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The Real Truth About a Grain-Heavy Diet

Thanks to the food pyramid of the 1990s, many are under the impression that grains are an important and necessary part of a healthy diet. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. While a grain-heavy diet is the “norm” in our country, so are obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Grains were not part of our ancestor’s diet, and they’re becoming more and more toxic to our health. 

Grains are everywhere, and it’s often too easy to reach for the bagel or coffee cake. This seemingly-harmless choice has consequences, especially if this becomes a daily habit. Science shows that you’re better off avoiding many types of common grains. If you have certain health conditions or risk factors, it may even be necessary to go grain-free. Educate yourself about grain, and get on the road to achieving true vitality and your 100 Year Heart!

The cost of a grain-heavy diet

You might think that grains provide nutritional value and are necessary for health. In truth, you can get any nutrient found in grain in other, healthier options, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Our ancestors thrived off a grain-free diet, and the evidence shows that you can too. You can get everything you need (and nothing you don’t) from a whole foods diet.

Don’t underestimate the cost of eating a grain-heavy diet. Even if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you’re not safe from potential consequences. Let’s dig into what grain does to your body. 

Wheat and cereal grains are bad for gut health

Consuming wheat and cereal grains can cause or worsen chronic inflammation and leaky gut. It’s imperative to avoid grains if you already struggle with food sensitivities, digestive issues, or an autoimmune condition. Some grains also contain antinutrients such as phytic acid, which block the absorption of important minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium. 

Most grains are bad for your blood sugar

Flour has a high glycemic index, comparable to table sugar. Consuming refined flour can cause spikes in blood sugar, excessive hunger, and cravings. Uncontrolled blood sugar contributes to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Evidence also suggests that gluten may contribute to diabetes. Often, cutting out grains will aid in weight loss and reverse metabolic syndrome.

Modern grains are becoming more toxic

Wheat products are far less healthy than 50 years ago. Most farmers spray their wheat with herbicides containing a toxic chemical called glyphosate. This chemical gets absorbed into the plant, ending up in your daily bowl of wheat bran. New research shows that glyphosate exposure disrupts the gut microbiome and may lead to other diseases.

The truth about “whole grain”

“Whole grain” products are often marketed as being healthier than they actually are. Whole grain simply means that the grain doesn’t go through a refinement process, leaving all parts intact. Refined wheat products, such as white flour, have had parts of their grain anatomy removed. The refinement process often depletes the grain of protein and nutrients. Whole grain also has extra fiber and B vitamins, and is a slightly healthier option. 

Whole grains may be a lesser evil, but it doesn’t mean that grains should become a staple in your diet, as they can still cause many problems, such as inflammation, leaky gut, and poor nutrient absorption. While whole grain products tend to have a lower glycemic index than white flour, they still often cause spikes in blood sugar and increased cravings.

If you have any chronic health condition, such as heart disease or diabetes, switching to whole grain is not a solution. If you’re trying to improve your heart health, it’s worth cutting out all grains – not just refined flour. One study showed that following a grain-free diet resulted in the following health benefits:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Stabilized blood sugar
  • Better cholesterol
  • Improved insulin response

Reasons to quit a grain-heavy diet

Consuming a grain-heavy diet may have consequences on gut health, inflammation, metabolic health, and more. This is especially true for those healing from a chronic or inflammatory condition. At Natural Heart Doctor, we recommend you cut out grains if:

  • You have metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar
  • You have issues with weight control or cravings
  • You suffer from any food sensitivities
  • You have digestive issues, including acid reflux or IBS
  • You have any autoimmune condition (apart from quinoa – see below)
  • You feel bloated after you eat
  • You have high inflammatory markers on a blood test

If grains have been a huge part of your diet, you may be wondering what to replace them with. You can start by adding more nutritious vegetables to your diet in creative ways, such as zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. 

100 Year Heart Diet: Approved Grains

To achieve your 100 Year Heart, we recommend sticking to the following guidelines as much as possible. If you’re in good health, you don’t need to cut out all grains. Certain types of grains are okay in limited quantities, as long as you tolerate them.

Always listen to your body. If you have any inflammatory symptoms, such as bloating or indigestion, try a different type of approved grain (or cut them out altogether). 

Not all grains are equal. By sticking to our evidence-based recommendations, you’ll feel your best and boost your heart’s longevity!

*Make sure you buy organic products to minimize toxin exposure.

Note: If not sensitive, you can cook white rice and allow it to cool in the fridge and gently warm. This allows the rice to develop resistant starch, which is great for digestion. It provides healthy food for your gut. Just keep it to the ½ cup daily limit.

Note: Quinoa is a pseudo-grain related to beetroots and tumbleweeds that cooks like a grain. It is a good source of several minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc. If not sensitive, enjoy in moderation.

What about bread?

You might be wondering how you could survive without bread for the rest of your life. Well, you don’t have to! Just pay close attention to ingredients and don’t go overboard. Consider trying Bread SRSLY, a gluten-free sourdough with high-quality ingredients approved by Natural Heart Doctor. Sourdough bread is better for digestion and has the added benefit of acting as a prebiotic, supporting the gut microbiome!

Next steps

When it comes to diet, your body will let you know what it needs. Pay attention to your digestion, bowel movements, inflammation, and overall energy levels. If something feels off, take a look at what you’re eating. Remember, food sensitivities can develop over time, so regularly reevaluate what grains you are eating and stay away from a grain-heavy diet. Consider The Wheat Zoomer test to determine if you have leaky gut or gluten/wheat sensitivities.

Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well 

Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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