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Growing up, we didn’t have whole grain bread in our house. There was no such thing. There was “brown” bread but I didn’t eat that. Yuck. The whiter the bread, the better as far as I was concerned.

Then we were told that whole grains were healthier for us and although it took a little time and a lot of marketing dollars, we ate that brown bread and even started to love it. According to a 2015 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council, 67% of Americans think that whole grains are the most important item to look for on packages and 70% are trying to consume more whole grains.

Wow. That’s a lot of people to turn around to believe that grains are nutritious — but hold on a minute. What if that is not true?

Regardless of what we’ve been taught, grain products (yes, even whole grain) actually have very little nutritional value compared to vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds. In fact, grains contain anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of minerals.

Grains also contain very little dietary fiber. Even those particular whole-grain foods that are thought of as rich in fiber hold no comparison to the percentages found in fruits and vegetables. A medium artichoke can contain over 10 grams of fiber at only 60 calories where a cup of brown rice has a measly 3.5 grams of fiber and almost twice the calories. At 64 calories a cup of raspberries has about 8 grams of fiber, while those two slices of whole grain bread you’re using to make a sandwich has about 140 calories and less than 4 grams of fiber.

Why are we so convinced that grains are good for elimination? Because after we eat them, they expand with water and push stuff through our system, making a big splash on the other end. Good? Not necessarily. It’s not insoluble fiber volume from grains that we need for quality digestion, absorption and elimination. We need good bacteria that feed on the soluble fiber of vegetables and fruit for the health of our gastrointestinal system.

So if we don’t need grains for nutrition or fiber, what do we eat them for? Simple answer: taste. Grains can be processed into some of the most delectable concoctions that trigger dopamine responses and have us begging for more! And this would be great except… there’s a downside. Grains can be downright harmful.

The problem with whole grains:

  • Difficult to digest and cause irritation and inflammation
  • Linked to leaky gut syndrome (a root cause of auto-immune disease)
  • Often high in calories and extremely processed
  • Loaded with gluten, which can damage the intestinal lining
  • Rapidly spikes blood sugar
  • Contain anti-nutrients
  • Linked to several brain diseases

So don’t be fooled with the marketing stamps like “heart healthy” or “full of fiber” or best yet, “organic” plastered across the packages of grain products – they ain’t gonna do your body any favors. Instead, opt for some healthy, fiber-filled foods that don’t come from whole grains:

  • Strawberries, raspberries & blueberries
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Apples (with skin)
  • Sweet potatoes & yams
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Artichokes
  • Peas
  • Broccoli

The bottom line is that whole grains don’t translate to healthy and they certainly aren’t the best source of fiber out there. So next time you’re thinking of reaching for that whole grain bagel, reach for a piece of fresh fruit or a salad instead. Your gut and your colon will thank you!

Recommended reading: Grain Brain by David Perlmutter and Wheat Belly by William Davis

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