For about the past 5 years in the healing foods community, there have been many proponents for a no-grain diet. Personally, I’ve enjoyed sprouted and simmered (or fresh ground and cultured), low-glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and brown rice as staple foods in my diet for 20 years with excellent health. But, I’ve recently had to re-evaluate which types of whole grains are actually serving my body best, since experiencing an unrelenting bout of rosacea acne since June.
Concerning ALL grains, I believe that there are definitely the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because of the genetic modification, the high glycemic aspect, and general overuse of hybridized, refined, gluten-brimming wheat and GM corn in processed foods, the regular consumption of these grains (as well as the other high-glycemic foods), are major factors in many modern diseases.
This article is a tad longer than usual because, in covering ALL grains, several factors need to be addressed such as: glycemic aspect of various grains, genetic modification, gluten-sensitivity, traditional preparation of grains vs. modern use of grains in processed foods, a whole foods diet and lifestyle, individual body type’s different needs, mindfulness, and finally, cereal grains vs. grain-like seeds. So, if you’re in for the ride, big thanks for your time, and hang on!
Why Are GM Corn And Modern Wheat So Ugly?
Beside the fact that both corn and wheat are very high glycemic, commercially grown corn is extremely bad for us because, like most other genetically modified (GM) crops, it contains pesticide. This is very maddening to me, considering that there are billions of people who eat processed foods containing corn as a main ingredient daily. Sterility and various cancers in mice fed GM grains were the first adverse effects discovered. Today, about 45% of modern people end up with some type of cancer, and millions of women can’t get pregnant.
One of Dr. Mercola’s articles, is about the dangers of eating modern wheat. Wheat now contains 80% more gluten than ever before, due to it’s hybridization over recent decades. With increasing exposure to gluten (a protein in the bran of wheat termed “wheat germ aglutinen” or “WGA”), more and more of us are becoming gluten sensitive, and many of us are even gluten intolerant. Gluten exists in large amounts in modern whole wheat, and in lesser but still significant amounts in refined wheat, spelt, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale. WGA has been recently proven to not only cause systemic inflammation (which has been known for years), but is now considered cardiotoxic and neurotoxic!
Wheat Sensitivity Symptoms
Each of us is sensitive to gluten in widely varying degrees, and with widely varying symptoms. For instance, if I eat a piece of wheat bread, I get a bit of a bloated feeling, as if I ate too much. For the past year since living with my new sweetie Matt who ISN’T wheat sensitive, I have been unwisely dabbling in wheat a few times a week (pizza, lamb shawarma sandwiches, beer, etc), unlike when I was with my last partner for 3 years who is borderline celiac, I ate almost no wheat. So, in eating about 1000% more wheat over the last year, it’s reasonable that I’ve developed a wheat allergy-induced rash (rosacea), which is a common symptom of wheat sensitivity.
Concerning the widely varying symptoms of wheat allergy, I know someone who, if he eats one bite of something made with any gluten grain, he experiences a cardiac inflammatory response causing heart arrhythmia. Also, he lost 50lb in one year, simply by quitting eating gluten grains! Another friend of mine can’t even have a crumb of anything made with a gluten grain, or she ends up in the bathroom all night with loose bowels. If she accidentally has a full bite of anything made with a gluten grain, her throat begins to close up and she has to go to the emergency room.
Wheat sensitivity symptoms vary as widely as the severity of them, from stomach pain and intestinal diseases/digestive disorders, to asthma and skin rash, malnutrition, to chronic pain and inflammation (arthritis), to heart arrhythmia, to infertility, to brain chemistry imbalance.
Alternate Grains and The Big Picture Of Diet And Lifestyle
There are many other, wonderfully nutritious, low glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat that are gluten-free, full of vitamins and minerals, and which you can you can make even more nutritious with certain traditional methods of preparation.
Okay. I believe that every part of the picture must be considered, before coming to the conclusion that all grains are bad for all people. Corn, wheat, white rice, oats, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale are all high glycemic grains. Thanks to articles like this one by Dr. Ron Rosedale, we know that these many diseases are all brought on by a high-glycemic diet: diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, depressed immunity, hormone and brain chemistry imbalances, depressed immune function and systemic inflammation. Wow!
And, of course, I believe it’s important to look at all the other major factors in the causes of disease: 1) the regular intake of refined salt, refined grains, and refined sugars, and refined vegetable oils (canola, corn, soy oils, etc.) via processed foods, restaurant food, and fast food, 2) the lack of seasonal regional vegetables (especially the dark leafy greens) as at least 50% of the diet, 3) the lack of sufficient daily hydration with re-mineralized water, 4) the over-consumption of pasteurized dairy and commercially raised meats, 5) sedentary lifestyles, and 6) the polluted, stress-filled lives we live with socially unbalanced, competitive, and emotionally void standards of behavior.
On the other hand, or should I say, on the ‘ancient hand’, a whole foods diet looks like this: seasonal regional vegetables as 40-60% of the diet, low glycemic whole grains prepared in the ways of our ancestors, soaked and simmered beans, fresh raw nuts and seeds, small amounts of seasonal, regional fruit, moderate amounts of whole sea salts, extra virgin or “unrefined” natural fats and oils, and consciously raised (preferably organic) animal proteins like meats and raw dairy products in moderate amounts when needed for building strength and warmth.
Individual Body Types
One of the basic guidelines of Macrobiotics (the Asian tradition of eating and living in harmony with nature): eat to balance your individual constitution. A person may need building foods like high quality animal proteins or spirulina/chlorrella algae if they do hard physical work, are pregnant or nursing, feel weak or cold, have a wasting or deficiency type illnesses, are underweight, or if they are a protein-type with meat-eating ancestry, and/or slower metabolism (usually people with type O blood). Dr. Mercola has an excellent, free, nutritional typing test, which can help you discover your individual constitution and needs, not only with particular foods, but with lifestyle too!
Until recently, I thought I was a carbohydrate nutritional body type, and now, if my health improves from cutting out even the low glycemic cereal grains like brown rice and millet, I will consider myself a protein type or possibly a mixed type.
Traditional Preparation Of Grains vs. Modern Use Of Grains In Processed Foods
When ANY types of grains are soaked (aka: sprouted) and simmered, OR freshly ground and cultured, they provide an easily digestible, nutrient accessible, long-lasting carbohydrate source. The modern processed food industry skips these important steps (soaking or culturing), which our ancestors nearly always took in preparing grains. These steps are important because they help break down the complex carbohydrates in the grains, making them much easier to digest. When our bodies don’t have to work so hard on digestion, our internal energy is free to heal and balance other areas. Also, soaking or culturing neutralizes the phytic acid in the bran of the grain, which makes it’s vitamins and minerals much more bio-available. AND, soaking (and thusly initiating the sprouting process) in grains, creates many more amino acids in the grain, which the body can use as the building blocks of proteins. Wow again!
Cereal Grains vs. Grain-Like Seeds
Okay. Cereal grains are the edible, carbohydrate-packed seeds of certain grasses including wheat, kamut, rice, rye, spelt, corn, millet, barley and oats. All of these grains are high glycemic except brown rice which is considered medium glycemic. What!?! Millet is high glycemic?!? I knew brown rice is medium-glycemic, but I thought millet is low-glycemic. Sheesh! My whole world is beginning to crumble here!!!
When one of my friends saw my rosacea recently, she said it looked like a food allergy symptom. Since I eat so many different grains, she said that it could be an allergy to the cereal grains. Okay, okay. No more cereal grains for me for a while!
Thank God I’ve learned to cook main dishes and sugar-free desserts with quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. I’ve loved the taste and the power-packed punch of these little “grains” for decades now. These three gains are actually small, edible, protein-rich seeds. They’re not grass seeds, and therefore, they’re not cereal grains. They provide much more protein than carbohydrate, and therefore, they don’t spike the blood sugar. Also, amaranth is highest of all the grains in both calcium and iron, and in countries where it’s a staple grain, there is no malnutrition. Hey! That’s nice!
The Body’s Changing Needs
Everybody’s body and needs are different, AND our needs can change over time. I’ll be experimenting with eating only quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth as my source of grain for several months to see how my skin improves. If healing happens, I may try re-incorporating small amounts of one type of cereal grain at a time, to see how my body tolerates each one. I’ll probably try millet first, see how that goes for a few weeks, and then I’ll try brown rice. My intuition tells me that I now needed to stay away from all glutenous grains, but I’m willing to cut out all cereal grains too, if that’s what my body needs. I encourage you to experiment with various whole foods for periods of time, to see which ones nourish your individual constitution, and give you the most energy and vitality.
Quieting Our Mental Chatter
Another key piece of the puzzle that I feel is of great importance, is consciously tuning into one’s changing needs on a regular basis. I’ve experienced the benefits of this practice myself, and I’ve seen it work for many other people. There are several ways to tune in, such as being quiet in nature, using mindfulness practices, or beginning to learn to meditate. Each of these will help steer you in the direction that’s best for you, for that period time in your life.
The body’s needs can change decade to decade, year to year, week to week, day to day, or moment to moment. I’ve found that quieting mental chatter is an invaluable tool, not only to discover which foods are best for you in the moment, but to establish a foundational way of being which leads to moving through life’s challenges with grace, non-judgement, fearlessness, and joy.
Much of the content for this article is brought to you by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For his helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book!