Primal Info Day 2: Grains, why you should avoid them, and what to eat instead

Yesterday I introduced you to Traditional foods and the Weston A. Price Foundation. Today I want to explore the main reasons I believe 70% of people in our country are overweight and 30% are obese.

The history of grains

To follow up yesterday’s post where I brought up the idea that when we changed our diet from hunter-gatherer to convenience foods our health changed, I’d like to talk a bit more about that. 10,000 years ago, humans began growing food instead of finding it. This is when civilization began. Humans no longer had to follow the food source so they could set up camp and stay. Sounds nice to me, except that these people were shorter, had smaller brains, shorter life spans, more diseases, and more cavities. So, as soon as life got a little more convenient, humans became weaker and less healthy. And that same trend continues today. The more convenient food and life is, the less healthy we are. For example, cars keep up from having to walk to work or school, convenience foods mean we don’t have to cook, and computers and internet mean we don’t even have to make the trip to the library to check out a book or go to the grocery store to pick up diapers!

Let’s get back to 10,000 years ago—humans began growing and eating something called a grain seed. And this grain seed doesn’t want to be eaten, it wants to have a chance to reproduce to make more wheat or corn or whatever. So since it doesn’t have any claws or sharp teeth, it has other defense mechanisms to keep from being eaten. These include lectin, gluten, and phytic acid which keep you from digesting your food properly and even preventing vitamins and minerals from being absorbed, and cause inflammation as well. I know we’ve all been told that whole grains are good for us by lots of reputable sources, but think for yourself.

Although our ancestors began eating grains 10,000 years ago, they weren’t necessarily overweight or obese. It wasn’t until the low-fat craze that people began obtaining the majority of their food from these grain products. The infamous Seven Countries Study, completed by Ancel Keys, pointed out the correlation between the seven countries he studied. The correlation was between increased fat consumption and increased heart disease. Because of this study, people were told to lay off fats and cholesterol to remain healthy. Disappointingly, Keys actually studied 22 countries, but failed to include those countries in his findings. Some of the people disregarded from the study actually ate as much as 50% saturated fat in their diets and experienced amazingly good health.  If you want to read more about this, a great article from the Weston A. Price Foundation covers the basics of fats and the history behind the low-fat diet craze: http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/skinny-on-fats.

How grains effect your body & the endless terrible carb cycle:

Grains, which are composed of mainly carbohydrates, (so any carbohydrate can be inserted here) raise your body’s insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for getting the nutrients like carbs and protein from the bloodstream into your cells. Being told not to eat fat, a person eats too many carbs (from whole wheat products) and they begin to respond with a flow of insulin. After a period of time of eating this high-carb diet, they become insulin resistant, meaning insulin is not able to get those nutrients into the cells.  And when an insulin-resistant person eats any amount of carbohydrate, it is not tolerated, it is stored as fat. Unfortunately, the more body fat you accumulate, the more insulin resistant you become. This person eats a meal that is high in carbs which creates a spike in insulin, it’s stored as fat. On top of that, cells don’t get any nutrients, therefore you remain hungry, so you eat more carbs that are not tolerated, and the cycle continues leading to a big mess!

To make matters worse, many of the carbs we consume are in the form of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Both are high in fructose which the liver converts to glycogen for the body to use as fuel. The thing is, those glycogen stores fill up fast. And when they do, the liver has to turn the glycogen into fat.

The bad news:  a diet heavy on the refined grain products and sugar and light on the fat is increasing our country’s waistline.

The good news: ridding our diets of grains and other poisonous foods will help us get our health and our waistlines back.

Go ahead, throw out your bread, your cereal, and the like. You’ll be glad you did. I promise you’ll feel better, even if you don’t have any weight to lose. (I’ll get into more details on how to make the transition later.)

What to eat now?

Here is the lowdown on what to eat: Animals!

If we have too much fat on us, we are insulin resistant to some degree. That means that our bodies are not going to burn fat stores and not only that, we will just keep getting fatter.

Despite all of our fat stores, we still are hungry because our bodies actually believe we are starving! So what do we reach for? If we reach for the carbs, the cycle will continue. If we reach for fat, then we start a new, better cycle. Eating fat helps burn fat! Easy as that!

Our bodies prefer to burn fat as energy, and when we cut out carbs and eat animals, our bodies will shed fat. Our metabolism switches from burning sugar to burning fat.  Animals are the best source, especially ruminants like beef, lamb, and bison. Animals provide protein for building muscle and keeping us full, fat, and lots of vitamins and minerals that the animal ate that our bodies easily absorb. It’s the perfect package for the fat-burning human.

I don’t mean to say you don’t need carbs. You do if you’re participating in endurance activities for fuel!  You just don’t need as much as you think you do. Your body can actually make carbohydrate on its own. If you’re going to actually use those carbohydrates, then eat them. Fat is the perfect fuel for you as you go for a walk, go shopping, work, cook, clean, play, and all of your everyday activities. Fat is your new friend!

The switch is simple. Stop eating carbs, and start eating animals and the fat that comes with them. You will become a fat-burning machine.

If you’ve got some weight to lose, start cutting back on carbs and start eating animals and it will come off.

Tomorrow I will talk more on what else to eat and how much. Start with animals.

Best of health,

Danah

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