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Grains of Thought on Grains (& other carbs)

A friend asked my opinion on grains . . .

I had posted an article on my Facebook page about the fact that the most popular commercial cereals are also the ones most contaminated with Monsanto’s RoundUp and the glyphosate in it. Included in the testing was Cheerios, with a concentration of glyphosate of 729 ppb when tested by the Environmental Working Group. The upper limit of what EWG calls ‘safe’ for children is 160 ppb! That’s almost 5X the upper limit of ‘safe’ in a children’s cereal often eaten daily!

My post comment was that if one only consumed organic grains (NOT most commercial cereals), one need not be as concerned because they could not be sprayed DIRECTLY and still be considered organic. Thus, they are inherently safer. Although they COULD still be subject to contamination from overspray & drift from nearby fields. Still, those concentrations would be far lower and therefore, your safest option. (I’m a big fan of doing what makes you the best you can and then choosing not to stress about inherent imperfections.) Thus, since most commercial grains are apparently sprayed with RoundUp, the safest option, until we know otherwise is to eat only organic grains.

My friend’s comment was that she had stopped consuming most grains but thought she felt better when she consumed ancient grains and was wondering about my opinion on these grains. 

There’s more going on here than meets the eye:

First, my response included my perspective that I think most people are not sensitive to grains but to pesticide contamination.

Her comment indicated she basically agreed with my view that uncontaminated whole (UNpulverized) grains are fine.  However, it’s important to realize (even IF she DID agree with me) how one feels is not necessarily a good indicator of what is or is not healthy. Examples of this abound; from the guy who has a fatal heart attack when he ‘felt great’ yesterday to how you feel after a couple of drinks or how I used to feel after a bowl of ice cream when I was younger and more. Lack of symptoms are not necessarily a good indicator of what is healthy.

Then there’s also the other side: you can feel miserable and still be healthy! What does that look like? An example: If you eat contaminated food & wind up in the bathroom all night, your body is having a healthy response; detoxifying itself from having taken in a toxic substance; even if you ‘feel sick.’

Another thing: People often ‘go off the deep end’ and make crazy and unhealthy changes in their diet; changes that can’t be kept long term as they are too restrictive (and unhealthy). They make these changes because they’re listening to unsupported ‘science’ of gurus who have their own agenda.  I like to caution people to not take anyone’s word for anything. (with that in mind, I’m happy to supply resources for your further research on anything I write about)

You can find doctors and other ‘health gurus’ out there that purpose everything from not eating fruit to not eating grains or starches to eating high fat, to keto, or only specific highly restrictive foods or nearly anything & everything. . . How do know what works and what’s healthy?

Let’s look at some thing: The human genome has multiple copies of genes (and multiple pathways) that breakdown starches. The typical person has 6-10 different genes that code for breaking down starch. In contrast, we all have just one or two ways to break down protein or fat. This means we evolved by eating starches or we wouldn’t have so many ways to break them down. So basically, our bodies are designed, by the environment and nature, to consume predominantly starches. This does NOT mean bread or processed foods or white rice are of the same VALUE as sweet potatoes, squash or corn even though we can utilize them. It doesn’t mean white potatoes with butter and sour cream are healthy. It CAN mean white potatoes with the skin, stuffed with other veggies & laced balsamic vinegar is a good choice.

The ancient grains my friend was referring to are whole unprocessed grains like quinoa, amaranth, whole grain brown rice and more. Good choices! In general, the closer to nature we consume a food the better; though these foods, obviously, must be cooked.

Some keto/paleo fanatics use the above statement (can’t be eaten raw) to say we shouldn’t consume these things. My standard response to that is:

  • The compounds in these foods that can cause us physical problems, e.g. lectins, are inactivated by heat. So beans & grains should be cooked & once cooked, there is no problem. Further, there is no evidence anywhere that these foods are harmful to most people.
  • The healthiest cultures in the world, people like the Okinawans, who live to be 100-105, the Sardinians (an island in Italy), The Ikarians (an island in Greece) and some native cultures in South America and Africa (who also live quite healthfully to 90 and beyond; the so called ‘Blue Zone regions) subsist on mainly these kinds of foods. There’s also pretty good archaeological evidence that our ancestors ate as much as 200 gms. of fiber per day (the average American now eats 20-25 gms.)
  • The rates of many diseases of the Western World are inversely proportional to the amount of fiber in our diet. So the more fiber, in the form of REAL whole food we eat, the healthier we are & the longer we live, in general.
  • Fiber additives that you mix into water or juice and drink do not seem to promote the same effect as whole food.

I assert that most people (not including those who are allergic and some others) who are cutting out grains, corn & potatoes could eat them if (1) they are organic and (2) didn’t eat processed foods (3) ate animal foods no more than just a few times per week. 

All of this is to say that there is much evidence that supports the notion we should be eating grains and whole complex carbohydrates in general.

Notice I said “whole complex carbos” as I talked about above.

Here’s the biggest problem: many in the industry improperly associate lump ALL starches into the same category. The fact remains that processed starches, almost by definition contain (1) next to no fiber, (2) next to no other nutritional value (3) typically also have lots of added isolated fat and processed sugar. It is inaccurate, to say the least, to compare a white potato (often vilified) with a donut!

And while the potato is, admittedly not the MOST nutritious food, many studies have shown Type 2 diabetes can be reversed in a matter of days to weeks on a diet rich in things like potatoes, brown rice and more when animal foods and other added fats are removed (or markedly decrease to just a couple servings per week) from the diet .

Further, saying you shouldn’t eat white potatoes because they’re not as nutritious as say sweet potatoes or squash is like saying you shouldn’t consume strawberries because blueberries have more nutrients! We eat FOOD, not nutrient values and as long as we are consuming whole food and predominantly plant-based, it is perfectly fine to let personal preference guide our choices. I think it’s preferable because you way less likely to go buy something processed & full of junk if you have a large variety of foods you love that you can consume.

So eat your beans, your whole (unprocessed) grains, your squash & sweet potatoes and YES, even that vilified white potato! Just don’t fry it or slather it with sour cream! Try adding veggies like steamed broccoli or some mushrooms & garlic sautéed in a dash of veggie broth to them. Then dress them with a high-quality balsamic vinegar! YUM!

Let me know how you like them!

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