Grains are the world’s biggest source of food energy. Grains have the ability to form macronutrients from sunlight, fertilizers, water, and air. Dry grains, after harvesting, are more durable than any other staple foods out there. Grains are grown throughout the world proving that it has versatility and, since it is durable, it is used and is well-suited to industrial agriculture. But are they really healthy? Or are we eating like cattle?
Unlike many other foods, grains cannot be digested fresh or raw from the plant. They have to go through a number of processes to become digestible. During the refining process, grains have also evolved to last from season to season. Cultivation of grains has been around for thousands of years and within the increase in cultivation, consumption also increased.
75% of total annual grain cultivation is fed to farm animals. They are a big business since the four major cereal grains, which are wheat, rice, barley, and maize contribute more tonnage to humanity’s food supply as compared to the other 26 crops combined. They have been an essential part of our daily diet for centuries.
How Grains Changed
During the 20th century, scientists discovered that refined nutrients are not nutritional enough and there were symptoms of malnutrition in people, especially children. With that in mind, grain enrichment and fortification became a standard which led to companies claiming that all products containing grains are healthy whereas, in reality, the manufacturers actually needed to replace the nutrients that were removed during the refining process.
With the daily increasing consumption of grain-rich foods, a lot of controversies were being stirred up about it. Many people claim that it is healthy o eat grains and a bigger amount of the population is spreading the awareness of grains. It is believed that whole grains have properties to reduce the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and cancer upon consumption, whereas refined versions of these grains are believed to be the root cause or supporters of many chronic diseases.
Grains can make animals unhealthy and it is also known to have adverse effects on soil, too. Some experts claim that if the refined grains are replaced by whole grains, the cancer rate could decrease by 40%.
The Paleo Diet
Nowadays, the Paleo diet has gained quite a lot of popularity. This diet means the total elimination of grain consumption and it has led people to firmly believe that grain consumption is indeed quite harmful. Products containing grains are found to contain ‘anti-nutrients’ such as wheat gluten and wheat lectin.
IgE-mediated allergic reactions are known to be triggered by wheat products. Several proteins in wheat can react with IgE patients. Baker’s asthma, contact urticaria, and rhinitis are the allergic responses linked to wheat consumption.
Exercise-induced anaphylaxis is also a syndrome in which an anaphylactic response is triggered if you exercise physically right after consuming a wheat-product. Seeds are not easily digested in our body and undigested or partial digestion of this type of food leads to bacterial overgrowth, which can eventually be the root cause of many other diseases. Gluten has gained quite some popularity since people got aware of its demerits, some people have been avoiding it on a huge scale.
Coeliac Disease and IBS
Coeliac disease patients’ immune system, for example, reacts to gluten abnormally. Finger-like projections called villi, present on the surface of the bowel, are inflamed and flattened due to a protein found in rye, barley, wheat, and oats. This villous atrophy leads to a reduction in absorbing nutrients, which in the long run can lead to many gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms. For treatment, a gluten-free diet is the only way to go. Only the removal of gluten from the diet will allow the gut to heal.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is often mistaken for the coeliac disease since the symptoms of both are fairly similar. It affects 15% of the population and fructans are thought to be the component contributing to this syndrome. Fructans are short-chain carbohydrates which, upon absorption, can cause increased gas production and GI symptoms in patients with IBS. Grains are also high in carbohydrates, which means that people with diabetes cannot consume too much of it since their blood sugar would skyrocket if too many carbohydrates are consumed without the help of some drug to bring the blood sugar level down.
Antinutrients in Grains
Antinutrients in grains, including phytic acid, are known to bind minerals and stop them from being absorbed and lectins are known to damage the gut. The leaky gut syndrome is also related to grain consumption. It’s a chronically increased intestinal permeability which allows the increment in translocation of both dietary and microbial antigens. Amino acid motifs among exogenous peptides may produce cross-reactivity through immunological imitation.
This is known to be associated with many autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and is also related to chronic inflammation like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Asthma, and Depression.
The Paleo diet is actually observed to have improved blood pressure, lipid profiles and glucose intolerance in humans. All these diseases or symptoms occur in 10% of the population which is no small number considering our sizeable world population. There is still a lot to discover when it comes to grains and its impact on our health.
Moderate consumption of anything cannot be harmless if your allergies are at bay. When it comes to grains, there are many demerits, but consumption of it should be reduced rather than completely eliminated.
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