Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Grains - the gateway drug

Have you ever thought about the evolution of food in our society?  Fast Food Nation touches on it, Omnivore's Dilemma talks quite a bit about it, and even Super Size Me talks about it. 


Then the Paleo Diet and the Primal Diet pops up.  Everybody thinks it is SUCH a novel idea to eat like that… but really, it’s just one way to make sure you get ‘real’ food in our society where food is used only for it’s parts.  A society in which food is usually a placebo for real food, real taste, and consequently, real nutrition

Now the idea that we can’t get real food without eating purely in the produce section is a bit disturbing, but I’ll be honest, I am finding it more and more true.  Heck, yesterday I spent a half an hour looking at baby food and realizing that after those first foods that are nothing but ‘bananas’ and ‘peaches and water’ you VERY quickly get into the foods that *I* would classify as junk. 
This is the ingredient list for “Chicken Noodle Nutritious Dinner”


Now if we look at that and know what most of these things mean then you do see that many are added vitamins.  But I find it scary that at 8 months old our babies are already starting to get deconstructed foods.  Broken down foods.  Foods that are only used for their parts and not as a whole.  (Seriously, egg yolk solids?)

I honestly believe that whole foods is the answer.  Not necessarily never breaking down foods at all, but breaking them down as little as possible with no chemicals.

The French eat much more fat than we do.  So why were they not dealing with the heart disease and obesity problem that we do?  The Japanese eat more starch than we do as a culture and yet they experience many health benefits in their culture that have been sought after for hundreds of years.  Think of the book “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat”.  Even though that is not technically true, it seems true to our culture where gaining weight as you get older is a fact of life and obesity is now posed as an ‘epidemic’.  I honestly think that in both of these cultures, their health success has to do with a high ratio of whole, complete foods.  They do not take everything out of their sour cream, add in corn solids and whey powder and then call it ‘low fat sour cream’.  I’m not sure that a Frenchman would call that ‘food’!

I feel like that has been the same issue with grains.  When we take the whole grain or refine it just slightly (ie: Something you could do by hand that is now done by machine for convenience due to the sheer volume that is needed) then I honestly do not think grains are bad.  It is the breaking them down for their parts that is bad.  Husking and grinding are all you can do to a grain and if you do much more than that you are altering the entire process of food… not just in your body, but in nature.  The grains no longer have the same chemical properties, so why is it that we think that our bodies will treat them the same?  Diseases like heart conditions, obesity, and type 2 diabetes did not develop with the beginning of agriculture.  We did not see a steep rise in these types of diseases until we refined grains and sugars to completely unnatural degrees, making it impossible for our bodies to know what to do with all of the disproportionate ingredients we were giving it.

This is my own personal conclusion after studying Paleo and Primal diets for the past several months. That grains are not bad, they are merely a gateway drug to so many other processes that are dangerous for our health.  Eating whole, unrefined grains does not pose a risk to our health.  In fact, it can be part of a very healthy diet.  However, for those that think that the best form of wheat is Wonderbread… yes please.  Go Paleo.  Make a change that will impact your life forever.  Search out and choose to eat a huge variety of meats and vegetables and you will feel like a million dollars (esp if you pair it with Cross Fit or P90X which many people have discovered already).  However,  if you have a healthy diet.  If you do not have huge weight fluctuations and if you are a basically active person who enjoys the occasional piece of Dave’s Killer Bread.  Well… even then Paleo would not be a bad change, but I am pretty sure that it would not be the huge benefit the new diet dictocrats are selling it as.   

Personally, I hope this fad lives on… I hope that the trend to get fit, eat real food, and lots of variety becomes more than a fad and becomes a lifestyle that is seen as American…  but in my mind, the line between ‘grain’ and ‘corn on the cob’ does not matter so much as the choice to eat food for the whole package, and not for it’s prospective parts.


Evi said...

This is a very good post and you are so right - it's the wholeness of food that makes it good for you! And sadly here in Australia we are not far behind the US in the unhealthy stakes. In fact I think we are leading now in obesity. Sad, isn't it when both our countries have the capacity to grow so much of our own healthy whole-foods yet we persist in buying de-natured revamped junk!
Thanks for your insights!

NanaBeast said...

Oh, well said. Well said!

Wendi said...

I'm an RD and food nerd so I have a lot of thoughts about this :) But I'll spare you and just say thanks. You hit the nail on the head.

su said...

Ok, we are even more alike! I bought a grain ginder about a year ago so that I can grind wheat from our farm to make bread- so in short I totally agree with breaking foods down less and eating "real" foods. A neighbor of mine campainged to the goverment about baby food and the amount of sodium in it- she actually made a lot of progress. However there are so many people who don't realize what they are feeding thier little ones.
Great post!
From your Kindered spirit.

mandi said...

Very well said! I have been thinking these same thoughts for some time now. I have lots of friends that do Paleo- but they have gone from fast food to Paleo. I always say "just eat real food". That is my mantra and I'm sticking to it!

Anonymous said...

You mentioned some documentaries. Have you seen "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." I watched it with my hubby and for a while we were gung-ho about changing our diets for the better. Unfortunately, our money and willpower (or lack thereof) got the better of us. I honestly think we may have to have hit "rock bottom" to change. Any tips on how to make the transition smoothly/seamless from fast/processed foods to Whole/raw foods?

Val in the Rose Garden said...

@ Angie: The best thing I did was to keep food simple. Green beans, garlic, butter and salt may not seem 'super healthy' but it is whole foods, it tastes great, and it's easy. You can even use frozen green beans! Add as many of those types of dishes as you can and then see where it takes you. You don't have to make all your choices right the first time... you just have to make the next right choice for you right now. That's all you can ask of yourself.

Blessings and good luck!


Val in the Rose Garden said...

PS: the ones I have seen that really hit home in this area were King Corn, Food INC, and Super Size Me. It's amazing how many things they can make out of corn! That's why I added that line about corn on the cob and grain... because corn is a gateway drug FOR SURE!

Deanna said...

Well said!
Also- money and finances come into play. Why is it so cheap to eat junky and so expensive to eat real food?
We try to do it on the cheap (price matching, gardening, etc) but I miss the days of when I could use rice as a filler or buy giant bags of potatoes for 3$ or a premade pasta mix for a couple of bucks.

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