Let’s Talk About Grains

Hello all! I hope you’ve had a fantastic weekend, and that your Monday wasn’t too horrible.

Rule #473984 that I’m learning about blogging: Don’t make promises you can’t keep! I’m still planning on writing about making bone broth, as I said I would in my last post. But my last batch (the one I was making to share with you all) didn’t turn out the way I expected. It was my first time using beef bones, and it didn’t gel. It bummed me out. I think I figured out why (not enough gelatin in the bones), and I look forward to trying again, and hopefully I’ll get to take pictures of some wonderful gelled bone broth.

For today, however, I’d like to have a talk about grains, and their value, or perhaps their lack-there-of, in our diets. People can be pretty polarized on this topic. I understand that for many people, grains make up a major part of their diet. Most celebrations, whether holiday, birthday, or I’ve-got-good-news, tend to contain grain products. And people don’t want to miss out on social events that involve those products. I definitely get it. But for me, the negatives out-weight all of that – especially when there are millions of grain-free recipes of many favorite baked goods. Being grain free, I still can have my cake, cookies, brownies, pancakes, bread, French toast…there’s only a handful of foods that I haven’t been able to reproduce, and out of that handful, there’s only a few that I actually miss. Now, some Paleo-Purists might criticize the fact that I do make things that are not from the Paleolithic Era, but I feel that as long as these baked goods are treated as treats and not daily staples, it’s fine. And like Jeph Jacques put on an apron, baking is science for hungry people!

My issues with grains:

1) Processing

Refined grains are incredibly processed. That means that there was a lot of machinery, chemicals, and/or heat involved in making the product. The bran and the germ of the seed are removed, so you lose a lot of nutrients in those layers. The lost nutrients are often added back in – that’s what “fortified” means – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the body recognizes those chemical versions of nutrients as the real deal. And, going back to my definition of real food, since it’s processed, it’s not a real food. It’s a food product. It’s edible, but is it really healthy?

2) Anti-nutrients and Hard-to-Digest Proteins

Get ready for some science!

There’s an anti-nutrient in whole grain called phytate, which is found in the bran. Phytates combine with the minerals in the bread or other grain product and prevent the body from using that mineral. It doesn’t matter that there’s calcium and magnesium in the whole grain – the phytates won’t allow your body to absorb it and benefit from it.

As for proteins, there are two (I suppose technically three) big ones that are troublesome: lectin and gluten. Lectins are problematic because those molecules can stick to the lining of our intestines, causing all sorts of digestive distress and erode you intestinal barrier – also known as “leaky gut”. Gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, is made up of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. You’ve probably heard of celiacs disease, in which people have no tolerance for gluten due to the autoimmune disorder in the small intestine. But recently, researchers and doctors are discovering that many people who test negative for celiacs disease can still have severe reactions to gluten – I’m one of them – and we now have a name for it: non-celiacs gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Those of us with NCGS may not have the digestive issues that celiacs have, but we could have other symptoms: fatigue, joint/muscle pain, headaches, skin irritations, brain fog and depression are just a few. Non-gluten grains, like corn and oats, contain a different protein than gluten, but can cause similar symptoms.

3) GMOs

If we all had access to einkorn, one of the original wheat grains, our bodies would probably be a lot happier. That’s because it was a naturally grown grain that had 14 chromosomes, and our bodies recognized it as nourishment. Today’s modern wheat has been genetically modified for various reasons, and now has 42 chromosomes. It’s almost impossible to find corn now-a-days that isn’t genetically modified. Now, what’s wrong with GMOs? I believe it hasn’t been tested enough to be 100% sure that it’s safe for consumption long-term, and I wonder if there’s any connection between GMOs and the rising obesity population, or any connection to a variety of diseases. We just don’t know. Also, I don’t like the idea of my food being modified to a point that my body doesn’t recognize it as nourishment. What is so wrong with the food that nature provides?

4) Inflammation

According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, “Every degenerative disease – cancer, heart disease, brain diseases, joint diseases – every degenerative disease is a disease is a disease of inflammation inside the cell. It means the cell’s on fire…there’s too much activity, too much heat.” Every bite we eat is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Either the food will cause that “fire” to which our immune system then responds, or it will help slow down or stop the inflammation. And more and more research points to the theory that most people, if not EVERYONE, has an inflammatory response to grains. What could this mean? It could mean that the inflammation is in your brain, and you can’t feel it, so you continue to eat grains. Maybe in your 30s you start forgetting things, and you blame it on “getting older”. Then, when you’re in your 60s, you get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. That’s the result of inflammation killing your brain cells. And that’s not good! But what I find really cool is that our blood will show elevated antibodies YEARS before we show symptoms of a disease, and we have the technology to test our blood to discover these antibodies. Kind of like Doppler radar, but it predicts disease instead of storms.

5) Blood sugar levels

I think it was Dr. Perlmutter who said that two slices of whole wheat bread can spike your blood sugar higher than a snickers bar. He was on Dr. Oz, and they tested some women and found that for 3 out of the 5, this was true. Ideally, we want to keep our blood sugar as stable as possible. If it spikes, it’s going to eventually come down, and that’s how we get sugar crashes. Your body did what it needed to do – produce insulin to help your body adjust to the increase sugar. When our blood sugar levels keep rising and falling, it’s almost like a drug affect – we want more of what we already had to bring that level back up. If you’ve done a Whole30, then you’ll recognize this as the Sugar Monster. We might expect this from a candy bar, but not from something that the government calls, “healthy”. If you’re trying to lose weight, keeping a stable blood sugar level is crucial for success.


So there you have it! That’s what I’ve learned about grains so far…I will update when I learn more.

Now, does this mean I won’t occasionally indulge in some grains? Hey, I’m not perfect, and I love sushi. I’ve learned through lots of self-experimentation that rice does not affect me as severely as other grains, and I don’t have sushi all the time. Some people, for example, have no apparent symptoms when they eat rice or oats. Could inflammation still be occurring somewhere in the body? Probably. But if every other forkful you have that day is anti-inflammatory, maybe your body will balance it out and heal itself. Who knows? We are all our own chemistry experiment. I can’t tell you what’s best for you, but I hope I’ve given you something to think about.

If you have questions, please ask! Also, I want to post a grain-free recipe. Is there a particular dish or dessert you’d like to see grain-free?



The Grain Manifesto

Mark’s Daily Apple

Speed Endurance


The 21 Day Sugar Detox book

Dr. Tom O’Bryan’s Real Food Con lecture


Real Food

What Is a “Real” Food?

When people ask me what I eat, I often reply with, “meats and veggies…real food.” But then someone asks, “But wait. I can eat ____, so why isn’t that a real food?” So, here’s my definition: A “real” food is a food that is packed full of nutrients naturally. These are the foods that often have no nutrition label, or have maybe 4 ingredients listed, and each ingredient is recognized as a “real” food in itself. The food came from the earth, or came from an animal that ate from the earth.

Examples: quality meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices.

Why eat only real foods?

When we eat real foods, we get many of the nutrients that are body needs. Our bodies were made to absorb macro-nutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and proteins) together with micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). These foods will help to stabilize blood sugar and some of them are anti-inflammatory – all good things! When our bodies have stable blood sugar levels, our moods and energy levels also become more stable, and we have less cravings.

“But Janelle, grains come from the earth! Why don’t you consider grain products like bread and pasta real food?”

An excellent question! Short answer: while one of the earliest cultivated wheat grains, einkorn, was fine, today’s wheat grain been altered and processed so much that our bodies don’t recognize it as food and cannot digest it well anymore, and it causes more harm than good. Yes, even whole grains. There is growing evidence that wheat ingestion not only causes digestive inflammation, but inflammation throughout the whole body, and is the root cause of many autoimmune and neurological diseases. I’ll write a more science-y article about that later this week.

Also this week, I plan to post a few recipes. What kind of recipes would be helpful for you? Beginner recipes, 30-minutes or less recipes…what would you like to see?