Today’s modern world has exposed us to so many food trends, fad diets and fitness tips that make extraordinary claims about how it affects your health and wellness. Whether you choose to eat vegetarian or vegan, paleo or keto, intermittent fasting or juicing – it’s very important to thoroughly research each option, discuss it with a trained nutritionist/dietitian or a healthcare provider who is familiar with your medical background, and safely transition into a new routine. The inclusion or exclusion of grains in our diets has also been a hot topic, and many new diets encourage grain free food choices and eating habits.
Grains have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years with no issues, so why all of a sudden are grains labeled as not good for you? After all, whole grains are the foundation of the food pyramid and considered to be heart healthy. Grains aren’t the same as they used to be hundreds of years ago due to new ways of processing and the introduction of new varieties that are easier and faster to grow but offer less nutrients. The truth is that grains are actually the hardest food for a human being to digest. Consuming grains is especially difficult for those with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease. Why are grains the hardest food to digest? Simply put, because they can wreak havoc on your immune system and injure your small intestine.
Grains Are Seeds
To answer this question, first we need to explore what grains actually are. Grains are seeds, which is something that we should naturally wait to sprout before consuming. Imagine growing your own organic garden, but instead of waiting for your tomato and cucumber seeds to sprout into fresh vegetables full of minerals and essential vitamins, eating the seeds instead. Seeds are meant to stay intact until they are exposed to fertile soil, water and sunlight and produce a plant – they are not meant to be digested.
All grains contain phytic acid that blocks the absorption of minerals in our small intestine. This acid binds to minerals like iron and zinc, which in turn can cause major deficiencies in our diets. This results in strong feelings of weakness, lightheadedness and general fatigue. Consuming grains that are not prepared correctly can also result in bone loss since you’re missing out on so many essential minerals.
Grains have enzyme inhibitors – what are they and why should you care? Enzyme inhibitors basically make it hard for enzymes to do their job. Enzymes act as catalysts for digestion, meaning that they kick start the process of digestion. These enzyme inhibitors are responsible for common diseases like irritable bowel syndrome.
Disaccharides, or double sugars, are present in all grains. An unhealthy gut will not be able to digest double sugar molecules because the lack of beneficial gut flora will compromise the function of the cells that help break down these molecules. When these cells are not nourished and strengthened, they get weak and are more susceptible to disease and cancer. Compromised digestive cells have a hard time performing their duty and absorbing food properly.
Grains are comprised of complex proteins that are difficult to digest, which makes our digestive tract work harder and can cause significant inflammation. Our bodies need food to be in its simplest form so it can be easily absorbed and utilized – if anything “complex” is ingested then it means our digestive tract will have to work hard. Gluten is a complex protein that the body cannot break down. One way to enjoy food with grains is to have the complex proteins broken down prior to consumption. That means sprouting, fermenting or soaking grain-based foods so that they are easier to process and digest.
Should You Go Grain Free?
A grain free diet doesn’t mean simply eliminating gluten from your eating habits – it includes all grains and seeds. There are many positives to going grain free, including better digestion which will reduce symptoms of an upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and grain sensitivities. A grain free diet will reduce bad inflammation and offer numerous wonderful health benefits, one of which may be weight loss. Some additional benefits of a grain free diet include improved energy, a healthy gut and better mental health.
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