“99.99% of our genes were formed before the development of agriculture.” – Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Medical Anthropologist
It’s really that simple. There is zero human dietary requirement for grains. Most (if not all) people would be better off without them. It was their introduction into the human diet by way of the Agricultural Revolution that shifted us away from the healthful animal-based diet that we survived and thrived on for 99.99% of our history. With this change came reductions in stature and brain size, chronic degenerative diseases, and much longer work days. Many anthropologists agree that the advent of agriculture was one of the worst events in human history. Despite the evidence of such agriculturally-induced human decline, we continue to perpetuate this event with our USDA dietary recommendations and our errant fears of animal fats.
Let’s set aside the whole “are grains fit for human consumption?” debate and just focus on the nuts and bolts of what they do within the human body. First of all, grains are living organisms. And like all living organisms, they have defense mechanisms to discourage predators from eating them. One such mechanism is called phytic acid, which binds to the important minerals in the grain such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. So even though the label on the loaf of bread says that it is loaded with these minerals, you’re not really absorbing them. In addition, phytic acid can leach minerals from your body, causing mineral deficiencies. Not good.
You can eliminate or significantly reduce the phytic acid by way of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the grain. This is cool and all, but it doesn’t take care of the fact that grains are 70-80% starch, which eventually converts to sugar and cranks up your blood glucose and insulin. Last night, I read in Primal Body-Primal Mind that one bagel or two slices of bread contain 5 times more sugar than your bloodstream requires. Any sugar that your bloodstream does not need gets stored away as either glycogen or fat. Imagine how much fat you store when you’re eating multiple servings of the stuff because the USDA told you to. You can’t burn fat when your pancreas is always cranking out insulin to counter your almost hourly grain binges!
Our country is currently facing a breast cancer epidemic. More women have died of breast cancer in the last 20 years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. Breast cancer used to be seen predominantly in postmenopausal women but now it is the second leading cause of death in women age 25-54.
What’s going on?
Increasing evidence shows environmental factors are to blame. Breast cancer rates are much higher in industrialized countries such as North America and northern Europe than in developing countries. According to State of the Evidence 2006: What Is the Connection between the Environment and Breast Cancer?, a report that summarizes more than 350 studies on the environmental links to breast cancer, “Compelling scientific evidence points to some of the 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today as contributing to the development of breast cancer, either by altering hormone function or gene expression”.
Some chemicals of concern are those that mimic estrogen in the body. Scientific evidence has shown that higher exposure to estrogens over a woman’s lifetime leads to a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The culprit? Hormone-containing personal care products. Parabens, a common ingredient found in lotions, shampoos, and other cosmetic products, are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function.
Pinkwashing: a term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to the rising rates of the disease.
Indoctrinated to be a processed food salesman by my university-taught nutrition courses, I spent several years drilling the base of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid into the skulls of my personal training clients.
“Six to eleven servings of bread, rice, and pasta a day, you people!! How on Earth do you expect to meet your energy and fiber requirements? Do it! DO IT NOW!”
Fast-forward ten years to present day and I can’t help but wonder how much damage my whole grain zealotry may have caused. Who knows how many of my clients were overweight, fatigued, depressed, and more due to undiagnosed gluten sensitivity.
‘Tis the season to lie in bed and get my read on! These past three or four weeks I’ve had my head in the books. I read Deep Nutrition by Cate Shanahan M.D. three times and can’t wait to read it again. That book is a masterpiece, in my opinion. When I was sick as a dog in the Bay Area, I read Robb Wolf’sPaleo Solution and reread Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. Then I moved on to Genetic Nutritioneering by Jeffrey Bland. And now, I’m just about done with Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudus. My mind is literally spinning with all of this great information!
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states, “…researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” In other words, to be a true expert you have to spend at least 10,000 hours studying your craft. If I had to guess, I would figure that I’ve put in about 6343 hours. I’ve got a long way to go.
A smooth talker and astute businessman, Mr. North forever altered more than 40,000 years of nutritional wisdom with a new invention and a little fear. The year was 1907, a time when milk was mostly produced by happy grass-fed cows and rightfully consumed in its raw form. With his newly invented batch-processing pasteurization machine in tow, North made it is own personal mission to rid the country of raw milk-induced disease.
The problem was that there was no raw milk disease epidemic. Yet, that did not stop the inventor from traveling through small towns alerting the people of an outbreak of illness in the previous town he had visited. Drinking unpasteurized milk caused the illness. The solution was his machine. The story was fictional.