Many folks are embracing a grain free lifestyle these days and it’s not just trendy. All plants, grains included, are programmed with species protective mechanisms so that animals and humans do not eat them into extinction. Animals also have species protective mechanisms like, running away, swimming away, and defending themselves and their young. Since plants can’t do that, they have a tiny amount of toxins in them. The more you eat of one type of plant, the more of that toxin that gets built up in your body. (Here’s another reason for eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and for following a seasonal model of eating.)
Further, the seeds of the plant (i.e. the plant’s baby) often have the highest concentration of the those toxins in order to protect the next generation of plants. When we eat grains, we are eating the seeds of the plant. Those toxins are called antinutrients. They are substances that “steal” nutrients from the body and irritate the gut, cause inflammation in the body, and cause nutrient deficiency. Some examples are: phytates, lectins, saponins, and oxalates.
- deplete magnesium and zinc and inhibit their absorption
- are found in unsoaked grains, legumes, and seeds
- good gut flora helps to aid in mineral absorption and minimize the impact of phytates
- are better tolerated when consumed with fermented foods and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) a type of fiber the body can’t digest and that feeds the good gut bacteria
- deplete magnesium and zinc and inhibit their absorption
- good gut flora help to aid in mineral absorption and minimize the impact of oxalates
- are found in greens like spinach, beet greens, chard, purslane, and parsley
- impact the bioavailability of zinc
- contribute to kidney stones
- are sugar binding substances that can lead to poor digestion
- humans have trouble digesting them and thus can develop antibodies
- can cause flatulence
- can damage the gut (leaky gut)
- are found in grains, legumes, dairy products
- are phytochemicals that are found in food (plant glycosides)
- break down the gut lining
- produce a soap like residue and lather
- are found in quinoa, root beer, beans, potato skins, peanuts, and soy
So how does one avoid antinutrients?
- A grain-free lifestyle is one option. Eating less grains or eliminating them altogether is one option.
- Opting for white rice instead of brown rice will lower the exposure to antinutrients. White rice has the bran and germ removed, which also removes the antinutrients, making it more digestible for many folks. While brown rice certainly has more nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, those are of no use to you if you are having trouble digesting and absorbing them because of the antinutrients.
- Soaking and sprouting your seeds, legumes, and grains is another great way to reduce the exposure to antinutrients and help to make the nutrients more bioavailable to the body (aka easy to absorb). Here is a great article on how to soak and sprout.
- If you’re looking for a shortcut, there are a few brands that sell soaked and sprouted products:
Go Raw sells snacks make of soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds. They are also a small local company that uses real food ingredients and not much sugar!
truRoots sells a line of grain medleys that have been soaked and sprouted and are convenient and ready to use at home.
So, what are your thoughts on going grain-free and antinutrients? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Lentil Soup with Turkey & Veggies
This soup was created with liver health in mind. Midway through my chemotherapy treatment for Breast Cancer, my liver enzymes were too elevated to continue treatment. We had to postpone treatment for at least one week to make sure that my liver was healthy enough to process the chemotherapy. At that time I was in school to become a Nutrition Consultant and I knew there were things that I could do to “Love my Liver”, so I went home and made some BIG changes to my diet for that week and well, IT WORKED! I went back the next week and my enzyme levels were low enough to continue with chemotherapy. Here is one of the recipes that I made for the “Love my Liver” week.
1 1/2 C green lentils (soaked overnight)
1 jar diced tomatoes
24 oz. homemade bone broth (chicken or turkey)
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
4 small summer squash, sliced
3 small bell peppers, diced
6 carrots, sliced
6 stalks of kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. ground turkey
Bay leaf, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano
Sea salt & Pepper
Rinse lentils and let soak overnight. Next day: in a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in butter. Add broth, tomatoes, lentils, and veggies. Add ground turkey. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Continue simmering for 30-45 min.
After reading Grain Brain, by Dr. David Perlmutter, when Brain Maker came out, I knew that I would have to read it too. At Paleo F(x) this year, Dr. Perlmutter was the keynote speaker, promptly reminding me that I needed to read his book.
As a nutrition consultant, gut health is one of my main passions, because as Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” A neurologist by trade, Dr. Perlmutter goes even further to discuss the links between an unhealthy gut and Autism, ADHD, allergies skin issues, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, inflammation, and many, many, more.
Out of the trillions of cells that are housed in your sack of skin that we call a body, 90% of them are bacteria. You read that correctly; you are 90% bacteria. Now don’t freak out. Without all of that bacteria, you literally wouldn’t be living. Dr. Perlmutter helps us to get acquainted with those bacteria and help us see just why we need all of those friendly little buggars. He then helps us to know what factors can throw our delicate ecosystem off balance. Some of those factors include: antibiotics, nsaid use, oral contraceptives, the chemical laden agri-business food system, among others.
Dr. Perlmutter gives action steps to help preserve and maintain a thriving colony of gut bacteria. The book is also equipped with recipes that include probiotics and help to maintain the gut colony. This book is highly recommend for those interested in improving their gut health or just like to nerd out on science and healthy living.
Sunflower butter or sunbutter is a great option for those that are allergic to nuts but can tolerate seeds. It has a great peanut-y flavor. As with all nuts and seeds, I recommend opting for organic because fat is where the toxins (herbicides) are stored. I also generally recommend raw nuts and seeds because roasting can damage the fragile fats and is often used to hide the rancidity of nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds have a season when they are fresh, just like all fruits and veggies. Choosing raw allows you to know that the nuts and seeds are still fresh. Although, raw and organic nut butters are CRAZY expensive (like $12-$25 for a fairly small jar). You can certainly make your own. Add the nuts or seeds to a food processor and turn it on. Once they become the right consistency, turn off and store in a jar (in the fridge to slow the oxidation process). Some people add salt, sugar, or oil to it. Feel free to experiment away!
Jennifer Tyler Lee, like many parents, was looking for a nut-free alternative for her children while at school. She suggests using it as you would peanut butter…ants on a log and apple slices dipped in sunbutter. She also suggests a no bake snack called Bitty Bites. I would obviously sub out the whole wheat flour for a grain-free option like cassava flour.
- Good source of vitamins B1, B5, B6, and E, folate, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, and protein.
- Sunflower seeds contain phytochemicals, especially phytosterols, which can help to lower blood cholesterol.
- They are a great source of monounsaturated fats (24 grams per 1/3 cup serving).
- Sunflower seeds also contain arginine an essential amino acid that is important during periods of growth.
- Contain heart healthy compounds.
- Have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antiallergenic.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.
February’s Clean Eating Book of the Month is Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter. Amazing book! I give this book 5 out of 5 strawberries!
Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, is a neurologist. Most people probably think, “what does being a neurologist have to do with writing a book about diet?”. Well, just as we don’t live in a bubble, our bodies’ organs don’t exist in isolation. What we put in our bodies have an impact on how our organs function. Dr. Permutter reviews cutting edge science to demonstrate that diet does play a significant role in the health of our brain and our entire neurological system.
“Gluten is our generation’s tobacco.” This quote resonates with me because I have “heard it” all from well meaning family and friends as to why “everything in moderation” should be the mantra by which we live our lives. It also resonates with me because of the backlash the “gluten free” movement has gotten. Further, I can see so many parallels of doctors that once recommended cigarettes for “stress” and are now recommending “healthy whole grains” as a part of a “balanced diet”.
Through years and years of work with patients, Dr. Perlmutter has seen Alzheimer’s disease destroy many lives. He notes that chronic inflammation is at the root of the disease and that chronically high blood sugar is the main source of the inflammation. In Grain Brain, he calls Alzheimer’s disease Type III Diabetes for this reason.
In addition to his work with Alzheimer’s patients, he treats many patients with ADHD, Autism, MS, and more. Going grain free and refined sugar free is of great help to all of his patients.
This book is amazing and life changing. If you aren’t already gluten free, or if you are gluten free, Grain Brain restates the multitude of reasons why avoiding gluten is the way to go for a healthy body.