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Deceptions in the Food Industry: Whole Grains


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



Activism Healthy Living Real Food

The Big Gluten-Free Lie


Everyone loves bread, right? You would be hard-pressed to find someone who says they don’t like it. But for many people in the 21st century, living without wheat has become a reality.

In their desperate quest to keep eating bread and bread products, they have found their savior – gluten-free foods.

But did you know that many gluten-free philosophies, which espouse that the sufferer merely switch from wheat to some other grain or carbohydrate food can be equally as harmful and damaging to health?

Let’s take a look at wheat and then we’ll discuss why alternatives may be causing identical problems in people who consume it.


The history of wheat

Wheat is a crop that has been used pervasively for food by humans for thousands of years. Its origin dates back approximately 11,000 years ago in the Middle East. When people discovered they could grow this crop and harvest it to feed many people and transport it to far away places, its use became more common and widespread. People discovered that they could grind the grain into flour for bread, and foods made of flour were born.

As time went on, farmers selected the best kernels from their harvest to use for continuance of planting each successive year. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, we were already starting to see processed and packaged wheat products.

The appealing qualities of wheat were gradually bred more and more into the plant – namely, its gliadin content (where the protein gluten resides). Gluten is the elastic, water-insoluable component in wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, rye, and barley that allows flour to rise during baking. Many other products contain gluten as well such soups, sauces, artificial cheeses, soy sauce, candy, pharmaceutical drugs and over-the counter medications. It can even be found in the glue used on envelopes and stamps.

Gluten makes bread wonderfully soft and pliable, but it also is difficult to digest and causes issues in the digestive tract. When problems occur in the digestive tract, it affects the rest of the body. During digestion of grains, and in particular, wheat, the gluten irritates the lining of the intestines and eventually penetrates, getting absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes over-response by the immune system, leading to allergies and many other health problems.

Do flour products really deliver the nutrition shown on the label?

Another consideration many people don’t make about grains being ground into flour is that during this process, nutritional content is compromised. The longer flour sits after being ground, the more it becomes rancid. Many flours are enriched with synthetic nutrients to give the appearance that you are eating something healthy – gluten-free items are not exempt. As an example, flour made from wheat undergoes the following changes during its processing:

  • The calorie content of refined white flour actually increases about 10% because of everything else that has been taken out.
  • An average of 66% of the B vitamins have been removed.
  • An average of 70% of all minerals have been removed.
  • 79% of the fiber has been removed.
  • An average of 19% of the protein has been removed*

*source, Walton Feed

With the consumption of wheat so high among consumers, it is no wonder wheat causes allergic reactions, health issues, and of course, celiac disease. An estimated 1 in 133 people have celiac disorder.

Does it seem strange that the proliferation of celiac disease and wheat allergies have become so common? It shouldn’t, given the fact that wheat is in so many products we eat. In celiac disease, the individual has a genetic tendency toward a violent reaction toward gluten (exacerbated by the ever-increasing consumption of wheat as the generations have come down, which affects human physiology), and therefore must avoid all contact with gluten to avoid becoming sick. Celiac sufferers experience symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramping, gas, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss (or gain), and constipation.

Donna Gates from Body Ecology agrees with this philosophy and elaborates:

“Individuals who have an imbalanced inner ecosystem and who eat improperly prepared grains for years (not soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains before eating them) can end up with gas, bloating, and other digestive problems. These individuals lack healthy “grain-loving” bacteria that can help digest grains. I believe this may be the REAL reason behind gluten sensitivity.

All grains have enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid (like soy) that make them difficult to digest and inhibits the absorption of minerals in your body. Eating large quantities of grains and flours that have not been soaked, sprouted, or fermented can lead to mineral deficiencies, bone loss, digestive illness, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mental illness”.

Indeed, you will see incredible health claims on the packaging, including “high fiber”, “all-natural”, “low-fat”, “no cholesterol”, and even “organic”. Products show nutrient information on the label as containing certain vitamins and minerals, but most of these are greatly diminished by the affect of processing and/or added back in as synthetic counterparts to their real-whole food ones found in natural foods.

Other problems with grains (wheat and gluten-free) include the fact that the majority of products on the market are genetically-modified and treated with chemicals such as pesticides. That’s why if you are going to eat grains, you should always make sure you are getting whole and organic!

Wheat, wheat, wheat

Everywhere you look, you will find products with wheat in them. They are so pervasive in our food stores you practically cannot go down an aisle where there is not some type of wheat product sold. And if you do find a gluten-free section in the store, notice how each item that would ordinarily be sold as wheat is traded for one made of some alternative grain – buckwheat, amaranth, soy, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, potato, coconut, and the list goes on. Most of these products are some kind of flour product as well.

The human body is not designed to digest the volumnous amounts of grains and carbohydrates we constantly feed ourselves – crackers, bagels, pasta, chips, breads, pitas, tortillas, pastries, muffins, croissants, scones, desserts, and cereals. These foods are naturally high in carbohydrates, and after grinding, flour can contain anywhere from 85 grams (buckwheat flour) up to a whopping 135 grams (durum wheat flour) per cup! Whole grains contain much less as they are more dense and have not been processed and had the nutrients effectively removed.

There are a variety of reasons why we eat these foods – because they are readily available most everywhere, they are convenient, and they taste good. However, the ultimate cost of consuming these foods – these processed foods – is a decline in our health. The result is heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.

The way most of us consume grains is the processed way – not the old, traditional way of sprouting, soaking, and fermenting grains the way our ancestors once did. If we are to consume grains at all, they should be prepared properly in order to afford the body its best chance of digestion and absorption of nutrients. Grains consumed any other way will lead to mal-absorption of nutrients and failing health – plain and simple.

As one example, the gluten-free diet commonly prescribed for children with autism often does not lead to improvements, according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, because the gluten-free foods on the market are really just another form of nutrient-deficient junk food that fosters the growth of candida and contributes to poor digestion.

Gluten-free, the new craze

Just like everything that has come before it, gluten-free has been eye-balled by food companies as a way to make money – low-fat and non-fat, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, and now too, gluten-free has ascended the ranks as one of the most sought-after “health food” products as a way to escape the foods that are making people sick – only to be the culprit of many of the same health issues the others were guilty of causing.

There isn’t a place you can look where you won’t find gluten-free – restaurants, cookbooks, magazines, grocery stores, online, or offered as a topic in classes and in seminars. And it is being touted as a miracle-fix for those who are allergic to wheat or stricken with celiac disease.

Marketers and food companies know they have consumers attention – and that the false health claims they put on packaging is bought hook, line, and sinker. If you don’t believe me, just watch your fellow shopper the next time you go to the store for food – the average grocery cart is chock full of processed, packaged foods – a large percentage of them being wheat products and labeled gluten-free foods.

So basically, the gluten-free containing foods don’t deliver anything better nutritionally to your body than wheat since most of them are processed. Very little emphasis from people in the wheat camp or the gluten-free camp is placed on eating these grains in their whole form, and making certain they are sprouted or soaked before consumption.

It makes no difference if something is gluten-free; if it is ground into flour or processed it is not a whole food and will go rancid the longer it sits around. Although you may not suffer the ill-effects of consuming gluten since you are eating alternative grains, you will experience many of the same digestive problems, mal-absorption of nutrients, immune system deficiencies, allergies, weight gain, and other issues like insulin-resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

What is the general consensus on grains?

For yearsThe Food Pyramid, as recommended by the USDA, told us we should be eating 6 – 11 servings of grains a day. Are you kidding me? No wonder so many people are obese and have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative disorders.

The Food Pyramid has since morphed into My Plate, which still includes grains and 4 other food categories. The explanation given about the changes to the My Plate plan is that it is supposed to simplify the principles of The Food Pyramid. In reality the recommendations have become even more complicated and murky than ever before. My Plate recommendations for grains state to “make at least half of your grains whole”.

As an unpopular dissenter, I completely disagree with the Food Pyramid and a lot of the general rhetoric about nutrition given out by dietitians, doctors, and government agencies. Why? Because much of their information is incorrect and they are actually advising us to eat in such a way that is harmful to our health – the Food Pyramid being one of the worst offenders of all.

We are taught from a very young age – usually starting in school – that this is a good way to eat and to stay healthy throughout our lives. I believe the grain component of the pyramid is one of the most misrepresented segments of  this chart and does a huge disservice to both the people who teach and and those who are forced to learn and believe it as a truth.

What are the solutions?

To keep ourselves healthy, gluten-free (for those with a genuine wheat intolerance, allergy, or celiac disease), and to truly replace our wheat and alternative wheat products with something nutrient-dense, life-giving, and satisfying, consider the following:

  • Detoxify and heal yourself with nutritious, whole, traditional foods and heal your digestive system properly.
  • Use grains, even sprouted/soaked and fermented varieties sparingly.
  • If you do eat them, buy real, whole grains and prepare them yourself as our ancestors did – soaked and sprouted,  and/or fermented.

And remember, if you are eating a truly traditional, whole-foods based diet, you should not encounter health issues like those you’d associate with eating wheat (or other processed products such as many gluten-free items on the market). If you are going to do something for your health and throw away the wheat, do yourself a favor and remove all processed foods from your diet – gluten-free or not – and go from unhealthy to truly healthy.

Read The Truth About Wheat and Grains for an explanation about why grains may not be so healthy for us to consume

Interested in reducing even more of your food-related allergies? Read Time and Money Saving Tips – The Real Health and Financial Implications of Food Allergies.