“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!
Next up, we have goitrogens. These guys are also in grains. They work by suppressing thyroid function. Definitely a no-no. You don’t wanna eff with your metabolism!
If you follow my radio shows, you’re familiar with the damage that gluten can do. Most grains contain gluten, which can not only be damaging to the intestinal tract, but also to almost every other organ, tissue, or gland in your body. According to Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, by next year, autoimmunity will be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the industrialized world. One of the predominant triggers for autoimmunity is gluten. Ouch!
But what about the gluten-free grains like corn, rice, or quinoa (not really a grain, but close enough)? Well, they have their own problems. All grains contain lectins, which are proteins that are extremely hard to digest. These lectins like to stick to your intestinal lining and sneak their way into your bloodstream. This causes inflammation and destruction to the intestinal wall. This destruction can lead to a hyper-permeable gut that literally can no longer tell the difference between the good and bad guys. In other words, the gate is wide open for all kinds of bacteria, fungus, toxins, undigested food particles, and poop to cross over into the bloodstream, the last place they should be. The immune system sees lectins (and all of the other crap I just mentioned) as invaders and mounts a response against them. This can lead to multiple food sensitivities and allergies. To make matters worse, the immune system can get a little paranoid and start to have problems with mistaken identity. Since the lectins or undigested food particles can look very similar to your organs, tissues, or glands, it can start to attack them as well. This is how autoimmunity works. Your body is attacking itself. The breakdown of the intestinal wall is a huge player in this process. Don’t you think you’d be better off getting rid of the foods that cause this breakdown in the first place? Adios, grains!
I mentioned quinoa above. Now, I haven’t done as much research on this non-grain as I would like to. But according to Robb Wolf in his book The Paleo Solution, quinoa contains soap-like molecules called saponins. These guys punch holes in your microvillii, which are critical for proper breakdown of peptide and saccharide chains. Believe me, you don’t want to punch holes in your microvilli. Definitely not a good idea. But again, this deserves more research.
So there you have it, the case against grains in a nutshell. I can go on and on, but I’m trying to keep these blogs pretty short. Be sure to listen to UW Radio TONIGHT at 5pm PT/8pm ET. Nora Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT, author of Primal Body-Primal Mind, will be digging deeper into this topic, including why she differs with the Weston A. Price Foundation’s stance on the healthfulness of grains. Gonna be a good one!
Author, The Dark Side of Fat Loss