Knowing that sugar can cause so many health problems is a great start, but there are so many other things that contribute to our health. I’m sure by now most people have seen the USDA My Plate guidelines that show over 25% of our diet should consist of grains. Does the science back up these guidelines?
Consider the following.
- Grains are carbohydrates, and as such are broken down into sugar during digestion. Grains found in white flour and pastas contain very little fiber or other nutrients, unlike fruits and vegetables. (Harvard)
- Gluten, found in most grains, contains gliadin, a protein that has been shown to increase gut permeability or “leaky gut” even in people without autoimmune conditions. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16635908)
- “Leaky gut” is a precondition to developing autoimmune conditions. (Fasano Interview)
- Grains and seeds contain phytic acid which acts as an antinutrient by blocking the absorption of essential minerals such as zinc and calcium. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16632176)
The benefits from a diet containing 25% of calories from grains just don’t seem to add up. Why would I choose to eat something that will increase my blood sugar without providing other nutrients, increase my chance of developing “leaky gut” and autoimmune conditions, and block the absorption of essential minerals?
Our family has been gluten-free for five years. The first four years we substituted other grains and starches in place of gluten. During that time we saw definite health improvements including weight loss, decreased digestive issues, decreased joint pain, decreased skin reactions, and even potty training success with one child after months of failure. We knew that we were making progress toward good health, but some problems were not resolved. Last spring, on the advice of a wonderful doctor, we decided to cut out grains, starches, and sugars.
At first I was completely overwhelmed. We already didn’t eat gluten, casein, soy, and corn. It seemed like the list of foods we could eat was tiny. My kids were sure they would starve, and I was beginning to think they were right. I decided to put away all of my cookbooks and recipes and start from scratch. I didn’t need to recreate old favorites – I needed to find new favorites. I wish I could say that I took the time to plan healthy, tasty meals before we eliminated grains, starches, and sugars, but I didn’t. I just jumped in with both feet. Pinterest became my best friend.
After the first couple of weeks of adjustment I found that cooking was actually easier. There was no need for complex recipes because good food tastes good. The kids started eating more at meals and stopped asking for snacks 30 minutes after a meal. I had more energy than I could remember, even with a nursing baby. Other health issues that we had seen improvement in once going gluten-free were reduced further or completely eliminated. One of the most noticeable changes was in everyone’s mood. We felt better and were happier.
I don’t regret the changes we have made, and I don’t find them a burden. I do have to plan ahead to avoid eating out. I take our food to any event we attend, and I make my children’s meals for church summer camp. Our life is different than before, but only in a good way. If you are struggling with health issues, I encourage you to make healthy changes to your diet. It is definitely worth it!
I almost forgot to mention a lifesaver for my family. As careful as we are to avoid gluten, occasionally someone will accidentally be exposed. We have found that Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils can help minimize some of the unpleasant symptoms of exposure. To read more about how DiGize, Valor, and Frankincense helps us, check out my post on “What to do if the Gluten Monster attacks?”.