“Eat more whole grains” is on nearly every nutritional guideline out there. However, as Paleo and other anti-carb diet trends become more popular, grains have been accused of causing brain fog, gut troubles and arthritis. So which is it? Are grains GOOD or BAD?
Breaking it down
As with any nutritional question, there are two sides to the story. First, let’s recognize that whole grains have been a part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years. In fact, it is noted as early as 2800 BC, corn, rice, soybeans, barley, wheat and millet were listed as the five sacred crops of China. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition. They contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E and the B-complex vitamins. Because the body absorbs grain slowly, they provide sustained and high-quality energy.
Paleo it may be argued that whole grains cause inflammation in the body and are not what our paleolithic ancestors ate. You will also find resistance from the anti-carb Keto crowd.
However, like most diet trends out there, what works for one person may not work for you. To heal your body, you have to find what works for you.
Whole v. Refined Grains
Most of us eat grains only in their refined versions. Can these cause inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and other nutritional deficits? You betcha. Refined grains are stripped of nutrients, full of quick digesting starch and often paired with high fat and high sugar.
But what about whole grains? Are they harmful? They can be – IF they are not properly prepared and IF you are not eating the right ones for you.
As Health Coach Andrea Beaman reminds us, “Whole grains traditionally were prepared by soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking. This process made them more digestible and increased nutritional potency” (Read more from Andrea Beaman here). I suggest soaking your grains for a minimum of 1 hour (preferably a few hours to overnight) to neutralize the phytic acid found in the grains. Phytic acid is the grain’s defense mechanism, but this defense can inhibit the absorption of key vitamins in our body such as magnesium, zinc and iron.
The Gluten Game
The other issue is that some grains contain gluten. If you are dealing with any inflammatory, viral or bacterial condition, you might consider cutting out glutinous grains like wheat, barley and rye for a while. Other grains like quinoa, millet, sorghum, rice, certified gluten-free oats, teff and buckwheat may be okay for you. For more information on gluten free grains, visit Gluten Free Living.
So grains? I think there are many benefits. They are a great source of nutrients, can help you overcome pesky carb cravings (which, by the way, may be your body’s call for glucose), and are versatile, delicious additions to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just make sure you give them a rinse, soak and patience before cooking.
Check out my recipes and links below for recipes and information on curbing your carb cravings.