February 21st is National Grain Free Day. This is a pretty big deal in our family since I follow a ketogenic diet and my entire family eats a lower-carb, high-fat diet.
Because although grains are the world’s biggest source of food consumption, we as a society are sicker than ever.
I followed a low-fat vegetarian diet with occasional fish for 12 years. That meant my main source of food was carbohydrates. I’d buy whole wheat breads and make myself overnight oats or cook up some non-instant oatmeal. I’d buy all the dark rye or healthier version of breads. I thought I was doing the right thing and sure, my waistline was pretty slim but who would have thought that this diet was making me pre-diabetic. And I’m only in my 30’s.
As I’ve studied nutrition, I realized I had it all wrong.
Whole wheat bread usually contains very few grains. The main ingredient, wheat flour, is just white flour with a few whole grain flakes added. Whole wheat bread also usually has added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
Oatmeal is touted to be one of the healthiest breakfast foods.
Not at all.
Oatmeal has a high glycemic index, which means it gets digested and absorbed quickly, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and subsequent hunger and cravings. Steel cut oats aren’t much better. We may feel fullness from oatmeal initially but in a couple of hours, oatmeal will actually make us feel ravenous.
If we break down numbers, one cup of cooked oatmeal has about 27 grams of carbohydrates. (which when our body breaks it down ultimately = sugar)
Our bodies can only handle 4g of sugar in the blood at any given time.
Our bodies view excess sugar as an emergency state. There is some fiber in oatmeal, which somewhat blocks sugar absorption, but the sugar content in one cup of oatmeal is still close to 70% of one soda can.
Not the same?
I know, you’re thinking, but there ARE nutrients in oatmeal. Most refined grains are enriched with nutrients like iron, folate and B vitamins, to replace nutrients lost during processing. Unfortunately, too often, enriched nutrients never get absorbed in the body.
Consuming 27 grams of sugar every morning, no wonder I was hitting pre-diabetic numbers.
We actually don’t need grains at all.
We have no biological need for carbohydrates and the nutrients they contain can be obtained from better foods. We all know that gluten isn’t the best (gluten is the protein found in grains like wheat and barley) and celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease. But even if you don’t suffer from celiac disease, Dr. Alessio Fasano of Harvard (gluten expert), says that anyone eating gluten is doing small amounts of damage to their intestinal lining, creating leaky gut and inflammation.
Everyone’s body is different. Some of us don’t need to cut grains as much. But we should all lower our intake overall, especially with refined grains. Refined grains do pretty much nothing but raise our blood sugar.
Here’s some ways to bring awareness to you and your family’s grain consumption:
Do a food allergy test: Coco Pulse test.
This test is pretty intriguing. When your body experiences stress, your body’s innate intelligence responds with an increased pulse rate.
You can read Dr. Arthur Coca’s book here.
How to perform the Coca Pulse test:
- Be in a calm, relaxed state.
- Take the test on an empty stomach (2 hours)
- Take your pulse for a full minute (manual is best). This is your baseline.
- Take a bite of food (e.g., wheat bread), chew it, taste it for 30 seconds. DO NOT SWALLOW. Keep in it your mouth.
- With the food still in your mouth, take your pulse for another full minute.
- If your pulse increases by 6 points or more, this likely indicates a stressful reaction to the food being tested. (read: you probably have a sensitivity to the food in question)
- Spit out food, rinse mouth and repeat steps with other foods.
- Wait at least 2 minutes for your pulse to reach baseline.
Check nutrition facts
Read the carbohydrate count, not just the grams of sugar. ALL carbohydrates become sugar in the body.
Read the ingredients label
Be wary of these ingredients: whole wheat flour, enriched flour, HFCS, sugar, any forms of sugar (e.g., maltitol, sucrose, etc.). Learn the different names of sugar.
Just because a food is gluten-free, does not mean it’s healthy. A gluten-free cookie is still a sugar-laden cookie.
I’m glad to see that a day has been chosen to celebrate grain-free day. If anything, it can start a dialogue and bring awareness to the possible health implications of consuming grains.
Any small change is better than none. Pick a day and opt for less grains for the family that day. Without-grain Wednesdays!
Are you grain free? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.