As some of you may know, I’ve taken on a lifestyle change that has altered my outlook on a few things. Food is medicine and medicine is food, in a way. How dietary recommendations have changed has confounded many and with each study a new piece of the puzzle seems to invalidate a previous study and make the puzzle harder to piece together. After reading several books on the subject I’m convinced thatwhole grains and grains in general don’t seem to promote well being as claimed by many organizations.
Some things that were considered bad are now good (such as eggs and coconut oil). Some things that seem obvious have catches (Eat more fish – watch out though some farmed fish has toxins galore). I bring this up because there are too many ways to think we are doing good for ourselves and end up doing the opposite. The issue is context. Context is everything, because eating a certain type of food initiates a response. Lets take grains(your wheat, barley and rye varieties). I’m not going to deny that they taste good. I still occasionally have a beer (barley – Sam Adams Boston Ale). Gluten has changed dramatically since wheat, in particular, has been introduced into the human diet (about 10,000 years). The wheat we use now is known as dwarf wheat which is a high yield and relatively short variety that was hybridized fairly recently. What this means is that the proteins found in dwarf wheat haven’t been in our food supply for any great length of time (compared to humanity’s time on earth thus far). Gluten intolerances of all stripes are becoming common. While dwarf wheat is not a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), it would suggest that GMOs could have unintended consequences. In California, during the 2012 election there was a proposition to label food as GMO if it well…was genetically modified (Prop 37). The measure didn’t pass, but I hope states do propose it and pass it in the future. I personally do not want GMO food if I can avoid it. These genes have consequences outside of their species. Some GMO foods are made to resist the effects of certain pesticides, which gives the farmer carte blanche to use pesticides. Also, unintended proteins may be created in which a portion of the population may be allergic to it who otherwise wouldn’t be. One example would be splicing shellfish genes onto a vegetable. Although a benefit may be incurred, there are a few people who are allergic to shellfish. Would this gene splicing affect those who are allergic to shellfish? Would this create a whole new type of allergic reaction? One has to remember that we evolved, for most of human history, side by side with our food supply therefor conferring the ability to digest and metabolize said food. That said, grains haven’t been in our diet for very long and the hybridized versions even less.
The question that follows is what makes grain “less-than-ideal” for us? One of the issues is the fact that whole wheat breads can actually have a higher glycemic index (a greater insulin response) than table sugar which seems counter intuitive. Personally on taste, I prefer sugar over whole wheat bread any day. How about whole wheat’s fiber content ? whole wheat bread has about a 6:1 ratio of carbohydrate to fiber (~67 calories – GI 77), whereas vegetables like broccoli has 2:1 ratio carbohydrate to fiber (~27 calories – GI 0+). Per serving one gets more fiber and less calories than whole wheat bread. On a per calorie basis broccoli (as linked 34 kCal 100 grams) is more nutrient dense than whole wheat bread (as linked 400+ kCal 120 grams) if one were to compare them. Wheat products are energy dense and coupled with our ubiquitously sedentary lives creates an energy surplus. Since wheat causes a very strong insulin response, it has a higher chance of being stored as fat than being used as energy. With this information, I would posit it would be very difficult to get fat off of broccoli. To suggest a food that is mediocre at best as the base of the food pyramid is very confusing and disheartening. Non-starchy vegetables would make more sense. Vegetables win hands down on nutrient, fiber and calorie content.
Please know that I’m sharing this with you as a layman. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not pretending to be one so research research research. I aim to be as accurate as possible and look to the science as my guide.