Are Grains Bad For You?
Grains are often blamed for being one of the biggest contributors to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and a variety of health problems. Many nutritionists recommend carefully monitoring your daily intake of grains, and some will suggest eliminating grains from your diet altogether.
The common Western diet tends to rely heavily on grains. Grains are the foundation ingredient for foods such as pasta, bread, cereal, baked goods, desserts and are often added as ‘fillers’ to processed foods. It is difficult to completely eliminate grain elements from the daily North American diet.
Grains have many different compounds that are thought to contribute to problems such as allergies, auto immune symptoms and digestive problems. One of the most negative effects of grains in our diets is the spike in insulin they can cause. When grains are consumed, especially without blood sugar stabilizing protein and fat, they cause a dramatic increase in insulin production. Over time, if this continues to occur, the body can becomes resilient to insulin and diabetes may result from regular over-consumption of grains. With obesity affecting more – and younger – North Americans than ever before, reducing or eliminating grains (as well as sugar) from the daily diet may go a long way towards reversing this trend. Grains also contain ‘anti-nutrients’ such as phytic acid which blocks the absorption of important minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Not all grains are created equal. Grains such as quinoa, for example, have a higher protein component than rice or wheat. Whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat with the bran still attached, have more fibre than processed grains and therefore take longer to digest. This slows the process of insulin production in the body, especially if the grain is consumed with a moderate portion of a healthy fat and protein.
People who eliminate grains from their diet often see a dramatic improvement in their health, including weight loss, improvement in insulin sensitivity, the reversal of the symptoms of diabetes, and a general feeling of increased well-being.
If you are thinking of eliminating or drastically reducing the grain component of your diet, you may want to try making some gradual changes rather than going ‘cold turkey’. Start with eliminating the ‘junk’ component of your diet, such as processed cereals and baked goods. Swap out white rice for brown rice or a blend of quinoa and wild rice varieties. Shrink your portion of pasta, relative to the protein and vegetables with your meal. Eat more fruit and vegetables to round out your daily caloric requirements. Experiment with making your own soups or sauces so that you know exactly what ingredients are going into the food you consume. Chances are that you will soon be rewarded with more energy and a greater sense of good health as your diet improves.