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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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Managing Diabetes with Real Food

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If this picture is a familiar activity for you and you have been following conventional health rhetoric about managing your diabetes, the following information may be of interest.

Medical “experts” recommend being under the care of a physician to take care of your disease. But are doctors really getting to the root cause of the disease? Is it just some unknown thing going on in your body that needs continual doses of insulin and other medications?

Common medical advice tells diabetes patients to eat a diet high in fiber and low in fat, with lots of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Patients are advised to watch portion control, carbohydrates, and calories that “result in excess fat and excess weight”. The philosophy is that avoiding sugar is just not possible and that calories from sugar are no different than calories from any other carbohydrate.

And apparently, eating more protein and fats is not advisable. You can continue eating your favorite desserts and other processed carbs as long as you “monitor your calories, carbs, and other key dietary components” and keep a regular check on blood glucose levels through blood glucose testing.

Here are the guidelines (source, Web M.D.):

  • Total fat consumption should be 25%-35% or less of total calories eaten per day.
  • Saturated fats should be less than 7% of total calories eaten in a day.
  • Polyunsaturated fats (from liquid vegetable oils and margarines low in trans fats) should be up to 10% of the total calories per day consumed.
  • Monounsaturated fats (derived from vegetable sources like plant oils and nuts) should be up to 20% of total calories per day eaten.
  • Carbohydrates should be 50%-60% of total calories per day eaten
  • We should eat 20-30 grams of fiber per day. These can be derived from oats, barley, psyllium, and beans.
  • The amounts of protein in the diet should equal about 15%-20% of total calories eaten per day.
  • Cholesterol content of the diet should be less than 200 milligrams per day

The claim is that saturated fats increase insulin sensitivity in the body, and therefore a reduction in fat intake is necessary.  But following these directives are not only keeping your insulin levels in a haywire state, but they are ruining your health. When you eat carbohydrates without protein and fat, and especially refined and processed variety, your blood sugar will  spike unnaturally high.

Here’s some evidence as to just how saturated fats are not bad for your insulin levels or diabetes, from Whole Health Source citing 5 studies conducted in 2008 that are “high-quality trials that used reliable methods of determining insulin sensitivity”.

Solutions for diabetes

Since not enough emphasis is placed on removal of processed foods, which greatly contribute to the Diabetic condition in the first place, we must return the focus back to eating real, whole foods. This is why people with diabetes, in general, continue to struggle and struggle with their weight and health.

There are some natural alternatives to taking care of your health and your diabetes. As diabetes is largely a modern disease that is caused by a combination of inactivity and consumption of processed, industrial foods, a return to eating a healthy diet should enable you to overcome your disease and lead a healthy life.

Here are the foods you should consider eliminating from your diet:

  • crackers
  • bread
  • pasta
  • bagels
  • rice cakes
  • packaged cereals
  • most breads
  • alternative grain products that are processed such as the above
  • industrial pasteurized/homogenized dairy products – especially low-fat and non-fat
  • processed (roasted, salted, coated) nuts and seeds
  • refined, vegetable oils like canola, soy, safflower, cottonseed, sunflower, and other vegetable oils
  • soy products of all kinds (except those that are fermented like miso and tempeh)
  • industrial meats which contain antibiotic, hormones, GMOs, pesticide and herbicide residues, and other chemicals
  • conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables

Basically, anything packaged, canned, or in a box should be suspect and probably eliminated from your kitchen and diet.

Here’s what you should include in your diet:

  • grass-fed, naturally and organically raised meats, pasture-raised poultry
  • raw milk and dairy (cheese, cream, butter) from organic or sustainable-raised, pasture-raised cattle
  • healthy seafood choices – wild caught salmon, farmed tilapia, mollusks like clams, mussels, oysters, squid, shrimp, octopus
  • organically-produced fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
  • raw nuts and seeds that have been soaked and/or sprouted
  • organically or sustainable-produced nut butters (avoid peanut butter)
  • natural, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oil, real butter from grass-fed cattle, tallow and lard from healthy beef and chicken (see above)

Obtaining regular stretching, movement, and exercise is important too. Here are some guidelines:

  • Focus on regular activity rather than length of time spent doing the activity. Intense physical activity will burn out your adrenal glands. If you have diabetes or insulin resistance, it’s certain that you are experiencing adrenal exhaustion. Start slow and work your way up gradually to more intense activity. Walking is the best thing for people who are healing from insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Do something you enjoy and that fits your lifestyle and interests
  • The best type of activity is something you can do outside. It allows you to get fresh air and sunshine (natural Vitamin D is very important for health), and gets you out of your everyday environment of the home or office.
  • Don’t focus on calories or fat intake as a method of losing weight. If you do, you will continue to struggle with weight issues. If you eat whole, healthy foods and obtaining regular activity in your schedule, your normal weight should be easy to maintain.

How do I know any of this is true?

Almost 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with insulin-resistance. I had a broad panel blood test done to determine what was causing my health to be in such a poor state. One of the main problems discovered was that my blood-sugar levels were really out of whack. Insulin-resistance is a precursor to Diabetes. Yes, there are people in my family with Diabetes. All of them are on medication. I didn’t want to end up on medication too.

So I followed the advice of my practitioner and eliminated processed foods from my diet. I started eating a lot more proteins with real saturated fats and a lot of vegetables as well. Now whenever I do have anything refined it is few and far between. I’ve eliminated grains from my diet. Grains are inflammatory and can contribute greatly to insulin resistance and blood sugar issues, as well as other health issues such as weight gain, heart disease.

Did you know that even soaking and sprouting grains doesn’t eliminate all the phytic acid present in grains? That’s right, minerals can still be leached from your body when you eat sprouted/soaked or fermented grains. If you’ve had digestive issues, this is an even bigger problem. Also, grains are not the same as they used to be in the historical past. They’ve been hybridized and contaminated by GMOs. For more information read The truth about wheat and grains – are they good for your health? And, listen to my interview on Liberation Wellness with Kevin Brown on this important topic.

Last fall I had another blood screening done…and my blood sugar levels have returned to normal. No more insulin resistance!

Want to see what kind of foods I keep in my kitchen? Read my Kitchen Staples post.

For more insight about being nutritionally fit, and putting more emphasis on eating well to maintain your health and your weight, read Are You Nutritionally Fit?

For more information on types of healthy foods, read How Well Do Know Your Food? Find Out!

For more information on fats and health, read The Importance of Dietary Fats.