Grain causes a lot of controversy among nutritionists lately. Should we eat grains or should we avoid them completely? I believe that with proper preparation ( more on that later) certain grains can still be consumed occasionally, while others should be avoided.
One of the most-consumed foods worldwide, grains are made up of three main parts: the hard outer layer or shell ( the Bran), the core of the seed that provides nutrients when it sprouts and grows (the Germ,) and the starchy endosperm that provides a food source for the growth of the seed.
Before the invention of the modern roller mill in 1872, grains were ground whole. With the modern mill, it became possible to grind just the starchy endosperm to create an inexpensive white flour. These new refined flours lasted longer, but contained much lower levels of nutrients.
A new, modern dwarf wheat was developed in 1960s to increase the amount of wheat that could be farmed per acre. This wheat has been heavily sprayed and even drenched with Roundup, containing the deadly chemical glyphosate. Most of non-organic wheat grown in the US is now contaminated with this chemical, which partially explains the rise of gluten intolerance.
How grains can be dangerous
Gluten. Gluten-containing grains can prevent mineral absorption, even for non-celiacs. Found in wheat, rye, and barley, gluten can cause multiple health issues. The amount of gluten in modern wheat has been dramatically increased by biological manipulation and is now about 80% of its total protein content.
Phytic acid. It is the main storage form of phosphorus in grains. Phytate also binds to many minerals, including zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron, in addition to a few other ones. Since we do not have phytase, which digests phytate and releases the bound minerals for easy absorption, eating large quantities of phytate-containing foods can result in mineral deficiencies.
Enzyme inhibitors. Grains are seeds that require wet conditions for growth. Enzyme inhibitors prevent spontaneous germination of the seeds. Certain other enzyme inhibitors also inhibit our ability digest the grains. With moisture, the inhibitors are deactivated and sprouting occurs.
Lectins. Lectins are nature’s pesticides, protecting the grain. They can perforate the intestinal lining, disrupt our immune systems, and there’s even evidence that they bind to receptors in the hypothalamus. Lectins damage the gut lining, which may lead to leaky gut and other disorders. Lectins cause leptin resistance, which means that your hunger signal is suppressed and that you’ll be hungry even when your body has had more than enough calories. Lectins are resistant to heat and digestive enzymes and can bind to almost all cell types, causing damage to tissues and organs.
Insulin. Since refined grains can spike insulin levels and are a highly processed carbohydrate, increased grain consumption may be partially to blame for the rising rates of diabetes and obesity.
More grain, less other foods. As modern nutrition includes a lot of refined, processed grain, it includes less nutrient dense foods, like proteins, fats and vegetables. As a result, nutrient deficiencies occur.