Grains are a hot topic in the nutrition and diet industries. People seem to be firmly set in either camp – grains are friends or grains are foes. Therefore, the answer to grains friend of foe depends on who you ask. Recently grains have been linked to inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to just about every disease you can think of. As usual the answer isn’t quite as easy as that. So we start this article asking are grains actually bad for you?
First things first though, lets define what we mean by grains. When most people think of grains they generally think of bread. Bread is made from grains but most of the time its processed grains. These processed grains have had its bran and germ stripped away. It leaves very little nutrients left. So we need to be careful what we’re talking about. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to talk about processed grains. So what are some of the reasons people say to stay away from grains?
One of the first thing people who are grain and carbohydrate free often point to is inflammation. Inflammation is become a buzz word that has been thrown around. It has been tied to everything from bloat, gut health, GI issues, and just about every disease you can think of. The problem with this is that so far there has been very little research to support this, unless you have celiac disease. While a lot of people will point to a few research papers that have shown an increase in inflammation associated with increased grain, there is still a lot of work to be done. The papers we have so far have some significant problems that make them significantly weaker when we interpret. There are actually some studies that show grains have no effect on inflammation or actually DECREASE it!
Another idea that we often see come out of the anti-grain camp is that it can cause intestinal damage. Intestinal damage was thought to be caused from grains due to the anti-nutrients that are found in whole grains. While this can be true for someone who has celiac disease, it’s been thoroughly debunked by research showing has been found to not interfere at all.
Gluten Intolerance (Celiac Disease)
I bet you know some one who says that have or are related to someone who has celiac disease. While celiac is present in some, far too many people claiming to be celiac or gluten intolerant than actual calculate rates would suggest. Celiac disease is when the body reacts to the protein called gluten, causing the body to attack the small intestine. Celiac can be dangerous to the small intestine if gone untreated but is a highly manageable disease. However celiac disease is only present in about 1 percent of the population.
So where does this leave you?
If some of the above does apply to you it may actually be in your best interest to stay away from grains and gluten, but for the vast majority of people it is completely unnecessary. Wheat and gluten actually contain a lot of nutrients that are essential for a healthy and active lifestyle. So for the vast majority of people carbs are not the enemy but have to be eaten in a different way. It is all about the source of your grains! So instead of Wonder Bread, try Harvest All Grain or instead of basmati rice try quinoa.