Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grains Revisited

   In the early days of my Paleo journey, I received plenty of criticism and skeptical looks when I talked about the Paleo Lifestyle. People simply could not accept the fact that fats, proteins, vegetables, and fruits are enough to sustain life. It's like missing that bran muffin or that "heart healthy" wheat bread makes all the difference and provides all the necessary fiber a healthy body needs. Few of my skeptics probably waited for me to keel over and die, as I should have with the amount of eggs and meats I was consuming. But of course, none of that happened and I lost weight, kept my weight off, and my lipid panel improved. A year later, as I speak to people, now at least they are willing to listen and somewhat agree with me, but when I get to the grains, that is where the negotiations/reasoning hits a proverbial wall and everything stops. They are able to tolerate that eating proteins, fruits and vegetables is acceptable, but try taking their grains away, and you have that eye brow raised and the wall of resistance goes up again instantly. Here are few grains related questions that people are simply not willing to let go....yet. And here is my $0.02.

   This is the first question that I get hit with.... breads, a healthy staple of our diet, how could they be bad for us? The government tells us to eat more whole grains, the doctors tell us to eat whole grains to lower our cholesterol. Then how could something this wonderful is bad for us? This usually leads me to give a long presentation on how agriculture and especially domestication of grains have caused so many health problems. The anthropologists believe that single most important event in the history that changed everything is the invention of agriculture. As soon as we became farmers, everything kind of started to spiral down, and it is still spiraling down at an unknown rate. So why grains are so bad for us? Well all grains contain bad proteins. Some bad proteins are more badder than other bad proteins. How is that for a scientific explanation? Simply put, all grains contain proteins that our body has no idea how to digest and when these bad proteins are in our gastro intestinal tract they cause gut irritation. Gluten and Lectin are two of the worst proteins contained in wheat, barley, rye, and millets. The lectin in the gluten containing grains do not get digested in our small intestine, but end up escaping into our blood stream. Once inside our blood stream, the body's immune system confuses it for a foreign body object and promptly launches an attack. If my neighbor gets a bomb dropped on his house, most likely my house will not be safe either. If bad cells are being attacked by the immune system then most likely some of the healthy cells will feel the pain and will suffer collateral damage. The immune system creates antibodies which go and surround the bad proteins and cut off its food supply. This action causes inflammation in the area. This inflammation is good and usually means that immune system is working. But if inflammation is everywhere in your body especially around the gut then it can not be good for you. The person with grains in his diet would have his immune system turned on all the time and that simply can not be efficient. So when a real virus or bacteria shows up, the immune system is not effective in dealing with it. A good analogy would be picking fights on too many fronts. Your forces and energy are divided, and you are not able to effectively and decisively defeat the enemy. I hear that all the time, that I got this annoying cough that is lasting me several weeks and refuses to go away. Well, that is a tell tale sign of a weak over worked immune system that simply can not effectively fight the cough. Another analogy would be the classic tale of boy who cried wolf too many times and tricked the villagers. However, when the real wolf showed up then of course no one showed up to help. By fighting lectins and glutens all the time, the immune system simply becomes ineffective fighting the real threat when it arises. This condition is called autoimmunity and eventually ends up contributing to many chronic diseases.

   Well what about whole grain? Dr Oz, my weight watcher lady and my doctor tell me to consume whole grains. Once again, grains are grains. It does not matter if you eat them whole, slightly crushed, quarters, or in halves--you will ingest the bad proteins and these proteins will end up causing the problems in your GI tract. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that whole grains will lower your cholesterol. This is a myth.

   What about grains that are not grains like quinoa? What about rice or corn, they don't contain gluten? Yes, quinoa is not a grain, but it has been grown in the same fashion as the rest of the grains. So it has also evolved and developed the bad chemicals used for its defense. Quinoa has a chemical called saponin. This chemical acts like a soap. In most saponin containing plants, it acts as anti-feedant to deter the animals from eating it and protecting the plant from microbes and fungi. At harvest time the saponin containing bitter coating is removed. Otherwise, the grain is bitter to taste. So if you want to just fill your stomach with quinoa then by all means eat quinoa with saponin removed. You will get some lysine, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. But pound by pound it is far inferior than meats. Later in this blog I will detail out a side by side comparison of meats and grains. Corn and few of the cereal grains like oats do not contain gluten, but they have similar bad proteins call prolines. The prolines also cause gut irritation and once again our body has no mechanism to process them. These proteins end up in our GI tract and simply hang around and cause intestinal irritation and pass on down to our latrines. I suppose eating corn and rice in moderation will not hurt you and you may be able to tolerate it, but once again the goal is not to fill your belly with foods that are far inferior to meats, fats, vegetables, and fruits. Again there is no scientific evidence that corn, quinoa, oats, or rice will lower your cholesterol.

   Some folks tell me that they are fine on the grain diet, because they exercise, and eat in moderation. That indeed maybe the case. Exercise has many wonderful effects. Exercise maybe fixing or helping to reduce the internal inflammation caused by the grains. Overeating or eating in moderation---simply we humans have no way to digest the proteins contained in grains. This facts remain unchanged. The grain proteins are different than the animal proteins. The animal proteins are easily broken down by our digestive system with the help of pepsin and other pancreatic juices. Whereas, the body lacks the necessary enzymes to effectively breakdown the grain proteins. The grain proteins end up escaping into our blood stream. So it does not matter if you eat in moderation or not, you will be exposed to these proteins. It is like eating few grams of arsenic or few milligrams of arsenic per day. Point is that you are eating arsenic. It will eventually harm you. For these folks I would recommend that to have your CRP (C-Reactive Protein) tested. CRPs are a by product of our immune system. A high level of CRPs in your blood stream would indicate internal inflammation from an immune system that is on all the time. If your CRP number is high then you have inflammation in your body.

   The biggest objection is how would I get my daily fiber intake? Without fiber wouldn't I have problems going to the bathroom? Trust me there is plenty of fiber in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You will not have any problems going to the bathroom. Finally, let the numbers speak for themselves. These numbers are taken from the Eleanor Noss Whitney and Sharon Ray Rolfs' ninth edition text book "Understanding Nutrition"

Measure (OZ)           4 4 4 1 Cup 1 cup
Weight (grams) 113 113 113 140 195
Water % 47 64 56 67 73
Energy (Kcal) 393 198 245 174 216
Proteins (grams) 30 32 30 7 5
Carbs (grams) 0 0 0 37 45
Dietary Fiber (g) 0 0 0 4 4
Fat (grams) 29 6 18 1 2
Fat Saturated 13 3.1 6.7 0.1 0.4
Fat Monosaturated 14.8 1.8 7 0.1 0.6
Fat Polysaturated 1.2 1.9 3.9 0.3 0.6
Cholesterol (mg) 112 545 2254 0 0
Calcium (mg) 11 12 10 21 19
Iron (mg) 3.45 7.1 2.51 1.48 0.82
Magnesium (mg) 21 26 17 42 84
Potassium (mg) 275 411 400 62 84
Sodium (mg) 67 120 179 4 10
Zinc (mg) 7.57 6.16 1.53 1.13 1.23
Vitamin-A 0 12123 0 0 0
Thiamine (mg) 0.08 0.24 0.15 0.15 0.19
Vitamin-E 0.26 0.72 2.37 0.14 0.53
Riboflavin (mg) 0.27 4.68 0.29 0.06 0.05
Niacin (mg) 3.54 16.3 4.27 0.99 2.98
Vitamin-B6 (mg) 0.32 1.62 0.44 0.11 0.28
Folates (mg) 10 249 7 7 8
Vitamin-C (mg) 0 26 4 0 0

   The above table shows that meats overall have a better nutrient profile than grains. I can illustrate hundreds of other foods and do a side by side comparison. The result is always the same. The only thing missing from meats is the dietary fiber, you can easily obtain that from vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  Foods like proteins, fats, vegetables, and nuts will not raise your insulin levels and will provide all the necessary nourishments a healthy body needs. I have been on paleo diet for more than a year and have not experienced a single mineral or vitamin deficiency. I do not take any multivitamins supplements. Our hunter gatherer ancestors did not worry about vitamin or mineral deficiency. They simply moved around in small bands, hunted wild game and gathered when the game was not available. They managed to survive for along time without Noah's multigrain bagels and so can we.


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