Someone emailed me and asked, "Why no grains on the Paleo diet?" I wanted to say "Because they suck", but that's probably not scientific enough to help. Honestly, if I thought it would work I'd put on a chicken suit and run around flapping my arms in the air yelling into a megaphone: "Hey, everyone, stop eating grains and your lives will be so much better!" But again, that's probably not enough to convince someone to give up the breading on their fried chicken and the biscuit that came with it. So I'll buck up here and leave my personal storytelling aside to try and give you some honestly researched information on grains.
And I'll try to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Ready?
Reason #1 Grains Suck: Grains Make You Store Fat
Eating carbs (grains) makes your body favor fat storage. I could stop right there, maybe, but let's look at this: eating grains makes you have to watch your weight. I find this tedious and depressing. If you don't eat grains and you eat Paleo you do not have to watch your weight - you just get to eat food - food with great fat in it - and still look and feel great. It's so nice.
The other way grains make you fat is this:
Grains Turn Into Sugar (Making You Fat Again!)
Grains (carbs) turn into sugar. You eat them and your body breaks them down into glucose in the gut or after it meets the liver. (Yes, even whole grains - they just take longer to convert.) If you're an athlete you might burn this sugar up if you eat grains right as you are putting on your running shoes to go for a jog. For the regular person, however, this sugar just becomes fat. But regardless of how fat you may or may not get your body has to pump out insulin to deal with all the extra glucose in the system.
Because of this...
Reason #2 Why Grains Suck: Grains Are Addicting
Grains convert to sugar in your body. Sugar is addicting. You know you have this problem with eating carbs when you need to eat every few hours or you go bat-crap crazy. Or you have to go through the drive-thru or break into the vending machine to get fed. (Now! Must eat now!) When you don't eat grains you can skip meals without even blinking, feeling fine, because your body is free from this addictive cycle. It's true. I grew up with the excuse "I'm a totally mean-o right now because I'm hypoglycemic and I haven't eaten in a few hours." I said this like I was just born that way and it wasn't my fault I was cranky. I went Paleo and you know what? No more cranky-pants. And no more daydreaming about lunch or dinner or ice cream or snacks or.... I don't have my next food fix looming over me like a co-dependent jealous boyfriend anymore. I highly recommend it.
Reason #3 Why Grains Suck: Grains Cause Inflammation
You eat a croissant which then floods you with glucose. The body defends itself by pumping out insulin. Then comes adrenaline and cortisol. And every time this hormonal dance happens the adrenal system, pancreas and immune system get a tiny bit of inflammation. Inflammation is the cause of just about every modern disease. Yuck. This could be another post all on its own - the whole realm of disease caused by inflammation. Later, because right now I'm still hot on revealing the truth behind grains such as...
Reason #4 Why Grains Suck: Grains Make You Overeat
This hormonal panic attack the body does when it eats grains messes with your ability to know when you are full. That's why people overeat. "One more slice of pizza?" "Oh, no I can't" they say as their hand leads the slice to their open mouth against their will. Right? Hey, wait, this also goes hand-in-hand with "grains make you fat" and "grains turn into sugar" and "grains are addicting". Bad, nasty grainses.
Reason #5 Why Grain Suck: Grains Make You Mineral Deficient
Grains contain Phytic Acid which depletes or prevents the assimilation of vital minerals in the body. It's one of the reasons grain-eating populations have cavities. Grains can also reduce your ability to process Vitamin D. And when your body doesn't get the minerals it needs it says "hey, need more food!" So you eat more grains and it says "hey, still need those vitamins!" so you eat more grains and... wait.... this is just like "grains make you overeat" and "grains are addicting"...
Reason #6 Why Grains Suck: Grains Break Your Gut
Grains contain lectins which are mild natural toxins found in other food, but found in high numbers in most common grains. Lectins inhibit the natural repair system of the GI track. They mess with the gut mucus lining your intestines. Once that gut mucus lining is hurt whole proteins start crossing the gut wall getting into your blood stream. This causes inflammation and allergies and all sorts of problems. Think: leaky gut syndrome. This is the cause of many modern auto-immune diseases. And backaches and joint pain and generally just feeling old.
Reason #7 Why Grains Suck: Grains Make You Sick
Gluten is the large, water-soluble protein in grains like wheat, rye and barley. It's what makes dough so elastic with that bread-like texture. It's why gluten-free breads will never get that same flaky texture, no matter how much they cost. Gluten is also the primary glue in wallpaper paste. Mmm. Yummy. Researchers now believe that 1/3 of us are likely gluten intolerant. Skin problems, joint pain, infertility or miscarriages, acid reflux, digestive issues, autoimmune disorders.... And the thing is, you might not know you are gluten intolerant. And even if you are not gluten intolerant gluten is still, over time, causing problems in your system, you just don't know it's the reason for your skin problems, joint paint, migraines, leg pains, sleep issues, cranky kids...
Can you tell I don't like grains? I've been a year on the Paleo Diet and I still can't believe sometimes how much easier and happier it is to live in a body that is not on the sugar or insulin roller coaster, suffering from unknown inflammation. (And to live with kids who aren't either.)
But, but... we need grains, right? I mean, what would we do without them?! We grew up being told grains were important, even necessary. But in truth, they are not.
Do You Need Grains For Nutrients? No!
Whatever nutrients you can get from whole grains you can get from vegetables and meat - food that doesn't cause insulin surges or inflammation. Yes, it's an adjustment. Yes, it's worth it. You'll have to go through the detox period of getting off sugar or caffeine or whatever you are on right now but then you will feel so good you'll wonder why you didn't eat Paleo years ago. And if you look at grain products closely they don't even have a lot of nutrients in them. That's why they have to be fortified with vitamins and minerals. You don't have to fortify vegetables or meat with vitamins and minerals - they already have them.
Do You Need Grains For Fiber? No!
There is plenty of fiber in vegetables and fruit. 'Nuff said.
Then Why Does The Government List Grains On The Food Pyramid and Why Does My Doctor Recommend Them?
...and why does everyone eat them? (pouty face)
Because they are cheap to produce and cheap to buy and addicting to eat and instead of looking at the advice of the government or the doctor look instead at the person giving you the advice. Is that government official or doctor in peak health? Or are they, too, drinking caffeine and carb loading to get through their stressful, inflamed, cranky-pants day? :)
How about this, try eating Paleo for one month. No cheating. Then tell me how you feel. When you are off caffeine and sugar and grains (which is really just hidden sugar with inflammation on the side) and processed food chemicals you will be not be eating 70% of the addicting Standard American Diet and you will be free. Only then, grasshopper, will you know what I know.
/cue stage smoke as I fade into the distance..../
I like the easy Paleo stuff.