Wait – haven’t you looked at the food pyramid??? Aren’t we supposed to get 9-11 servings of breads, cereals, grains each day? No bread, no pasta? Are you crazy?!?
This was my exact internal conversation when I started reading about giving up grains.
I am by no means an expert on this – I do have personal experience of change and I think that matters. I know most of what I know about grains and what they do to us from reading Mark’s blog at Mark’s Daily Apple and Kate at Modern Alternative Mama.
I read the Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin 7 years ago or so that drastically changed my eating habits. It is a 40 day challenge to basically purge your body from all the junk you have been eating your whole life and jump start it with whole foods. Before the diet, I was eating the standard “healthy” diet – low fat, low meat. The Maker’s diet recommends a diet full of nutrient rich foods: vegetables, fruit, protein, healthy fats, soaked grains. It confronts nutrition (and the national health crisis) from a biblical standpoint. For about a year, we did very very well on this diet. Adam and I both felt great, we were both working out, able to wake up in the morning easily… it was a success. But I didn’t understand at the time why I wasn’t eating grains – or why I was supposed to be soaking them, and it just didn’t stick.
Then life happened. We got lazy – I wanted pasta, bread, cereal… the cravings came back. We still ate whole foods, we just continued to substitute more carbs in place of vegetables and fruit – we always grabbed the whole wheat bread (Nature’s Own), the whole wheat pasta, the stone ground whole wheat flour… We thought we were eating healthy.
Our diet consisted of whole grain carbs, fruit, vegetables, and just a little protein and fat. But we weren’t healthy any more. We had sugar cravings, we were tired, I was having blood sugar problems – getting shaking between meals, getting light-headed… It was my “normal.”
Then I got pregnant. Pregnancy did my diet in… It was not sustainable. I was miserable with morning sickness, weakness, dizziness, passing out at time. This diet was not nourishing for me or my growing baby. Thankfully, I was getting care from a midwife at the time who does a more “whole body” approach. She asked me to send her a 3 day food diary. I knew that I had the perfect diet, why should I be worried? Then she knocked me across the face, “your baby needs protein and fat” – and very little empty carbs. Of course, this was going to have to change every single meal I was eating at the time. I was more miserable for the next 2 weeks when trying to change my diet then I was before – was this even worth it?
I was eating more protein and fat with my meals then I had ever eaten before – I’m going to be huge! But I wasn’t getting bigger (other than my growing belly) and after I got down the “acceptable” meals down – I was feeling great.
So, fast forward a few weeks to December 2, 2010. I had an amazingly easy homebirth of a 9 pound healthy baby girl. I thought “I can eat whatever I want now!” Bring on the carbs! And my diet went right back to what I was eating before I was pregnant – whole foods, but a whole lot of carbs. In one week I had dropped all the baby weight, I was in my prepregnancy clothes again – I felt amazing!
But that feeling didn’t last… I was breastfeeding, so I was hungry – but I grabbed carbs – crackers and cheese, breads… I even started gaining weight around 5-6 months post partum… This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was breastfeeding and working out!
I got to thinking, if I was able to eat all the fat and protein while I was pregnant and my body functioned like it needed to – giving it to the baby and not my thighs, maybe there was something there. So, I started doing some research… and research… It took months before I convinced myself that I needed to go grain-free. Aidalyn was probably around 10 months, when I just started reducing grains. Then Adam and I committed for the whole month of January we would be 100% grain-free, after that we would be 80-20. I did a lot of “pinning” on Pintrest to get ready.
So what kind of research did I find? I learned about phytates that are part of the grain. This is mother natures way of “protecting” the grain so it would pass through the stool and then germinate once “deposited.” These phytates make it so that other nutrients in your foods don’t get digested or absorbed. It is like starving yourself from the inside – but the calories are getting absorbed. So you are getting fatter, without the nutrients. Also, I learned that the modern food pyramid is basically a system created by the government to fuel consumers to buy foods that are produced in the US – I’m all for supporting local farmers, but not at the detriment of my own health. The ratios of the food pyramid are also used to fatten up livestock… Hummmm if this “recommended” diet is used to fatten up livestock then no wonder people are getting fatter in the US!
There is a way to reduce the phytates – soaking your grains. Since I am not good at this at all, I chose to drastically reduce grains and if I want to eat them, then I soak them. Grains are not a part of our general diet anymore though. You can read more about reason to go grain free here and here.
Some grains are more easily digested than others – so Rice is easier to digest than wheat (which is probably the worst for you). My chiropractor, Dr. Eric Snow, recommends quick sauteing the rice before you cook it to help digest it.
Secondly, eating a lot of carbs throughout the day puts you in a pre-diabetic state. You eat carbs, your blood sugar rises, you feel great you have a lot of energy, you body burns through the energy, your blood sugar drops lower than it was before, you are tired, you then crave simple carbs like sugar or caffeine and the cycle continues. Over time your body stops being able to rebound and you end up with diabetes… not very fun.
A lot of people have food allergies and don’t even realize it. Eczema, cradle cap, persistent diaper rash, reflux, sleep disturbances, diarrhea, constipation (if you aren’t having a bowel movement at least once a day, you are considered constipated), undigested food in poop, stomach aches, and lots of gas are all indications of a food allergy. You can look here from the Modern Alternative Mama for more details.
What about fiber? Too much fiber is actually not very good for you. You can get enough fiber from fruits and vegetables and don’t need to worry about lacking anything in that department.
Now what about fruit – fruit is great for you. It is easily digested and has loads of nutrients that grains just don’t have. I would recommend eating it with some protein just to help stabilize your blood sugar. Give me some whole milk Greek yogurt and berries any day for a snack or treat. Maybe a smoothie with some added protein for breakfast.
What the majority of your diet should consist of is vegetables and fruit – then protein and good fats (Omega-3’s and saturated fats), then whole milk dairy – if you can tolerate them. I would recommend using coconut oil and butter for cooking. They are the most stable fats and won’t go rancid when you heat them up. They nourish your body and have healing properties. More about fats here and here.
This food pyramid is from Mark’s Daily Apple. Mark talks about how the bottom tier should consist of the majority of your caloric intake, but fruits and vegetables (lower in calories) should take up the majority of your plate.
Futher information can be found by reading “Eat fat, lose fat” by Sally Fallon, whole food recipes can be found in “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and just by doing some searching on Pinterest.