Let’s Talk Grains, Shall We?

Things seem to be heating up in the War on Grains don’t they?  What?  You haven’t noticed?  Primal/Paleo–just eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did (what?  they didn’t gather wheat???)  Now we have the latest book making the rounds “Wheat Belly” telling us all the evils of wheat.  I read it.  Of course.  I like to be informed.  Well, let’s be fair.  I skimmed the whole book in one afternoon.  (and can I say how awesome the public library system is?  I did that on-line thing where you order a book and sooner or later your library calls and says it has arrived.  I was so surprised–I forgot which book I had actually ordered.)

Anyway.  You already know I eat minimal wheat.  Its just that its an easy food for me to eliminate.  Now.  It wasn’t always this way.  I learned in Weight Watchers how to eat high fiber, whole grains.  (and totally off-topic, am I the only one irritated about the complete overuse of the useless ‘fiber’ inulin?  How else do you think they get fiber into yogurt and ice cream?)  Back to the topic at hand.  What were we discussing?  Oh yeah.  Grains.  So wheat.  Even though I’ve eliminated it, I don’t exactly think its evil.  Its just attached to some high calorie stuff that I try to avoid, like cookies and cake.  Pasta I like, but I’ve discovered I actually like the sauce better than the pasta.  And bread.  I guess its over there with the cakes and the cookies.  If its good, I can’t leave it alone, and if its not that good, like the high fiber wraps, I can’t be bothered.  I did wonder if I had a slight allergy to wheat, as it seemed to cause, ummm, some intestinal disturbances…

Anyways, Wheat Belly.  Dr.  Davis did make some interesting points.  He states that wheat, calorie for calorie, increases your blood sugar and your insulin response higher and faster than table sugar.  I can believe that.  I was always trying to tell my dad that it was carbohydrates that you had to watch, not just sugar.  Dr. Davis makes a lot of other claims about the effect wheat has on various body systems.    I kept thinking the whole time I was skimming, just wheat???  Finally I got to the last chapters where he recommends a specific diet, and he has a LONG list of foods to avoid.  Can anyone say paleo?  Are he and Dr. Berkley roommates???  So even though his book was all about the evils of wheat, especially the current wheat being produced, there are a lot of foods that he wants you to eliminate or severely limit.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

I’ve had some interesting email conversations with a few bloggers about the topic of grains.  Debra SY had some fascinating comments that she shared with me.  Instead of trying to summarize what she said, I think I’ll just print her entire brilliant comment:

 I’ve read that our bodies do not process grains well, they were the last resort of our ancient ancestors — starvation foods — therefore they may trigger a starvation reaction in our bodies.  I have also read they are inflammatory.  On the other side, however, in the Bible bread seems to be metaphor for spiritual evolvment.  Our ancient ancestors may have had to resort to munching down on wheat and barley shafts, just to keep their stomachs full in times of scarcity, but we have evolved beyond those times and have learned to bake bread.  Glorious, tasty bread.  Christ proclaims himself the bread of life, not the meat, not the nut (certainly not!), not the vegetable or fruit.  (Salt, too, fares well in the Bible, metaphorically.)  So, the spiritual me cannot let go of bread entirely.  But giving it up mostly seems okay.  Christ, as metaphorical bread, did not contain TBHQ preservative, his flour was not stripped of all nutrient value through processing, and he certainly wasn’t brought into existence by Keebler elves.  Debra of Debra’s Just Maintaining

And then, probably the most important(?) thing I wanted to share was an article I read in an old National Geographic magazine while I waited for my car to be repaired.  You’ve probably all heard about this study–the one about the “blue zones?”  The blue zones are areas in the world where whole populations live healthier and longer lives.  I think there was a book written about it.  Anyway, google it if you want.  The findings are very interesting (to me.)  The main thing I noticed when I read that article was that one of the things all these people had in common (besides eating a diet very high in vegetables) was that they all ate a lot of grains.  Whole grains.  They did not eat a lot of cookies and cake.

So here’s a theory of mine.  I have no research to back this up.  Hey, that never stopped a lot of scientists from presenting their theories as truth.  Anyway, I think it is the American way of over-doing almost anything.  Can we just have some balance here people?  We find one thing that is “good” and we do it to death.  Whole wheat is good?  How much of it can we produce?  How many different food products can we make (and consume) that have this good thing in it?  Finally, our bodies revolt at the overabundance of a singular food product.  If my theory is right, oats and flaxseed meal will be the next on the chopping block (BTW does anybody else love that crazy show?)

And finally, I will end with a brilliant quote from my good friend Lori, as we “chatted” last night about the claims of losing weight, even losing your “belly” if you would just eliminate wheat in your diet.  And I said, referring to the ‘success stories’ in the book, as I am prone to say these days, come back and talk to me in five years.  Like I said in this post, we live in a world of cake.  Yes, you can be diligent, and you can fight the first 50 years of personal conditioning, and you can fight the whole food society that we live in.  But not too many people will be able to do that for a year, much less five or a lifetime.

It’s like that with any eating plan, whether it is low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, paleo, primal, whatever.  There is always that honeymoon period where things just are great and super, then reality sets in and your body adjusts.  It all comes down to making the best choices you can for the calories you need in the day without driving yourself crazy.  Lori, of Finding Radiance 

So that’s it.  The key.  Lori, you could write a best-seller.  I think I’ve pretty much figured out how to maintain a weight loss without driving myself crazy.  I’ll keep reading the latest information.  You never know when you might run across something helpful.  And there’s always room for tweaking, like Cammy said this morning.  I actually tried one of Dr. Davis’s recipes this morning–Pumpkin muffins.  I had all the ingredients, and they sounded interesting and tasty.  The jury’s still out on them.  I’ll probably have another one tomorrow and report the results to you.

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18 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Grains, Shall We?

  1. I’m glad you read the book – I’ve been interested in it since it’s making the blog-world rounds. While I think that for some people with certain medical conditions, cutting out wheat, etc. is a good and necessary thing, for the rest of us, it’s probably just a good idea to limit those kinds of carbs, even if they’re whole wheat/multi-grain, just because they, like you said, ARE calorie-dense.

    The more I read and hear, the more it would appear that I should be cutting out everything, dairy (what, stop eating my beloved Greek yogurt?!?), fruits (sugars), meat (toxins), grains (bloating/cravings)…it can make you crazy. Pretty much, I try to eat foods close to their natural states for the majority of my diet. And then there’s dark chocolate, which you will have to pry out of my cold dead hand before I’ll give that up. 😉

    • Well, there you go–Lori’s book idea (LOL) How to maintain weight loss WITHOUT DRIVING YOURSELF CRAZY.

      And LOL, fortunately, ALL groups seem to agree on the wonderful healing properties of dark chocolate.

  2. Lori’s philosophy works for me. I’ve found that I seem to do a lot better when I keep my non-veggie carbs to a minimum. (I don’t think of Greek style plain yogurt in that category, because it has so much protein!) But my body seems to really like legumes, too; they’re pretty blood glucose friendly for me. And yes, what Shelley B said about dark chocolate!

    I LOVE “Chopped!” It’s a favorite show at our house. The Halloween one this past weekend was over the top ingredients-wise!

    • I saw that one! I’m never sure if I’m watching old or new shows on Hulu. some of those things were disgusting!!

      Interesting about the legumes and blood sugar. They were on his ‘eat limited quantities list.’

  3. Wow, if you’re going to write like this, I wish you’d retired a year ago!! What a brilliant piece of “bread!” I think it’s when we get into the “all or nothing” or even the “my way is the only way” mindset that we adopt that tunnel vision problem. IMHO, there is a long, long way between Krispy Kreme doughnut “wheat” and 100% stone ground whole wheat bread that I make in my bread machine and know (and can pronounce) every single ingredient that’s in it.

    And yes, if it was profitable for the diet (both literally and symbolically) of those in “ancient” Biblical times, it’s certainly “ancient” enough for me. I suspect that throughout all of eternity, we’ll be eating yummy “perfect” grains that we cannot even fathom right now with our limited imaginations.

    I read Blue Zones and found it very, very interesting. I believe the conclusion was that those in the regions where they were healthiest and lived the longest followed some form of what we know as the Mediterranean Diet. And the general conclusion was that once those populations began to gain access to processed foods and fast food, the statistics declined quickly and dramatically. Duh!!

    Thanks, Debbie for taking the time to put together this post.

    • Well golly, Sharon. Thank you.

      And I’m impressed that you make your own bread!!! You’re always saying you’re not much of a cook.

      And thanks for the image of yummy grains throughout all eternity. I have to admit, for some reason I don’t daydream about the food. Its usually about creating something or other (insert current hobby.)

      One of the things about the Blue Zone was the importance of faith in these people’s lives. And yes, their diets were similar to the Mediterranean Diet.

  4. So much to love here Debby, where do I begin?

    Wheat and gluten are the new fad. Period. Remember back in the 1980s when it was fat? It’s always something cycling around. Shelley and I recently had an exchange about this as well and we both agreed that temporary full restriction of ANY food would probably get most people some results. This whole thing makes me think of Oprah Winfrey and all the various diets she’s been on over the year… each one worked at least for a little while.

    Lori has it exactly right. We all have to find our own balance. Balance being the operative word.

    • Yes, another thing I didn’t mention was that I sometimes pick up ‘healthy living cookbooks’ at the thrift store. Its so interesting to thumb through them. You can definitely see what the ‘healthy living of the moment’ was depending on when the book was written.

      Yep. That’s Vicky’s theory–the food limiting one. any restriction will get results, at least temporarily.

  5. I love Debra SY’s comment. Love. It.

    I get so irritated at how the food industry jumps on the bandwagon of the latest “fad”. For awhile everything was ORANGES! Then it was BLUEBERRIES! Then it was ACAI BERRIES!, not to mention fat-free, followed by low carb, followed by high fiber…it just goes on and on and on.

    I agree with Lori and everyone else – balance is what we should be striving for. Beautiful, wonderful, elusive balance! 🙂

    • I’m glad someone loved Debra’s comment. I think she is a thoughtful, wickedly funny writer.

      “beautiful, wonderful, elusive balance”–LOL.

  6. I think the wheat hype is we are eating so much GMO and processed wheat it’s causing multiple health problems. Today’s genetically modified wheat is not the same wheat our parents and grandparents were eating.

    Just my take.

  7. Debby – I just love this post. You are the one who needs to write a book. I can’t wait til my copy of ‘wheat belly’ arrives at the liberry!

    And thank you for correcting my typos LOL!

  8. Awesome review and interesting observations, Debby. Thank you! I hadn’t even heard of this book before. (I tend to avoid “diet-y” books, which means I miss a lot. Fortunately, kind people like you are willing to fall on your swords and read/share the. I appreciate that!)

    I don’t think any food is particularly evil, in and of itself. Whether it’s sugar, salt, carbs, meat, fat, organic, conventional–whatever–it’s all about how much of it we eat and in what form, IMO.

    And, of course, I’m with Shelley: I go before the chocolate goes. 🙂

  9. I have a day off from my chaplancy training and go blog jumping, and what do I find? I’ve got a quote. What an honor to be included in this lovely post!

    Debby, you are spending your retirement so well (I really enjoyed Spa week). And this post confirms for me that the secret scientist inside of you is real and a good thing. As an RN it had to be in there, but as a Neonatal RN, the compassionate persona had to predominate over the analytical. I will enjoy reading about other books you read (or scan). Unlike Cammy, I have been a diet book junkie. It’s a guilty pleasure thing. I love finding the flaws, identifying the dumb platitudes that have been around since the 70’s (or longer — that’s when my dieting life began), I love making my own speculations about how this “breakthrough” thing may fit in to our understanding when we’ve finally got this body weight management puzzle put together.

    But that guilty pleasure is no more. They’ve got me reading so much and running so much now that I’m lucky to read the local paper. So, I look forward to some vicarious guilty pleasure from your blog from time to time.

  10. Debby, your comment about the homeless feeding idea had me smiling. As long as you don’t cook veg, you’ll do great. Make sure you don’t serve hotdogs. I think starving people will eat hundreds of ’em.
    And now I’ve heard it all – inflammatory grains. Another thing not to eat.

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