Paleo Diet Plan: Are Grains Bad You On A Paleo/Primal/Caveman Diet?
According to the paleo diet plan, the health benefits of eating whole grains are vastly exaggerated and may even be bad for a lot of people. Read on to discover why this might be so…
To begin with, it’s only since the advent of agriculture about ten thousand years ago that humans have adopted eating grains in any great amount. It’s unlikely in that time the human digestive system has had time to fully adapt to grains as an optimum source of nutrition.
The issue with grains…
Grains are the seeds of grasses and are how the plants reproduce, so it stands to reason they would want to avoid having their seeds eaten by predators.
As plants are immobile and can’t escape from any creatures that would like to eat them, they have evolved certain compounds that attack animals’ digestive tracts to discourage them from doing so. Lectins and enzyme inhibitors being two such compounds and are often referred to as anti-nutrients.
The irony is whole grains, which we have been told are healthier for us, actually contain more of these anti-nutrients than refined grains. They can wreak havoc on the human digestive system and lead to problems like leaky gut.
Leaky gut is a condition of bowel or intestinal permeability which allows large protein compounds to enter our system before they are broken down into smaller peptides.
This in turn can lead to autoimmune problems as the body creates antibodies against these proteins. Unfortunately they can also resemble proteins found naturally in the body which our immune system will then also attack.
It gets worse…
Some grains (wheat, barley and rye) contain proteins called gluten.
People who have celiac disease suffer from a severe autoimmune response to gluten which can reduce life expectancy if left untreated.
In North America alone, approximately 1% of the population are diagnosed with celiac disease but this figure could be 30% higher due to under diagnosis. This is a figure that’s steadily been increasing since the 1950’s.
The prevalence of gluten intolerance or sensitivity may be even higher with up to 40% of the population exhibiting symptoms. This may be in the form of gut irritation, heartburn, skin rashes and even joint pain amongst others.
Disregarding the disadvantageous effects of anti-nutrients, grains also tend to have a comparatively lower level of nutrients when compared side-by-side with vegetables and animal products.
Grains also contain compounds called phytates that bind to minerals which prevents their absorption during digestion. So even if calcium or iron are present, they are indigestible.
Why then if grains contain anti-nutrients, with low nutrient density are people so reluctant to give them up? The answer is they are actually addictive.
It’s been shown that compounds in wheat actually bind to the same receptors in our brain as those that respond to opiates (heroin or opium).
Is it all bad news for grains?…
With proper preparation methods (cooking, soaking and fermenting), many of the lectins and phytates in grain can be broken down. The issue is, unless you are doing this yourself, it’s highly unlikely the grains you are eating have been properly prepared.
Besides, even with proper preparation gluten is still an issue and can be so detrimental to human well-being it’s probably best just to avoid it altogether.
Grains that don’t contain gluten such as corn and white rice may be fine to eat in moderation without causing too many ill effects in most people. However, like most grains they can still spike blood sugar so should probably be avoided if you are insulin resistant or diabetic.