The never-ending argument: for grains or against grains
Are you emotionally attached to grains?
I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while now: the endless arguments for or against grains. I’m definitely going to give my opinion on the matter but this post is more about my views on why people choose to defend or go against grains. I think in this case it’s important to have an understanding as to the real reason you choose to eliminate a food group which you may not be aware of or refuse to acknowledge. Also I believe it is important to be flexible in your mode of thinking and try to avoid locking yourself into a certain belief system when it comes to foods and diets.
As a personal trainer I have access to the blogs and profiles of various health and fitness professionals in the industry and it seems that with each post and article related to Paleo eating or going grain free there is almost an equal number of shared posts/articles titled something along the lines of “the truth about eliminating grains” or “Is eliminating gains affecting your health.” As aforementioned I felt a strong urge to write about this topic because I get the impression that most people think this is such a black and white situation (as is so often the case with health related topics) where grains are either “GOOD” or “BAD” and there is no consideration for the various factors that may influence intake such as: autoimmune conditions, chronic inflammation, exercise regime/workload, gluten free options, individual gut health and the actual nutritional profile of grains.
What I find very common in most people that choose to consume grains and vigorously justify their consumption is that they have an emotional attachment to this food group and this is their primary reason for so hot headedly defending their inclusion in the diet and YES this includes people in the fitness industry! It’s either emotional attachment or pure laziness and fear of change. People may say things like: “but then what will I possibly eat if I can’t have bread” and “I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, cereal or toast is so convenient.”
It’s ok if you decide to eat grains but be sure you know why you are choosing to eat them and are aware of the health consequences involved (if there are any)- this especially goes for fitness professionals as it is important to give clients ALL of the information possible so that they can then make an informed decision rather than one based on the strong opinions of their trainer. This goes for any food and also relates to eating habits. Self awareness of your psychological weaknesses are key here. You need to ask yourself, what are the reasons behind your food choices and current diet? Once you can answer this question you’ll be one step closer to developing a healthy relationship with food. I will dive into this subject deeper in my next blog post about self-awareness and subsequent lifestyle/food choices.
The honest truth is that grains are not a particularly nutritious food group especially the highly processed packaged varieties that come in the form of bread (gluten free included), packaged cereal, crackers, cakes and pasta. Very little nutritional benefits are derived from processed grain based products including better options like traditionally fermented breads and sourdough as well as gluten free options like rice. When choosing to eat them or not, one needs to look at the risk to reward ratio and this will be different for each individual. If you are highly stressed, lacking sleep and sedentary then eliminating grains may be highly beneficial, furthermore my guess is that gut function would be sub-optimal therefore sensitivities and intolerances are more likely and a reaction to the common GIT irritant- gluten is very likely.
The honest truth is that grains are not a particularly nutritious food group- especially the highly processed packaged varieties these days that come in the form of bread (gluten free included), packaged cereal, crackers, cakes and pasta.
Questions you need to ask yourself include:
Do I tolerate grains well?
How does your stomach feel after ingesting bread, pasta, rice etc? You may want to go for a month where you eliminate grains or just gluten containing products and see how your body responds.
What does my exercise and work schedule like?
Do I have a disease or condition that may benefit from the elimination or minimisation of grains?
As above, you will need to experiment and observe how your body responds.
Am I mostly sedentary?
In which case it is not ideal to consume a high quantity of starch.
Does my diet consist of highly processed foods? And do I include high quality sources of protein, fats and vegetables at each and every meal?
This is important as many people will fill up on grain-based products such as bread, rice and cereals in place of adequate sources of protein and vegetables at their meals.
Why am I eating grains? Is it because of convenience?
Sandwiches and cereals are a super convenient breakfast, morning tea and lunch option. If this is the case then your attitude towards food needs to change or you will never have a healthy balanced diet. Make time to cook and/or research where you can purchase high quality nutritious meals for your lunches, breakfasts and dinners. Remember that your actions are a reflection of what you value, if you value your health then trust me you will make the necessary changes, if not this will continue to be apparent in your health and poor eating choices. Be honest with yourself and make sure you are completely aware of this.
Eliminating grains is not going to result in any major detrimental health consequences, they can be easily replaced with other more nutritious foods and if you are an athlete and require increased levels of carbohydrates then the better tolerated gluten free grains are always an option as are starchy root vegetables.
I still enjoy beautifully handmade croissants and bread rolls occasionally on the weekends and also include rice in my diet as I find it easily digested and actually quite enjoy eating it.
I’m not anti-grain or pro-grain but personally I minimise grain intake due to the low nutritional profile and opt for the more easily digested and nutritious root vegetables such as sweet potato. In saying this, I still enjoy beautifully handmade croissants and bread rolls occasionally on the weekends and also include rice in my diet as I find it easily digested and actually quite enjoy eating it. Through a long journey of disordered eating, calorie restriction and obsession/emotional attachment to certain foods, I have come out the other end with a healthy and relaxed attitude towards my diet which I can honestly say came through self-awareness and self-enquiry, this is why I believe it is so important to dive into the reasons behind food and lifestyle choices.
So, what is your response to my question? Are you emotionally attached to grains????