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Deceptions in the Food Industry: Whole Grains

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In this installment of Deceptions in the Food Industry, I’m going to talk about “whole grains”, a term which has received a great deal of abuse both on product labels and in recommendations for better health from mainstream health professionals.

In the past, the Food Pyramid told us to eat 6-11 servings of grains per day for health.  This year the government revised its formula and recommendations to My Plate – even more vague and completely leaving out one of the most important components our diets – healthy fats. Grains are still there, and comprise just over a quarter of the size of My Plate.  Yet despite following these high-carbohydrate, low-fat recommendations, obesity and disease rates in the U.S. have continued to skyrocket over the last 50+ years. Why?

Ironically, a majority of those grains we told to eat with such frequency are highly-processed, and are far from whole. When you see a package that says “whole grains” on the label, what are you really getting?  One of the methods used on most grains you buy in packages in the store is called extrusion.

Here’s how it works:

Ingredients are mixed to create a slurry or dough. This mixture also includes other ingredients such as dough conditioners, stabilizers, other chemicals, and sugar. These are placed into a large processing chamber where they are subjected to high temperatures and pressure and cooked or baked, and finally pushed through a hole in an exploding movement. This ensures that all pieces look more or less the same, such as little o’s, spheres, squares, and other shapes you see in cereals, snacks, and crackers. During this processing, delicate nutrients in the grains are denatured and oxidized. These grains are also not properly prepared through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting in order to make them more digestible to the body, leaving phytates intact to prevent absorption of vital nutrients. For more information, read Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind to You from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

What is a whole grain?

A true whole grain includes all parts of the whole:

  • the starchy endosperm (with few nutrients)
  • the bran or outer layer of the kernel (where you’ll find most of the fiber)
  • the germ (where you’ll find most of the nutrients)  including B vitamins and iron.

Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole-wheat berries, whole cornmeal, bulgur, popcorn, millet and whole oats. Refined flours are most of what you’ll find on the supermarket shelf, and have the bran and germ removed during processing. What’s left in these products is the endosperm. Refined grain products are usually enriched or fortified with nutrients that are now missing from the food such as iron, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. But those nutrients are synthetically-assimilated in a laboratory, and are not the way they would occur in nature.

Supermarket sales and health recommendations

Over time – and especially since the revision of Dietary Guidelines in 2005 – the trend toward recommending the consumption of whole grains in our diets by the USDA and most health and medical sources has increased. As a result, we are seeing disease rates increasing dramatically – obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

The trend toward adding more whole grains to food has been growing steadily since the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services revised the dietary guidelines in 2005, recommending that at least half of all grains eaten be whole grains and that 3 or more ounces of whole grains be consumed per day. As a 1-ounce equivalent of whole grains has about 16 grams of whole grains, the recommendation is to eat 48 grams of whole grains a day.

Those guidelines were based on information in large studies published in peer-reviewed journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Obesity and the Archives of Internal Medicine that were assessed by the dietary guidelines committee, says Robert Post, deputy director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a USDA agency. In an editorial released by the NEJM, doctors revealed that at least one of the studies they published received some of its funding from the tobacco industry. In the study, “The study the authors concluded that the majority of stage I lung cancers treated after their detection by CT screening had a favorable prognosis.”

Why should anyone care about this? Industry bias in medical studies is rampant, and should always be taken into consideration in the evaluation of studies promoting certain dietary lifestyle recommendations.  The grain industry, like many arms of the food industry, wields much influence on the mainstream food market and has powerful lobbying and business activities watching out for its interests. 

Are grains good for us?

There has been much discussion, study, and review of the effects of grains on human health by a variety of health and medical sources for the following reasons:

  • Grains contain phytates, which are anti-nutrients. Consuming improperly prepared grains such as those at the supermarket actually prevents mineral absorption in the body. When eating grains with the bran intact, the phytates bind to minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus and prevents our digestion from being able to absorb it so our bodies can use them. Preparing grains as our ancestors did through soaking and sprouting helps to aid in pre-digestion of grains and can minimize the loss of nutrients our bodies experience, but it does not completely eliminate this problem.
  • Consumption of gluten (commonly found in wheat and other products) for many contributes to various health issues: allergies such as asthma, eczema, respiratory illnesses such as colds, sinusitus, and bronchitis, digestive problems such as heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut, IBS, diverticultis, and Crohn’s Disease, joint, auto immune, and teeth and bone issues, weight gain and metabolic disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, emotional and mental disorders, other auto-immune disorders such as diabetes, MS, and Lupus, and cancer. Researchers who study gluten-intolerance and celiac disease have discovered that 30% to 40% of people of European descent are gluten-intolerant on some level.  And that’s just what’s being reported. Gluten-free products, now on most grocery store shelves, aren’t much better nutritionally.
  • The fiber myth of grains: As we discussed with the processing of grains, they don’t contain so much as even a trace of fiber, as all that’s really left is the endosperm.  Scientists discovered the following about high-fiber foods: “bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering” and “increases the level of lubricating mucus.” Last time I checked, increased mucous in the body means your body is trying to rid itself of something which is causing irritation, and it also means a lack of absorption of nutrients. There is also growing evidence that fiber causes a whole host of health issues. Read Fiber Menace for more information.
  • We are not designed to digest grains. Grains are a type of grass seed. Like carnivores, we have a short digestive tract. Prior to about 10,000 years ago, we did not consume grains or grass seeds. Starch-eating creatures secrete a large amount and variety of starch-splitting enzymes, while human production amounts to one starch-splitting enzyme: salivary amylase (ptyalin). Our teeth also do not grind grains efficiently. We’d never eat them raw, but the processing we put grains through by way of cooking, refining, packaging, boxing, and adding sugar and chemicals makes them palatable. For scientific information explaining why humans were not designed to digest grains, visit  Beyond Vegetarianism by Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD.
  • A diet high in carbohydrates causes health issues. Eating high-carbohydrate diets causes insulin production,  stimulated by the pancreas, to spike our blood sugar.  These substances are then quickly and readily converted to fat through our production of insulin. Continued elevated levels of insulin in the blood cause a condition known to medical experts as hyper-insulinemia. One of the side-effects of insulin production is that fat becomes deposited in the cells. Then, your brain is stimulated to make you feel hungry. The result is you want more food, and many people turn to carbohydrates to satisfy that need. As this repeats over time, the cells in your body become resistant to insulin production, placing tremendous strain on your pancreas to produce more and more of it. These abnormal levels of insulin produce a variety of health issues including metabolic disorder which includes heart disease and diabetes, aut0-immune problems, and premature aging.

At best, the “whole grains” you eat in packaged foods are a blasted mixture of various kinds of grain flour, chemicals, and sugar which don’t live up to the promises made on the label, and no part of this even remotely resembles a whole grain found in nature. Even most brands of bread on the shelf (excluding some fresh-made breads) are made of refined grains that are processed, causing the bread to go rancid by the time it gets to the store.  Fresh ground flour is really only fresh for up to about 2 or 3 days.

I’ve personally realized tremendous health benefits from avoiding grains, and I know many others who have experienced the same. So, if you are going to eat grains:

  • Avoid packaged and processed grain foods like the plague
  • Prepare your grains properly through soaking, sprouting, souring, or fermenting
  • Try limiting your consumption to once or twice a week

If you have digestive issues – and many of us do – it is really important to get those under control so your body can make the most of the foods you eat and receive the nutrients it needs from healthy foods. I recommend Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride as a good starting point for gut healing and detoxification.

More information?

Go grain-free & still eat delicious, healthy meals

Grain-free meal plans – Health Home, & Happiness

Grains and human evolution – Whole Health Source

The definitive guide to grains – Mark’s Daily Apple

If you missed the last installment of this series, read Deceptions in the Food Industry: Lean Meats

 


 

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Critical Elements for Health Through Nutrition

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To keep health optimal, there are some basic components that must be included in your diet each day day. By making certain you maintain these elements, you really can achieve great health.

According to the principles of Nutritional Therapy Practice, attention to the following keep health in balance and eliminate many symptoms which can lead to disease and illness:

  • Digestion and elimination
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Mineral Balance
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Probiotics – from naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, natto, and high quality probiotic supplemenation
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According to the tenets of Certified Nutritional Therapy practice and The Weston A. Price Foundation, weaknesses in these components are essential for controlling disorders such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses and diseases that are particular to modern life.

There are four primary elements that make up health, which are the following:

  • Exercise suited to our personalities, preferences, lifestyle, and proper rest
  • Access to sunlight and outdoors
  • Clean water

Modern life affords less opportunities for outside time in sunshine and fresh air. While we spend a great deal of time indoors and involved in work tasks, technology, and home activities, our ancestors spent a great deal of time in the outdoors.

It may seem as though we don’t need advice about how and what to eat. But in modern life, our sensibilities and awareness of healthy diets and where our food comes from is vastly different and detached from how humans have cultivated and consumed food throughout history. Disease and illness rates are unique in today’s world in that their prevalence and chronic nature have become acute – heart disease, obesity, cancer, and other degenerative conditions are common problems that afflict people at younger and younger ages.

We have created a variety of artificial and toxic substances which have replaced real food in our diets. These substances are foreign and fill our bodies with chemicals and denatured proteins and fats which our bodies are unable to recognize nor utilize for health. Synthetic fats like margarine, butter spreads, and industrially-produced oils like cottonseed, canola, and soybean found in foods now fill our cells and arteries, causing irreversible damage if we don’t change our eating habits.

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At the same time, meats and meat products like red meat and butter are regarded by larger health communities as unhealthy to consume, when their proteins and fats are natural and necessary to maintain health. We need real fats and proteins to support our brain, nervous system, heart, reproductive, endocrine, excretory, digestive, and overall health.

Because of this departure we have experienced from eating real food and knowing how it is connected to our well-being, understanding how food heals and nourishes our bodies is critical to allow a return to health.

How are the foundations of health achieved?

In order to maintain this balance with these components, it is important to eat a nutrient-dense diet including the following:

  • eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • grass-fed dairy products (raw is a plus)
  • organic or sustainable-grown fruits and vegetables – eaten raw with healthy fats like olive oil or cream, cooked and served with butter, coconut oil, or ghee or lacto-fermented
  • fermented foods such as homemade yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut (for live culture and probiotic delivery)
  • seafood from safe sources – wild caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, and some farmed fish such as tilapia, farmed mollusks – now much more sustainable than their ocean counterparts – oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, squid, octopus, shellfish like lobster, shrimp, crabs, and crayfish, fish roe (eggs)
  • healthy fats such as coconut oil, cod liver oil, real butter from grass-fed animals, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, palm oil from a sustainable source, lard, beef tallow from healthy animals, and chicken fat  from healthy sources (pigs not raised in confinement and cattle and chicken on pasture)
  • plenty of filtered water with natural minerals – if you don’t drink mineral water, find out how you can add more minerals to your diet here

Sustainable food sources are very important for maximum nutrient-density in the foods you eat. If your digestion is bogged down by industrially-sourced, processed, and refined foods, it will affect your entire body and health. Digestion is the place where health begins and ends. When you keep all the components of health in balance with proper foods, your body can keep itself free of degenerative disease and illness.

Through many years of abuse, many people have damaged their digestion and health to the extent that it is necessary to take drastic measures of detoxification, alteration of diet and lifestyle, and heavy supplementation with whole-foods based, organically-sourced dietary supplements to bring health back to normal.

So if you are looking for ways to improve your health and diet and have been frustrated by doctors who haven’t helped or have put you on medications to “cure” your health issues, try switching from a processed diet over to a nutrient-dense diet and watch the difference it will make in your well-being.

For more information your diet and disease, read this informative article about how the foods you eat can cause the diseases you don’t want.

For more information on dietary guidelines, visit The Weston A. Price Foundation for a wealth of great nutritional information that will transform your health.

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