Welcome to our series entitled “Why Whole Grains Might Not Be As Healthy For You As You Think”. If you are just joining us, check out our introductory post Why Whole Grains May Not Be As Healthy For You As You Think, Part 2: It’s As Simple As Sugar, and Part 3: Understanding the Glycemic Load.
If you have been following my posts from this series, (and I hope you have been), you have learned that there is another side to the “healthy” whole grain story. My goal is to give you fact-based information so that you will weigh out the good with the bad and make an informed decision. At The Exercise Coach®, we emphasize whole food nutrition and our nutrition playbook goes into great detail explaining the simple facts of healthy eating. Do I eat rice or other grains? Yes, but only on occasion. Because of my history of digestive issues and my gluten intolerance (which you will soon learn that many people have), it is easy for me to avoid most grains. Yet to be honest, rice, and corn can still be quite enticing!
REMEMBER – IT IS AS SIMPLE AS SUGAR
In my earlier posts, I explained that grains are primarily carbohydrates (starches and sugars), and eating a large amount of starches and sugars leads to blood sugar instability, insulin problems, and fat storage. Sugar does not do a body good. I also educated you on the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load so that you will be able to choose foods, and portions of foods, that have a lesser affect on blood sugar. Ultimately, choosing foods that help you to feel good! Unfortunately, a typical serving of grains did not fit the criteria. Believe me – it makes me sad too!
ANTINUTRIENTS – WHAT ARE THEY?
Besides the fact that grains are sugars (and sugars harm the body), grains also contain what are known as “antinutrients.” An antinutrient is simply a compound that interferes with the absorption of nutrients. The antinutrients in grains are gluten (a protein), phytic acid (phytates), lectins, and two enzymes called alpha-amylase inhibitors, and protease inhibitors. I hope to shed some light on each of these and help you understand the ways in which they can potentially hinder your good health. Today’s post will concentrate on Phytic Acid.
#1 – PHYTIC ACID – WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO REDUCE THIS COMPOUND
Phytic Acide (Phytates): Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus found in plant-based foods. Fruits and vegetables have almost none. Grains, legumes, seeds and nuts have the highest amounts. It is primarily in the bran or outer hull portion of these foods. Humans cannot digest it. The main problem with phytic acid is that it binds to the precious minerals you consume (calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc) preventing you from absorbing them properly. Many people suffer from mineral deficiencies due to the consumption of phytic acid. Mineral deficiencies lead to symptoms and disease such as muscle cramps, menstrual issues, skin problems, PMS, osteoporosis, fatigue, anemia, and poor immunity, to name a few. So I know what you are thinking. I’ll cut out the nuts to lower my phytic acid intake. Well, chances are, you are not having “meal” portions of nuts each and every day like you are having with grains (cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch, pasta or rice for dinner, etc.). That handful of nuts would certainly be less risky than that day’s worth of grains!
Besides blocking the absorption of these important minerals, phytic acid also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food including pepsin which is needed to break down proteins in the stomach, amylase needed to break down starches into sugars, and trypsin needed for protein digestion in the small intestine. This leads to a whole host of digestive issues which can then lead to a whole host of other seemingly non-related symptoms like headaches, tooth decay, fatigue, rashes, etc. If you suffer from digestive issues, reducing phytic acid should be a big priority.
While phytic acid is not something you will be able to completely eliminate from your diet, chances are if you substantially cut down on the grains and eat seeds and nuts in moderation, you will be just fine!
Read the rest of this series:
Why “Whole” Grains May Not Be As Healthy For You As You Think: Series Introduction
Part 2: It’s As Simple As Sugar
Part 3: Understanding the Glycemic Load
Part 4: The Antinutrients in Whole Grains
Part 5: Lectins
Part 6: Gluten