Should you eliminate grains from your diet?

As part of my weight-loss plan, I have limited the amount of sugar, grains, and legumes that I eat. I haven’t eliminated carbs entirely, I just get them from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy. Some people say, “You HAVE to eat grains!” but I have yet to find a reason why, and some reasons why I don’t. In a comparison of nutrients available in the various food groups, there is nothing that I can find that exists in grains and legumes that doesn’t exist in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. What am I missing?

Nutrient Fruits Vegetables Dairy Meat Nuts Grains Legumes
Vitamin A

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Vitamin B1

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B2

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B3

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B5

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B6

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B9

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B12

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin C

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin D

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin E

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Vitamin K

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Calcium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Copper

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Iodine

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Iron

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Magnesium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Manganese

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Phosphorus

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Potassium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Selenium

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sodium

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Zinc

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Carbohydrates

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Protein

Some

Some

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fats

Some

Some

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Note that grain products that you buy in stores are often “fortified” with various vitamins and minerals that either don’t occur naturally in them or were removed when processed. But the point of the table above isn’t whether grains and legumes have the nutrients, but to point out the fact that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy DO have all of the nutrients that I need—including carbs and fiber. True, there may be as yet undiscovered nutrients in grains that aren’t in other foods, but it’s not likely. There is also the problem of the depletion of nutrients in our soil that reduces the nutrients of anything that we grow in it. But that’s a different story.

What is considered “whole grain” is clearly defined by the FDA, but clever marketing has gotten around that to fool consumers into believing they’re eating “healthy” whole grains by labeling products as “made with whole grains.” The Whole Grains Fact Sheet states that for a product to claim that it is whole grain, it “must contain all portions of the grain kernel, contain at least 51 percent whole grain by weight per reference amount customarily consumed, and meet specified levels for fat, cholesterol, and sodium.”  (Sorry famous fast-food sandwich maker, but sprinkling a little oatmeal on top of your bun does not make it whole grain.) The website also says that “The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates at 130 grams per day for adults and children. This is based on the minimum amount of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) required to provide the brain with an adequate supply of glucose.” This is the RDA for healthy adults—and most Americans get more than that per meal, not per day. Besides, if you grind the grain into a powder, your body doesn’t have to work hard to digest it, and it’s no longer whole, is it?

Having seen how my body reacts to grains, I have searched around to find out why my body is so different than those who embrace the “whole grain health” philosophy.

In “The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes,” the author explains:

“When we eat too many carbohydrates, the pancreas pumps out insulin exactly as the DNA blueprint tells it to (hooray pancreas!), but if the liver and muscle cells are already filled with glycogen, those cells start to become resistant to the call of insulin. The insulin “receptor sites” on the surface of those cells start to decrease in number as well as in efficiency. The term is called “down regulation.” Since the glucose can’t get into the muscle or liver cells, it remains in the bloodstream. Now the pancreas senses there’s still too much toxic glucose in the blood, so it frantically pumps out even more insulin, which causes the insulin receptors on the surface of those cells to become even more resistant, because excess insulin is also toxic! Eventually, the insulin helps the glucose find its way into your fat cells, where it is stored as fat.”

And this PDF on diabetes published by the Bellevue Medical Center, states:

“Type 2 diabetes is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance, impaired regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis, and a relative impairment of beta-cell function. Insulin resistance, characterized by hyperinsulnemia without frank hyperglycemia, is the earliest detectable abnormality and may precede the diagnosis of diabetes by years. Eventually, beta cells are unable to compensate, and insulin levels are inadequate to maintain euglycemia (normal glucose content of the blood). In addition, rising glucose levels may further inhibit beta-cell function (glucotoxicity). The abnormalities in type 2 [diabetes] leading to insulin resistance are the result of genetic predisposition and weight gain. Weight loss, exercise, and decreased caloric intake improve sensitivity to insulin.”

After my father died from hyperinsulnemia, one of my uncles mentioned that one of their grandparents had diabetes. So not only is there a possible genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance in my genes, but my being 50 pounds overweight is a “risk factor.” My body isn’t reacting to carbohydrates the way a normal healthy adult body would react. The insulin receptors in my muscles aren’t being very receptive, and so the insulin is shuttling all the glycogen to my fat cells for storage. The only way to make my muscles more receptive to the insulin is to stop overloading my body with carbs, lose weight, and exercise.

In “Why Grains Are Unhealthy” and “How Grains Are Killing You Slowly,” the authors describe why they believe we shouldn’t be eating grains at all. (Grains contain lectins, glutens, and phytates, none of which are good for your body.) Both authors suggest giving up grains and legumes entirely, or to try it for 3 weeks to 3 months and listen to your body. It’s a good idea to take some before and after blood tests, too, since humans make poor witnesses. It is almost impossible to avoid grains unless you prepare your own food. This means if you are a fast food devotee, it will be even harder for you to avoid. (Did you know that a certain popular Sunday-morning breakfast restaurant puts pancake batter in their omelets to make them fluffy?!)

I know of many people who appear to be healthy and swear by whole grains. This guy in “How I beat diabetes with the ‘Duke diet’” says he’s lost weight and gotten healthier by SWITCHING to “whole” grains. See, there’s the kicker right there. He’s reduced the amount of processed carbs he eats and increased his fiber content, so he’s lost weight. He very likely also eats healthier overall than he used to, and he started exercising. All good things. But if he had never eaten grains and then started eating “whole” grains, his results may have been very different. The main thing is that he reduced his total calorie intake and started exercising, which caused him to lose weight, which then led to better health. At least, better health as far as he no longer has to take medicine for diabetes (but I haven’t seen his blood test results).

A study published 2012 July 6 “Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity,” states:

Each published experimental comparison of a diet containing grains with one excluding grains has found significant favorable metabolic effects in the grain-restricted groups, with beneficial effects large enough to render the studies adequately powered despite their small test groups. The randomized clinical trials have shown significantly greater reductions in weight and waist circumference in an ad libitum Paleolithic-style diet compared with the consensus “Mediterranean” or “Diabetes” diets and significant improvements over the Mediterranean diet in blood glucose control, independently of the superior waist-circumference reduction. All three diets emphasize whole foods, but the restriction of grains in the Paleolithic diet is a principal difference, which correlated well with the reduced waist measurement and the 20%–30% increased satiety per calorie seen in the Paleolithic-diet groups.

A Paleolithic-style diet produced significantly greater improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles in a small group of healthy volunteers, with each individual participant showing improvements, indicating that these metabolic improvements occur independently of reduced caloric intake. (emphasis mine)

So, am I saying you should eliminate grains and legumes? That’s not for me to say. What I am saying is that you can get all the nutrients you need from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy. I (and science) have yet to find a nutrient in grains and legumes that isn’t available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. For myself, because of my family history with insulin issues and what eating grains does to my body, I am choosing to avoid them. I still “cheat” now and then and have a little pizza, a morsel of bread, a tiny bit of pasta when my husband “cooks dinner” (he always makes spaghetti), but my digestion and I pay for it the next day … and the next day.

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One thought on “Should you eliminate grains from your diet?

  1. Pingback: Why is Sally SAD? | Grammar Parrot

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