Global Resilience Solutions > 2014 > February

Whole Grain Health Food- A Nutritional Myth

 

 

 

Foreshadowing our upcoming Resilient Life Code unit on nutrition, here’s a bit of conventional nutrition wisdom you’re better off ignoring: the idea that grains or grain products of any kind constitute a “health food.”  For much if not the majority of the developed world, overuse of grains is the single most prominent nutritional source of obesity and chronic disease.

Bulk grains are a recent addition to the human diet in biological terms, and while eating them has helped to sustain our societies, we are now faced with the triple problems of overabundance, overuse and harmful processing.

Overabundance of grains has meant that we are generally eating far too many of them.  Grains are basically empty carbohydrates, little more than a sugar hit as far as your metabolism is concerned.  The ramifications of our carb-abundant culture for your insulin levels are the number one source of the chronic disease epidemic.

Overuse of grains by the food industry has seen grains pop up in new foods.  Livestock and dairy cattle are often fed entirely with grains, and develop nutritional deficiencies as a result, which they pass on to us.  High-fructose corn syrup has found its way into many packaged foods, fast foods and junk foods, and we will see that fructose is much more pernicious than glucose.  We are encouraged to eat grains four meals a day, from our breakfast cereals to our lunchtime sandwiches to our chips to rolls and pasta at dinner.  This is far more raw starch than we could ever use.

Processing of grains is another big problem.  The processing of white flour removes not only the fibre of the germ, but also the beneficial unsaturated fat, Vitamins E and B, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and other trace nutrients.  In return, it inserts chlorine, harmful enzymes, a load of chemical preservatives, emulsifiers and reducing agents, and food additives like soy, processed salt, high-fructose corn syrup and others, none of which may appear on the label.  Processed grains have been robbed of their nutrients, and unhealthy chemicals are left in their place.  No amount of “enrichment” can make it healthy again.

 

Gluten

The rise of gluten allergy is linked to the overabundance of processed grains in our diet, and even low-level gluten allergy can adversely affect your health in numerous ways.  Gluten intolerance or gluten allergy is acknowledged to affect about one in thirty-three people in at-risk populations, but in truth this is only the most severe manifestation of gluten-caused digestive disorder.  Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley among other grains, is the substance that makes your pastry and your bread dough stick together.  It also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and promotes constipation.  Undigested gluten causes your immune system to attack your intestines.  Over time, gluten causes a number of nutrient deficiencies, unpleasant physical symptoms and degenerative effects.  Gluten allergy is simply the most pronounced level of your body’s revolt against this interloper.

Research has shown that gluten-intolerance is on the rise relative to past generations, partly because we have created varieties of grain with much higher gluten content, and partly because of the use of high-gluten white flour and the decline of whole-grain and mixed-grain flours.  If you do have the symptoms of gluten allergy, looking at a gluten-free diet is probably a good idea, but reducing grain consumption, and moving to whole grains when you do eat grains, is recommended for everyone.

 

Fat From Carbs

Contrary to popular belief, the fat that the human body accumulates is mainly the result, not of eating fat, but of the body storing excess carbohydrates.  Grains are among the worst carbohydrate sources as far as your body is concerned- there is little difference metabolically between eating refined grains and eating pure sugar.  It’s hard for us to see the equivalency between a bowl of white pasta and a candy bar, but other than the higher fructose content of the latter, there isn’t much to choose between them.  Vegetable sources are much preferable because the body converts their carbohydrates into simple sugars much more slowly, lowering your overall blood sugar, the resulting insulin response, and therefore the percentage of the carbohydrates you store as fat.

If you eat too many of the wrong carbohydrates, especially grains which rapidly convert to simple sugars in the body, your body gets the message that it is time to let insulin store that excess fuel as fat.  While it’s doing that, your body won’t let you burn fat for fuel.  Your body operates on the principle of storing energy whenever carbs are abundant as a survival mechanism.  Unfortunately, that means most of us need to reduce our intake of grain products simply in order to get the body back to the point where we can work with it toward meaningful health goals.  And it’s a vicious cycle. You eat lots of carbohydrates, your insulin levels skyrocket in response.  Later on, your blood sugar crashes because all that insulin has rounded up the blood sugar and stored it.  You lose energy, and you crave more carbohydrates, starting the cycle over again.

If you want to lose weight, don’t cut out the fats- cut out the bread and pasta.

 

Other Health Effects

The impact of high blood sugar and resulting high insulin levels on your health is covered thoroughly in Level 2, Unit 1 of the Resilient Life Code.  But here is one doctor who’s done his homework on another area impacted by grain-heavy diets: brain health.

 


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