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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 18, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Grains

By Mark Sisson
541 Comments

Wheat

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.

Grain Truck

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.

Corn

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.

Bread, Pasta

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.

Whole Wheat Pasta

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.

Gluten

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

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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541 Comments on "The Definitive Guide to Grains"

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jim
jim
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Zena
Zena
6 years 4 months ago

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??

Mark Sisson
6 years 4 months ago

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.

jason gosnell
jason gosnell
1 year 1 month ago

Went back to grains for one day noted…puffiness all over body, general malaise of some kind, hung over feeling this morning. Probably a bad sign.

Nck
Nck
3 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
nanou
nanou
3 years 6 months ago

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.

Patrick
3 years 4 months ago

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.

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago

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.

Dylan
Dylan
5 years 5 months ago

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

Griff
Griff
5 years 5 months ago

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.

Linda
Linda
5 months 30 days ago
Yes, of course the liver can produce glucose from gluconeogenesis. But no one diet is right for everyone due to individual biochemistry. A paleo diet nearly killed me. And it was as high as can be in veggies (no fruit). I have a condition called DAO deficiency disorder. Better known as histamine intolerance. I have to severely limit my protein intake due to the fact that the amino acid histidine gets turned into histamine, which my body cannot break down. I also have to eliminate many veggies that are high in histamine. the diet is very limited and very strict.… Read more »
Bevaboo
Bevaboo
5 years 5 months ago

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

Carry
Carry
8 years 3 months ago

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.

Jan Graham
Jan Graham
4 years 1 month ago
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… Read more »
Compay
Compay
8 months 18 days ago
Funny thing that your name is… Graham:-S This perhaps explains your pro-grain bias. But joke apart, I don’t think you are doing yourself any favour by eating grains, out of which bleached wheat is the greatest villain. Are you sure you don’t experience head aches and runny nose? Are you often taking analgesics to counter those (most probably) wheat related aches? I don’t want to sound patronising and judge on your behalf but should you have any health scare in the future (which I hope you won’t) it might be to your addiction to grains. Fast forward year 2016, how… Read more »
Jackson
Jackson
2 years 5 months ago

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).

Compay
Compay
8 months 18 days ago

The pinenuts may make the difference as they are rich in proteins. Are you giving them a miss because they are hard on your wallet?

hedda
hedda
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Griff
Griff
5 years 5 months ago

You don’t need grain alternatives. Learn to eat things that don’t require grains.

pollywog
pollywog
5 years 3 months ago

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
pollywog
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Aaron
8 years 3 months ago

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!

Ghi
Ghi
8 years 3 months ago

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?

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 3 months ago
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?
Marcia
Marcia
6 years 2 months ago

cook your eggs the night before and heat them in microwave in am.

Vidad
6 years 29 days ago

Raw eggs in a smoothie. I do that every morning – and it’s fast.

Chrissy
4 years 3 months ago

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
4 years 3 months ago

“Heat them in a microwave”???????!!!!!!
Do you know of the risks involved in microwave cooking? Look it up. You’ll be surprised.

Pauline
Pauline
6 years 27 days ago
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… Read more »
CSJ
CSJ
5 years 10 months ago

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.

Desiree
Desiree
5 years 4 months ago
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… Read more »
Peter H
5 years 3 months ago

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.

pollywog
pollywog
5 years 3 months ago

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.

lisa
lisa
5 years 1 month ago
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… Read more »
Renee
Renee
4 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
nanou
nanou
3 years 6 months ago

eat a hand full of nuts and a piece of fruit or yogourt

charlotte
8 years 3 months ago

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.

Renee
Renee
4 years 8 months ago

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.

Aaron
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
MaryAnn Lastova
MaryAnn Lastova
7 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Pauline
Pauline
6 years 27 days ago

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.

Kyrsty
Kyrsty
2 years 8 months ago

Not entirely true, microwaves can actually be beneficial for nutrition. Check out this for starters: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Microwave-cooking-and-nutrition.shtml

Just because it’s not 40,000 years old doesn’t mean it’s bad!

Desiree
Desiree
5 years 4 months ago

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.. 😉

Stefan
Stefan
3 years 4 months ago

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.

pam
pam
3 years 4 months ago

I’d love to see any peer-reviewed studies that show dangers of microwaving.

Kaeti
8 years 3 months ago

I’m with hedda — I’d love to hear your take on quinoa (even though it’s technically a seed).

Donna
Donna
8 years 3 months ago

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.

Bobasmurf
Bobasmurf
6 years 7 months ago

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

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 3 months ago

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. 🙂

Maria
Maria
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Charlotte
Charlotte
2 years 5 months ago

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.

Bobber
8 years 3 months ago

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)?

simon fellows
simon fellows
8 years 3 months ago

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)

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 3 months ago

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.

Jennifer
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Desiree
Desiree
5 years 4 months ago

SOOO true!! 😉

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago

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.

hedda
hedda
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Wayne
Wayne
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
chairdr
chairdr
6 years 4 months ago

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.

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Randy Harris
Randy Harris
8 years 3 months ago
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)… Read more »
sally
sally
8 years 3 months ago

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?

Aaron
8 years 3 months ago

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?

Huckleberry
8 years 3 months ago

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

barlow
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Julianne
Julianne
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
nezzy
nezzy
5 years 9 months ago

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.

Barbara
Barbara
1 year 10 months ago
Thank-you Nezzy. I am the same. All dogma aside, if a food group causes serious discomfort as well as very unhealthy reactions and conditions such as high B/P, cholestrol, joint pain, bleeding gums, headaches, over-production of mucous throughout the body, then , eliminating that food-group completely eradicates these problems, that is my cure. That is my answer and all the answer I need. I get my nutrition from the many thousands of ‘other’ foods on the planet. I also investigated the various reasons for this, and am convinced it’s a very real global problem, with a simple answer… Find out… Read more »
Donnersberg
Donnersberg
5 years 4 months ago

You sir, totally deserve a daily dose of whole grains 🙂

Roger
Roger
3 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Nkem
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Nancy
Nancy
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
deb
deb
5 years 1 month ago

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.

Drusilla Barron
1 year 2 months ago

Communion doesn’t work that way. It must be consecrated by those ordained to the ministry. Just eating a piece of quinoa bread is not participating in the sacrament. Those with gluten intolerance must speak with their clergy. There are valid alternatives.

Arthur
Arthur
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Joe Matasic
Joe Matasic
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
nezzy
nezzy
5 years 9 months ago

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.

Conceicao
Conceicao
5 years 2 months ago

Delicious recipe. Try using yogurt, either greek or fat free, or creamcheese, instead of full fat cream for a slimmer option

Kathy
3 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
Jen
Jen
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
barlow
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Patricia Biesen
Patricia Biesen
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Donna
Donna
8 years 3 months ago

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.

barlow
8 years 3 months ago
“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… Read more »
Tyler
Tyler
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Braidwood
Braidwood
5 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Tony Frost
Tony Frost
5 years 2 months ago

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!

Leroy
Leroy
2 years 4 months ago

Can I ask have you done research on ketosis? Just curious regarding your comment that carbohydrates are our main source of emery. Thanks

Leroy
Leroy
2 years 4 months ago

Source of *energy!!

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
William
William
6 years 8 months ago

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?

Randy Harris
Randy Harris
8 years 3 months ago

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

Arthur
Arthur
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Bobber
8 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Sue
Sue
8 years 3 months ago

Randy, I’m afraid you won’t learn much becoming a dietician. You will just be repeating the inaccuracies that you are being taught. You need to do some extra reading and research on your own.

Sue
Sue
8 years 3 months ago

oops I meant Tyler!

Maury
Maury
8 years 3 months ago

Mark,
Every morning I have a bowl of store bought “old fashioned oats” along with a cup of walnuts, cup of blue berries, honey and milk.
What do you think or should I stay away from oatmeal all together?

Mark Sisson
8 years 3 months ago

Maury,

Of course millions have lived on oats for centuries, so who am I to take that away from you. The PB idea is one of moderating carb intake over the course of a day, a week, a year. Oats are less offensive (from a gluten POV) than other forms of grains. If you derive pleasure from this (and have no symptoms of oat intolerance), then the 25 or so grams of carbs you add to your daily intake by eating oats won’t have that great an influence on overall daily carb intake.

Binko
Binko
8 years 2 months ago
Standard nutrition textbooks will tell you that whole grains contain many valuable minerals. This is true is the sense that you can analyze whole wheat or brown rice in a laboratory and find relatively high amounts of minerals. But standard teaching on nutrition skips over the fact that grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain a substance called phytic acid or phytate. In humans, phytic acid is a strong chelator of iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous. What this means is that the phytate generally stays undigested in our digestive tract and it clings to other minerals in our food and… Read more »
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Gary
Gary
8 years 25 days ago
According to The Okinawa Program, 32% of the Okinawa diet (by weight) consists of grains, compared to 11% for Americans (figure on page 71). Also, these grains include “at least three servings of Japanese white (sticky) rice, supplemented by whole grains such as buckwheat noodles (soba) and wheat noodles (udon). Rice is the most commonly eaten single food in Okinawa” (p. 70). The book also states that “Elderly Okinawans were found to have amazingly young, clean arteries. low cholesterol, and low homocystine levels when compared to Westerners. These factors reduce their risk for coronary heart disease by up to 80… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 25 days ago
Gary, the Okinawan diet has been grossly exagerated in popular literature. 1) The reason they live so long is the very low total calories they take in. Avergae BMI is 20. The best studies on longevity relate to calorie restriction. Okinawans are the kings (and queens) of CR 2) The percentage of rice they eat has been overstated. Their diet has a higher percentage of fats and colorful vegetables than the avergae Japanese. So they don’t actually eat that much rice. 3) Having said that, rice (of all the grain choices) is probably one of the “safest” in terms of… Read more »
Avery
Avery
8 years 18 days ago
Mark- While I stand with you on your take on grains. I myself am a year round Triathlete, minus the break I take in the winter from the bike. I have a hard enough time being able to keep weight on when I’m putting in big weeks. So my question is, what is a an ahtlete to do, I know Simon Whitfield is a big advaocator of you and your site. As far as my meals go, ive been cutting back on grains during the day and the evening, but for breakfast, its hard to cut out a bowl of… Read more »
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