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healthy grainsBy Julia Gumm

Grains. Who needs ?em? Paleo man didn’t need them. The Inuit didn’t need them. Certainly, health-minded people clad in stylish yoga gear don’t need them.

But does anybody need them?

Today’s anti-grain sensibilities can be tough to swallow for some folks. It wasn’t long ago that the USDA Food Pyramid was advising we eat a whopping 6-11 servings of grains per day, without any differentiation between bran flakes and Wonder Bread!

Now, the powers that be have devised some kind of plate looking thing that still gives the nod towards a hearty portion of grains, but vegetables now take up as much or more of your ideal ?plate? as grains. In previous incarnations of government dietary suggestions, your grain intake was to be’twice that of veggies.

Besides the government crackdown on grains, there is a popular movement that aims to rid us of cereals once and for all. C?mon, what are they good for? A whole lotta insulin spiking carbohydrates, phytic acids that rob us of minerals, inflammation from gluten- why should we eat them?dietary guidelines

AND let’s not forget all the changes in human physiology that appear to be correlated with grain consumption! Crowded teeth, lower palates, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, IBS….hey, when you look at it like that, the answer is clear. Grains= Bad. Spirulina infused coconut flour brownies made with stevia and raw cacao= good. Duh squared, right?

And besides, grains just provide a whole lotta carbohydrates. We eat too many carbs already, right? Ancient man never had this kind of access to this much readily available glucose. No, he foraged for leaves, roots and fruits, hunted game and went into long periods of fat-burning ketosis, instead of relying on a constant glucose supply like his modern counterparts. No wonder we’re such whales.

We?re just not adapted to eat the stuff, right? Don’t forget that popular bit of wisdom that suggests we haven’t been eating grains for longer than 10,000 years or so, when we began farming. Obviously, we haven’t had enough time to break our digestive tracts into the stuff. Yep, grains are bad, grains are awful, we should all stop eating grains.

Or maybe not.

While it is true that human beings haven’t been ingesting domestic cereal grains in large quantity for more than 10-12,000 years, the fact remains that ancient peoples did indeed forage for their wild cousins. Researchers in Mozambique have found evidence of grain-eating going back some 70,000 years! Wow! That really throws a wrench in things.

And while it may indeed be true that our physical prowess has suffered since the dawn of agriculture, I think it might be useful to look at the whole picture. wonder breadTrue, our teeth have probably become more crowded, but could that be because our brains are getting bigger and our diets require less gnashing and chomping than they did when we were eating raw Wooly Mammoth for lunch?

I understand the romance of having a steely frame, ready to lunge at and dismantle an elk with one’s bare hands in a moment’s notice, but perhaps we aren’t like that anymore because we just don’t need to be.

Perhaps it’s more so our own domestication, rather than solely the domestication of the food supply (i.e grains and sweet, cultivated fruits and vegetables) that is to blame for our doughier, less agile bodies and shrinking jaws.

But is that a bad thing?

I know it’s popular to mourn our lost athleticism and vibrant health, but hey guys, cheer up! Since we started eating grains, the human experience hasn’t been ALL bad. In fact, maybe we’ve improved on a few fronts. I know there’s not much to point out here, but let me try: Ok, let’s see: the Enlightenment, indoor plumbing, the printing press, the Internet, automobiles, poetry, space flight, Bavarian cream filled doughnuts, radio, satellite, hot air balloons, whiskey, movies, birthday cake, the Olympics, increased life expectancy, french toast….doughnuts

?Hold on,? you’re saying. ?Just because we did all that stuff after we started eating grains, that doesn’t mean that’s why we did all the cool things you just mentioned! Other than that bit about the Bavarian cream filled doughnuts…mmm, doughnuts.

I see your point, but consider this:

In a 2009 study of dieters done by Tufts University, the low-carb crowd displayed signs of impaired memory once they hit the end of their glycogen reserves, putting them in ketosis (or burning fat for fuel.) ?These cognitive issues were improved by the reintroduction of carbs. Now, even though grains aren’t the only source of carbohydrate available to humans, their place at the table has vastly increased our access to a high quantity of carbohydrates. Could it be that once we started shoveling in pancakes, we had a ton more readily-available glucose (the brain’s preferred fuel), and were then able to build rocket ships and get PhD’s and invent Silly Putty?

Could it be that every lifestyle carries with it a level of risk, and that instead of pretending a readily available supply of energy doesn’t exist, we could instead take advantage of that fuel and burn it appropriately?

Could it be that if we never got around to inventing bread, we might not be here today, on the Internet, discussing whether or not we should have ever invented bread?

capncrunchI don’t actually know. I can’t tell you. It’s just food for thought. There are studies that have shown how a ketogenic diet actually improves brain function,’so there is still much to be understood.

But in researching this article, I had to read a blog about how human testicles are shrinking at an alarming rate, the culprit of course being Cap?n Crunch.

So I figured I should make a counterpoint.