There’s a lot of controversy around grains…
Do we eat them? Do we not?
What is the right choice?
It turns out that both sides have valid points, but it’s not a simple, straight-forward answer (though we’d all love it to be).
Personally, for me, I’ve opted to remove gluten-containing grains from my diet.
What I’ve learnt is that modern grains, particularly in Australia and America, just aren’t what they used to be…
Grains are simply the edible seeds of grass-like plants (like wheat, oats, rice, corn, etc.), and are one of the most consumed foods globally.
There are three parts to a grain:
- The bran (outer shell)
- Germ (core of the seed); and
- Endosperm (food source for the seed)
Whole grains (as hinted by the name) contain the whole seed, while refined grains usually have the bran or germ removed.
Why Grains Aren’t What They Used to Be
The grains produced today are very different from what they were only a few hundred years ago (or for that matter, a few decades ago).
The grains we eat in Australia or America are very different, too, from those eaten in other countries like Europe, particularly when it comes to wheat.
The difference is the quality and type of grains that are used.
According to Mark Sisson:
Modern wheat is dwarf wheat, a cultivar developed in the ’60s to massively increase yield per acre…Between 1843 and the mid 1960s, the mineral content, including zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper, of harvested wheat grain stayed constant. But after that point, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper concentrations began to decrease – a shift that “coincided with the introduction of semi-dwarf, high-yielding cultivars”… Further compounding the mineral issue is the fact that phytic acid content remains unaffected in dwarf wheat. Thus, the phytate: mineral ratio is higher, which will make the already reduced levels of minerals in dwarf wheat even more unavailable to its consumers.
It’s believed that one of the reasons behind the nutrient reduction in modern wheat is because of the shorter root systems, as ancient wheat had longer roots allowing for greater absorption of minerals from the soil.
Furthermore, celiac disease is on the rise, with some researchers suggesting that it’s due to certain gluten proteins found mainly in the new varieties of wheat.
According to Mark Sisson:
Namely, a gluten peptide known as glia-?9, which is nearly absent in older wheats but prevalent in modern wheats, is the most reactive “CD (celiac disease) epitope.”
It’s also prepared differently to those of ancient practices. For instance, think about how bread is made today:
- Refined, old white flour is used instead of freshly ground wheat (containing the whole grain)
- Quick-rise commercial yeast is used rather than slow fermenting cultures
- Bread is no longer homemade, but baked on an industrial scale.
According to Mark Sisson:
Fermentation effectively “pre-digests” the proteins in wheat. If you have the right organisms, you can even break down wheat gluten to the point that celiacs can eat it without suffering symptoms.
The human body struggles to effectively digest grains without traditional methods of preparation such as soaking, sprouting or fermenting.
It was traditionally taught by many cultures that grains needed to be prepared in certain ways before we were able to eat them. These preparations made the nutrients in the grains more available to the human body, reducing levels of phytates, lectins, and other antinutrients that would bind to minerals, preventing absorption.
Due to convenience, most of us have stopped preparing grains the same way our ancestors did, but it’s come at a price.
Why Wheat is Toxic
Gluten is not entirely at fault for the rising epidemic of grain-related allergies and intolerances.
It’s believed that new pesticides (Roundup and glyphosate, specifically) are predominantly to blame.
Modern day grains go through many processes before they’re made “fit” for consumption; irradiation, chemical insecticides, pesticides, fertilisers, etc. with many of the chemicals used not being effectively tested (i.e. over the long-term) to see what the effects on humans are.
According to the Healthy Home Economist:
Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT who has studied the issue in depth and who I recently saw present on the subject at a nutritional Conference in Indianapolis, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came into vogue late in the 1990’s with the result that most of the non-organic wheat in the United States is now contaminated with it. Seneff explains that when you expose wheat to a toxic chemical like glyphosate, it actually releases more seeds resulting in a slightly greater yield.
Glysophate is actually banned in many parts of the world, which may explain why many countries seem to fare better when digesting wheat and grains (Europe, for instance).
Glyphosate has been found to negatively impact gut bacteria, by targeting an enzyme called EPSPS in the shikimate pathway (a metabolic pathway used by bacteria, archaea, fungi, algae, and plants).
As the human gut is made up of bacteria, yeast, and other microbes, this can affect the human gut microbiome, too.
According to Science Daily:
54% of the human core gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate.
My View on Grains
I personally choose to follow a gluten-free diet, with limited consumption of gluten-free grains, too (as eating too many starchy, carb-rich foods can cause inflammation).
However, I do (on the odd occasion) treat myself to a meal that does contain gluten-filled grains. If I do consume grains, nuts, or seeds at home, I make sure to properly prepare them so my body can easily digest and absorb the nutrients within these foods.
How I Prepare Grains at Home:
- I bake with gluten-free and grain-free flours like coconut flour and almond flour, which are higher in protein and fibre. There are hundreds of recipes online which share how to use these flours.
- I soak and sprout nuts and seeds, then grind them into flour. Nuts and seeds contain antinutrients, too, but by preparing them using these traditional methods, it helps to deactivate these antinutrients, helping the body to absorb more of the beneficial nutrients found in these foods.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
What is your experience with grains? Do you soak and sprout the grains you eat, too? Share below.
Lots of love,
Wells, Katie. (January 23, 2019). The Real Problem with Grains. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/575/problem-with-grains/
Sisson, Mark. (November 5, 2009). Why Grains Are Unhealthy. Marks Daily Apple. Retrieved from https://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/
Sisson, Mark. (October 18, 2012). The Problems with Modern Wheat. Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved from https://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-problems-with-modern-wheat/
What is Wrong with Grains. Paleo Leap. Retrieved from https://paleoleap.com/what-is-wrong-with-grains/
Pope, Sarah MGA. The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic (it’s not the gluten). The Healthy Home Economist. Retrieved from https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/
Samsel, Anthony; Seneff, Stephanie. (December 6, 2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/
Gunnars, Kris, BSc. (Updated: June 4, 2017). Grains: Are They Good For You, or Bad?. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/grains-good-or-bad
Beyond Paleo: Don’t Eat Toxins. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/beyond-paleo-2/
Edwards, Rebekah. (September 14, 2017). Grain-Free Diet Benefits for the Digestive System. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/nutrition/grain-free-diet/
Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota. (November 20, 2020). Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201120095858.htm
Shikimate pathway. (Updated: July 3, 2021). Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikimate_pathway