August 24, 2011

Top 10 Surprising Facts About Wheat/Grains

By Tim Lochhead

#8 Who Do You Want in Your Corner? Lightweight vs Heavyweight

Continuing our countdown of the Top 10 Surprising Facts about Wheat/Grains.

So far we’ve learned the concept that all living things, plant or animal, have defensive or offensive mechanisms for survival.

Wheat and Grains have several offensive ones that work to disrupt predators (anyone who would eat the grains). We’ve looked at a variety of substances found in wheat and grains and how they wreak havoc on our bodies including our digestive system and brains resulting in a variety of ailments. If that weren’t enough, they also cause addiction in several ways as discussed in Countdown #7.

Bringing us to today’s match-up: In one corner we have the challenger – Wheat. And in the other we have the undisputed, undefeated Champion – basically all other natural foods like Meat and Vegetables.

Ok, so we get that grains, especially wheat, have A LOT of drawbacks.

But I hear the cries “they’re a source of fiber” and “they have vitamins and minerals”!

Yes, and so do other foods. So, the question is what would be a better choice?

We have to look at trade-offs. Basically, if it’s found in wheat it can be found elsewhere WITHOUT the negative effects discussed from previous posts.

We’ll see that the bottom line is that if you are starving and have nothing else, some wheat will keep you going. But in light of healthier alternatives and an abundance of foods and choices (like what we live with today), there are better options you can choose on a regular basis. You are what you eat (ok, to be consistent with the past you are what you absorb) and you literally re-make your cells and support your immune with what you put in your mouth.

So ask yourself, who do you want in your corner?

Pound for Pound Nutritional Lightweight

First let’s look at fiber. I’ll admit that wheat sources have fiber.

For example, 1 cup of whole wheat pasta (on of the higher sources) has just over 6 grams of fiber (at a total weight of 140 grams and providing 174 calories).

Now let’s look at a vegetable – say carrots. 1 cup of cooked carrots has 4.6g of fiber for around the same weight at just 54 calories. And for an iso-caloric serving (same # of calories) you’d have 15 grams of fiber!

And remember, the fiber in wheat comes with some nasty things that upset our stomachs and can lead to autoimmune conditions.

Now let’s consider vitamin and mineral content. Without the relative inflation (just looking at 1 cup of carrots) you get more than 6,000 times Vitamin A, more than double Vitamin C and 3 times more folate. Several other nutrients are fairly comparable. Adjust for the same amount of calories and vegetables will improve.

Again, recall the lectins and phytates and protease inhibitors that wheat and grains have. You won’t absorb minerals or protein very well and the lectins cause digestive distress in general. This is the plants defence mechanism at work.

Plus, the glycemic load of the pasta is about 17 while the GL of the carrots is about 2 (yes, just 2). So the pasta is at the higher end of medium and the veggies are very low. Insulin can be an major issue with wheat; not so much with veggies and even moderate fruit servings.

Now consider trace nutrients. Fruits and veggies have tons of different compounds that are beneficial to our health. Sticking with carrots (no pun intended) they are high in carotenoids – antioxidant compounds. Intake of carotenoids has been associated with less cardiovascular disease, and less lung, prostate, breast, stomach, colon and pancreatic cancer.

Pound for pound does wheat measure up to healthful alternatives?

And that is using one of the better sources of wheat. The occasional serving of grains (let’s go non-wheat) can provide variety in our diets. Consider the huge alternatives among dozens of different veggies and dozen of fruits and which is better? What provides the most bang for its buck? And what has or doesn’t have several negative side effects?

Want to know more about several non-wheat alternatives? I highly recommend Dr. Jonny Bowden’s The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth that is a very delightful read. It’s packed with lots of useful information about some very healthy and tasty food. (Spoiler: there are only 2 grains & one of which is wheat – one is quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, and the other is oatmeal. It’s the smallest section in the book).

(Please note that I can get into meat examples that are loaded with healthy fat – yes, healthy fat – essential proteins and tons of B Vitamins and Zinc; however, the real story of meat is a huge blog series if not book in itself. As a quick link, if you think saturated fat is evil you might find this article interesting: What’s Really Making Us Unhealthy: Hint- it’s not saturated fat!)


Check back soon as we are nearing the end of out countdown!