Category: Grains

What Does Fiber Do, And Do You Need More?

The health world is fixated on fiber, constantly telling us how important fiber is and how we should all be eating more of it. Back in the day, our cultural obsession with fiber was all about being “regular.” You had to load up on fiber to keep things moving, so to speak. Nothing was more important. So we started our days with bland, tooth-cracking breakfast cereal that tasted like tree bark and sparked no joy. But hey, it was loaded with fiber and therefore good for us, right? 

I’ve long been skeptical of that particular story, mostly because every major health agency that recommends higher fiber intake also says that we should get much of that fiber from whole grains. And you know how I feel about that. If whole grains aren’t essential (or even healthy, if you ask me), then how could the fiber they provide be essential? It doesn’t add up. 

Now, though, as we learn ever more about the emerging science of the microbiome, the fiber story is starting to shift. It’s become less about pushing “roughage” through our colons to create bulkier, more impressive bowel movements (although some people still promote this supposed benefit). Certain types of fiber, it turns out, are essentially food for the microbes living in our guts. 

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The Definitive Guide to Grains

Grains are fixtures of modern life. Pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, corn on the cob, birthday cake, apple pie, endless breadsticks, pizza parties, taco nights.

Studies about “heart-healthy whole grains” in the news. “AHA Approved” icons affixed to any concoction in the grocery store that contains a few grams of wheat—never mind all the sugar and seed oils.

Grains are “staples,” bread is the “staff of life,” and most people can’t imagine a meal without some type of grain on the table.

Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche—just not so much into our physiology. For the vast majority of human evolution, we were hunter-gatherers eating meats, nuts, bitter wild greens, regional veggies, tubers and roots, and fruits and berries. We ate what nature provided. If we ate any grains at all, they were wild and scarce—never staples.

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Is Oatmeal Good for You? It Depends.

A lot of foods exist on a spectrum of suitability, from “really bad” wheat to “not so terrible” rice. Well, what about the rest of them? Since I get a lot of email asking whether oats and oatmeal are good for you, I figured I would dig into that question for this post.

Though I was (and still mostly am) content to toss grains on the “do not eat” pile, I think we’re better served by more nuanced positions regarding grains. Not everyone can avoid all grains at all times, and not everyone wants to avoid all grains at all times. For those situations, it makes sense to have a game plan, a way to “rank” foods.

Today, we’ll go over the various forms of oats and oatmeal, along with any potential nutritional upsides or downsides.

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How to Thicken Sauce Without Flour: Low Carb, Keto, and Gluten Free Sauce Thickeners

 
Dear Mark,

I’m trying to stay strictly primal/paleo, but I always run into problems when I need to thicken sauces or soups. I grew up learning to use flour/cornstarch like everyone else, but is there a good low-carb/primal alternative?

Thanks,
Raul
I received this email a while ago, but it wasn’t the first. A number of readers have expressed their confusion when it comes to thickening sauces, gravies, or soups without using traditional floury methods. The question of thickening sauces is one of the hurdles I face every time I put up a recipe post – it’s become a bit of an internal struggle (as seen with last week’s beef and broccoli stir fry recipe, in which I hesitatingly called for a teaspoon of flour as a thickener) because while adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to a larger recipe may not drastically impact the carb count, it does complicate the consistently Primal message I try to convey. This post, I hope, will resolve that struggle.

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Why It’s So Hard to Ditch Grains (When Everyone Else is Eating Them)

We’re lucky over here at Mark’s Daily Apple. We’ve got a solid group of individuals committed to improving their health by educating themselves on the oh-so-harmful effects of the Standard American Diet. But if you step outside this tiny corner of the Internet, there’s a whole world out there singing the praises of freshly baked bread smothered in butter substitute, hot-from-the-oven oatmeal raisin cookies, and bowls of “heart-healthy” cereal swimming in non-fat milk.

Not coincidentally, a lot of those same people are struggling with achy joints, brain fog, and extra weight, completely oblivious that a diagnosis of diabetes or high-blood pressure may soon be on the horizon.

This could, in fact, be where you are right this very second. Maybe you’ve been on the fence about cleaning up your diet. Or you’re finally fed up with being fat and foggy and have decided that you really do deserve to feel better. Or maybe you’ve been watching someone in your family deal with a chronic health issue. No matter what’s prompting your change, I’m glad you’re here, because the more people we can get to understand how food affects our bodies, the bigger impact we’ll have.

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Dear Mark: Gluten Sensitivity, Intolerance, Celiac Disease, and Grains

Dear Mark,

You talk a lot about the evils of grains. I follow your logic on why a grain free diet is best, and I have seen weight loss and just feel better overall since heeding your advice. But there is one thing (well, more than one) that I don’t understand but hear about often. Could you explain what gluten intolerance is and why you should avoid gluten?
Excellent question. Even though we’re seeing gluten-free labeling more and more, it’s not always clear why gluten can be problematic. Because of cross-contamination, it’s not always obvious whether a food contains gluten or not. Further, gluten intolerance symptoms can masquerade as other conditions. Let’s break it all down.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a large, water-soluble protein that creates the elasticity in dough. It’s found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and oats. These days it’s also found in additives like thickeners and fillers used in everything from lunch meat to soup to candy. You can also find gluten in beers and vinegars that have been fermented from gluten-containing grains.

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