? I don’t put this out there to be confrontational — I truly don’t know what to believe, except that, at the end of the day, I know what makes me feel good and what makes me feel bad.

    Thanks for the info you provide and a balanced view on so many topics…
    Lauren

  5. Ted says:

    When you factor in GMOs in grains, (many are) be very careful as to your choices!

  6. barbaraL says:

    Refreshing article. I find some of the dense rices really satisfying, like black, red and wehani rice from Lundberg. I like to buy shiitake in the asian food stores and stir fry lightly with green onions and varied fresh picked greens fm my garden and seasoned with garlic and onion and Bronners amino, served over about 1-1.5 cups of this dense rice … very satisfying. Sometimes I make it with quinoa, equally good – lighter. I like to eat a lot of volume since all I have all day is just some form of fruit and green juice. Its nice to read something that doesn’t sound ominous or didactic. Lots of times I read stuff from raw food or vegan gurus and I just feel they made it up anecdotally. Others seem very cogent but hard to know whats really so. Best to experiment and this article opens the doors of permission to do so. Thanx

  7. Tim Miller says:

    Great article. Thanks so much, Frederic.

  8. Thank you Frederic for talking so much sense.

    I am an Acupuncturist and Natural Health Practitioner and I get so irritated by people who write off whole food groups in order to satisfy their subliminal need for self-denial.

    I conduct food sensitivity testing and have long since realised that some individuals would rather be told that they must stay away from certain foods rather than find a way to rebalance their bodies so that the sensitivities no longer exist!

    Your reference to the longest living groups of people on the planet and their consumption of grains really resonated with me as I have been thinking along those exact lines for some time now.

    Many of us have, indeed, evolved to tolerate grains and it is absurd to dismiss a complete range of foods as being unsuitable for the whole human race without any proof whatsoever. The problem with testing individual foods for their effects is not conclusive as it doesn’t take into account the effect of food COMBINATIONS. Foods may react in a different way when eaten with another food type.

    The so-called evidence linking grain consumption with lowering of fertility is spurious, to say the least. The cause of this problem, I think, is more to do with the absorption of petro-chemicals than the consumption of grains.

    I always enjoy reading your posts but this one was superb. I have recently started a blog on the Chinese Five Elements and will consider a post on this topic in the near future.

    Keep on with your awesome articles.

    Best regards,

    Teresa

  9. Brian Shiers says:

    You mention that raw food people don’t eat grains because they need to be cooked. Not rolled oats. Soak in water for an hour or so, or even better, in fresh carrot juice.

    Re your B12 ad – there is enough B12, plus just about every other nutrient, in E3Live blue-green algae from Klamath Lake, Oregon — all alive and natural and almost totally digestible.

  10. ania says:

    i could not agree more!! really like the article, and i like that you base it on EVIDENCE!!

  11. Louis says:

    im anti-grain b/c of my colitis, but I really appreciate hearing counter arguments like this that look at all of the different viewpoints. It all comes down to bio individuality and working on the other factors that affect our health other than the food we eat.

  12. This is a great article representing all sides of the equation. It is so good to hear common sense with the scientific studies to back them up. One of my clients is a vibrant woman in her 70’s. She loves to get monthly massages and she says they are so good for her health. Being a health nut myself I wanted to know more about her lifestyle and eating habits as she was a great example of aging well. She said very matter of factly that her father use to always tell her to “eat less and work more”. I love this. Simple and to the point. She is a happy person I believe because of her simple eating habits, and simple ways of taking care of herself. There is no need to make life over complicated. I find great joy in raw living foods, healing herbs and mushrooms and the science and mythology in it all. It is like a universe in every meal, in every ingredient with folklore, magic and the ability to make a meal full of memories and light and a conscious effort to improve my state of mind and healrh. I eat bread and rice in moderation, but am always experimenting with raw crackers and dehydrating snacks, seaweeds and superfoods. It is all good as long as we are open, forgiving and striving for the best experience possible. Thanks Patenaude for another wonderful article full of grounded information including more than one side of the coin.

    • Nikki says:

      Nice Post, Jamie. If you don’t write Poems… you should ! Your prose is very poetic 😉
      I agree with you that Frederic’s article is grounding… and rational amidst the ranting out there.
      LOVE & LIGHT & SOUND!

  13. Liz says:

    I agree with you 100%, Frederic. There are so many alarmists out there for SO very many foods (and food GROUPS) that I think people in this country live in fear about consuming perfectly innocuous food items. While I don’t believe a diet compromised of mostly grains is beneficial to most, I certainly don’t believe that (whole) grains are UNhealthy or BAD for peopple or should be eliminated entirely, and there certainly is no reason to avoid them like the plague. If someone feels better without grains or they just don’t sit well with them then, yes, please, by all means don’t eat them! There’s no reason to assert, though, that grains are bad for EVERYONE (for some of the counter arguments you listed). (I think it goes without saying that I am NOT speaking of processed grains, which SHOULD be limited or eliminated entirely from one’s diet nor am I referring to people who need to eliminate grains from their diet for health reasons.) People often seem to forget that we are all so very different, and different things work for different people. Just because something worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else. The old adage “Everything in Moderation” still holds true for most things, here, as well, I believe.

    I say this all as someone who has naturally gravitated away from most grains and grain products, but I don’t avoid them because I think they’re BAD For me. I’d just rather eat other things.

  14. Wayne Boblis says:

    I would like some more information. In the article the Rice Diet is mentioned as a treatment for tyoe 2 diabetes. I have type 2 and find that any grains that I eat, wheather it is bread, pasta or RICE raises my blood sugar significantly. So, how can a diet high in rice consumption treat type ? I amaware that that is not all one must eat, however, fruit and some vegetables, those with high sugar content like carrots also raise my blood sugar. I would appreciate any information on this issue

    • Hi Wayne! Good question! Diets like the Rice Diet work for type-2 diabetes because they are very low in fat. Plant based diets with no overt fats improve insulin sensitivity dramatically. As does exercise and a few other things. So yes, a high rice consumption in the context of a higher fat diet will affect blood sugar. But what these diets do is work on improving insulin sensitivity, and therefore the higher carb content does not cause spikes in blood sugar. A good book on the topic is Neal Barnard’s book on reversing diabetes: http://amzn.to/1CefQMu

    • Chris says:

      To make a high carbohydrate diet successful, one must keep the fats to a minimum….. 10% of calories consumed.

  15. suzanne says:

    Frederic, that was a great article. It is just common sense. I wish that more people could read it, especially the ones who are being led to believe grains are bad with these bestselling books, ex. Wheat Belly, Dr. Perlmutter’s book, etc.
    Schedule a show with PBS!

  16. kimber says:

    Great info, thank you. The common deniminators I see in the blue zones are the lack of unnatural and artificial or processed foods. If we eliminate those kinds of foods and overconsumtion of any food, we can listen to our bodys messages which tell us what nourishes us the best. We dont need studies or anothers idea of the ideal diet when we are internally informed!

    • Pierre Parent says:

      My grandfather, born in 1888 in Windsor Ontario lived to the ripe old age of 97. His older brother made it to 102. Of the 6 kids in his family, 5 made it to 80+. The other died at 49. My grandfather ate a varied diet but did everything in moderation. He even smoked a bit and had a shot of brandy every morning for much of his life. He lived primarily on corn and tomatoes in the summertime. He did a fair bit of physical labour throughout his life. I remember him running after us in our front yard when he was 75 and leading a work crew of my father and uncle’s to build an addition onto our home. He rarely ate any processed foods. I don’t recall him avoiding any other foods.
      Post 17 mentions that the common denominators I see in the blue zones are the lack of unnatural and artificial or processed foods. I think my grandfather would agree with avoiding these types of foods. His son, my father, was one of 11 boys and he also had two sisters. Only 2 of the 11 boys made it to age 80, my father and an older brother who made it to 89. Both his sisters made it past 80, one to 84 and the other, also the oldest in the family to 96. The 11 boys all smoked and ate poorly. The two girls did not smoke and ate more sensibly. So, avoiding smoking is huge. As is eating moderately.
      As for me, I am 60 and vegetarian. I have been mostly gluten-free for the past two years and have dabbled in being vegan. My weight has remained fairly steady for the past two years although it would be lower if I did more than just walk my dog everyday. So that’s my two cents worth for today.

  17. Valorie says:

    Hi Frederic,

    You mention above “I like to rotate my sources of carbohydrates between fruit, beans, grains and root vegetables. I consume more calories from the other three categories than I do from grains…”

    May I assume that you also get a fair amount of your carbs from veggies (not just root veggies)?

    Looking forward to your thoughts,
    Val

    • Hi Valorie! Veggies typically don’t contain many calories so I don’t include them as a “source of carbohydrates.” For example: kale, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, etc. You’d have to eat many of them to even get 200 calories.

  18. Aaron Mann says:

    What you didn’t mention is that due to being GMO’s, grains such as wheat, rye, and barley contain a gluten that is hard for many people to digest. Also, corn is very often contaminated with fungus and mycotoxins.

    • Joe says:

      Wheat, Rye and Barley are not ‘GMO organisms’. At least, GMO wheat has not been comercialized.

      Wheat and rice were altered in the 50s to produce higher yields, and this process used a form of radiation to rearrange the DNA. In a sense, the DNA has been modified – but they are not GMOs in the modern sense of having DNA from other species spliced into their genome, with a virus as the delivery method.

      Having said this – wheat has been bred especially to have a much higher gluten content – and I believe that the majority of this anti-grain stuff is really aimed at modern wheat – especially when consumed refined. There is no doubt that gluten sensitivity is rising quickly, especially here in Italy.

      Luckily, ther are old grains available. Farro is really popular, as are traditional rice breeds.

      Mycotoxins are a problem yes – but perhaps more with coffee or peanuts. Personally I wouldn’t touch corn unless I grew it or knew the farmer!

      • Joe, i don’t know where you get your information from but it is certainly un- substantiated.. Donald Kasarda (researcher US dept of Agriculture and Joseph A Murray ( professor of medicine Mayo clinic ) have both studied wheat genetics for decades, they both find wheat grain and protein in wheat hasn’t changed much in over 100 years and that’s based on historical as well as current day data I suspect you have been conned by the book ” Wheat Belly”

  19. Michelle says:

    Thank you for the article! I have wondered for a while now when grains would become not so bad again. I suspected they can’t be as bad as everyone makes out when the Bible speaks of many grains, and many countries and cultures eat them. I know the argument that grains are not the same today as before in history, but I think that is mainly wheat? I bake/cook our bread and grain products most of the time myself- i’m a whole food cook from scratch kind of mommy who uses lard and butter liberally, lots of fruits and veggies, hubby loves meat so I include that, sometimes more, sometimes less, raw dairy from our goats, eggs from our chickens etc. and we do eat pasta, grains, bread, etc Feels like most health stuff is on a pendulum. Butter, eggs, coffee, etc. I like rather to look at the whole food diet with other good things from diet discoveries.

  20. Mary says:

    I find that I have better metabolism, and disposition, when I eat some grains each week. I avoid gluten–my blood type is O.

  21. Karin says:

    I totally agree with you! The anti-grain phase is a fad, I think. I do wonder if the reason alot of people are suddenly unable to tolerate grains is because of hybridization and gmo’s. I think the whole paleo diet is based on a false premise. The earth could not have evolved. Male and female could not evolve separately. What we now know about the cell-the chances of proteins lining up correctly to form an enzyme is 10 to the 40 th power. This is impossible and that is just one enzyme! Life from non-life cannot happen. The whole idea is impossible. So if you want to follow the Paleo diet, go ahead-but the premise is flawed.

    Thanks Frederick -I enjoy your articles very much!

  22. sheri says:

    Thanks so much for this very reasonable and balanced article. I have read some of the material against grains also, and it just doesn’t make sense. I enjoy my beans and whole grains, almost on a daily basis. and I think just having common sense and eating healthy is most important, along with exersize and staying away for the most part from sugar. Personally the only gluten i do is in homemade sourdough bread made with sprouted grains, that I sprout myself. It is so easy to make and so wonderful and satisfying to eat. Economical too. With my beans I enjoy rice, buckwheat ( which isn’t really a grain), and quinoa. Thanks for clearing up some misunderstandings.

  23. Ivana Stock says:

    Hi i have an auto-immune disease called Sjogren’s. I also suffer from Neuropathy as a result of this illness attacking my peripheral nerves. I have been gluten-free for 6 years but have included rice , and nuts in my diet . Nearly every book and article i’ve read says i should avoid ALL grains and eat meat at EVERY meal.I find i cannot stomach meat first thing in the morning so i have one slice of gluten-free bread. I have not had an improvement ,let alone a reversal of my disease . What do you know about my illness and can you give me some advice regarding what i should eat ? When i was first diagnosed an alternative doctor said i should stick to Paleo diet but did not exclude all grains. Now i’m wondering if i should, according to Dr. Myers’ book. Thank you, Ivana.

  24. Joe says:

    Great article!

    I think the majoroty of this anti-grain stuff is probably aimed at modern wheat. It is a very different plant to the wheat of ancient times, having been bred for high gluten content – and there’s no doubt that gluten sensitivity is on the rise. And when the gut is damaged, I think our general tolerance for grains decreases.

    But is this the grains fault, or once again ours for manipulating nature, and then refining the result and munching it down with sugar and cream in the form of doughnuts for breakfast!? (While watching TV)

    We should eat proper grains like Farro like the Roman Legions did.

  25. Marty says:

    I think your article is fair and balanced. I hope when you report on gluten you will do some research on heritage wheat vs modern wheat. Yes, there are plenty of people who say there is no difference, but over 2000 of our customers who now can eat wheat again because they’re eating heritage (kept spelt out of the mix) wheat can’t all be “jumpers on the bandwagon”. It has proved true for my husband who even went to Mayo Clinic to find out why he was so sick and couldn’t. When he stopped modern wheat gluten and made no other changes he got well. We hear over and over that customers can eat bread in other countries but not in the US. There is a small amount of research that bears this out and more will be coming in the future.

  26. joe says:

    I can eat all the fresh fruit and veggies (including tubers) I want…But, as soon as I eliminate grains, constipation becomes an issue. With grains, it keeps me energetic all day long if I include some with each meal…and they’re supposed to be bad for my body type.

    I agree, focus on one ingredient foods.

  27. Lori says:

    Hi Frederic!! Great article, but now I am even more confused than ever. Every diet seems to have an expert and science to back up their claims. I just came off 10-weeks of low carb/high fat and GAINED 8-lbs on a program created by ex-vegan/raw food-ist that claims high fat is the answer!! Is this correct statement: high carb/low fat or low carb/high fat? How do we know which is best for our individual needs? I have no food intolerances, just can’t seem to lose weight no matter what diet I try.

  28. I believe the problem we are having with grains is not that they are bad to eat but the genetic modification and the tampering in the natural make up of the grains. I believe that gluten in the grain may be foreign protein that we don’t have the enzymes to digest them with.

    When we take off the bran from the grain, example: rice bran or wheat bran or oat bran, we are left essentially with the starch with not much mineral and vitamins and fiber left in the grain. When we pearl barley or hull the millet, are we not essentially denaturing the barley or removing the nutrients needed for the respective grains to be complete grains?

    I found out the hard way that the organic groats I bought from a health food store was some how processed. Just like I found out the hard way that my raw almonds were not raw but being steam pasteurized !!!

    The issue may not be the grains making us fat or causing inflammation but what the producers are doing to the grains before they get to us that were are not aware of.

    Chioma Chiawa

  29. Zyxomma says:

    I’ve been vegan since my teens (I’m 60), and have never had a problem with grains. I stopped consuming modern wheat (I prefer einkorn or spelt), and prefer sprouting my grains and beans before cooking, just as I soak nuts and seeds before eating them raw.

    My diet is vegetables, sea vegetables, a little fruit (berries are my favorite, but I love them all), coconut (in the form of unsweetened coconut yogurt, unrefined coconut oil and coconut butter, frozen coconut water and meat from young coconuts, and dried coconut), beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

    I believe most of the diseases we’re seeing are from overconsumption of processed food-like junk, and that most of the gut problems that seem to be ever-increasing are from glyphosate killing friendly bacteria.

    I’m a great chef, both live and cooked, and the first ingredient in my organic, whole food regimen is always LOVE. I’m grateful for the people who grow my food, and everyone who helps get it to my plate. Health and peace.

  30. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much Frederic! This is THE best article yet on how to be sensible in one’s approach to grains. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!! You have proved that common sense has not quite died yet!

  31. Paul Fassa says:

    A researcher in Canada fed Celiac sufferers real sourdough bread and they had no problems. Another Italian study did the same thing. Sprouted grains are more like veggies – Ezekiel bread is just that. Artisan bakeries and even Whole Foods bake their bread without bromides, which is the stuff most commercial bakeries use and it clogs up your thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine. Real sourdough has a long fermentation period.

    Yes – most of the off the shelf crap is not healthy. Whole grain brown rice can be soaked overnight if you’re so concerned about phytates and lectins in beans – which should be purchased dry and soaked overnight anyway. One has to discriminate and be willing to look for the grains that are OK for him or her. Most of those gluten free substitutes are worse than what they replace.

    Look into Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s GAPS material (book and articles). She has cured her son of Autism and others with similar disorders, allergies, and autoimmune diseases by adjusting gut microbiota that starts from mommy as the newborn goes through the birth canal and when the child is breast fed. Whatever mommy did to mess up her microbiota, diet, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and vaccines is inherited by a kid who gets vaccinated and given antibiotics while existing on sugary kiddie foods with harmful dyes – did I mention GMOs and herbicides like Roundup Ready and the fact that they’re found in umbilical cords?

    Oh – let’s all jump on the grain and gluten source of our ills now, shall we – NOT?

  32. Donna Long says:

    I happen to agree completely with this article. This anti-grain, anti-gluten craze has become completely out of context. The food industry has grabbed onto the fad touting everything from jelly beans to veggie chips as being “gluten free”. It’s a scam on the public. I’ve seen the same thing happen a couple decades ago about fat, when oils and fats were “bad”. I was ignorant enough to cut most fats from my vegetarian diet. My arms broke out, my skin looked old and I dare say, I probably lost a lot of brain cells and maybe even damaged my dna. Gluten free is a similar scenario.

    Common sense tells me, despite the negative GMO and overprocessing factors, earlier types of unadulterated whole grains happen to be a perfect food design and complete package. Logically, the gluten (protein) and starch in grains balance each other. Theoretically,slower digested gluten protein puts the brakes on sugar spike and protects the system from too quickly digested starch; feeding the starch energy much more evenly and slowly to the body. The leftover fiber acts as system cleanup in the intestinal system to rush any excess toxins or debris to the exit. What could be more logical and perfect?

    The problem is, in order to get a soft, pristine white looking pasty bread products, the industry has bombarded us with starchy over processed,”gluten free” “junk” grain products that clog us up, spike blood sugar and turn us into diabetic obese sick people by processing out the protein and fiber as unwanted “chaff”. They throw out the best and essential parts and sell us the leftover sugar rush. What better marketing tool, than calling their products “gluten free” like its a good thing and people are buying it. They capitalizing on the small percentage of the population who have developed celiac or other allergies and sensitivity to scare the rest of the population into giving agreement to a farce!

    In my opinion, properly cooked whole grains are plenty healthy, when balanced in the diet “as is” as long as you have not developed any oversensitivity or allergy!

  33. I have been involved in a holistic health and lifestyle for 32 years and have done it all just about, including
    raw food, juicing, herbs, essential oils etc.

    I was a vegan until 2 years ago when I discovered Marcobiotics– diet and life style. I made the switch from Vegan
    diet and is very happy and feel more alive eating whole foods– grains, beans, salads etc that comes with eating a
    TRUE Microbiotic diet. I don not eat any type of meats including fish.

    I took the time to find out about this diet and lifestyle – I was greatly surprised and happy.

    Check into the Kushi Institute and Strengthening Health Institute.

    Peace

    Jennifer

  34. Sondra says:

    Thanks so much for such wonderful and reasonable information!
    Whole grains are a large part of my vegan life style.

  35. If there’s something that history has taught us, it is how fast we forget our lessons, we keep repeating the same mistakes, it happened with the campaign against saturated fats in the 1980s, where the so called experts told us that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease, however the many trials including the Framington trial conducted by Harvard University since 1948 have proved conclusively they don’t.

    Lets not make he same mistake with the campaign against bread, this simple nutritious food is being vilified by the spin doctors and degree ideologist’s with misinformation and distorted facts.

    History doesn’t lie, not so long ago, being without bread meant hunger and famine. Successful past civilisations were built, advanced and sustained by bread alone. We only need go back to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970’s to see how important a part bread played in sustaining the family. Bread was a staple part of every meal. You only need look at the physique of people of that time, slender, streamlined builds, you only need look at the good health of the people of that era, to understand that bread played an important part in the shaping of those physiques and of maintaining peoples health

    Whole grain bread is our most essential food, it has more nutrition per weight than meat, milk, potato’s, fruits and vegetables (Thomas 1976)That’s why our forefathers chose it as their preferred cereal grain

    Cereal grains and legumes play an important role in supplying the nutrients as well as over 70% of the daily energy requirements of over two- thirds of the worlds population ( Edwards et al 1971 )

    It indicates to me, that people writing adversely about real bread, have never tasted a true 100% freshly milled organic whole grain sour dough bread before.

  36. Jane says:

    Hello Frederic!

    I am exploring the book, Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Raman Prasad, The Grain-Free, Lactose Free, Sugar-Free Solution to IBD, Celiac Disease, Autism, Cystic Fibrosis, and other Health Conditions. I have IBD—Proctitits. I was put on medication Salofalk since March 2003.

    In 2005 I took the CHIP program. Cornary Health Improvement Program. Dr. Hans Diehl taught us many things in the CHIP program! Discussions on Developing countries that don’t have heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis etc. Excellent program. It was fun learning about the Vegan diet. There was a lot of Complex Carbohydrates in the Vegan Diet. My medication suppressed all the symptoms of IBD. Dr. John MacDougall gave lectures in the program and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. We studied the China Study book as well. We discussed how our food was ruined in the 1920’s. Our blood was taken at the beginning of the month and everyone’s cholesterol and Triglycerides were high. Then after one month on the CHIP program Vegan Diet all cholesterol and Triglycerides all were at normal levels. They took our weight and blood pressure, pulse and respiration.

    I lived in Hawaii for 10 years and South Korea for 2 years. I like brown rice and quinoa. I live in Whitehorse, Yukon now. We have wonderful breads made at the Alpine Bakery in Whitehorse. We may take a slice of Alpine Bakery bread as Volkenbrot on our hikes in the summer time.

    I’m also reading, Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. Her daughter had ulcerative colitis. The night before her daughter was going to have surgery to remove part of her intestine the doctor said to Elaine, “You’re the one who did this to your daughter.” Tired, upset and angry Elaine took her daughter home. A friend recommeneded Dr. Hass. “He was the first of 15 doctors to ask me ‘What is your child eating?”

    Dr. Haas instructed Elaine and her daughter on how to treat the ulcerative colitis using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Judy improved and recovered from Ulcerative Colitis.

    Today I want to order the book, Colitis & Me: A Story of Recovery and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet cookbook Adventures in the Family Kitchen which combines traditional Italian-American and Indian recipes from the author’s respective families. http://www.scdrecipe.com Here there are recipes and relevant information about the diet.

    I’m also in our local group called the Bowel Movement. Everyone in my group has had some intestines cut out except for myself and another lady. If we can help one young person with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet so they don’t have to go through all the pain, blood, and mucus , loss of work etc that we had to go through that would be great! I’m looking forward to going on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet myself! Thank you, Warmly, Jane Jacobs

  37. B.Free says:

    Great article. Thanks for the research and the perspective that goes against the “grain”.

  38. Thanks so much for writing this article! This is probably the most balanced thing I have read about grains recently.

  39. the dangers of grain can be summarized in two context . , artificial and / or GMO . artificial is by way of refinement of finished product , GMO is mostly man made from lab , it seems that most , if not all the determent’s of grains can be connected to those circumstances .

  40. Irma says:

    For those of us with a thyroid autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s, we do best on a dairy free and gluten free diet . It affects our thyroid antibodies. Katie the Wellness Momma has a thyroid issue and that is why she recommends no grains. She is a very knowledgeable thyroid advocate. Katie follows the functional medicine philosophy. When dealing with thyroid issues, you are dealing with nutritional deficiencies, adrenal issues, very possibly various infections and parasites. Thyroid issues can be very intricate. If you have struggled with depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, it could be your thyroid. Your doctor would have to do extensive thyroid testing not just checking your TSH. TSH will only catch a thyroid problem when it is already soo far gone. The dr must also think outside the synthroid box. There is something called natural dessicated thyroid medication that works a lot better. Dr Kelly Brogan used to be a conventional psychiatrist, but no more. As a thyroid issue sufferer she discovered avoiding grains helped keep her thyroid antibodies down. She is an incredible wealth of information on why grains are not good for thyroid disorders. Izabella Wenz, a pharmacist also advocates no grains for those suffering with hashimoto’s. She has Hashimoto’s. Look up dr d’adamo, the diet for your bloodtype diet dr. Grains are not for everyone. His research along with his father’s have at least 40 years of research to back up their findings. We differ in genetics, environment, and health status. All that can influence what food we can tolerate. JJ Virgin is also an excellent source.

  41. Irma says:

    Forgot to mention one of the biggest experts on grains, Dr. Alessio Fasano. Excellent source on gluten sensitivities.

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