Many modern-day diets have ditched the grain (I even ditched it for 2 years), to heal their digestive system from inflammation. Have you ever tried the paleo diet? Or maybe Keto? These two diets wholly believe that eliminating grains from your diet will help achieve your health goals. The problem with this elimination though is that when we remove certain food groups from our diet, we’re starving our gut microbiome from the nourishment it needs, to help repair the gut lining.
So why did we eliminate whole grains to begin with?
Due to a common belief that we should eat the way our ancestors did, many of us have been living off an egg, vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts and roots diet. While eliminating dairy, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Although for most parts this diet consists of a relatively accurate list of ‘bad foods’ it has a considerably arguable flaw, elimination of grains.
So whats the problem with eliminating grains?
The problem with eliminating grains from a paleo focused diet is that studies have just been released concluding that people who are on the paleo diet have increased levels of TMAO (Trimethylamine-N-oxide) – a metabolite derived from the gut bacteria that impact risk for heart attack, and stroke. Reduced levels of Roseburia (which protects against inflammatory bowel disease). Reduced level of Bifidobacterium (that protects against irritable bowel and obesity) and increased Hungatella (produces TMAO). Therefore, putting the paleo lovers microbiome at risk of disease.
How can grains help prevent disease?
Increasing whole grains into your diet, daily reduces the risk of colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other infectious diseases. We can thank fiber for that. Fiber helps move waste more efficiently through the digestive tract. It’s important to note that grain fiber is very different from fibers from fruit. Grain fibers lower cholesterol levels and reduce chronic inflammation inside the body.
Whole grains have some unique valuable properties the make them a valuable addition to the diet. Not only do they contain a number of nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, copper, magnesium and zinc.
What grains can we focus on?
Whole grains are also very good for your gut. Some grains such as barley has a prebiotic fiber called beta-glucan that promotes the growth of healthy microbes, lowers LDL cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar. It’s also rich in selenium which is good for thyroid health (although gluten-free friends beware as barley has gluten). While whole oats are also high in beta-glucan that offer and antioxidant that promotes anti-inflammatory protection. Both of these little prebiotic babies, feed grow and sustain the healthy bacteria in the intestines. Quinoa is protein-rich while helping repair muscle tissue.
One thing to note, not all grains are created equal. Some do not bring in the nutritional benefit that you need, such as refined counterparts. When grains are stripped from their outer layer, it eliminates the healthy components, including vitamin E and B, which are both cancer-fighting plant chemicals.
You’re all probably wondering why we haven’t mentioned gluten yet, well it is a sticky topic. What research can confirm is that if you have celiac disease or the celiac gene and you have intestinal permeability, then you need to stay clear of gluten.
However, whole-grain wheat has shown to support a healthy intestinal tract. Due to its positive impact on Bifidobacterium bacteria that help your body perform essential functions, like digestion and starving off harmful bacteria. If you decide to experiment or eliminate gluten, it should be supervised by a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
Where can I find more information about this?
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI has just released a book that we’re BIG fans of. It’s called ‘Fiber Fueled’ and it explores ways in which you can optimize your microbiome through a diverse plant-based diet. His scientifically based book discovers the incredible benefits of including grains into your diet, including information about what individual food groups can do for our gut health.
So next time you’re thinking of passing on the grain, take a second look at what incredible beneficial bacteria you may have eliminated from your diet, or what harm you may be doing to your gut by doing this.