One of the biggest arguments against the Paleo diet that I hear most often is the claim that “if you remove a food group like grains out of your diet, you’ll be missing out on nutrients.”
Funnily enough they never seem to elaborate much more than that, so of course it piqued my curiosity. Is it really true or are they just joshing with us?
So in relation to grains in particular…what is it that we are supposed to be missing out on and what ever it is, are you sure you can’t get it in the rest of the foods you eat?
The results were interesting…
Fibre is one where grains were supposed to be king. Is it an actual nutrient? Not sure, but an important part of our diet nonetheless that helps things, you know… move along. The recommended daily intake of fibre is approx 25g for women. So if you have the recommended 5 serves of veges a day and 2 pieces of fruit, this is what your fibre intake may look like from this alone:-
5g – ½ cup pumpkin
5g – ½ cup Peas
5g – 1 cup Broccoli
4g – 1 cup Spinach
2g – ½ cup green beans
5g – Avocado half
5g – Pear with skin
So more than enough and that’s before you even get to seeds and nuts which have even more fibre.
But you may say ‘how on earth would I eat all those veges?’ Well when I slightly wilt two cups of spinach with my fried eggs in the morning, have about 2 cups of zucchini noodles with sauce and an awesome homemade vege soup or big salad, I’d say it’s pretty easy. And the best thing about getting your fibre this way is that the veges and fruit have built in water and nutrients that are easy to digest and super available to your body and cells.
So from the fibre point of view – totally busted!
It is puzzling to me why then our standard national recommendation for women is anywhere between 6-9 serves of grains as well.
Standard serve sizes are:-
1 slice of bread – 2g fibre
½ cup cooked rice – 0.6g fibre
½ cup cooked wholemeal pasta – 3g fibre
½ cup cooked oats – 4g fibre
½ cup cooked quinoa – 2.5g fibre
½ cup cooked buckwheat – 2.2g fibre
So this minimum amount (ie. 6 serves) would give you only 14.3g of fibre. Not such great sources after all, given that fibre is one of the big selling points of grains. I am even being generous here and including lots of minimally processed whole grain type grains. Where as it’s more likely that people eat more like white bread, white pasta, white bread rolls and sugar cereal which has even less fibre.
So say you do nudge more towards the whole grain type of grains, even in this minimum serving recommendation the carb level is astronomical – if I took the lowest serving of carbs in this line up which is the bread at about 15g carbs per slice and multiplied it by the 6 servings, you are still looking at 90g carbs a day! Just from the grains; this not even including the carbs in the veges and fruit above which you are supposed to be having as well!
How is a normal person who does some exercise supposed to keep at an ideal weight if the recommended carb level is so out of balance with their lifestyle? The point is they don’t and the stats of more than 60% of the population being overweight or obese prove this.
Ok so fibre and way too many carbs aside, what else are grains supposed to do for us?
Apparently they contain minerals, however if you know anything about phytic acid, you will know this binds to the minerals in grains making them virtually unable to be absorbed by our bodies, so that’s out. Null and void.
The other one is B Vitamins, again grains are supposedly a rich source however when I look at the best sources of B Vitamins here is what I come up with:-
Meat including organ meats
Dark leafy green vegetables
Legumes get a mention but they are by no means the only source. Grains like cereal and bread only get a mention because they are fortified with B Vitamins! As in ‘added to.’ So the processing takes all the goodness out, so they add it back in. Like eating the cardboard box and taking a vitamin pill! Not exactly a wholefood.
So bottom line here are my findings:-
1. The Paleo crew and anyone else leaving out grains out of their diet are missing nothing.
2. Most commercial breads and cereals are complete junk food and should be treated with caution.
3. If you are going to leave grains in your diet then pick the best, most natural sources – unflavoured minimally processed oats, quinoa, barley etc and maybe try only 3 serves a day – a serve is only half a cup of these cooked – this is the recommended amount in Canada and the lower level in the USA. Not sure why our Australian one is so high – perhaps our grain lobby is stronger here?
As for me, I’m still remaining grain free. I feel better physically, can keep the weight off easily and if you only knew the havoc that grains have on many people’s insides and the myriad of diseases they cause, you would tread carefully too.
Be informed and make your own choices!
Here’s to your vibrant health.