10 shocking things you need to know about grains

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Grains 10 fats

1. You Don’t Have to Eat Grains At All!

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fatty acids contained in whole grains. But you can easily get all those beneficial substances from other sources vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and other foods that don’t have the baggage that comes with grains.

The same is true of the fiber contained in whole grains. It’s absolutely vital to healthy living but easily available in other plant-based foods.

For us to live, our bodies need the amino acids contained in protein and the fatty acids contained in fats. Believe it or not, we don’t need to eat carbs. At all! For nearly all of our history, humans consumed no grains, and our bodies are designed to work very well without them.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors occasionally binged on buffalo and antelope meat, but never on a sheet cake!

2. Flour = Sugar

When we talk about grains, we use the word starch. (We use it for some vegetables, too, as we’ve seen.) But we don’t all realize that starch is just sugar with a slightly more complex molecular structure. This is important: Starch and sugar are essentially the same thing.

The whole complex vs. simple carb idea has retired to the dustbin of history. What matters is how much a particular carb raises your blood sugar. Bread is a complex carb, and sugar is a simple carb. But eating two slices of whole wheat bread raises your blood sugar more than eating 2 tablespoons of table sugar does! So whenever
If you eat something containing wheat flour, you might as well be mainlining sugar.

On the glycemic index, which measures the amount that any given food raises your blood sugar, white bread is 75, while sucrose (table sugar) comes in at 65 (and chocolate at 45).

This rapid rise in blood sugar brought on by consuming starchy carbs and all forms of sugar is essentially the metabolic mechanism singlehandedly responsible for today’s global epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (and it contributes to dementia and cancer as well).

Eating refined grains prompts your body to release insulin, which ushers the glucose from your bloodstream into your fat cells, making them bigger and plumper. Then, before you know it, you’re hungry again for more carbs. In the meantime, the insulin acts like a lock that prevents fat from being mobilized from your fat cells.

obesity expert, often says that below the neck, your body can’t tell the difference between a bowl of cornflakes
without the sugar and a bowl of sugar without the cornflakes. That’s how bad flour is. Today, grain-wary people who bake at home use flours made from almonds, coconuts, or some other substitute.

And that’s generally a good idea. But in commercial food products, we’re getting grains. And when we get grains, we almost always get one or more sweeteners sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, dextrose, maltodextrin, and maltose.

Look at the label on any loaf of bread next time you go shopping. There may be five or six different kinds of flour and sugar in there. That’s a lot of ways to inflame your body in addition to whatever damage the flour itself is doing.

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3. Your Body Doesn’t Know What to Do with Gluten

Vegetarian Buddhists in China began eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and a few other grains,
back in the sixth century. Under its Japanese name, seitan, it’s long been a staple in health food stores as a substitute for meat.

Gluten is what makes dough doughy and bread airy (it shares the same root as the word “glue”). Normally,
getting some of your protein from plants is a good thing.

Except when it comes to gluten. Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition just like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or lupus, causes confusion in your immune system. Here’s what happens: Your body mistakenly reacts to gluten as if it were an external threat, and that prompts your immune system to attack your own tissues.

Celiac is a root cause of at least fifty different diseases, including cancer, lymphoma, osteoporosis, kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases such as colitis or rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, and psychiatric and neurological diseases like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and autism.

Quite a list. But only an estimated 1 percent of the population has been diagnosed with celiac. That’s terrible
for them, but why should it matter to you and me? Many more of us are afflicted with NCGS non-celiac
gluten sensitivity which is essentially an extreme inflammatory reaction to the same protein.

Even those of us without celiac may damage the cells of our intestinal lining when we eat gluten. Today, the most advanced research on the subject has concluded that nobody not one of us can properly process gluten. But because we may not show any obvious symptoms, we could all be doing harm to our bodies without knowing it.

We’ve only recently learned how exactly gluten affects us. Scientists from the University of Maryland discovered
the existence of a protein called zonulin, which is produced by our bodies whenever we eat gluten.


4. The Grains We Eat Aren’t the Grains Our

Grandparents Ate New hybrids have been developed, most notably dwarf wheat, which is heartier than its predecessors but contains a “super starch” called amylopectin A that has a greater impact on our blood sugar than the traditional kinds of starch it actually promotes insulin resistance.

The new varieties also have more gluten, which is not doing us any favors. And while most wheat isn’t genetically modified, it is dosed with a chemical herbicide called glyphosate just before harvest, which increases its yield.

The trade name for this nasty stuff is Roundup, made by Monsanto, and although it didn’t exist until 1974, it’s now the most heavily used weed killer in global agriculture. (It’s also the second-most popular herbicide for home use.)

The EPA says it’s safe for us, but there’s evidence suggesting it may have something to do with the rise in celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. Glyphosate exposure has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, kidney disease, lymphoma, reproductive difficulties, and damage to our gut bacteria.

5. This Is Not to Say Gluten-Free Is Always Good for You

You might remember in years past when foods suddenly began proclaiming themselves “free” as in sugar-free
cookies or fat-free yogurt.

More often than not, those were marketing ploys designed to cash in on our (sometimes justified) fear of certain ingredients. But the word “free” doesn’t necessarily mean good for you. “Gluten-free” doesn’t just mean the protein has been removed.

Often it means the gluten has been replaced with something else harmful, like refined vegetable oils, artificial additives, a ton of sugar, or higher-glycemic flours. Remember: A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie! So, beware of “freedom,” at least when it comes to food. Because it usually means increased processing, which in turn means less healthy and more expensive.

If you want to go gluten-free, you should stop eating foods that contain gluten, period. Apples and almonds are gluten-free and stick with whole foods.

6. You Should Be a Cereal Killer

Breakfast cereal should be called breakfast candy. When you eat it, your body immediately begins breaking down all those refined grains, starches, and added sugars into an avalanche of glucose. Most breakfast cereals are 75 percent sugar. But if you walk down any supermarket cereal aisle, you’ll see misleading food labeling at its most creative.

Today, virtually every cereal box makes some bogus health claim related to the theoretical benefits of eating whole grains. But those cereal grains are highly processed, even when technically “whole,” and the added sugar content and chemical additives more than nullify any nutrition the stuff contains.

For all this we can thank John Harvey Kellogg, the nineteenth-century physician and Seventh-Day Adventist
who ran a health spa in Battle Creek, Michigan. He (with his brother Will) created a vegetarian, nonprotein alternative to the standard heartburn-inducing breakfast foods of his time (flapjacks and sausages). Kellogg’s invention, flakes made of toasted corn, immediately caught on.

His name endures thanks to the cereal giant he inspired, but his invention’s connection to good health is long gone. I wonder how he would feel knowing that a cereal that bears his name Kellogg’s Honey Smacks contains an insane 55.6 percent sugar by weight.

Breakfast cereal today is just a sugar delivery system. Some are healthier than others, of course, but even the “healthy” cereals, the ones that look and taste like they were made from wood chips, should be avoided.

We’ve somehow gotten the impression that granola is a better choice, but often the opposite is true there are
brands that contain more sugar than Cocoa Puffs. And the bad news just gets worse: When you start your day with sugar, you kick off an addictive cycle of sugar and carb cravings that will last all day long.

7. Oatmeal Is Not a Health Food

Can a food as boring as oatmeal really be unhealthy? Many Americans eat it religiously, as though it’s a miracle
breakfast. It’s not. It may lower your cholesterol, but that isn’t the lifesaving change you might have thought it was. In fact, a large, eye-opening study published in BMJ Open in 2016 found that people above the age of sixty with low cholesterol levels have higher mortality rates than people older than sixty with high cholesterol.

And regardless, it’s not the oatmeal that lowers cholesterol; it is the oat bran. The major problem with oatmeal is the same problem with every other grain: It spikes your blood sugar and makes you hungrier. In one oft-quoted study, overweight children were fed one of three breakfasts: instant oatmeal, steel-cut oats, or omelets, all of which had the same number of calories.

The kids who had the instant oatmeal ate 81 percent more food in the afternoon than the omelet eaters. The kids who ate the steel-cut oats did a little better but still consumed 51 percent more than the children who ate eggs.

That wasn’t the only difference: Compared to the omelet group, the kids who ate the oatmeal had higher levels of insulin, sugar, adrenaline, and cortisol (which suggests that the body perceives oatmeal as a stressor).

The lesson? Even “healthy” cereal will increase your food cravings more than protein and fats. And if you’re eating instant or microwavable oatmeal, you’re getting a cereal grain refined to the point that its nutritional value has been compromised.

I still talk to plenty of people who believe that oatmeal is a healthy way to start the day. It is compared to Froot
Loops! One more thing to keep in mind: Although oats don’t contain gluten, they can be contaminated with it when processed in factories where wheat is present.

So, add oats to your list of gluten-containing foods to avoid. Even gluten-free oats can be a problem for those who are sensitive.

8. Your Corn Has Been Abused

Corn’s an unusual case. It’s a grain many of us believe isn’t particularly healthy, mostly due to its high starch content. But we’re at least partly wrong. Corn itself fresh corn, also known as sweet corn contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which our gut bacteria turn into short-chain fatty acids that lower our risk of intestinal ailments, including colon cancer.

Each variety of fresh corn yellow, white, red, blue, and purple contains vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, and antioxidant phytonutrients, especially carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are
good for eye health. However, corn these days does contain lots of starch, thanks to the newer hybrids that
emphasize its sweetness.

This means it’s not ideal for those of us struggling with weight or blood sugar control. Still, we can eat it in its natural, whole, fresh state, as long as it’s organic and non-GMO and on the cob.

That said, nearly 90 percent of corn grown in the United States is GMO. And GMO corn in some form or another
shows up in an estimated 70 percent of processed foods either as a sweetener (the notorious high-fructose corn
syrup) or in other additives with long, unrecognizable names.

GMO corn is also routinely grown using the pesticide atrazine, which is banned in Europe because it is a proven endocrine disrupter. (Researchers say that exposure turns male frogs into females!) Among humans, there’s a
possible connection between a mother’s exposure to atrazine and newborn male genital malformation. If you’re going to eat corn, be sure to shop with care.

9. And Your Rice Isn’t So Nice Either!

We’ve always thought of rice as a healthy food, but that’s not really the case. All rice is starchy, and white rice is so
refined that the fiber’s all gone. It’s associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes; the opposite is true of
unrefined brown rice.

Brown rice contains more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than white rice, which is so devoid of anything good that the government requires producers to supplement it with B vitamins and iron. But why stop at Brown?

We can go all the way to red, purple, and my personal favorite, black rice (also known as emperor’s or forbidden rice), which may sound scary but tastes great. (Give it a try; you won’t be disappointed.)

These colorful varieties have even more fiber than brown rice, and more beneficial substances, too, including
anthocyanins, the flavonoids that make blueberries blue and cabbage red. Traditionally, pigmented rice was eaten in Asia for its medicinal properties—it provides antioxidant, antitumor, hypoglycemic, and antiallergic protection.

So, all rice is starchy, but the colored varieties are less so than the white. However, there’s another, potentially more
serious issue: arsenic. Rice contains both the harmless organic kind as well as the inorganic type, which may cause cancer.

It ends up in the soil, thanks to pesticides and poultry farming, where it’s absorbed by rice plants. (It may also be naturally present in the soil.) California white basmati rice has the least arsenic and brown rice has the most.

I am not saying you should avoid eating rice altogether, but you should probably limit yourself to no more than one serving a week.

10. Some Grains Are Always Okay to Eat

Lest you get the impression that no grain belongs in a healthy diet, let me suggest a type we can all eat safely:
weird grains. By that I mean the whole grains that contain no gluten, have not been turned into highly refined,
industrialized products, and will never be found in Twinkies, cookies, or pizza crust—grains like quinoa and

These are nutritious as well as delicious but most important, they won’t send your blood sugar soaring. If the word weird makes you uneasy, feel free to think of them as exotic instead, which is accurate since these are more
commonly eaten in Africa, Asia, and Latin America than they are in the United States.


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