Keeping it healthy

Paleo Part 3: Grains

This post will be the start of my concerns with the paleo diet.


For those of us who have tried to follow the Paleo diet, one of the hardest parts of the diet to follow is its restrictions on eating grains. Luckily for us, we don't need to totally avoid them.

While the Paleo diet dictates that people should avoid grains research suggests that avoiding grains is not a healthy choice. Grains contribute protein, fibre, vitamins and folic acid, essential fatty acids, energy, and antioxidants to our diet. The most healthy choices of grains are whole grains that haven’t been refined, as the husk (bran) and the germ of the grain contribute the greater amount of nutrients than the endosperm. The endosperm is the part that is left once a grain has been refined. So the smallest portion of the grain actually has the best bits in it.

I have heard people justifying the lack of grains in their diet by saying that gluten increases inflammation. They are partially correct. Gluten, a protein found in some grain products, does cause inflammation for those that suffer from Coeliac Disease, but is unproven for the rest of the population. There is scientific research being done to see if avoiding gluten can improve health [1], but to make any firm statements around this would be premature.

To avoid a whole food group such as grains is definitely not recommended for a well balanced diet. If you do feel concerned about gluten, there are still many options in the grains category that don’t contain gluten. Some of these include:

  • Quinoa

  • Rice

  • Corn

  • Buckwheat

  • Amaranth

  • Chia

  • Millet

Making a sourdough is sometimes used to remove gluten from bread products. The fermentation process appears to break down the gluten,

making the bread “gluten free” [2]. This is still not recommended for people with coeliac disease, but is a good option for those wanting to avoid gluten.

A lot of research has gone into determining the benefits of grains on health. A large study done to compile the evidence of research found some very interesting results. As taken from the Huffington Post:

“For those who consumed 90g of whole grain products per day, the following was observed:

  • Coronary heart disease risk was reduced by 19%

  • Cardiovascular disease risk was reduced by 22%

  • Risk of death by stroke was reduced by 14%

  • Cancer risk was reduced by 15%

  • Respiratory disease risk was reduced by 22%

  • Risk of infectious disease was reduced by 26%

  • Diabetes risk was reduced by 51%

The greatest health benefit was seen for people who went from not eating whole grains at all, to consuming two servings per day - equivalent to 32 g/day, such as 32 g of whole grain wheat or 60 g product/day, such as 60 g of whole grain wheat bread.” [3].

So in summary, it is important to have grains in your diet as they provide health benefits. If you are concerned about gluten, choose gluten free grains or sourdough products (if you don’t have Coeliac Disease).

Up next is Paleo Part 4.

In this post I will talk about legumes.


[1] Soares, F. L. P., de Oliveira Matoso, R., Teixeira, L. G., Menezes, Z., Pereira, S. S., Alves, A. C.. . Alvarez-Leite, J. I. (2013). Gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance associated with the induction of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma expression. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 24(6), 1105-1111. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.08.009

[2] Di Cagno, R., Barbato, M., Di Camillo, C., Rizzello, C. G., De Angelis, M., Giuliani, G.. . Cucchiara, S. (2010). Gluten-free sourdough wheat baked goods appear safe for young celiac patients: A pilot study. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 51(6), 777-783. doi:10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181f22ba4

[3] Hinde, N. (2016). Whole Grains Health Benefits: Daily Serving Can Lower Risk Of Heart Disease, Cancer And Diabetes. Huffington Post.

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