It is a lie that whole grains are healthy for you, perpetuated by the food industry in the name of profit. Whole grains, potatoes, and other high starch foods increase triglycerides, make you fat, raise blood pressure, causes heart disease, cognitive decline, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, depression, obesity, anxiety disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction and poor health in general.
Yes, I know many people are shocked to hear such a statement, but here are the facts that prove it is true.
All anthropological research indicates that prior to the Agriculture Revolution, the diet of the human being in all cultures, consisted of meat, low-starch vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and fruit. That’s it. A culture may have turned to a grain only in an emergency situation in a rare circumstance.
Grains, legumes, potatoes, etc. became a common staple in the diet only after it was discovered that they could be mass produced and distributed at a much more affordable price and generate a great profit for the producers. We could feed more people at a lower price.
However, prior to the consumption of these foods, the epidemics of type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, heart disease, obesity etc., did not exist. In *The Paleo Diet, Professor Loren Cordain, a nutritionist and anthropological researcher, tells us it is our deviation from the diet that nature intended us to eat that results in poor health.
Furthermore, research tells us that the consumption of grain is a major contributor to nutritional deficiencies and are harmful to the GI tract, because of antinutrients called lectins, phytates and protease inhibitors.
Lectins are a natural chemical that evolved to protect some plant species from predators, derived partially from proteins and partially from carbohydrates.These anti-nutrients are not broken down properly by our bodies and thus they attach themselves to cells in the GI tract, which prohibits nutrients from being absorbed and increases intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
The inhibited nutrient absorption leads to a variety of nutritional deficiencies like iron, zinc, all the Bs, folic acid, vitamin D and Vitamin A. The impaired intestinal permeability permits food particles that are not completely digested, yeast, bacteria and toxins to infiltrate the bloodstream.
Normally, our immune system will defend us from food fragments and bacteria, but the lectins inhibit the immune system from defending itself. Essentially it deceives the body to ambush itself instead, which ultimately causes inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Phytates are a substance that binds to minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium, which makes them inaccessible to your body, resulting in deficiencies in these nutrients. Thus, even though whole grains may be higher in nutrients than refined grain, they are completely useless, because the body cannot use them.
Protease inhibitors are substances that impair our ability to break down protein, which can lead to more nutritional deficiencies, food allergies or sensitivities.
Grains also disrupt the equilibrium of acid in the kidneys, and lead to loss of bone mineral content and muscle mass. When your diet is high in whole grains, it is typically lower in meat. A diet that is lacking in meat cannot form strong bones, because plants contain incomplete proteins. Animal protein is needed to form strong bones. People who are vegetarians have much lower bone mineral density than people who eat meat.
Another benefit that the whole grain industry touts they provide is that they lower your cholesterol. This may actually be true for some grains, however, you don’t really want to lower your cholesterol. It is not true that high cholesterol is the dangerous beast it has been labeled. Most people have cholesterol that is too low, because they have been led to believe that is healthy.
You must have an adequate level of cholesterol to produce all your life sustaining steroid hormones like cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, aldosterone and testosterone. When there isn’t enough cholesterol, then deficiencies in these hormones develop which leads to a whole host of health conditions. However, if you’re still worried about cholesterol, if you eat the foods you were designed to eat, which includes meat, fish, eggs, fruits, nuts and seeds, then high cholesterol won’t be an issue. Dr. Charles Gant tells us that cholesterol should not be under 160.
Grains contain high levels of exorphins. Exorphins are opiate like chemicals that mimic the natural neurotransmitter in our brain called endorphins. In your brain you have endorphins, these are our natural pain relievers. They also promote good moods, relaxation and feelings of well-being. Typically your endorphin receptors are stimulated naturally by fruits and fats, this is essential so you’ll continue to eat the foods you need for nutrients and they manage pain levels and moods.
However, exorphins trick your brain by artificially stimulating the endorphin receptors. Not only that, the level of stimulation is much higher than it would be with natural means like fruit. This interrupts the process of the natural endorphins. The brain then thinks that it doesn’t need any endorphins, so it will stop producing them.
This leads to depletion of your natural endorphins and then you will crave grains so that your endorphin receptors can get stimulated. This is how addiction to grains develops. This is why most of the population cannot resist that bread, bagel, cake, pizza and pie.
So, society’s love affair with pastries, pasta, bread, pizza, cookies, etc. is basically a form of opiate addiction, just like heroin and morphine, and addiction to grains can then lead to addiction to harder substances like alcohol, morphine and heroin as tolerance develops. Additionally, learning and memory can become impaired as well, as your brain will begin to utilize the artificial exorphins instead of its natural neurotransmitters.
Not only that, other neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, GABA and dopamine are overstimulated as well by grains, and the same process applies to these neurotransmitters. Over time they may become depleted as well, which also results in cravings to bring them up and a vast array of symptoms like anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, alcoholism, drug addiction and more.
It should be noted that some people are more susceptible to the exorphin impact than others. People without adequate levels of healthy bacteria in their gut and lacking in digestive enzymes are more vulnerable and so are people who already have some deficiency in endorphins or other neurotransmitters due to poor diet, chronic stress, genetics or environmental toxins.
In some susceptible people, grains may have an excitotoxin effect by forming excessive glutamate. Meaning it causes the brain cells to become excessively stimulated and can even result in brain cell death, this can lead to a wide array of conditions and disorders like autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders.
Where Did the Whole Grain Lie Develop?
The theory behind the “whole grains are healthier for you” lie is based on the fact that refined carbohydrates are broken down into glucose immediately and thus spike your blood sugar. When blood sugar is spiked, then insulin is spiked. When insulin is spiked on a regular basis, it leads to insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, and then type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and many other degenerative health conditions. This is true and why refined foods should not be part of the diet.
However, whole grain advocates claim that if the grain is eaten in its whole and natural state that it won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar and therefore it is healthier for you. This is not true.
We’ll look at the glycemic index chart to illustrate why this is a lie. The glycemic index chart tells us how quickly a food is broken down into glucose in the bloodstream. The higher a food’s number is on the glycemic index, the higher it will spike your blood sugar level, which means insulin is then spiked; the scenario we are trying to avoid.
All foods are compared to the glycemic index of glucose, which is 100. The closer to 100 the number is the more it spikes your blood sugar. Take a look at the glycemic index rating for some of the most commonly eaten whole grain foods and other high starch foods that are mistaken to be healthy:
Oat bran bread (glycemic index of 51)
Whole grain bread (glycemic index of 55)
Whole rye kernel bread (glycemic index of 68)
Potatoes (glycemic index anywhere between 65 and 85 depending on how it is cooked)
Corn Flakes (glycemic index of 83)
Brown rice (glycemic index of 55)
Oat bran or oatmeal (glycemic index of 55)
Instant oatmeal (glycemic index of 66)
Shredded wheat (glycemic index of 69)
Sweet corn (glycemic index of 55)
Kidney beans (glycemic index of 55)
Now lets look at the glycemic index of some commonly eaten junk food::
White bread (glycemic index of 71)
Ice cream (glycemic index of 55)
Snicker’s candy bar (glycemic index of 55)
Corn chips (glycemic index of 63)
Potato chips (glycemic index of 54)
Table sugar (glycemic index of 61)
Pizza (glycemic index of 60)
Popcorn (glycemic index of 55)
What this tells us is that whole grains and potatoes are broken down into sugar in the bloodstream just as quickly as junk food, therefore they are not any healthier for you at all. Whole grains, and other starchy foods like potatoes, are basically junk food and have the same impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels and therefore will result in all the same degenerative health conditions if consumed on a regular basis.
Additionally, when there is a lot of sugar in the blood from a diet high in grains or other high starch foods, it gets stored as fat. The more grains you eat the more fat you are going to store. Furthermore, before getting stored as fat, it is converted to triglycerides, thus increasing triglycerides. This is how whole grains can lead to heart disease and obesity.
To learn more about this aspect of grains and carbs, I encourage you to read my other articles on this topic, Good Carbs Bad Carbs, Insulin Resistance, Leptin Resistance, and why you shouldn’t be a vegetarian.
Although mainstream followers of the glycemic index recommend staying with foods that are below 55, for the healthiest diet, Dr. Al Sears recommends that nothing above the number 40 should be eaten on a consistent basis. An occasional indulgence in something high won’t be harmful, but it should not be a regular part of the diet.
Another Grain Lie is Born
In a great article by Dr. Al Sears I learned the following amazing little fact. Until about 150 years ago Americans ate eggs, fish, pork, chicken and beef for breakfast. That is until a couple of guys called the Kellogg brothers came on the scene. The Kellogg brothers believed that it was wrong to eat meat and were vegetarians. They also ran a sanitarium.
Since they didn’t want to feed their patients meat, they developed what is known as “granola” and then corn flakes. The patients liked it so much that after they would leave the sanitarium they would request it to be sent to them by mail, because they believed it was healthy for them.
The Kellogg brothers began to package and sell their product. Of course, as all businesses do, they began a marketing campaign. However, their marketing campaign was designed to convince you that meat and eggs were not good for you and that you should eat cereal instead, so you would buy their products. We continue to see this type of incessant marketing today, that is based purely on this misinformation.
One of the patients at the Kellogg sanitarium was C. W. Post, and even though his health didn’t improve while he was there, he saw the overwhelming interest in cereal as an incredible money making opportunity and thus created his own sanitarium and cereal company called, Post Cereal Company.
Thus, this is how cereal became the mainstay of the American breakfast. Not because it is healthy for you, but because the whole idea was promoted in the name of commercial gain and a personal opinion that eating meat was wrong.
Now, if you remember in our discussion earlier when we talked about grains containing exorphins, we can understand why the people in the sanitarium were so “hooked” on the cereals produced by the Kellogg brothers. People in a sanitarium are there because of some type of mental disorder, and anyone suffering with a mental disorder of any kind is suffering from neurotransmitter imbalances or deficiencies, as that is the primary root of all mental health conditions.
The exorphins in the grains gave them that temporary boost in neurotransmitters, which made them feel better. Thus, they thought it was a health food. However, just like all addictive substances, after the initial boost there is a crash and then cravings for more of the substance to bring the neurotransmitters back up again. That is why the patients who left the sanitarium were then contacting the Kellogg brothers asking for the cereal to be sent to them. They were addicted to the cereal.
In *End Your Addiction Now, Dr. Charles Gant, a respected M.D. and authority on Integrative Medicine and the topics of addiction, anxiety and depression, tells us that carbohydrates are addictive by nature; it is the way nature designed them to propagate the species. “We are compelled by our biochemistry” to consume them. For millions of years, the ability to store sugar as fat was crucial for our survival. We consumed carbohydrates during the summer months simply to get us through the winter months.
The problem lies in the fact that our ancestors did not have a grocery store stalked with an abundance of sweets. Carbohydrates were available to them seasonally, only during the spring and summer months when these plants were in bloom. Additionally, the carbohydrates that our ancestors ate came in the form of fresh low-sugar, low-starch vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds — not refined white sugar, flour, potatoes, corn, whole grains etc. For seven or eight months out of the year, the diet consisted primarily of meat, fish and eggs and a few nuts and seeds that they were able to store.
The advent of the Agriculture Revolution brought carbohydrates to our plate that are much higher in sugar content than our bodies our genetically equipped to handle, less nutritional value, and to make matters worse, they were now available year round. People stopped eating meat, fish and eggs and replaced them with high levels of carbohydrates. This shift in diet that was not intended by nature has wrecked havoc on our brains, metabolism, immune system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, nervous system etc.
Furthermore, in seminars by Dr. Gant he teaches us that carbohydrates or any high-starch food are completely non-essential in the diet. He states that if you look at the top 100 most reputable nutritional scientific texts that not one of them indicates that carbohydrates are an essential component of the diet. We can acquire all the glucose we need from protein though a process called gluconeogenesis where the liver converts amino acids into glucose and through glyerol, a byproduct of fat metabolism.
Furthermore, Gant states “a carb is a carb.” Complex carbohydrates have the same impact on the endocrine system as refined carbs. Whole grains cause a spike in blood sugar and the inevitable spike in insulin and the cascade of negative effects that follow.
What About Those Whole Grain Studies?
So what about all those studies that the grain industry uses in their marketing campaigns? You know the ones that say ridiculous things like, “people who eat whole grain tend to weigh less than those who don’t,” or “whole grain prevents diabetes, and whole grains reduce the risk of cancer.”
First of all, just because a sentence begins with “Studies reveal” or something along that line, doesn’t mean it is true. In Scientific Lies, by Catherine Ebeling, RN, she teaches us that there are several questions we need to ask ourselves when looking at scientific studies, such as:
- Did the researchers control for other variables?
Other outside variables could influence the results of a study and be the underlying factor in the outcome.
- In comparison to what?
Yes, in comparison to people who eat junk food, people who eat whole grain may weigh less. However, in comparison to people who eat no grains that would be a lie.
- Can the results be repeated and are they consistent?
In order to draw conclusions that results are true, they must be repeatable and consistent.
- Who is funding the study?
Many studies are funded by the grain industry or others who have a lot to gain from a positive outcome. Amazingly, the results that one would like to see be true, magically appear.
I would add, that you also need to look at what kind of study was performed. Many of the studies that claim whole grains are good for you and meat is bad for you are observational studies, not true scientific studies. An observational study cannot prove cause and effect.
Why do you hear so many people say that they feel better and their health improved when they switched from junk food to whole grains? Because that step alone is a huge improvement over the status quo. Indeed, you will feel better by removing the sugar, caffeine, white flour, food additives, etc. However, you will feel even better if you remove the whole grains, potatoes and other starches.
The individual who continues eating the grains fights constant cravings for carbohydrates and is not likely to make very much progress in maintaining long-term weight loss, lowering blood sugar, reversing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, alleviating depression or anxiety, reversing heart disease, or overcoming addiction to sugar, carbs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine etc., because the whole grain still contributes to these conditions in the same manner as refined sugar.
Grains are cheap to produce, and since they are addictive by nature and people can’t get enough of them, they make a fortune for the grain industry, thus you will continue to see this lie that grains are healthy for you perpetuated for years to come, even when the facts prove otherwise. Don’t buy into it.
Eat real food. The only carbs you should eat are the ones that come directly from nature — fruit, above ground vegetables, nuts and seeds. And even then, they should be in small amounts, not the mainstay of your meal. Your meal should consist primarily of meat and then low-starch vegetables, with a small serving of fruit, nuts and seeds
All foods that you eat should be able to be eaten in their natural state. Grains must be processed to be eaten. Your foods should be organic, grass-fed, free-range and cage-free and fish should be wild Alaskan, so that you are ingesting food with the highest level of nutrients, the lowest level of toxins and the most humane farming practices. Most vegetables should be above ground, not root vegetables.
Yes, you can have that occasional indulgence in the forbidden grain or starch without too much worry, but they should not be a frequent visitor on your plate. Anthropological research tells us that grains were not part of our ancestor’s diet, except on a rare occasion in an emergency. Our ancestors thrived on meat, fish and eggs and this is what promotes optimal health for us today. This is known as the Paleolithic diet, and it is the diet you were genetically designed to eat.
The Whole Grain Hoax, Dr. Al Sears
Sorry Vegetarians, Dr. Al Sears
Is is Not Organic, but so What, Dr. Al Sears
Missing Link Ate Meat, Dr. Al Sears
Addicted to Nature, Dr. Al Sears
Scientific Lies,by Catherine Ebeling, RN
Gant, Charles, M.D., Lewis Greg, M.D. End Your Addiction Now: A Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free, Square One Publishers; 2010
Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet. Wiley, 2001
Sears, Al, M.D. P.A.C.E: The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution. Wellness Research & Consulting, Inc. 2010.