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Why Grains are Unhealthy

GrainsI always have a love/hate approach to writing about nutrition. I love it because there is so much conflicting information out there that it can be hard for the average person to make heads or tails out of it. Hopefully, that is where I come in. I hate it because more often than not its bad news for most of us.

In the case of grains, the verdict is in. Volumes of research are confirming what we have known for years:

Humans have no nutritional requirement to eat grains!

Whenever I discuss grains, inevitably someone asks “Yeah, but what about whole grains?” Yes, those ones too. In fact, we don’t need any grains of any type.   And our bodies will function much better without them.

This means cereal, bagels, breads, crackers, muffins – basically just about any food that is beige. You don’t need it, and should avoid it as much as possible. Most grains are just empty calories; they provide minimal nutrients for a high caloric intake.

Here are a few of the harmful effects of grains.

They contain the anti-nutrients lectins, phytates, and gluten.

Lectins are bad. They bind to insulin receptors, bind to our intestinal lining and contribute to leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full and stop eating. There are several reasons grains cause us to over eat. One is that they are essentially void of nutrients. The other is that they contribute to leptin resistance, and as a result, cause us to overeat since we won’t get the message that we are full and to stop eating. Leptin resistance is one of the most significant factors in weight gain. One of the reasons grains contribute to obesity and difficulty in weight control.

Gluten intolerance occurs in varying degrees. Ranging from celiac (which is relatively rare) to gluten sensitivity. A recent study showed 29% of asymptomatic, non-celiac individuals had elevated gluten antibodies in their stool. Gluten is made up of two large proteins. Research suggests that sensitivity to the gluten proteins is extremely common and contributes to irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation of the intestinal tract, gas, bloating, and reduced digestion.

Phytates are essentially grains evolutionary adaptive defence mechanism. Since grains can’t get up and run away from predators (us) they have adapted internal natural defences like phytates. Phytates are anti-nutrients that reduce our body’s ability to absorb the other nutrients that we eat.

So if you are having grains with your meals (like the Canada Food Guide suggests) then you are not only getting empty and potentially irritating calories form the grains, but the grains are also reducing the absorption of nutrients from the healthy foods you are eating with them – like meats and vegetables.

Some of you grain die hards will still be thinking “What about the fibre in grains. Don’t I need that?” The answer is that you definitely need fibre, but there is not a grain out there that can compare to a salad or plate full of veggies in its supply of fibre.

As always, I believe the best nutritional approach is to consume the foods that are highest in nutrient density with the lowest toxic load. When you understand this you will discover that increasing your intake of healthy meats, veggies, and good fats are the most efficient way to get all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

I’m not saying never eat grains ever again (although that would probably be a healthy choice). All I am saying is understand that grains are “treat” foods like chocolate and potato chips. Limit them and savour them on occasion as treats.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them!

Dr. Craig

PS If you want to learn more about the detrimental effects of grain on our health, make sure you register for our EAT BY DESIGN workshop on Tuesday May 16th, 6:30-8:00 pm at Elevate Chiropractic Centre.


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