The Primal Blueprint, as our good readers know, is founded on the principle of evolutionary biology. This certainly applies to our view of what’s appropriate or not in terms of nutrition. In short, what our long time ancestors ate during the course of 2 million+ years, we’re still designed to eat. Even the last 200,000 years of hunting and gathering, from a physiological standpoint, trumps the comparatively short 10,000 or so years since the Agricultural Revolution, when humans commenced widespread farming practices and prepared grains as a significant part of their diet.
An article published in this month’s Science Magazine presents archeological evidence that, according to its author, challenges this accepted timeline. A number of readers have written me about this story. Here’s one letter among the bunch….
Please help me make some sense to this: Stone Age diet included processed grains
I’m a crossfitter in Colorado and most of the gym keeps a Grok diet and are confused about this article. Does this open the door to other minimally processed grains?
I find that grain bashing makes for a tasty, but ultimately unsatisfying meal.
You all know how much I love doing it, though. But no matter how often I sit down to dine on the stuff (and I’ve done it with great gusto in the past), I always leave the table feeling like I left something behind. Like maybe I wasn’t harsh enough about the danger of gluten, or I failed to really convey just how much I hated lectins. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the mere mention of grains was eliciting a crazy insulin-esque response and throwing my satiety hormones all out of whack. I was filling up on anti-grain talk, but I just couldn’t fill that void for long.
Well, I’ve got the hunger today, and this time I aim to stuff myself to the point of perpetual sickness. I don’t ever want to have to look at another anti-grain argument again (yeah, right). If things get a little disjointed, or if I descend into bullet points and sentence fragments, it’s only because the hunger has taken over and I’ve decided to dispense with the pleasantries in order to lay it all out at once.
I’ve been grain-free for nearly three years now. Oh, every once in a while, I’ll have a bite or two of bread at a restaurant (it had better be really good bread though and even then I’ll still douse it with olive oil or real butter) or a couple of chips with guacamole – mostly just as a vehicle for delivering the precious emerald mixture to my mouth. I might even have a few sushi rolls with sticky white rice from time to time. But for the most part I stay far away from grains. No cereal ever, no pasta ever, no wheat, barley, rye, corn or anything of that sort. My exodus from grains was gradual, starting about five years ago, but it increased in fervor and resolve as I discovered more and more through my research how inappropriate grains were as a component of the human diet.
Browsing the Crossfit nutrition forums, I recently came across an interesting discussion about buckwheat, a possible Primal-friendly grain alternative. It caught my eye because I’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to pasta and bread ever since I found out that my Standard-American-Diet family will be visiting for an entire week (!) next month. What are your thoughts on buckwheat in particular and my conundrum at large?
I’ve previously covered a number of popular grain alternatives in my post about quinoa. In that post you’ll find suggestions like eggplant, butternut squash, crustless quiche, sweet potatoes and stuffed mushrooms. These are good go-to options when you are feeding family members that are used to starchier foods, or when you are making the transition to Primal eating and are finding it difficult to not revert back to eating your usual biscuits, pasta dishes, pancakes and croissants. But what of buckwheat?
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.
If you’re anything like me you get a little tired of staring at a monitor for hours on end. I spend a good deal of my time reading the major health and science journals, so I often print out the latest studies and work through them while catching some sun and fresh air in the backyard. (It’s a nicer vista than Vista…)
It was early Saturday that I read a study so obscenely stupid and so ridiculously far-fetched in its conclusion, I nearly choked on my coffee. PLoS posted a cohort study and review (a meta-analysis) of dietary intake of whole grains vs. refined grains and the corresponding impact upon type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, it’s yet another half-baked study, and possibly one of the least intelligent conclusions on grains that I’ve seen to date. Not only are there at least a half-dozen glaring problems en route to the conclusion, but the entire study works from an internally flawed premise.
Apples are asking what I think about bread. The short answer: not very much. But this is an ongoing issue worthy of some debate, so let’s get it started:
In general, the best source of carbohydrates is a vegetable, not a grain (unless you are an athlete, in which case, you’re probably just trying to consume as many calories as possible).
Among other things, grains contain lectins, a mild toxin (is there such a thing as a mild toxin?). Technically, grains don’t “want” to be your next meal. They didn’t really evolve to be our food source – we humans exploited them when we figured out how easy they were to grow. Consequently, they’re in everything – especially processed foods – because they’re cheap and can be made into just about anything, from sauces to syrups to candies to side dishes.
It’s not for nothing that our ancestors ate only flesh (meat and fish), nuts, roots, fruits and berries, and grabbed at wild greens for fiber. In fact, there’s a whole dietary movement – sometimes called the Caveman diet, sometimes the Paleo diet – we cautiously subscribe to (I’m uncomfortable with extreme diets, though I also am uncomfortable with how we define “extreme”!) Why? Grains are a relatively new thing for humans, and the evidence increasingly points to the notion that this isn’t a good development. If you’re into learning more, check out our Carbs category.
I recommend that you stick to zero grains a day. On the whole, I stick to vegetables for my carbs – I just don’t really “do” carbs. Vegetables have far more vitamins, fiber and minerals than grain-sourced carbohydrates, and they are much lower in calories, giving you room for protein and vital fat. Vegetables also keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy, low level, so you don’t start pumping your pancreas to death.
Scientists point out that the human body was designed to subsist on a mixture of fresh vegetables, good fats (from nuts, fish, oils, and meats), and protein (from fresh meats, beans, a little dairy, and fish). Add in plenty of water, occasional fruit, and you’re set. On the whole, avoid the processed, unnatural, refined, sugary stuff. Try it for just one week and you’ll notice a big difference – really.
[tags] caveman diet, paleolithic diet, paleo diet, no-grain diet, sugar, blood sugar, grains, fiber, paleodan, anthropology [/tags]