Grains are great because the USDA food pyramid says so and because they give us fiber! Or are they? Well besides fiber, grains also have anti-nutrients. What are anti-nutrients you ask? Well here is the definition I found that about sums it up,
“Anti nutrients are substances to which we are all exposed through food and water that antagonize nutrients needed for health. Some anti nutrients bind to other nutrients, making them useless. Others tie up enzymes needed in digestion and other body functions. Some cause problems by creating a greater need for certain nutrients. Others cause nutrients to be excreted more rapidly from the body. In our world of high technology, the level of anti nutrients to which we are exposed is surprisingly high. Many of the anti nutrients have either a direct or indirect effect on immune function. Anything you can do to reduce exposure to anti nutrients will be helpful in preventing recurrent illness. “
Whoa, whoa, that is in grains? Turns out so! But why are they there you ask? 2 words… Defense Mechanism. I know that this sounds funny but hear me out. What do all living things want to do the most? Thrive, survive and reproduce. From what I remember from biology in high school and college, grains are plants… plants are living things. In order to survive, thrive and reproduce, living things develop defense mechanism to survive. Anti nutrients are plants’ defense mechanisms.
So what does this mean to humans when they consume anti-nutrients?
So there are 3 harmful anti-nutrients in grains – letchins, gluten and phytates. Each one has their own ways they fight back when consumed by humans.
Letchins – “Lectins are not broken down in the digestive process and bind to receptors in the intestine, allowing them and other food particles to leech into your bloodstream. Nothing like pre-digested food circulating the blood stream! The body views these lectins and the food they bring with them as dangerous invaders and initiates an immune response to get rid of them. This immune response to particles of common foods explains the allergy creating potential of grains.”
Gluten – Ahh now this sounds familiar huh? “Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. Gluten and similar grain-based proteins work to break down the microvilli in your small intestine, eventually letting particles of your food leech into your blood stream (a lovely term called “leaky gut syndrome”) causing allergies, digestive disturbances or autoimmune problems. And to think, most Americans eat this stuff on a daily basis.”
Phytates -If that was bad enough here is one more to add to gains defense mechanisms. “Phytates make minerals bio-unavailable(so much for all those healthy vitamins and minerals we need from whole grains!)” This includes calcium, can you say osteoporosis?
Yes, I know this is a-lot to take in and really goes against everything we grew up knowing about grains but really think about this. We have a rising epidemic of obesity, cancer and other diseases. Obviously we need to take a step back and really think about what we are fueling our bodies with. Ultimately, you have control over what you eat. Don’t just believe everything you hear. Find out for yourself and make an educated decision. You only get one body, make sure you treat it right.
On a personal note, I’ve been off grains for 2 months now… okay on occasion I’ll have a beer or some chips and salsa but grains are by no means a part of my daily intake of food. As a result, so far my acne has cleared, my oily skin is under control, my headaches are almost non existent, my fatigue has diminished and my moods have improved. During the past 2 months I have also been taking supplements to support my kidneys and adrenal glands but without a well balanced diet I don’t see how that could of improved all my syptoms. If you are not feeling your best, I challenge you to limit your grain intake.