Grains – Friend or Foe?

Note: This post is dedicated to my very own bread-loving, exercise-hating, makes-life-worth-living, astonishingly gorgeous wife-to-be!

I’ll be honest here. I’ve been working on this post on grains for a long time now and I wanted to talk about what grains really are and how they became a staple and how they wreak havoc in our bodies and how they are the most evil things in the word and you know, other such usual blabber you would expect from a no-so-much-of-a-grain-fan as me. But then, I wasn’t able to do it. I tried multiple times but with no success. I had some sort of a block. Finally I realized, this wasn’t because I didn’t have the time to write or literature to back this up, but because I just didn’t really believe that grains were evil!

Picture credit: Pinch My Salt

As you guys know, I don’t blindly follow the herd but like to question beliefs and experiment everything on myself before recommending it to others. That being the case, I just found it impossible to write a post demonizing grains when I didn’t really think it was the case. This might come as a surprise to a lot of you folks considering I am known for hating grains and recommending against their consumption, but my argument here is really not for or against grains. It is about the all or nothing approach that is being applied towards grain consumption in general! You know, like the concept of distance running. It was once touted at the panacea for everything and now its being demonized and blamed as a cause of everything from Oprah’s bellay to Osama’s death!

So, Raj, are you just going from loathing to actually recommending grains?

Well, sadly, you won’t know until you read the rest of the post! So hold onto your horses for a second and read the post to fully understand my thoughts on the subject.

The Debate:

Firstly let’s look into the arguments generally used in support of and against grains and my thoughts on each one of these.

For…

  • Whole grains are heart healthy – In a country where leading fitness trainers recommend Faker’s Oats and companies compare thier cereal to the ever awesome egg, this is not surprising, but still, this claim is a bunch of crap! Why? Because the studies done to prove this were flawed! Any and every study that proved that whole grain consumption in test subjects improved health markers, compared people’s health when they consumed the standard junk food laden diet to a diet that had whole grains along with vegetables, fruit and lean protein.
  • Whole grains are fiber rich: Ever heard of vegetables and fruit? Any idea how much fiber they contain? Check this!

Against…

  • Grains are empty calories: True dat! No arguing here.
  • Grains are high in carbs: Legit! But so are potatoes. And I think we all know carbs dont kill. The act of OD-ing on carbs (and anything else for that matter) is what kills!
  • Paleo peeps didnt eat it so we shouldn’t eat it either: Meh! Too stupid to even reason.

Ummmm…

So they’re not bad and they’re not good. Great Raj! Thank you! Now we’re back to knowing nothing!

Well, not so soon.

The Knowledge:

Considering all the scientific and anecdotal evidence we have and having read arguments for and against grains and having tried and tested grain consumption on myself, my clients and my loved ones and having looked at the Ayurvedic diet, the Vegan diet and (all forms of) the Paleo diet without bias, here is what we actually know today…

1. Though there is evidence of grains being consumed millions of years ago, grains were NOT a significant part of the paleolithic people’s diet and were, at best, nutrient sparse survival food.

2. Grains have been a part of the human diet for about 10,000 years and many (if not all) traditional cultures soaked/fermented grains and included them in their diets and lived long healthy lives.

3. There is enough scientific and anecdotal evidence to prove that chronic grain consumption is detrimental to health and prosperity.

4. Wheat consumption has been associated with various different minor and major health issues ranging from acme to asthma to IBS to celiac and has a bunch of published literature supporting it.

5. White rice, though completely devoid of nutrients, seem to be extremely benign for most people and all traditional cultures that have predominantly consumed white rice have experienced little to no negative health effects.

6. All studies showing negative effects in health due to grain consumption have looked at chronic overconsumption of grains. Anecdotal evidence shows that small amounts of grain consumption (< 10-15% of total calories) does not have any significant or measurable effects on one’s health. Note: Exceptions exist here based on health condition and type of grain consumed and they will be discussed shortly.

7. Many other factors, including but not limited to vegetable oil consumption, stress, sedentary lifestyle, pollution etc., have been proven to be much more harmful to health in comparison to grain consumption.

From this mixed bag of scientific, epidemiological and anecdotal evidence, I’m sure the following questions pop right into our heads.

  • Are all grains detrimental to health?
  • What about in small quantities?
  • Are all humans allergic to grains at some level?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. And I don’t think anyone has the answers to these questions. Let me rephrase that. I don’t think anyone has the right answers to these questions yet! I’m sure you can point me to blog posts and articles that talk about perils of grain consumption but, as mentioned above, even those articles are related to chronic and/or excessive grain consumption.

Gary Taubes, the greatest proponent of low carb eating and the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, when on Robb Wolf’s podcast asked this question (Note: not verbatim).

I get the paleo thing. But are you telling me that my health will drastically improve if I substitute the one tiny piece of pumpernickel bread that I have everyday with, say, sweet potato?

And thats exactly my point. No one knows! We all know grain dominance is a bad news for long term health, but is the poison in the dose? Can you get away with 1 cup of corn everyday? How about a slice of bread? Or how about a cup of oatmeal? Again, no one knows! And guess what – no one is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and performing a study that analyzes the effect of 1 slice of bread in an otherwise very well controlled real food diet.

So, Raj, how do we find out what works?

Let me shoot that question back at you…

Just going by common sense, how would you find out what works for you?

And you’ll say…

Self experimentation?

And I’ll say…

Attaboy!

You’ve abso-bloody-lutely got to find out what works for YOU! There is no substitute to that. But, while this is a part of the puzzle, its only a part! Some general guidelines need to kept in mind by all of us when it comes to grain consumption. So with merely common sense being the governing factor, here are some general recommendations.

General recommendations:

* Realize grains are ‘unnecessary’ in a healthy diet. You can argue all you want, but grains have nothing to offer that you cannot get from real foods. ‘Nough said.

* Move the heck away from a grain based diet! Now this is key. Like I mentioned before, all data that points towards demonizing grains are actually demonizing chronic overconsumption of grains i.e. grain dominance. So whatever you do, do not eat a diet that is dominated by grains. And yes, this applies to whole grains too. As a matter of fact, this applies especially to whole grains.

* Realize the difference between fine wine and cheap liquor! Fine wine is prepared with great care and tastes like heaven and not readily available and only consumed in limited quantities purely for enjoyment and never for the ‘buzz’. Cheap liquor is, well, cheap and crappy and inexpensive and easily available and overconsumed and results in a whole host of issues from liver problems to orphans! If you didn’t get the analogy, eat exquisite and specially made grains that are well prepared and stay the hell away from junk grains! For eg. freshly baked sprouted sourdough walnut cranberry bread? Yes please! I’ll have a slice. A dozen bread sticks? Heck no! Thank you for trying to kill me.

* Nourish your body with whole real foods and supplement your taste buds minimally with grains (and sugars) realizing they aren’t helping you and possibly slightly hurting you. Stated differently, don’t eat a pasta/bread dinner every night and end up walking to celiacville. Instead, load up on meat/tempeh/seafood with roasted vegetables and have a spoon of a decadent chocolate cake/ice cream.

* For God’s sake know your limitations! No sane person will have a sip of alcohol (even the finest wine) if he/she has liver complications. And no sane person should have even a bite of any bread or any other grain, if he/she has gut related issues (IBS, leaky gut, celiac etc.).

* Understand health and work towards it! Health is a result of a real food based diet, stress free lifestyle, good sleep and happiness that spans over a lifetime! Sustainability. is. the. key!

* Stay true to your short term goals. If you are on a leaning out phase and are eating fewer calories than is required for optimal functioning of your body, stay the crap away from grains and sugars because they add empty calories and possibly weaken an already weak immune system. If you are an endurance athlete who needs 4500 calories a day but are adamant about not eating any grains and feel that your performance is dropping, stop kidding yourself and eat some cooked white rice! Yes you can get those carbs from sweet potatoes but for how long are you going to chomp on 3 lbs of sweet potatoes everyday? Once again… sustainability! Similarly, if your short term goal is gaining bodyweight, getting calories should be your primary concern and it doesnt matter if you get those calories from rice and beans or potatoes and cheese. Do what suits your body (bloating, gas, sleep, energy etc.) and yourlife style (cost, availability etc.). Keep it simple and sustainable!

* Understand preparation and do it! You wash your hands before you eat. You wet your hair before you shampoo.  You better soak/ferment your grains before you cook ‘em!

* Differentiate yourself from your ancestors. You can’t eat like your ancestors when you don’t move and cook like your ancestors did! Yes you should embrace your roots, but you should also understand that you’re not half as active as your ancestors were and the grain based meal you eat today is not prepared with even a fraction of the care and detail used to prepare grains back then.

* Be smart and understand that the success of a diet solely depends on physical nourishment and mental satisfaction. Customize your real food diet in a way that it keeps you healthy and happy! Healthy here is strong, immune, lean and disease/allergy/symptom free and happy here is giving you the leeway to eat your favorite foods.

* Listen to your body! If you eat a grain and it messes you up, stay away from it. This is not rocket science.

* When you start, create your diet with purely real food (vegetables, meats, eggs, fruit, nuts and organic dairy). Drop any and all form of unstable PUFa (vegetable oils). Throw the junk out. Remove all grains. See how you feel. Now try having a small serving of whatever grain you desire. See how you react. Bad? Dont do it again. No change? Perfect. Now, you  can eat it every once in a while. This is exactly how I work with my clients. I don’t give them any random diet/meal plan and a macronutrient split. We work together. From the bottom up. And ten out of ten times, my clients find what works for them! I just merely facilitate it.

* Always remember that food is meant to nourish the body and the mind. Why do you think repressed emotions (anger, stress, jealousy etc.) result in health issues? Because such repression can change your entire gut flora leading to digestive issues and, since health begins at the gut, this paves the way for other diseases! Consume only foods that ensure health and happiness. Both the “H”s coexist and one  cannot exist without the other. If you absolutely need to eat some rice/quinoa/oats to stay happy and consistent and if it only causes very minimal discomfort, then by all means include it in your diet. But only as much as or as frequently enough to not cause any considerable discomfort.

Remember…

Customization is a requirement for consistency and consistency is a requirement for sustainability and sustainability is a requirement for long term health and fitness!

What about my diet?

From whatever experimentation I’ve done, I’ve learnt a lot about my body and the following are what I do to keep myself healthy and happy!

1. I know oatmeal destroys me! Maybe its the whole grain or the avenalin in oats, but having a cup of cooked oats makes me run to the little boys room half a dozen times! So the health va happiness graph is pretty crappy here and so I stay away from it.

2. But I know that white rice works like magic for me! Maybe its my roots or the fact that white rice is basically benign, I feel awesome everytime I eat white rice. In this case the health vs happiness graps looks pretty darn great and so I make it a point to eat white rice multiple times a week. Since I workout pretty hard, I mostly consume post workout in an effort to put the starch to good use, but if I am caught at a social event with crappy food, white rice is always my goto grain.

3. I’m 20 something. If I really want to eat pizza, I will eat pizza. Simple enough. But the key words here are “really” and “want”. I have pretty good self control and hence wont down a pizza everytime I remotely feel like eating one and I don’t tolerate the ‘Oh have just one slice! It wont kill you’ crap one bit and hence wont have any just because someone else thinks I should.

4. I’m not a fan of couscous or corn really, but if I do go to an authentic isereli/mexican restaurant and my host tells me their couscous/tamale is to die for, I’d order it without hesitation or guilt.

The way I see it, all food is good and all food is bad… either for the body or the mind. A food that nourishes you with nutrients but makes you feel deprived and stressed is just as bad as a food that gives you happiness but destroys your body. It all depends on the dose and the your physical state. This is what works for me right now and so this is what I do. If, at some point of time, this stops working for me or my experiments show me something better, I’ll certainly be happy to change things up.

The Summary:

1. Call a spade a spade. Grain consumption is not the issue. Grain dominance and dependance is!

2. Grains have nothing nutritious to offer and so don’t try to make it a part of your diet.

3. Grains are not evil and you needn’t avoid them like the plague! Be smart and eat grains for the experience/enjoyment and call it a day.

4. Cut your losses by soaking/fermenting grains before preparation and consumption.

5. Eyes on the goal. If grains throw you off, you better be ready to throw them out.

What are your thoughts? What grains do you love? How often do you eat them? What works for you? I’m very curious to know what you guys think about this. Do share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section and please take a moment to share this post on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites!

Stay sane. Stay happy. Stay healthy. Stay fit!

Peace out.

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62 responses to “Grains – Friend or Foe?

  1. swarna mani June 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Nice post…for the person who has a lot of digestive issues, I have found(by observing ) that white rice or dosa or pizza or pasta did not do me great harm. But whole wheat bread or rotis collapsed my system.

    I love white bread, fresh from bakery crispy outside soft on inside, even eating half of it has not bothered me.

    But my health conscious wheat toast in morning has always lead me to be fatigued……
    So in this case is it just the whole grain that is the issue?

    • RG June 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Possibly. Whole grains (when not soaked/fermented) contain way more anti-nutrients than processed grains which are stripped off of all the good AND bad stuff.

      You know my rule… if you’re cheating you’re better off with processed junk or super legit grainless dessert like flourless torte, ice cream, froyo etc.

      • swarna mani June 29, 2011 at 9:03 am

        I am just containing my cheat meals to 1 cup rice rather than usual 1/2 cup seems to work ok :)

      • RG June 29, 2011 at 9:15 am

        Well, rice isnt really a cheat. I understand youre in a fat loss phase, but still having rice PWO in the recommended portions does more good than harm wrt fat loss.

      • swarna mani June 29, 2011 at 9:04 am

        Also the comment and observation from me is before my real food days

  2. Mokshi June 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Nice post Raj… I find that wheat works for me and rice doesn’t… and I know you have written before about gluten related issues with wheat… but my body just doesn’t accept rice like it does wheat.. now would you say it’s the conditioning (wheat based diet) it’s used to, or just something which works for me? Confused!

    • RG June 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Thats interesting Mokshi. It could very well be that you have been accustomed to a wheat based diet. But tell me this – what do you mean by your body doesnt accept rice? What happens when you do eat rice?

      My recommendation would be to remove rice and wheat and other grains from your diet in addition to absolutely removing vegetable oil for a 3-5 weeks. See how you feel wrt digestion, energy levels, bowel movements etc and then add in wheat only and see how you react. Do the same with rice and other grains. It takes time, but this will tell you what a 1000 published studies and 100 blood tests will never be able to tell you.

      • Mokshi June 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm

        Yep.. that’s a good suggestion, I should try that… currently, eating rice instead of wheat just makes me bloated and damn sleepy.. donno if that falls under the category of ‘not working for me’.

      • RG June 29, 2011 at 8:37 am

        Making you sleepy is most probably due to consumption of more quantity than you can handle. How much rice do you have in one sitting that makes you sleepy? My guess is the same amount of sugar (without any fat) will make you feel sleepy too.

        About the bloating – try this. Eat a meal as u normally do, but just eat sweet potatoes instead of rice. Dont change anything else. Keep the quantity also the same. 1 cup cooked white rice = 200 g sweet potato. See how you feel. If there is no bloating etc, then rice definitely does not sit well. If the bloating still exists, it could be a carb thing or something else in your meals (dairy and lentils/beans are a likely culprits). Do the same process to determine if dairy and/or lentils are messing things up for you.

        Sure its work. But if you do this now and figure it out, you wont have to worry about bloating forever. Try it.

  3. Vizeet June 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Gud post again, Raj!!!!
    We know that French have world’s lowest CVD but they do eat wheat bread (from fermented dough) so in my understanding it is certainly not a demon. Going through lot of reading on this subject:
    1. Wheat was not major portion of our diet before green revolution (Because it was costly and Muslims always ferment wheat). So I feel wheat should always be consumed after fermentation.
    2. If your gut flora isn’t balanced then Gluten (Wheat protein) can create problems even in small quantity. So always have yogurt, kefir, kanji etc in your diet.

    • RG June 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      The french paradox flies in the face of everything doesnt it! I totally agree that wheat has to be sprouted/fermented if ever to be consumed.

      • Vizeet June 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

        I completely agree it does; it’s a paradox which stands against all idealized diet formats. You can’t even say smoking is injurious to health given the fact that French smoke quite a lot.

  4. Divya June 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Awesome post! I’m with Swarna; my body agrees with rice and processed grains, but whole wheat anything leaves me feeling extremely tired and leads to killer premenstrual cramps.

    • RG June 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm

      Yep! Thats the case with me too (and most people). Like I replied to Swarna’s comment… when you cheat… cheat right! With sugar and processed junk that is ;)

  5. anand srivastava June 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Congrats Raj. its a very nice balanced article.
    I really liked
    “freshly baked sprouted sourdough walnut cranberry bread? Yes please! I’ll have a slice. A dozen bread sticks? Heck no! Thank you for trying to kill me.”

    I avoid wheat much of the time. I do sometimes eat Pizza that’s the only time I have substantial wheat in my diet. It does not seem bad for me, but I am not sure, I do have digestive problems.

    I eat rice too much at times, which I should control. So except on occasions, grains are not a big part of my diet.

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 8:41 am

      Anand – The pizza paradox, I’m almost sure, is because of the fact that the flour used is uber processed and honestly, pizza doesnt have that much wheat. If you look into the nutritional info of a slice of small pizza, it has about 10-15g of carbs. Even if you ate a whole pizza you’re talking 40-60 g of carbs of which only a part is wheat. So lesser flour quantity + processed flour results in lesser GI. And the fact that pizza is high in fat, that blunts the blood sugar spike. So no immediate crash either.

      Ummm… maybe pizza aint too bad if plugged into the health vs happiness graph? ;)

      • Shashi June 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

        I have the same experience. Pizza doesn’t cause me as much of GI issue as whole wheat bread (which is usually highly processed and has all the bran and stuff added)

  6. Vrishali June 29, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Here is the processing technique based personal empirical research I have done on wheat.
    – I think cracked wheat that we use in that we use in India for porridge/dessert is better than wheat flour since the former has lesser surface area for nutrient loss, Even better is the Mediterranean version bulgur, which parboils the wheat before breaking it down into smaller pieces. Parboiling pushes the nutrients further into the grain and binds it better.
    -I really like paranthas and have created a whole weekend ritual when I want to eat them. Whole wheat or wheat berries are cheap and available in Whole Foods or Farmers markets. Day 1: I soak the required amount for 4-5 hours and rinse to reduce the pythic acid. Then place them in the sun/ oven when you are in the kitchen for 10 minutes or so. I have found that not soaking the wheat is characterized by a heaviness when the food is being digested.
    Day 2: Grind the wheat and sieve. You can use your regular blender and dry grinder (http://mynewroots.blogspot.com/2009/04/its-miller-time.html). It works, but if you want a more uniform grain size and better grain size control, use a home grain grinder (manual and electric versions available). I usually do the grinder option. You can also (slighly) sprout the grain before this step to further reduce pythic acid. The paranthas I have made with this process are tasty, nutritious and agree with my body.
    Two points I want to make about this. One, it is not as much work as it may seem, but it requires some planning. Two, if you care about your carbon footprint/personal expenses, note the non-expensive versions of some steps (sun drying and manual mill). I try and do the less expensive versions as much as I can because it gives me joy to do them.

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 8:42 am

      That is great stuff Vrishali! I am looking to do a detailed article on preparing grains and could use your help. Let me know if you’re game on contributing to the article.

      • vrishali June 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        Raj, I can hardly be considered an expert on processing techniques and this is close to all I know. But if you don’t have a deadline and we can do it as we get time, I am game to learning more.

      • RG June 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

        No worries. I’ll email you when Im ready.

    • Vizeet June 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Vrishali, Do you have a blog? I would await a post on this.
      So that I can share it on my facebook page.

      • vrishali June 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm

        Sorry Vizeet, I don’t blog. But looking at the post and variety of comments on this page- you should post this. I think sharing our experiences , arguing about and experimenting on ourselves further is a better solution than accepting scientific evidence- however strong- blindly

  7. arv43 June 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Great post! Very balanced perspective, rather than the knee-jerk reactions all over. I have a couple of comments, just thinking points basically. I’ve been thinking of grains as well, and we had a long conversation earlier this week about it too.
    Even though traditional cultures used grains, they did not use the grains we are using today i.e. the hybrid varieties that have a monopoly today. Wheat in 1911 is very different from wheat in 2011, being substantially higher in gluten and shittiness. But hey, somewhere, someone has the old strains and varieties. We just need to get our hands on them, and then can eat all the rotis we want. Kidding. maybe.
    The other thing is probably a variation in our stance. From what I can find, almost everyone has a reaction to wheat. Even people who think they are an exception (me and you, for example) are probably not. Issue is, we reintroduce it and don’t have a reaction. But research suggests otherwise. Is it more probable that I won the wheat lottery, or that the reactions are a bit more under the radar – am gonna hold my horses and go with the latter, even though it saddens me greatly. Digressing. IMO, taking a hardline stance on wheat is better!

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Awesome points! Im glad you brought up the no-reaction to wheat issue.

      About the difference in grain strains. But even if we do find the same strain, I dont think we can go back to eating as much grains as we want for two reasons 1. we’re not as active as folks in 1911 were and hence we dont need as many carbs or calories 2. most people miss junk food and not grains per se. Have a guy eat as many rotis as he wants, he will still crave bread or cake pizza. Its more about gratification from sugar and carbs and salt and fat than grains alone. So irrespective of quality, limiting quantity to say under 10% of total cals will do one good or at least the least harm.

      The thing about wheat. Research suggests what you say and I am not like u in winning the wheat lottery. My asthma disappeared only after dumping wheat. So I know for a fact that I am allergic to wheat. But… how much is too much? I dont know. Sporadic wheat consumption doesnt seem to mess with me. So the ideal solution for me seems to be to eat rice (idly, dosa, pongal etc) 4-5 times a week and eat wheat rarely when I find bread worthy of it or pizza thats hard to pass. For you (i.e. someone who finds no difference with or without wheat), I’d say you need to fine tune it further and start looking into quantities. Chronic overconsumption is not the answer… but complete avoidance resulting in cravings/falling-off-the-wagon is not the answer either.

      All said and done, people will spend the time and effort to figure out what is right only when something aint right. The key is to learn to listen to one’s body so he/she knows when something aint right.

      • Ganesh RK June 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

        Thanks Raj for the post….summarizing perspectives in an objective way is a tough ask…and u have done it pretty well here.

        Thanks to Arvind for bringing this point of winning the Wheat lottery! I have been wondering about that for sometime about myself.

        I have gone through cycles with Wheat over the past several years….From reliance to abstinence to minimal consumption etc….From a Gut irritation, bloating, satiation, performance, sleep or energy level standpoint there was no difference for me…Of course the impact on Fat loss differed.

        Not sure if the impact is not surfacing via any of our regular external measures or if there is such a thing as winning the lottery, if there is one!

      • RG June 29, 2011 at 12:15 pm

        I think I can confidently say there is no such thing as winning the wheat lottery. Sure you might not be as prone to GI due to gluten as other folks but thats just like not being prone to fat gain as much as someone else. Truth is, you are still prone to fat gain!

        1. Consumption of wheat has no positives associated with it.

        2. Consumption of wheat possibly has negatives in everyone at various levels.

        This is good enough reason to stay away from wheat for the most part and not make it a part of your diet. Other than the rare pizza or inadvertently consuming wheat used in some restaurant foods, I just dont understand why you or me or anyone would want to make it a significant part of their diet.

        If the same argument was for, say, eggs… I’d understand. Cos they are filllllled with nutrition but also with cholesterol. So I understand the concern. Wheat on the other hand… zero positive + varying levels of negative = easy NO.

  8. Reva June 29, 2011 at 10:22 am

    What I loved the best was ‘stay true to your short term goals’.. It is hard, I tell ya. But so rewarding! It is very easy to tell someone to stay away from certain foods for 4 weeks. It is just a month… but it is also 3 x 7 x 4 meals! Life comes in the way – there is always some party to go to or a vacation to take. Everything has to do with the consistency that you talked about in your previous post.

    And lol on the note in the beginning! Fun times ahead for the two of you :)

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      short term goals are hard because a free eating human in todays world is.. well.. fat! the world isnt suitable for free eating anymore. more on this on a different article!

  9. dangger June 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    First time I’m here, great article. Thanks a bunch.

  10. Kanika June 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    LOVED the post Raj, very informative and well-constructed…but you know, the more I read about grains, the more I feel like I know nothing. I mean, sure grains have phytic acid and there is plenty of research indicating that phytic acid = bad…but there’s enough research to show that phytic acid is an antioxidant as well. Also, some studies that work a certain way in one group of people may not hold true for another study. Thirdly, with all the conflicting info out there, my best way of approaching the subject is to trust my gut instinct (pun very much intended :)). If there’s one think I’ve learn from my superbly fit 98-year old grandfather, it’s to be in tune with your body.

    Personally, I do like trying out a variety of grains and regularly incorporate all the barley/millet/amaranth/quinoa/wheat/oats in my diet and have had no issues. My rationale for doing that is clear – white rice is nutritively inferior to other grains, and if I’m eating grains at all, I might as well have something richer in XYZ nutrients. I’ve learn something from your post about fermenting grains though, so thanks for that! Will do my own reading on that to understand it better. Also, I wouldn’t worry about slight inflammation with grains either coz god knows, it’s good to keep the immune system a little activated (very much like warming up before exercising!). Of course, you don’t want to aggravate immune problems if you have some to begin with. Overall, veggies and meat come with their own set of issues, so I don’t think grains need to be singled out in that aspect. I’m all on board with cutting grains in general though.

    Good, bad or ugly, all nutritive research in my eyes shall be taken with a ‘grain’ of salt!

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Really well written comment Kanika.

      And I dont think anyone can argue that veggies and meat (and cheese and fruit and anything thats food) come with their set of issues. Why? Because always eating high quality meat in huge quantities is an unreasonable expectation, especially in developing countries. Eating tonnes and tonnes of vegetables which have pesticides in them is another issue. Same with fruit. Dairy is similar to meat wrt quality. The smart person will add variety to his diet and tonnes of variety. That is my overall point about nutrition.

      ‘Its not grain domination or meat domination or dairy domination or even carb domination or protein domination or fat domination thats the answer today… variety is the answer and should be the only dominant factor in ones diet!’

      In that sense, the more different kinds of foods one is open to eating, the better it is. In the long run, taking into account hormones and pesticides and cheap fillers, if you can get your calories from meat and veggies and fruit and dairy and some grains you are much better off than consuming a diet dominated by anything.

      I am writing a post on making the real food approach more practical in the 21st century and a post on overconsumption in general. Hopefully I get it out soon.

  11. KN June 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I have found that finely ground wheat is not good for me, particularly when part of processed food. But home-made food based on Atta I can eat, though having a little yoghurt with it helps. I stay away from processed food as much as possible, including Pizza.

    I have a meat protein allergy (sneezing), particularly to red meat, but also to other meat, especially when cooked with too much chillies. However, if I eat a few slices of pineapple/papaya after such a meal, I am okay. (Pineapple/papaya has digestive enzymes, which help break down the protein). This suggests that my allergy is caused by non-optimal processing of protein, which is creating some byproduct I am allergic to. So now I eat meat protein only when I have access to these fruits.

    It is possible that your grain allergy may also be something like this, where your body is not able to break down grains well. Try eating pineapple/papaya with a grain meal to see if it makes any difference. I’ve found that eating these fruits with Pizza also helps, but not as much. So I don’t do the fruit combination with processed food very often. Even with meat, I do it maybe once in a week or something. Vegetarian food, with yoghurt and fruit on the side, is best.

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      KN, There is no ‘best’ food. To each his own.

      The truth is that we humans are capable of breaking down animal protein and are not capable of digesting grains unless carefully prepared (soaking, fermenting etc.). Chances are that your gut integrity is compromised which is hindering the meat digestion process. Look in digestive enzymes. They definitely help. Also start including a lot of fermented products like saur kraut, yogurt, kefir, kim chi etc. and coconut products. Also drop all grains, legumes and sugars. Try this for 3-5 weeks. This should help heal your gut and you should be able to digest animal protein just fine after that. It could also be a care of lack of bile production. FYI – almost all vegetarians have this issue when they start eating meat and once their gut heals (by eating the stuff I mentioned), they feel much better.

      My grain ‘allergy’ is obvious. We are all allergic to grains (especially wheat) to some extent. For some it shows. For some it doesnt. For some it shows but they just dont realize it. Check out the links I have on the post. You’ll get a better idea of grains and how they are not suitable for human consumption.

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      The one thing i disagree with you is choosing other grains over rice due to its inferior nutrition profile. Youd have to eat a tonne of grains to get any significant amount of nutrients from them. Well, thats what the general public has been asked to do and thats why theyre plagued with diseases. For eg. brown rice has more fiber than white rice. But thats 3-4g fiber in a 200-250 cal serving. Compare that to say asparagus. 1 lb of asparagus has ~ 75-100 cals and ~ 10g of fiber. See my post ‘let’s talk numbers’ for more data.

      The point is Kanika, look to vegetables and fruits and eggs and animal fats and dairy and seafood for your nutrients and look to rice and other grains that dont harm you for starch and calories.

  12. KN June 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Actually, I am a non-vegetarian from Kerala, and I started sneezing later in life. I finally traced the cause of my sneezing to proteins and processed food, after many years of suffering. Now I am mostly vegetarian, and eat mostly home-cooked food. I am not entirely convinced that grains are bad for everyone, though current grains might be, particularly in the finely ground nano-particle form.

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Im not disagreeing with your diagnosis of your body’s functioning wrt digestion, but chronic overconsumption of grains compromises gut integrity. This is a fact and is well supported by research. Once again, read the links in the blog. You might learn something new.

  13. Kanika June 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Yup, agreed on your last comment. Also, I’m a born yogurt/kefir junkie, so I guess that could be one reason my reactivity to grains (if any) is suppressed :D

    Well, thanks for making me see things differently..I love a good debate and food is one of my favorite topics..arguing with you forces me to do my own research and learn more in the bargain!
    Speaking of reducing carb intake, what do you think is a good percentage split of carb:fat:protein:veggies in a day for a moderately exercising normal healthy person?
    Any good resources you recommend on that topic?

    • RG June 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      No worries. We all have much to learn about nutrition.

      About macros – Check my posts titled Macronutrient Madness. The first post talks about the best way to approach macros sustainably and the second post has sample diets for different cases.

  14. Kanika June 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Oops, I meant, agreed on your last comment directed to me :)

  15. Sasikala June 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Good post….I used to eat grains in breakfast,lunch and dinner….like odsa,idli,upma,white rice,chapathi….I love them. Now I cut down everything and eating white rice only for dinner. I usually eat 2 cups…I thought it is also not good and like to reduce it to 1 cup. But after reading this article, I feel it is ok to eat 2 cups as I really enjoy eating rice. Thanks raj !!!

    • RG June 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Sasikala – Thank you for reposting the comment.

      What you need to keep in mind if your short term goals. Now if your goal is fat loss and you are a moderately sized female (120-170 lb), then 2 cups of rice is a little much mainly because it provides you with about 400 empty calories. Granted, rice is benign… but also empty and basically sugar the min it hits the stomach. My recommendation would be to eat say 1 cup of rice and eat more vegetables and a fruit for the other 200 calories. This way you get more micros which is critical especially when you’re trying to lose fat.

      If you’re only concerned about long term health and just eating the right foods, you’re definitely on the right track.

  16. Albert D. Melfo June 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Great post, Raj — thanks for sharing your insights and ideas.

    Made me hungry for that cranberry bread, though. ;)

    And a good reminder to me to get some white rice back into my diet — I’ve missed it!

  17. Shashi June 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Very well-written article, Raj. I’m still in the “gluten and other grains are evil, rice is not” camp based on how it affects me. Others will have different experiences.

    Wrt Gluten based foods, it is easy to know if one has full blown allergy. However, if one is mildly or moderately sensitive, there have been no foolproof tests for this other than elimination/challenge. But apparently, http://www.cyrexlabs.com/ has new tests which have 92-96% accuracy and tests for sensitivity to all 12 sub-fractions of Gliadin, not just alpha-gliadin like most other tests. All this info and more detail is in Nora’s blog: http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/blog/?p=805

    Another key piece of info is that only 1 in 8 people who are sensitive to gluten have GI symptoms. The rest of the folks silently suffer in the form of inflammation at different sites of the body and degenerative diseases (http://www.dfwceliac.org/assets/New-Gluten-Sensitivity-Testing.pdf). So, it is worth testing for it. Apparently, spring 2011 is when cyrex will introduce Array 5 test which can actually pinpoint the site of inflammation/degeneration in the body.

    Lastly, if GI health is bad, a whole bunch of foods can screw you up, so I totally agree that the first step is to figure out ways to fix it. Cyrex folks have put up a video about the gut-brain connection: http://www.cyrexlabs.com/HomeVideo1/tabid/174/Default.aspx .

    Disclaimer: I haven’t done any tests yet with Cyrex but am considering it for various reasons. And I have no affiliation with cyrex.

  18. nutreas July 4, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Use Quinoa instead of oats ! Much better for the insuline….

    Excelletn comment :)

    Nutreas Whey Protein

    http://www.nutreas.de/shop/de/whey-protein.html

  19. Roopa July 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Now this is the post I was looking for. Thanks a lot Raj! :)

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  21. JK July 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Awesome post! The one thing that KILLS me is Toor dal that we use so much in indian cooking. It causes so much gas and I can literally feel my body revolting an hour after I have toor dal.
    I started noticing this only in the last year and I remember very clearly I have never had this sort of a problem in India couple of years ago.

    What are your thoughts ? Have you heard of this before from any other clients?

  22. pujawahar July 11, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Good Post ..I have been following a paleo-inspired diet for about a year now .. and a convenient staple at home is dosa’s (maav made at home) cooked with coconut oil and Ghee – along with eggs or mutton curry – great source of energy .. and taste and totally doable over the long term ..

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  29. Ram. April 21, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “3. There is enough scientific and anecdotal evidence to prove that chronic grain consumption is detrimental to health and prosperity.”

    Are these research conclusive, or are they merely suggestive? What research can you cite as evidence to your case? Are these peer reviewed studies published in reputed journals? Do they consider a rich cross section of people across different cultures as a target sample, or is the sample taken from one specific country? What is the sample size? How do the researchers correlate and extrapolate their findings to the general population?

  30. Pingback: The Gluten(free) Myth – Are you really gluten intolerant? Should you live gluten free? « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

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