Why Grains Are Bad–Part 2

December 2, 2011 in Categories: by

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In my opinion, the two most important facets of paleolithic nutrition are to avoid foods that irritate your gut and to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio (aiming for 1:1 to 1:2).  Grains have a negative impact on both of these aspects of a paleo diet.  

After reading my post on fat, you might have picked up on an important detail about grainsNot only do they contain lectins (like gluten) that damage the cells that line your gut, but they are also very high in omega-6 fatty acids.  Grains (including corn) and legumes are high in linoleic acid, the omega-6 fatty acid that seems to be at the root of many modern diseases.  Remember that omega-6 fatty acids contribute to pro-inflammatory pathways in your body and that the huge increase in the proportion of our dietary fat that now comes from omega-6s (instead of omega-3s) is a major player in a wide range of diseases.  

But it gets worse.  These omega-6 fatty acids are concentrated in modern vegetable oils.  Oils derived from grains and legumes (soy, canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut, corn, etc) didn’t exist until the process of mechanical extraction was invented.  So, not only are you consuming omega-6 fatty acids directly from grain-containing foods, but also from the vegetable oils that they are cooked in.  

Another insidious way that grains have negatively impacted human health is with farmed meat.  Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and even some farmed fish are fed grains.  The meat from these animals no longer contains a balanced 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (which they did prior to agriculture).  Instead, it is typically closer to 1:10!  It is not enough just to avoid grains in your diet; you need to be mindful of what you eat that eats grains too.  In a perfect world, we would all eat pasture-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish and wild game meat, while also avoiding all grains, legumes and modern vegetable oils.  

When budget becomes an important consideration (like it does for me), I suggest removing sources of omega-6 where affordable, but also focusing more on increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.  One inexpensive way that you can do this by eating omega-3 eggs (the ones I buy have 660mg of omega-3 fatty acids per egg and only cost $2.79 per dozen at my local Kroger) or free-range eggs (which typically have a 1:1.5 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio).  Another way to increase omega-3 in your diet is to eat more wild-caught fish (canned salmon and sardines are a great inexpensive option).  You can also take a fish oil supplement (usually liquid oils are much cheaper than capsules and look for the highest EPA and DHA content for the price).  However you choose to increase your omega-3 consumption, omitting grains from your diet is critical.  There are no mammals in the wild that have grains as part of their diet.  The only group of animals that do well eating grains is birds, which we are not.  

Comments

Hi. I love your site. What is your opinion on hemp oil? I have been taking this as my Omega supplement. This is some information I’ve copied from the website of my supplier.

Excellent source of “Pure Active Protein”.
Provides a well balance array of the 10 essential amino acids for humans.
Wonderful food source, add to salads, smoothies, fruit or take by itself.
Hempseed is an excellent dietary source of easily digestible gluten free protein.
Overall protein content of 34.6 grams/100 grams is comparable to that of Soy beans and better than that found in nuts, other seeds, dairy products, meat, fish or poultry.
An important aspect of Hempseed protein is a high content of arginine and histidine both of which are important for growth during childhood.
Also contains amino acids methionine and cysteine which are needed for proper enzyme formation.
Hemp protein also contains relatively high levels of the branched-chain amino acids that are important for metabolism of exercising muscle.

I would very much appreciate your response.

I am new to paleo and have about 40 lbs to lose. Other than being overweight I believe I’m currently very healthy and do not need to take any medications.

Thank you

Hemp oil is a source of ALA omega-3 fats but these have to be converted into DHA or EPA fats by your body before they can be used and conversion is not very efficient. I would suggest fish or krill oil as an omega-e supplement instead. The best is to simply include fresh wild-caught oily fish in your diet. Also, there is no more complete source of amino acids than meat and fish, especially if you include organ meat in your diet.

What about wild rice? I love your blog and just bought your book :-) I have been off gluten for 5 years but still have some symptoms so I am slowly introducing paleo to my diet. Still eating rice

Wild rice is considered a grain and is not part of the “traditional” Paleo diet or the AIP. Sarah recommends you follow the strictest version of the AIP for at least thirty days before reintroducing any foods (you can read more about this in the book). A recent episode of The Paleo View discussed rice and other starchy carbs, you can read show notes/listen to the show here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2014/02/tpv-podcast-episode-78-domestic-man.html You may also want to join our new The Paleo Approach Community group on Facebook and ask for support there. You can request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TPACommunity/ — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

Do you have lists of true grains, legumes, nuts and seeds? I am so confused when you mention soy, canola and soy together. I understand when you say grains are bad for specific reasons, but it makes sense to me that humans would have eaten whole versions of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, seasonally. And surely grazing animals eat grain seeds directly off the stalk in the fall, to prepare for winter? Deer eat grain out of the farmer’s fields near me all the time.

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