Over 40% of calories consumed come from grains. They’re a large staple in most people’s diets yet so many are unaware of the toxic anti-nutrients in grains. Within the evolutionary timespan, the widespread consumption of grains is a relatively new phenomenon. We only started farming crops about 12,000 years ago. If you compare that to when our evolutionary ancestors first appeared on the earth over 1.6 million years ago eating a mix of plants and animals, then 12,000 years is a small fragment in which the human DNA would’ve had time to change and adapt to make humans fit to consume grains. Humans aren’t birds. We’re not adapted to eat grains yet we’ve found a way to grind, mill and bake these seeds from something tough and inedible to a pleasant looking loaf of bread or a cookie. But don’t be deceived for these processes don’t remove the toxic anti-nutrients from the grains which we should be aware of.
Toxic Anti-Nutrients In Grains
Why Humans Aren’t Evolved To Eat Grains
The ultimate goal of any species is to survive and reproduce so you can pass down your DNA to your offspring. If you manage to do so, then from an evolutionary perspective you’ve been successful.
Our DNA has provided us with the coding for certain adaptive processes enabling us to survive. Rabbits have fast-twitch muscle fibres in their legs that allow them to dash away from predators, chameleons can blend in with their surroundings so they aren’t detected, big blue whales are well… too big to eat ordinarily and plants… well what do plants have?
Plants contain all sorts of toxins and anti-nutrients to dissuade animals from eating them. There’s a reason why cows and sheep don’t eat wheat. It’s because the toxic anti-nutrients in grains irritate their gut and this sends a message to the animal not to eat the grains.
Birds, rodents and certain other insects, on the other hand, have a digestive system which can break down grains so they can effectively eat and extract the nutrients within these grain seeds whilst coping with the anti-nutrients.
Since plants cannot move or think, they must use different strategies to ensure they survive to reproduce. They need to ensure they have enough time to produce seeds and are able to distribute their seeds to that they can then grow to produce more seeds. Different plants have different mechanisms in place. Nuts, for instance, have tough shells.
Grains contain toxic anti-nutrients. Fruits contain seeds and are so sweet that animals seek them out and consume them. The seeds then come out in the poop of the animals, intact. Why aren’t the seeds digested? Well, they’re designed to be indigestible. If they were easy to digest, the plant species probably wouldn’t have survived this long
If you tried to consume wheat as a seed, chances are you wouldn’t eat it. It’d be disgusting. Inedible. As a species, we may have become too smart for our own since now we take a type of food such as grain, which we wouldn’t have normally eaten and process it into flour before using it in cooking to create a product that is quite pleasant to eat yet contains all these toxic anti-nutrients.
One of the reasons we enjoy eating grain-based products is because they’re high in calories and the brain is wired to seek out foods rich in calories since it means you can store excess calories as body fat which from a survival perspective meant you would survive longer during periods of famine.
However, now that isn’t a probably for modern society where food is available everywhere so inherently, this innate wiring to seek out food rich in calories actually backfires for some of us who have trouble controlling our eating due to past experiences and the environment around us.
Toxic Anti Nutrients
These little bad boys bind to insulin receptors and human intestinal lining. They even cause leptin resistance. Leptin is the satiety hormone so if you’re resistant to leptin, you’re going to need to eat more food so enough leptin is secreted to tell your brain that you’re full and should stop eating. That’s a recipe for overeating. They even inhibit the natural repair system of the gastrointestinal tract.
Furthermore, leptin resistance has been shown to predict “a worsening of the features of metabolic syndrome independently of obesity”. Not great.
Gluten has gotten a pretty bad rap recently with more and more people opting for gluten-free foods. Fad? Maybe. Maybe not.
About 1% of the population are coeliac who are completely intolerant to gluten, a protein found in many grains. For those with coeliac disease, a small amount of gluten can have disastrous consequences on the body. Effects of gluten in coeliacs include:
- Reduced calcium levels
- Reduced vitamin D3 levels
- Bone defects
But it’s not just people with coeliac disease who are susceptible to the effects of gluten. Chances are, you could be too!
One study found that 29% of asymptomatic (not coeliac) people tested positive for anti-gliadin IgA in their stool. Anti-gliadin IgA is an antibody produced by the gut which is used to fight off gliadin, one of the main components of gluten.
The only reason you would have this antibody produced in your stool is if your body detected a threat – in this case, gluten. If there is no threat, anti-gliadin IgA would stay in your gut. This suggests more people than previously thought could be sensitive to gluten.
Phytates only make the matter worse since grains are full of phytates which bind to minerals making them unavailable for the body to absorb and utilise. All those minerals and vitamins shouted out about on cereal boxes may be present, but phytates may prevent us from actually utilising these minerals making them only useful for obtaining energy and other toxic anti-nutrients.
What About All The Nutrients?
Many of the nutrients in grains are bound by phytates so they can’t be absorbed by the body so that grains actually have a low amount of nutrients which are bioavailable. All of the nutrients found in grains can be obtained from other sources such as meat, organ meat, nuts and vegetables.
Grains aren’t meant to be eaten by humans, at least not in such vast quantities as we do today (and that’s not to say you can’t enjoy grains as part of a healthy lifestyle). I think we should take note and stop consuming such a large portion of our calories from grains and switch to other nutrient-dense sources of food.
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