Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jun

The Definitive Guide to Grains

794915355 6e0065590c

Amber Waves of Pain

Order up! Yes, folks, it’s definitive guide time again. I’ve read your requests and am happy (as always) to oblige. Grab your coffee (or tea), and pull up a seat. Glad you’re with us.

Insulin, cholesterol, fats… They’re only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had a few “definitive” topics up my sleeve for a while now, and grains are it for today. Yes, grains. I know we’ve given them a bad rap before, and it’s safe to say I’ll do it again here. Sometimes the truth hurts, but you know what they say about the messenger, right? Without further ado…

Grains. Every day we’re bombarded with them and their myriad of associations in American (and much of Western) culture: Wilford Brimley, Uncle Ben, the Sunbeam girl, the latest Wheaties athlete, a pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, buns for barbeque, corn on the cob, donuts, birthday cake, apple pie, amber waves of grain…. Gee, am I missing anything? Of course. So much, in fact, that it could – and usually does – take up the majority of supermarket square footage. (Not to mention those government farm subsidies, but that’s another post.) Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche – just not so much into our physiology.

400938677 f21bf9f04f

Those of you who have been with us a while now know the evolutionary backdrop I mean here. We humans had the pleasure and occasional scourge of evolving within a hunter gatherer existence. We’re talking some 150,000 plus years of hunting and foraging. On the daily scavenge menu: meats, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, some tubers and roots, the occasional berries or seasonal fruits and seeds that other animals hadn’t decimated. (Ever seen a dog at an apple picking?) We ate what nature (in our respective locales) served up. The more filling, the better. And then around 10,000 years ago, the tide turned. Our forefathers and mothers were on the brink of ye olde Agricultural Revolution. And, over time, grains became king. But, as countless archaeological findings suggest, people became smaller and frailer as a result of this new agrarian, grain-fed existence.

68756387 93b9599413

Ten thousand years seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Think of all the house projects you could get done, the advanced degrees you could earn, the dinner party recipes you could try out, the books you could read. Almost oppressive, isn’t it? But our personal vantage point on the span of 10,000 years doesn’t mean much of anything when the context is evolution. It takes a lot to drastically change a major system in the human body. We’re talking a way bigger change than trying out the latest flavor of Malt-O-Meal. Grains were certainly not any substantial part of the human diet prior to the Agricultural Revolution. And even after grains became a large part of human existence, those who were deathly allergic to them or had zero capacity to take in their modest nutrient value were, in all likelihood, selected against. And pretty quickly at that. Those whose health was so compromised by grains that they were rendered infertile early in life were also washed out of the gene pool. That’s how it works. But if you can limp along long enough to procreate (which was considerably earlier then than it typically is now), that new fangled diet of grains got you through. No matter how stunted your growth was, how awful your teeth were, how prone you were to infection.

When I say humans didn’t evolve eating grains, I mean our digestive processes didn’t evolve to maximize the effectiveness of grain consumption. Just because you can tolerate grains to a certain degree, as just about all of us can (thanks to those earlier folks hitting the end of the genetic line), doesn’t mean your body was designed for them or that they’re truly healthy for you or – especially – that you can achieve optimum health through them. We’re not talking about what will allow you to hobble along. We’re talking about the foods that offer effective and efficient digestion and nutrient absorption in the body. And that’s all about evolutionary design. If you’re not after optimal health, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. But if you want to work with your body instead of unnecessarily tax it, if you want to focus your diet on the best foods with the most positive impact, you most definitely are reading the right blog. Now let’s continue.

insulin levels

Among my many beefs with grain, the first and foremost is the havoc it plays with insulin and other hormonal responses in the body. For the full picture, visit the previous Definitive Guide to Insulin from some months ago. Guess what? The same principles still hold. We developed the insulin response to help store excess nutrients and to take surplus (and potentially toxic) glucose out of the bloodstream. This was an adaptive trait. But it didn’t evolve to handle the massive amounts of carbs we throw at it now. And, yes, we’re talking mostly about grains. Unless you have a compulsive penchant for turnips, the average American’s majority of carb intake comes from grains.

The gist is this (as many of you know): Whatever the carbohydrate, it will eventually be broken down into glucose, either in the gut or the liver. But now it’s all dressed up with likely no place to go. Unless you just did a major workout or are finishing tying your running shoes as we speak (which would allow those grain-based carbs to be used in the restocking of depleted glycogen stores or burned as secondary fuel, respectively), that French baguette will more likely get stored as fat.

Why? Because carbohydrates elicit a physiological response that favors fat storage. That blasted baguette has already set off a strategic chain of hormonal events akin to a physiological-style Tom Clancy plot: the ambush of baguette glucose, the defensive maneuver of insulin, (if you ate the whole baguette, in particular) the entering reinforcements of adrenaline and cortisol. Why the drama? Because, remember, this was not the standard mode of nutrition in our body’s evolution. And every time it happens, the body is a little worse for the wear. This whole hormonal production taxes the adrenal system, the pancreas, the immune system, and results in a tiny amount of inflammation. We all know what we say about inflammation, right? (Hint: the blight of modern existence.)

And as for the nutritional value of grains? First off, they aren’t the complete nutritional sources they’re made out to be. Quite the contrary, grains have been associated with minerals deficiencies, perhaps because of high phytate levels. A diet high in grains may also reduce the body’s ability to process vitamin D.

1029159429 dd11cf111f

Why not get the same nutrients from sources that don’t come back and bite you in the backside? If you have the choice between getting, say, B-vitamins from chicken or some “whole wheat” pasta, I’m going to say go with the chicken every time. Is pasta cheaper? Yes. Is it healthier? No. The B6 in chicken is more bioavailable, for one. The fact is, you pay too high a physiological price for the pasta source. Let’s get this point on the dinner table as well: whatever nutrients you can get from whole grains you can get in equal to greater amounts in other food. In terms of nutrient density, grains can’t hold a candle to a diverse diet of veggies and meats. (And if the label says otherwise, look closely because the product is fortified. Save your money and buy a good supplement instead.

But, wait, there’s more. Enter the lurker substances in grains that cause a lot of people a whole lot of obvious problems (and probably all of us some kind of damage over time). Grains, new evolutionarily-speaking, are frankly hard on the digestive system. (You say fiber, I say unnecessary roughage, but that’s only the half of it.) Enter gluten and lectins, both initiators of digestive mayhem, you might say. Gluten, the large, water-soluble protein that creates the sludge, err, elasticity in dough, is found in most common grains like wheat, rye and barley (and it’s the primary glue in wallpaper paste). Researchers now believe that a third of us are likely gluten intolerant/sensitive. That third of us (and I would suspect many more on some level) “react” to gluten with a perceptible inflammatory response. Over time, those who are gluten intolerant can develop a dismal array of medical conditions: dermatitis, joint pain, reproductive problems, acid reflux and other digestive conditions, autoimmune disorders, and Celiac disease. And that still doesn’t mean that the rest of us aren’t experiencing some milder negative effect that simply doesn’t manifest itself so obviously.

348306981 47c342805f

Now for lectins. Lectins are mild, natural toxins that aren’t limited to just grains but seem to be found in especially high levels in most common grain varieties. They serve as one more reason grains just aren’t worth all the trouble that comes with them. Lectins, researchers have found, inhibit the natural repair system of the GI tract, potentially leaving the rest of the body open to the impact of errant, wandering (i.e. unwanted) material from the digestive system, especially when these lectins “unlock” barriers to entry and allow larger undigested protein molecules into the bloodstream. This breach can initiate all kinds of immune-related havoc and is thought to be related to the development of autoimmune disorders. Some people are more sensitive to the damage of lectins than others, as in the case with gluten. Nonetheless, I’d say, over time we all pay the piper.

The bottom line is this: grains = carbs. Unnecessary at best, but flat out unhealthy at worst, they’re not the wholesome staples they’re made out to be. Talk about double taxation: Our bodies pay for what our trusty government subsidizes Big Agra for. The best – really the only way – to achieve a low carb, whole foods diet is to ditch the grains. (Your body will be better off without inflammation, the insulin roller coaster, not to mention the constant onslaught of creepy gluten and lectins.) A diet very low or entirely without grains (low-carb) has been shown to decrease risk for problems associated with diabetes, to lower blood pressure, alleviate heartburn symptoms, and shed abdominal fat. Finally, low carb diets have been associated with significant “reductions in a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”

The idea here is not to demonize grains. Well, O.K., it is. (But only because our society and medical establishment spends so much time exalting them.) Just as I choose to steer clear of grains as a regular part of my diet, I do occasionally indulge a bit. A tiny bit. And that’s where the Primal Blueprint enters: it’s about informed, not dictated choices. That French bread at an anniversary dinner, a sample of the pasta salad at your Uncle Billy’s steak fry, the saffron rice your daughter cooks for you when you visit her first apartment – they’re thoughtful, purposeful compromises. (And they’re perhaps very worth it for reasons that have nothing to do with the food itself.) The point of the Primal Blueprint if this: When you understand the metabolic effects of eating grains, you’re empowered to make informed decisions about the role grains will have in your diet. You’re free to enjoy good health and self-selected compromises with a clear conscience and full epicurean gusto!

Thanks for tuning in. It’s been a pleasure, as always.

Fitness Black Book Photo and Natmandu, Bern@t, Slack13, atomicshark, yarnivore Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

What Happens to Your Body When… You CARB BINGE?

The Definitive Guide Series

What About Beans and Legumes?

Jack LaLanne on Sugarholics

Sensible Vices Round 1 and 2

Yet Another Half-Baked Grain Study

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple

Sponsor note:
This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have always understood that grains are a very important part of the daily diet. I have also understood that pasta with light sauce was good for you. It is amazing to me that having read this article, grains are in fact the devil. I think it is also interesting to note that the article says that unless you are “putting your running shoes as we speak” your body will store the grain as fat!! It makes me crazy to know that I love bread and now I also know that I do not want to have havoc wreaked on my insulin!! By the way, I read in this article that grain can be burned as “secondary fuel” what does this mean?

    jim wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • http://www.lef.org/news/LefDailyNews.htm?NewsID=9615&Section=NUTRITION&source=DHB_100429&key=Body+ContinueReading

      This great info of Mark’s is so far from entering mainstream media. Even Life Extension, who is pretty reliable, posts this article, to my consternation. Who is buying them off??

      Zena wrote on April 30th, 2010
      • Zena, note this sentence buried in the article:

        “His comments coincide with the release of a research report, compiled by the industry body GoGrains, which also said Australians eat about half the daily recommended amount of wholegrains.”

        This from their site: “…manages the strategic development and implementation of the Go Grains’ agenda, including nutrition communication campaigns targeting health professional, government, education and consumer audiences.”

        In other words, GoGrains is an industry group of grain growers and processor. When in doubt, follow the money trail.

        Mark Sisson wrote on May 3rd, 2010
    • I gotta say….that picture of all those breads looks great! But, since I began reading this blog, I have to admit that what you say makes sense. I have borderline sugar, so it’s a concern of mine. You also have poo pooed some ideas that I’ve long since dismissed as fraudulent, namely eating late and the idea that you will go intostarvation mode if you don’t eat 5 to 6 small meals a day ( yeah, and don’t enjoy ANY of them).

      But, I have to admit, I LOVE bread…and sandwiches…….any idea on how to fight this? Is eating bread once a week still killing you? Thanks, any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

      Nck wrote on December 18th, 2012
      • When I decided to go gluten free, I wrapped my burger or sandwich in a large iceberg or romaine lettuce leaf and that held everything in place just fine and added a great crunch.

        nanou wrote on March 10th, 2013
    • Whole Grains and flours are 2 way different ways of eating these plants.
      Do NOT confuse them.
      And then the latest hybrid wheat that is common, way different than real wheat, or old fashioned wheat.

      So, eating a bowl of pasta is not the same as eating a bowl of quinoa.

      Patrick wrote on May 25th, 2013
  2. Jim,

    Fat is the primary and preferred fuel of the body. Carbs are what we at MDA call “secondary fuel”. It’s our term, since most of the exercise physiologists out there would argue that carbs are the main muscle fuel. In fact, you can survive quite nicely without carbs. You cannot survive without fats and proteins.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • Mark,

      Though limiting carbs in the diet can is a valid point, to say we can survive quite nicely without them is a stretch. The brain’s main source of energy is glucose.

      Cheers,

      Dylan

      Dylan wrote on April 4th, 2011
      • And the liver can produce what little glucose the brain needs from gluconeogenesis as applied to ingested protein. We do not need to eat any carbohydrates. Our bodies can produce them from protein without any problems at all.

        Also, the brain functions just fine on ketones. It may prefer glucose, but it does just fine without it – much the same way that a cocaine addict’s brain may prefer cocaine, but can operate just fine (and in many ways better) without it.

        Griff wrote on April 4th, 2011
      • Dude, the body manufactures its own glucose in a process known as gluconeogenesis. This explains the process in a quite technical manner, http://themedicalbiochemistrypage.org/gluconeogenesis.html. This wiki link is a lot easier to understand, lol. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluconeogenesis

        Bevaboo wrote on April 5th, 2011
  3. Great post as ever. In league with your point on grains and the stomach not being the best of friends. You know that bloated feeling you ALWAYS get after a meal at the Olive Garden? I don’t believe I’ve ever felt bloated after eating a salad.

    Carry wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • First of all, I would like to say I have sympathy for anyone that is unable to eat grains due to an illness.
      I would like to address eating grains for people like me who at 57 years of age have eaten grains all their lives without any ill effects. I have read your blog and all the answers. I am not a nutritionist nor an exercise professional but I fail to see how one home-made whole wheat biscuit, one serving of whole wheat pasta cooked with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil, , half slice of home made whole wheat bread, OR brown rice served with a plate full of organic vegetables that are steamed or cooked with a small amount of glee or olive oil, along with a small piece of chicken or fish and occasional (gasp) grass fed beef will harm my body. I eat one serving of whole grains as described above with my supper most nights. I might eat a serving of one of the above for lunch with fruit, cheese, vegetables, and occasionally a spoonful of natural peanut butter. I drink smoothies for breakfast or eat greek yogurt with honey and a piece of fruit. I don’t have problems with my sugar, GI difficulties, or problems with my energy level. I experience satiety that keeps me from eating between meals except for a handful of nuts or berries and never eat after supper. I want to eat healthy but refuse to be afraid of food.

      Jan

      Jan Graham wrote on August 17th, 2012
    • Eating nothing but salad more than ALWAYS makes me feel bloated. They make me feel like I’ve eaten a whole lot of nothing and quite often I need to eat something else otherwise I start dry retching or get an excessive gassy build up in my stomach. And just in case you’re questioning what kind of salad I may be eating, it’s not too dissimilar to the 2 minute salad Mark prepares on this site (Minus the pine nuts and flaxseed oil).

      Jackson wrote on April 6th, 2014
  4. ok, so to start off…I LOVE this post and site. I have Celiac disease, plus a whole host of other auto-immune problems, skin and joint problems…and even emotional ones. ALL BECAUSE OF GRAINS! however, you never mentioned grain alternatives. I can tolerate the occasional buckwheat pancake with nut butter( as I understand it’s a fruit and not really a grain), Or quinoa, which is significantly higher in protein. I tolerate Rice too…but obviously it’s pretty pointless to eat…it has nothing but carbs. So I really want to know what you think of the alternative grains, especially quinoa. I have a hard time digesting meat(thanks to a lifetime of digestive issues i now can’t much of anything without a reaction) but most nuts, seeds, and beans seem ok, as well as eggs and quinoa. So that is a long explanation basically to ask- Should I keep eating the quinoa, or just eat more of my other protein sources in place of it?

    hedda wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • You don’t need grain alternatives. Learn to eat things that don’t require grains.

      Griff wrote on April 4th, 2011
    • If you are having digestive problems, get yourself on a good pro biotic. Be sure the product you buy has at least 5 billion count, and at least 10 different strains of bacteria that starts with either ‘lacto-’ or ‘bifido-’ listed on the label. I too had a bad digestive system, probably from the grain carbs because they are so heavy in the gut, and since starting this regiment, it is soooo much better! Take one every morning, before you eat. All it does is restore the flora in the gut to what it should be… 70-80%good and 20-30% bad.

      pollywog wrote on June 19th, 2011
      • Addendum: Be sure the pro biotic (it is a live culture) you buy has come from a refrigerator. I find these to be the best quality.

        pollywog wrote on June 19th, 2011
  5. Thanks for the question, hedda. If someone doesn’t get to a good answer first (those fellow Apples sure are helpful!) we may try putting together an entire Dear Mark post on your question in coming weeks. Thanks again for all your thoughtful comments!

    Aaron wrote on June 18th, 2008
  6. Anytime I ditch the grain (carbs) I can’t concentrate to my studies. My mind goes elsewhere and I would be out of energy. I eat tons of fats but it didn’t help. Should I give more time to this?

    Ghi wrote on June 18th, 2008
  7. I’m in agreement with the post, where I’m still stuck is what am I supposed to eat for breakfast? I used to eat cereal but I went away from that and switched to oatmeal, Quaker especially goes all out to make you think it’s the healthiest thing for you, but I’m starting to believe otherwise. I don’t have time to cook an omelet every morning, but I’m not the type of person that can skip breakfast. So if I can’t eat cereal or oatmeal, and don’t have time to cook a big breakfast every morning what’s my solution?

    Jerry wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • cook your eggs the night before and heat them in microwave in am.

      Marcia wrote on July 24th, 2010
      • Raw eggs in a smoothie. I do that every morning – and it’s fast.

        Vidad wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • I make a smoothie with raw milk, some protein powders, etc and a raw egg. All organic of course. I also add kefir and colostrum to it and voila!! It’s so tasty. My question should I avoid milk since it contains milk sugar. I see the pyramid allows cheese, so I assume raw milk is OK. (I would never drink fake pasteurized milk).

          Chrissy wrote on June 8th, 2012
      • “Heat them in a microwave”???????!!!!!!
        Do you know of the risks involved in microwave cooking? Look it up. You’ll be surprised.

        Chrissy wrote on June 8th, 2012
    • I start each day with fruit first. An apple, banana, grapes, or whatever is in season. (Fruit should only be eaten on an empty stomach as it will cause bloating or putrefaction if there is other food in the stomach.) After 30 – 60 min. I eat a serving of either cottage cheese or plain (Greek) yogurt and a serving of nuts; walnuts, macadamia, or almonds are my preferred. If hungry before lunch, I will eat 1/2 serving of peanuts. I buy yogurt/cottage cheese in large tubs because I eat it every day. I then package a serving into those Ziploc plastic containers; making up enough to last the week. I also keep 2-3 bags of different nuts in my desk. Easiest meal to have on the go!

      Pauline wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • No no no! This is a myth about eating fruit on an empty stomach being good due to avoiding “putrefaction.” It is best to not eat fruit on an empty stomach, to avoid the insulin spike. This is insulin response 101.

        CSJ wrote on November 27th, 2010
    • Honestly I thought the same thing, but it takes me NO more than ten minutes in the morning to throw both a slab of bacon and an egg in a pan with a slice of butter… I have been doing that for the past months or so since I am new, and I have already gone down from 27% – 21.6% body fat… not to mention two sizes in clothes! I was a HUGE carbs from bread; cereal; etc… person, so my first week was really hard… but I found it to be mind over matter and now I don’t miss anything sugar OR breads/grains. My shopping is so much better and on average I am saving about $150 I only have to hit three areas of the store… although the certain item may be more costly, I am saving so much not buying from the rest of the store. I do not even get starving hungry all the time, AND I feel great! ITS REALLY WORTH IT!!!! ;)

      Desiree wrote on May 17th, 2011
    • Hard boiled eggs are a big time saver. Cook them in the evening, peel them when cool and store in the fridge. Have one or two with a some cheese and some berries or other fruit. They keep really well so you can cook a dozen eggs and they’ll last you a week to 10 days. Or make a smoothie with yogurt, nuts, fruit and one or two raw eggs. Check out Mark’s Primal Cookbook for different ways to make eggs for the morning work rush.

      Peter H wrote on June 17th, 2011
    • Get your mind out of the cereal class. Fruit and a good Greek yogurt–plain!–or with cottage cheese. Also half to 1oz. (small handful) of nuts; walnuts have the best omega-3 for you. A light and nutritious breakfast.

      pollywog wrote on June 19th, 2011
    • If you do like eggs (how could you not), its easy enough to make “egg mcmuffins” that fit this way of eating, to your liking and lasts for a few days. Simple recipe: 8 eggs, some cooked sausage, some veggies (I like chopped peppers and onions)and if you can handle cheese…whip and fold all the ingrediants except cheese, pour into a well greased muffin tin, top with cheese, and bake at 375 till eggs firm…store in the fridge upto 4 days, grab, microwave, and go…SUPER FILLING! and easy to experiment with toppings you like. Best of all – no carbs :) ENJOY!

      lisa wrote on August 1st, 2011
    • Full fat greek yogurt, if you can tolerate milk product. It has tons of proteins, and moderately low carb (go with the plain version and add your berries). If you can’t do milk, try and find good coconut yogurt (or make your own, I’m pretty sure Mark has a recipe). Carbs are definitely not a good way to start your day (carbs are not good anytime of the day IMO): they’ll raise your blood sugar levels and spike your insulin. Plus, you’ll feel hungry an hour after eating. Once you’re a couple of days/weeks into the primal eating style, you’ll feel like you don’t NEED breakfast to start your day, you can’t eat later and be just fine. The trick is to get your body fuled on ketones (made from dietary fat). They’re much more stable than carbs, with less ravaging results.

      Renee wrote on January 25th, 2012
    • eat a hand full of nuts and a piece of fruit or yogourt

      nanou wrote on March 10th, 2013
  8. Ghi asks a good question – how long does it take before your body starts metabolizing fat primarily instead of carbs? is the effect immediate? Because I too have problems with “mental fogginess”, inability to concentrate and general depression when I totally take out carbs. I’ve got them to where they are pretty low right now but if I remove them entirely it’s like my brain shuts down.

    charlotte wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • I’d recommend you buy ketone strips. They indicate when your body starts running on ketones rather than carbs. For me, it took about 2-3 days of eating truly primal (high fat, moderate protein, low carb), plus maybe a week of semi-primal (having a lot of trouble to let go of the sugar and carbs). It IS hard, carbs are truly a drug. But once your body has made the switch to ketones, it runs much much better, you’ll be more focused and have more energy.

      Renee wrote on January 25th, 2012
  9. Jerry – This is probably the toughest meal for most people to change. Most Americans are used to eating some sugary carbs every morning (pop tarts, cereal, toast, bagels, waffles, pancakes etc etc). It is hard to break a daily habit. This is another great idea for a blog post – Primal Breakfast suggestions (keep an eye out for it…). A few quick suggestions:

    1. hardboiled eggs (you can make a bunch in advance)

    2. cottage cheese (full fat) and berries (frozen – to spare your wallet – and slightly defrosted in the microwave) with walnuts, almonds and a little balsamic vinegar

    3. last night’s leftovers (takes some getting use to I know)

    4. Mark’s protein shake. I drink it for breakfast a few times a week. Just put 2-3 scoops in a blender with ice. Throw in some frozen berries if you’d like. Top off with a bit of water and blend it into a creamy, filling, quick and easy, balanced breakfast.

    Aaron wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • Mark,

      I love what you write about diet, nutrition, and especially grains. I would, however, leave off the balsamic vinegar in the cottage cheese meal. Balsamic vinegar often contains gluten giving it that “caramel” color. Many things that are “caramel” in color are forbidden to those of us with gluten intolerance. One of the problems is that there is a limit below which companies can claim “gluten-free”. In other words, it can have some gluten, if below the allowed limit. Caramel coloring, like food starch, can be from wheat or another grain. Even if you call the company that makes the product you may not receive the true answer.

      MaryAnn Lastova wrote on June 17th, 2009
    • Forget the microwave! It destroys the nutritional value of the food being eaten… Plan ahead instead and use a toaster oven or a convection oven.

      Pauline wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • Thanks for the berries and cottage cheese tip… sounds yummy!! I agree it is the hardest but WOW, I am loving the results sooo much I can’t turn back down the grainy road!!! lol.. ;)

      Desiree wrote on May 17th, 2011
    • My advice skip microwave. It’s dangerous as it changes the molecular structure of food, even water. Water heated to boil in a microwave and then cooled to room temperature when used to water plants it will kill them.

      Stefan wrote on May 22nd, 2013
      • I’d love to see any peer-reviewed studies that show dangers of microwaving.

        pam wrote on May 22nd, 2013
  10. I’m with hedda — I’d love to hear your take on quinoa (even though it’s technically a seed).

    Kaeti wrote on June 18th, 2008
  11. I’ve done this before, if i don’t eat all my salad @ dinner, i’ll have the rest for breakfast, sometimes i do eat organic oatmeal, which keeps me full ALL morning long. My favorite is a cooked egg w/cashew or almond butter.

    Once in a while i’ll have brown rice, never white rice.

    Donna wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • If not soaked for twenty four hours brown rice contains high amounts of phytates which are anti-nutritious and you do not get the meager amount of B vitamins in them..read Sally Fallons book, Nurishing Traditions

      Bobasmurf wrote on January 28th, 2010
  12. Aaron, thank you very much for your response. Your suggestions are very helpful not just to me, but I’m sure someone else as well. Also looking forward to that “Breakfast Suggestions” post in the future. :)

    Jerry wrote on June 18th, 2008
  13. Jerry,

    How long does it really take to prepare eggs? I can do fried (in coconut oil) or scrambled eggs with cheese in 5-10 minutes tops. An omelette can also be quick if you pre-cut the fillings the night before. I tend to eat eggs most mornings and I’ve found that they fill me up better than just about anything else I used to have for breakfast (even oatmeal!). There was also a study done which showed that people who ate eggs consumed an average of over 400 calories less over the subsequent 36 hours as compared to those eating a carb-based breakfast (link somewhere on this site).
    Anyway, I am a big proponent of eggs for breakfast–I think they’re fast, easy, nutritious and delicious. Occasionally I change it up by eating cottage cheese with raspberries and cinnamon, or skipping breakfast altogether. Aaron’s hardboiled eggs suggestion is also a good one, but since you have to cook and peel them ahead of time, presumably the night before, you really might as well wake up 10 minutes earlier to have a warm, fresh breakfast instead! :)

    Maria wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • When cooking hard-boiled eggs, add 1 tablespoon of salt (to help the proteins coagulate) and 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda. Supposedly you could knock the shell off both ends, blow on one side and the entire egg will slide out of the shell but so far my technique hasn’t been perfected to that level.

      Either way, it’s super easy to peel in the morning.

      Charlotte wrote on April 26th, 2014
  14. You mentioned rice once and I understand that rice will cause an insulin reaction like wheat but does it also have the same toxins (glutin, lectins)?

    Bobber wrote on June 18th, 2008
  15. Sir am sorry for being literally off topic but as its all about our system and hopefully living as ealthy a lifestyle as poss it’s not to daft.

    Do you or any other smart-alecs oot there know the physiology of relaxation by elevating the legs please ?

    I’ve looked online and either find new age flakeola gibberish-explanations or fractal physiology stuff that makes no sense to me a mere mortal.

    Can you help a brother pleasum ?

    As always an invigorating site.

    PLEASE READ THE SOCIAL ATOM BY BUCHANAN

    Sinc.

    Simon (Fellows)

    simon fellows wrote on June 18th, 2008
  16. The question isn’t “what do you want for breakfast” but “how do you want your eggs?”
    I always have eggs, greek-plain yogurt with berries/walnuts, or leftovers. How about a handful of nuts on the way out the door?–easy.

    Crystal wrote on June 18th, 2008
  17. This is my first time posting a reply, and I want to thank you soooo much for all of the great info available here everyday! I have rheumatoid arthritis and I had been moving to a whole food diet on my own over the past six-nine months or so, but your blog, and a few others, have really focused my diet these past couple of months. Totally and completely dumping grains (and sugar) has made huge improvements in my digestion (I was tested for chron’s disease because of a variety of symptoms before my dx of rheumatoid arthritis).

    Any additional posts about inflammation and autoimmune and their relationships with food would be great!

    To add on to the breakfast selections above, you can have your omelet, and eat it too! Seriously, I make a big double egg omelet with spinach and whatever else is hanging out in the frig in the evening, half it with a spatula, put it in containers and then all I have to do is warm it in the microwave at work in the morning. Two days of breakfast in just a few minutes before bed!

    Jennifer wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • SOOO true!! ;)

      Desiree wrote on May 17th, 2011
  18. Bobber,

    Check this out. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/78478.php

    It’s a detailed description of what’s happening when lectins (in this case beans and rice undercooked) do their damage.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 18th, 2008
  19. Oh goody I’d love to be the one to cause a Dear Mark post! As for the mental fog some of you describe when cutting grains, I went through that too once I found I was celiac. It could be a withdrawal of sorts. Like, as your body realizes it doesn’t have to find something else to do with all that grain, it starts to remove it…and for a while that takes a lot of energy and then your body has to rebalance everything now that it’s not fighting off gluten all the time. It took me about a month to get over. But then suddenly I was thinking much more clearly all the time!It had to do also with a Candida overgrowth and the die-off( which is notoriously worsened by carbs and sugar). Google it….it’s too much explaining for me for right now.
    and as for breakfast suggestions, I don’t eat it..but my favorite first small meal of the day is a piece of fruit or some veggies(carrots, celery, broccoli….anything!) with nut butter. So quick, so delish:)

    hedda wrote on June 18th, 2008
  20. Maria, I think it’s great if you are able to wake up a little earlier and cook some eggs but I can definitely see where Jerry is coming from. Not everyone has the flexibility to get up earlier just to make a better breakfast. I’m often on the road by 4 in the morning, so the little sleep I get is very precious to me. No way I’m going to wake up a little earlier just to cook some eggs. I like quick and easy, and I think the shake suggestion from aaron was perfect. And Jerry I think your on the right track by wanting to ditch the oatmeal, your almost better off to pour a can of beer in a bowl, your getting the same thing.

    Wayne wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • No time to make eggs??? try making a big tray of a “fridge cleaning fittata” scramble a dozen or more eggs, pour into a lasagna pan (no use for it anymore) than add any veggies, leftover meats, some cheese, & bake it. than when its cool. slice it into portions, individually wrap them, & grab & go in the morning. If you are motivated, you can overcome anything.

      chairdr wrote on May 25th, 2010
  21. Charlotte,

    That foggy feeling is common among people dramatically reducing carbs to nothing from 300 or 400 a day (not that you were ever that high). It goes away over time and after you have become a champion fat-burner, but does take a while to adapt to. Also, it doesn’t mean you have to eliminate carbs altogether. You just have to find the range you work best in. The PB pyramid still has at its base lots of colorful veggies, which will provide appreciable carbohydrates (90-110 grams a day maybe). Add in a serving of berries or a fruit here and there and you hover in that magic 100-150 grams a day range which keeps your brain functioning without grains, but still forces you to start burning more fat. If you decide to go lower than that, just do so gradually – say dropping 10 grams a day. When you regularly play in the 50-80 grams a day range (and your protein and fat are healthily high) you’ll notice you don’t have low blood sugar episodes or brain fog. That’s when ketosis kicks in when it needs to, the same way a generator kicks on when the power goes out…hopefully seamlessly.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 18th, 2008
  22. Hi Mark,

    Another informative and thought provoking post. I just read this one, and the one you did on Cholesterol. So here’s my personal catch 22.

    I have high LDL cholesterol (lowered with a statin), and have tried a very low fat diet to lower the LDL combined with exercise, while my HDL rose slightly, my LDL was unchanged. Nearly everything I read about lowering LDL points to increasing soluble fiber, one way they suggest to do this is by eating oatmeal and to that end, I eat steel cut McCann’s oats for breakfast (along with blueberries and or strawberries) most mornings. In addition to the steel cut oats, I generally have a Gnu Fiber & Flavor bar during the day for increased fiber intake. http://www.gnufoods.com/ourproducts/ingredients.cfm

    Am I reading your information correctly, and can that actually be worsening my high LDL cholesterol situation?

    I would far prefer to control my cholesterol through diet and not statin’s – though I’ve never tried a super low carb diet before.

    The comment about pasta loading and that bloated feeling rang home with me, when we eat Sushi (nigiri rolls which have rice) I love the taste but feel bloated afterwards. I tend to treat pasta (usually whole wheat pasta) as a side dish not a entree.

    I would be interested in reading your thoughts on all this and any suggestions you may have.

    Thanks!

    Randy

    Randy Harris wrote on June 18th, 2008
  23. Aaraon, I see that you suggested cottage cheese for breakfast. Would yogurt (I like to use the full-fat, plain Greek kind) be an okay substitution or is cottage cheese preferable?

    sally wrote on June 18th, 2008
  24. sally –

    I personally like cottage cheese so I eat it. Technically it would probably fall into the “Very Sensible Vice” category under the Primal Blueprint (not huge fans of dairy). It is a decent source of protein and fat. Same thing goes for yogurt as long it isn’t the garbage you usually find at the grocery store filled with sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Here are a few posts on MDA’s take on yogurt and cheese:

    DIY Yogurt

    The Fuming Fuji Says No to Gogurt

    Top 10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation

    Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?

    Aaron wrote on June 18th, 2008
  25. It’s worth noting too that virtually all cultures who eat grains them have developed some method of preparing them to make them less toxic, more nutritious, and more digestible (sourdough fermentation for flour, nixtamalization for corn, etc).

    Food Is Love

    Huckleberry wrote on June 18th, 2008
  26. As a humanist, I have a hard time with this kind of advice about food. Food is more than a drug to be analyzed in terms of its immediate effects on body chemistry. The wonderful befuddlement of wine has effects on the liver, but so what? Some people get a lot of enjoyment from a good bowl of tobacco as the smoke swirls around their heads – perhaps as they read a good book or try to work out some philosophical argument.

    As a Christian, I have further trouble with this kind of advice. Think of the eucharist. How are we to know what kind of bread to use in the eucharist if we do not become skilled at baking bread, bake better and better bread, pass on the art of baking bread, etc? Are Christians only supposed to think that the world was set up so that grain will only be grown for the eucharist, and bread only be baked for the eucharist? That all the loaves of bread to be baked should be tasted, notes should be made about what worked or didn’t, and then the loaves cast away? It makes no sense. The eucharistic meal is a real meal. It shouldn’t be the only place we or our children encounter bread. The eucharist is an overflowing of what culture should be like. We should be a bread-loving, wine-loving culture, with artisans getting as good at baking bread as they are at making wine. Finally, Jesus describes himself as the “bread from heaven” – connecting himself with the whole flow of redemptive history from the manna in the wilderness to bread baked in haste to the grain sack that never ran out after being blessed by the prophet. I don’t want to raise my children to wonder why Jesus connected his life-giving body with something “so unhealthy.”

    As for the science of the matter, I have no reason to doubt what you’re saying about glucose and such. But again I come back to wine. As humans, so much that feels good, tastes good, gives pleasure, is beautiful, etc. is toxic to our health in some way. But so what. We will all die, and I’d rather die a healthy, moderate sort of person who lived in a daily, wondrous fog of wine and bread and cheese and figs and strawberries and cream than someone who tried hard to conform to the meager wisdom that evolution gives us. In other words – I’ll take human creativity over the dictates of biology any day! What gives life meaning is the production of artists – musicians, visual artists, culinary artists, enologists, etc. Perhaps some people are called to a special art – of maximizing the human form for athletics, and that’s great. But learning how to eat and live is an entirely different matter than learning how to most effectively fuel and sustain the human machine!

    barlow wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • Warning: a long philosophical post follows….

      Barlow, thanks for the interesting post. I think you have great, important points – I am a Christian, an Olympic level athlete, and a philosophy student, and I’m gluten intolerant as well, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these issues.

      As I have understood it, your post was about the “human spiritual element” in our preparation and consumption of food, particularly bread and wine. Specifically, you took issue with a view that looks at food only through the lens of evolution and risks stripping food of this spiritual element. I take it that you bring up the Eucharist as a sort of paradigm for this spiritual/physical union. First I want to touch on sacramental theology of the Eucharist and then I want to get to your main point about human pleasure and artistic expression.

      First, as a technical point, in terms of receiving the Eucharist, it is Church teaching (Catholic Church that is – I am assuming you’re Catholic, I apologize if I’m mistaken!) that Christ is fully present under both species – bread and wine. Thus in receiving just one or the other for legitimate reasons (i.e. not receiving the host due to Celiac disease or not sharing from the cup during times of flu pandemic) nothing is lacking. The Eucharistic bread, however, must in fact be wheaten bread, and not because of some intrinsic artistic value of bread-making, but because we imitate Christ (the second person an infinite God who chose to become finite to a certain socio-historical period) in submitting ourselves to certain limitations, i.e. Jewish laws of the Passover meal that stipulate wheaten bread. I do not think that the bread and wine are so because “they are an overflowing of what culture should be like”. I do think culture should be like the Eucharist in terms of all of humanity uniting to the suffering of Christ and joyfully participating in His Divinity, but I do not think that your connection between the Eucharist and the artistic expression of human pleasure through consumption of bread and wine is at all relevant to the sacramental significance of the Eucharist. Nor do I interpret the bread and wine in the Eucharist as a way of God as saying “your diets and your pleasure should be sustained by bread and wine”. Bread and wine can be said to be significant in its use as a sacrament, and in its symbolism, but I would seriously hesitate to draw any conclusions beyond that.

      Secondly, you are of course right in saying that we are not to forget and appreciate the (God-given) human capacity to feel pleasure. I assert however, that human pleasure is not real pleasure if it is divorced from truth. Since God is truth (and the source of all existence), this means pleasure that deviates from His moral law or His natural law, like evolution (here, I also am assuming the position of Catholicism, whose teaching neither denies nor conflicts with evolution).

      I am not accusing your previous post of even approaching any strong hedonist claims, but I feel it is useful to return to the common sense notion that pleasure for the sake of pleasure does not lead toward human happiness and artistic freedom, but leads to human enslavement, because the only thing we should be pursuing for His own sake is God Himself. Pleasure is secondary because we wouldn’t have pleasure without our existence which comes from God (so its not surprising that people often eat themselves out of existence by putting pleasure first!). Constantly indulging in something like bread for pleasure, even if it hurts us, is not true pleasure. Actually it’s more like an addiction.

      This doesn’t mean we have to live like animal-machines. God, thankfully, has given us plenty of ways to rightfully experience pleasure. But as creatures of a Creator (a Creator who likely used evolution as one mechanism to create us) our well being depends on adherence to our own limits, which He has justly and kindly set. Some pleasures we can and should enjoy in their proper time in place, in their proper relation and subordination to our love of God; other “pleasures” are entirely forbidden, not because God is mean, but because they aren’t really pleasures at all – they destroy us, they are against our very natures.

      I don’t think Mark’s views or the views on this site conflict with what I, speaking as a Christian (Catholic), have stated. I think that this site is a great service in exposing some of the entirely unfounded food and medical dogmas that plague us today. Love everyone’s posts and I am thankful for Mark’s work and everyone’s contributions!

      Julianne wrote on November 28th, 2009
    • It is apparent that you do not suffer from any autoimmune disease caused by grains. Also the breaking of bread doesn’t necessarily mean to be made of grains, it is a matter of interpretation. I can’t thrive on grains. The consumption of grains only provides me a sustaining living hell.

      nezzy wrote on December 23rd, 2010
    • You sir, totally deserve a daily dose of whole grains :-)

      Donnersberg wrote on May 1st, 2011
    • This Jesus chap seems to support your earthly desires, which is convenient.

      Would be better if you could think for yourself though, don’t you think?

      To think that one can not be creative, artistic, musical and indeed healthy at the same time by eating the wonderful and natural abundance of non son of god recommended foods is rather deluded in so many ways.

      I’m a fan of the Philosopher Kings that Plato and Socrates speak off, indeed many an ancient Greek, Egyptian or indeed Asian philosopher where extraordinary in physical prowess as they where extraordinary of mind and wisdom.

      My experience is that both go together…

      Your comment that learning how to eat and live is an entirely different matter than learning how to effectively fuel and sustain the human machine just shows how utterly removed from the wonders of the natural cycle of life you are.

      Living by a fantasy instructional manual coupled with some deluded humanistic romanticism is about as contrived a life approach as one could imagine my dear chap.

      Roger wrote on October 29th, 2012
  27. Great post Mark. Thanks for all the useful information. It’s amazing how information like what you have provided when applied to daily life goes a long way. Working out and training intensely for the last 10 weeks has yielded a net fat loss of zero pounds while eating grains. When I say intensely, I mean 3 days of weight lifting + HIIT in addition to 3 days of 2 hour Muay Thai training for a total of 6 days of intense training. Removing grains and substituting more vegetables, fruit and significantly more fats with a little Intemittent Fasting thrown in for good measure has yielded me a net fat loss of 4lbs in one week under the same exact conditions. It’s no coincidence.

    Nkem wrote on June 18th, 2008
  28. barlow, as a Christian I struggle with some of the same issues. My son has a wheat allergy, so he cannot take communion. I certainly don’t want to poison him, but I don’t think he should be excluded from the meal (I do believe there are gluten free communion wafers but have not looked into it much as usually he’s at Children’s Church but wasn’t this last time). Celiac is real (my uncle has it, I think my dad does, and I think myself and my siblings all struggle with some sort of gluten issue, it’s just hard to get the docs to really listen), wheat/gluten allergies are real, and I just struggle with how it all fits in a Biblical sense. I try to gloss over the “evolution” stuff posted here. But from a physioligical standpoint I think Mark’s info on grains/carbs makes sense.

    Nancy wrote on June 18th, 2008
    • Regarding your son and taking communion
      (or anyone reading who would like to take
      communion)…why not bake or bring your
      own small piece of Quinoa bread (or
      a substitute that you can handle)…and
      then just have it in your hand when it’s
      time to take of the ‘bread and the cup’?
      God’s not going to mind…don’t let an
      allergy keep you from participating in
      this most important sacrament.

      deb wrote on August 3rd, 2011
  29. Don’t get me wrong, I love bread. It tastes amazing. I also love rice and pasta. Mmm.

    However, ever since reading Mark’s posts about a year ago, I have cut grains from my daily staple and enjoy it maybe only once a month or even less. Not only is it unnecessary calories, but it locks up my intestinal system. I literally can’t poo properly for a few days, which contributes to the bloated feeling. I hate walking around knowing that there is plenty of toxic sludge in my colon. I wish it would all come out!

    This is coming from someone who used to train 20-25 hours for triathlon; I competed in the ITU Triathlon World Championships two weeks ago. I have since decided to stop competing. If I can cut my bread and grain intake (despite the daily need to eat 4000 calories), anyone can! If you really train a lot, I learnt from Mark to get most of your kcals from yams and potatoes. Plus, they taste a lot better.

    Goodbye to endurance sport… hello to Paleolithic Primal living! I will miss the 4 hour rides, but, I think I will enjoy eating even more fruits, veggies, and meat. I definitely won’t be wanting grains anymore after the retirement!

    Arthur wrote on June 19th, 2008
    • Your story was really inrofmaitve, thanks!

      Emmly wrote on October 21st, 2011
  30. Jerry,

    A good option for me for breakfast is a crustless quiche. That way I can grab a piece and run. It can get super simple like the one I made last night, took about 10 minutes to prep. Since I ran out of ground sausage, this time I used fully cooked smoked sausage (1lb) cut into chunks. It makes 6 pieces and can be eaten cold or warmed in the microwave. I normally eat cold.

    Preheat the oven to 350. I normally use 1lb some sort of ground meat, grass fed when I can. I brown it with whatever spices you want. If sausage I usually use the hot kind and no spices in the meat. I beat six egss and 1 cup of heavy cream. Mix 1 tsp of nutmeg and some spicy mustard into the egg/cream mixture. Spray down a 9″ pie dish with olive oil and put the meat in and pour the egg mixture over it. Top with shredded cheese. I usually use cheddar. Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool and cut into 6 pieces.

    Options: When my wife makes it for me she tries to pat the meat dry to get rid of some of the fat. I don’t unless the meat is extremely fatty and not grass fed. I have put sauteed veggies in it, spinach, etc. Just try to get as much water out of the veggies as possible. I’ve used up to 9 eggs and less cream. Sometimes no cheese or various different ones. Have used ground beef, ground pork, ground sausage, ground chicken smoked sausage, bacon. Been meaning to try some of the canned meats but haven’t yet.

    Just an idea. Hope it helps,
    Joe

    Joe Matasic wrote on June 19th, 2008
    • To avoid the veggie moisture thing, I dehydrate my veggies, store them in vacuum bags and or jars and add the dried veggies to those items I bake, as the moisture from the other items will rehydrate the dried veggies during cooking ;) I use the dried veggies for soups and other cooking just like anything else.

      nezzy wrote on December 23rd, 2010
    • Delicious recipe. Try using yogurt, either greek or fat free, or creamcheese, instead of full fat cream for a slimmer option

      Conceicao wrote on July 7th, 2011
    • Here’s my take on a breakfast egg bake:

      1 cup chopped onion
      1 cup chopped green pepper
      1 pound breakfast sausage (I make my own from ground pork and spices)
      1 10 oz box of frozen spinach – defrosted, drained well and chopped
      12 eggs
      1 Tblsp hot sauce
      1 tsp red pepper flakes
      1 tsp sea salt
      1/2 tsp ground black pepper
      optional: 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or other cheese)

      Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Heat a large skillet. Saute the onions and peppers with enough butter, olive oil, or coconut oil to prevent sticking. When onions and peppers are just starting to get soft, add the breakfast sausage and saute until sausage is done. Drain any excess fat.

      In a large bowl, combine eggs, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add spinach and mix well. (You could also use about 1/2 bag of fresh spinach – chopped – instead of the frozen). Add sausage mixture to egg mixture and combine well. Mix in cheese if desired.

      Spray a 13X9″ glass baking pan with coconut oil (or butter or other oil) and pour in the egg/sausage mixture. Bake at 350˚ for about 30 minutes. (Mine usually takes about 35.) It is done when the eggs are set and the top is just starting to brown.

      Cut into 12 pieces. Serving size is 1 piece (this gives you approximately 1 egg and 1 1/3 ounces of sausage in each piece). Refrigerate and use as needed. These can also be frozen.

      The best part of using a 13X9″ glass pan is the clean up. Super easy!

      Kathy wrote on December 5th, 2012
  31. Barlow,

    Mark always says that, though the serious bulk of our diet should be based on biological function, we all make decisions to fulfill the more personal side of how food fits into our life. Besides, the Eucharist is ultimately about spiritual nourishment rather than physical.

    And I don’t think it matters that our diet is different than that of those in Jesus’ day. All food is a blessing, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing food that will result in optimum health. I also appreciate that Mark emphasizes choosing the cleanest and most environmentally sustainable food choices within this particular diet paradigm.

    Jen wrote on June 19th, 2008
  32. Hi Nancy – my son is not a celiac, but he has a leaky gut and wheat is a problem for him. At the communion meal, we give him an enzyme beforehand:

    http://www.kirkmanlabs.com/products/enzymes/enzym_dppiv/Enzym_Complete_w_DPP_IV_C_60_234.html

    They have other enzymes that may be more specific for celiac disease. But a small bit of bread + the enzyme seems okay for him.

    If it is possible, sometimes I have heard of celiacs providing gluten-free bread to their churches, and the bread goes through a similar ritual as it is distributed. Of course, this depends a lot on your particular church’s rules about that sort of thing.

    Also, imagine if we put more human ingenuity into baking good tasting non-wheat bread for people with celiac disease! I have heard of a bakery in St. Louis that, one day a week, cleans out all the wheat and wheat dust and bakes with non-gluten wheats for the benefit of celiac customers.

    Anyway, I’m sympathetic; I have one kid who can’t eat wheat and one kid who can’t eat lactose. I know that health is important, but I am also trying to balance the quest for good health against equally valuable quests – enjoyment of life, the cultural significance of bread and grains, etc. This morning, my wife made some wonderful biscuits – using a recipe that her mother used, and using special flour that we bought on our last trip to her hometown. They tasted so good, and we put organic, non-GMO, vegan butter on them and drizzled some homemade strawberry jam that her mother canned back during strawberry season. I drank a cup of black coffee with it, made with filtered water – water that I even filter fluoride out of – and it was all a wonderful experience. And now, I sit in my office to work having eaten a meal full of family meaning, history, aesthetic value, etc.

    barlow wrote on June 19th, 2008
  33. Nice post. I’ve been wheat/gluten/dairy allergic for years. I just did an anti-candida cleanse in whitch I ate brown rice and/or quinoa nearly every day for 10 days (plus mung beans and a few veggies). Anyway, I was getting really bad sore throats and on a few days I felt like my throat was closing up. I thought maybe I should check my thyroid meds, perhaps I was getting a goiter. Come to find out it was a very serious allergic reaction to quinoa. Like most human beings I prefer to have an open air flow thru my throat.;) I’m done with grains, I may occassionally have brown basmati rice, but that’s it for me. It’s just not worth it.

    Patricia Biesen wrote on June 19th, 2008
  34. In the days of Jesus the bread they ate was “flat” and it was baked “unleaven.” with NO preservatives! and it was
    probably very crispy!:)
    In this day and age bread is baked leaven, the yeast causes the bread to rise high produces fermentation. Bread back then and bread now is differently baked.
    At health food store, i like “Ezekiel” Bread.

    Donna wrote on June 19th, 2008
  35. “unleavened” means that it wasn’t sourdough bread. In sourdough baking, you reserve a lump of “starter” which is a living organism that gives sourdough its special flavor. Baking unleavened bread means baking new bread – breaking from the old bread tradition of the egyptians, not bread without yeast. There is yeast in the air – even 10 minute old dough or grape juice will have yeast in it, fermenting away.

    To clarify, I’m not saying that we need to eat what Jesus ate. I’m just saying that, as a Christian, if Jesus ate it, I can’t very well say that eating it is evil or inherently bad for me. Otherwise I’d have to conclude that Jesus was damaging his health and encouraging others to do the same.

    barlow wrote on June 19th, 2008
  36. ok, i really enjoy reading this blog, but i have to say i have a problem with this post. its true that most people eat too many carbs and i think the idea of a diet based heavily on fruits and vegetables is a very good idea, but i really don’t think its beneficial to completely cut grains out of your diet. i’m studying to be a dietitian, and what i’ve studied goes completely against what you are saying about grains. grains are not evil. they are an important source of fiber, zinc, copper, iron and vitamins B6, A and E. yes, you can get these from fruits and veggies as well, but there is nothing wrong with getting them from a few servings of grains. the facts about the damaging effects of digesting grains are interesting, but there is way more scientific evidence that whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet. with the exception of people with celiac’s disease, moderate consumption of whole grains is good for our digestive system and overall health.

    I’m concerned that some of these readers with high cholesterol are questioning their consumption of whole grains. whole grains are proven to be a great way to lower your cholesterol. also, i run half marathons and do triathlons and i am so sad that one of your readers has given up triathlons so he doesn’t have to eat carbs!! “Goodbye to endurance sport… hello to Paleolithic Primal living! I will miss the 4 hour rides, but, I think I will enjoy eating even more fruits, veggies, and meat.” WHAT?!!

    Speaking of sports, whether you are exercise for recreation or compete as an elite athlete, carbohydrates are absolutely essential for optimal athletic performance, because they are the bodies main source of energy. Fat takes much more energy for our body to break down, so i don’t know where you got the idea that fat is our bodies preferred source of energy. glucose is what fuels our muscles and the most efficient source of glucose is carbohydrates.

    I feel like your views on grains are based heavily on just a ideas that don’t have a lot of credibility. for example, insulin release is a normal healthy body response to glucose. this is nothing to be concerned about; whole grains have actually been proven to REDUCE the risk of type II diabetes. and i don’t think that lectins are as dangerous as you make them out to be. Anyway, like i said, i really enjoy most of your ideas in your blog and i eat mostly fruits, vegetables, and fish, but saying that grains are a huge source of health problems and should be eliminated from your diet is pretty extreme and not really accurate.

    Tyler wrote on June 19th, 2008
    • Yeah…. its hard to know what to believe. I don’t know for sure about grains, but I DO know for sure that carbohydrates are good and necessary!

      The longest lived and healthiest people in the world eat high carbohydrate diets.

      From http://quest.bluezones.com/

      Nicoya, Costa Rica

      ” * Fruit — People eat many wildly exotic fruits ultra rich in antioxidants, including papaya and citrus which they ate all year long.

      * Nixtamal – Nicoya’s core diet, corn soaked in lye with beans, dates back 3,500 years and creates a compound called nixtamal. It’s a complete food high in niacin, calcium and amino acids.”

      Okinawa, Japan

      “Eat a rainbow of colors: Eat at least five different-colored vegetables daily: red tomatoes, spinach, and eggplant are a few examples.”

      I think that natural, organic foods make a big difference- and I think we can learn a lot from HOW the foods are prepared. I don’t think it makes sense to assume the hunter and gatherers had the best diet. I think it makes WAY more sense to look at the wisdom of current cultures who we know for SURE are living long and healthy lives.

      And ALL of the longest lived people of the world have HIGH CARBOHYDRATE diets. They all eat different things and not all of them eat lots of grains, but they ALL HAVE HIGH CARB DIETS!!

      Braidwood wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • Agree with your comments.

      Mark’s unscientific assertions, albeit mostly anecdotal, are to be taken with a pinch of salt.

      Moderation in everything is key – yes, even beer and red meats!

      Tony Frost wrote on July 23rd, 2011
    • Can I ask have you done research on ketosis? Just curious regarding your comment that carbohydrates are our main source of emery. Thanks

      Leroy wrote on May 16th, 2014
      • Source of *energy!!

        Leroy wrote on May 16th, 2014
  37. Tyler,

    Thanks for a well-written and thoughful comment. I do understand your concerns. However, I stand by everything we have said so far. Also, my response here is not meant to malign your career choice, but to express further my distaste for a grain-based diet.

    One of the problems I have with Conventional Wisdom is that it is handed down from generation to generation and often taught in our universtities and med schools as dogma. Most dieticians I have met (and it’s a lot) are quite regimented in their thinking. It looks from the outside as if not much has been updated in RD courses for decades. I see an unnecessary allegiance to carbs of all kinds, and particularly grains, among most all dieticians. I see a doctrine that suggests we get all our vitamins from eating only foods from the four basic food groups. I see continued belief that cholesterol is a killer and that fibrous grains are a good way to “fix” the cholesterol problems.
    And I think all of these ideas are probably wrong. Yes, it’s my theory, but I feel I can back all of this up and have done so many times on this site.

    You suggest that grains are an essential part of a healthy diet. The problem is that they were NOT any part of the human diet for the first 2,000,000 years and up until only 10,000 years ago. In fact, given that we can actually live without carbs (but not without fats or protein) and can get our vitamins and fiber from much better sources, there is probably NO reason to ever consume grains, except that they provide a cheap source of calories for billions of people.

    As for endurance training, as I say here, this is probably not the site to get your dietary info if you are competing at a high level, because I don’t think it’s the healthiest pursuit to train over an hour a day. And if you train an hour or less a day, you can do so with VERY little carb intake. Fruits and veggies are all you need.

    OTOH, I applaud your own continued efforts to train and race hard and wish you success. Those were some of the best years of my life and I would not trade them in. It is a rite of passage among young men and women. However, if I had it to do over again, I would avoid grains with a vengeance and get whatever extra carbs I needed from other sources (yams, sweet spuds, turnips, gourds, maybe maybe maybe some legumes). I say this in all candor that my high grain intake probably contributed to my retiring from competition more than any other single factor.

    Having said all that, I did admit that I will occasionally have a few tortilla chips (with guac)or a bite of bread in a restaurant. I’m not a soup-nazi about it…I just want people to understand that when they choose to eat grains, they do so with some downside that they ought to know about. That our government would recommend multiple servings every day is, on the one hand, criminal (yes, I said that) and on the other hand understandable, given that over half the calories in our unhealthy nation come from grains one way or another.

    As for the cholesterol issue, we’ve discussed it here ad nauseum, but the recent grain study you are probably citing was a joke. I (and 100 of my fellow low-carb bloggers) wondered how much better the outcomes would have been on a very low carb, zero grain diet, but the researchers didn’t test that, since they were simply looking to prove that grains are better than other carbs.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 19th, 2008
    • But Mark, regarding grains, and this is something I’m struggling with over the last week to understand:

      1. You assume the human body can’t adapt or adjust within 50+ generations?

      2. How do you reconcile diets like the Japanese/Chinese (basically 75% rice) or the French/Italians (lots of breads and pastas and wine) who are healthy people without degenerative diseases?

      Basically it shouldn’t be possible, and they should be high incidences of cancer and heart disease in those societies.

      The evidence based on observation would indicate that the problem is EXCESSIVE SUGAR rather than an inherent problem with grains, no?

      William wrote on December 30th, 2009
  38. Mark said:

    “You suggest that grains are an essential part of a healthy diet. The problem is that they were NOT any part of the human diet for the first 2,000,000 years and up until only 10,000 years ago.”

    I don’t believe this is accurate at all. It is my understanding that grains have been in the diet for a very very long time, what is relatively new to the diet in the human timeline is highly processed grains.

    Randy

    Randy Harris wrote on June 19th, 2008
  39. Actually, if you open up a general history textbook, agriculture and cultivation of grains specifically occured around 10,000 years ago.

    Obviously, wikipedia isn’t the most academic of sources, but read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_agriculture

    We, as a human race, have been around much longer.

    I really encourage you guys to read the Paleo Diet. It has quite a number of “further readings” that will change your point of view. Mark is totally right.

    And to answer tyler, I am quitting endurance sport not because I want to eat low-carb diets. However I am forced to, because I have a full-time girlfriend now and i need to spoil her (lol) and also started my MBA, while working concurrently. Yeah, I’m trying to get her to eat red meat, but it’s not working.. she’s only eating chicken and fish. And lots of cheesecake. Pretty sure cheesecake wasn’t a paleo food!!!

    I’m still lifting weights and swimming, but I want to develop my aerobic efficiency (to burn fat, not glycogen) so that if I ever attempt another Ironman, I’m able to sustain a decent effort over 10 hours. As we all know, we ONLY have enough glycogen to burn for about 2 hours at 65%-70% V02 Max, so you really have to develop that fat burning system. That, I’m sure Mark would agree on.

    Arthur wrote on June 20th, 2008
  40. Loren Cordain’s paper, Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword is a good paper to read for a more scholarly treatment of this material. As he says in this paper, there is no turning back from grains for humanity at this point. We need grains to sustain the current (and future population). So the fears expressed earlier about losing or abolishing grains and the skills for making bread I think are unfounded.

    As a Christian myself I just don’t have much of a problem with the paleo diet approach. I understand the concern with the Eucharist but I just don’t see it as an issue. I take communion weekly myself and rejoice in the offer of fellowship with Christ and the benefits of the wine and the bread. I don’t see the paleo approach being a threat to this in any way.

    And I am certainly not beyond getting a loaf of fruit and nut bread from Whole Foods on occasion, not because I think it’s that healthy for me but just because it tastes good. A little bit of bread on occasion is fine with me but I wholeheartedly reject the FDA food pyramid base of grains which just doesn’t have any rational basis if you look at the data that Mark (as well as Dr. Cordain and others) is presenting here.

    Bobber wrote on June 20th, 2008

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple