I’ve gotten to where I really like this Fight Back Friday carnival I participate in; it gives me an opportunity to write about this change our diet is undergoing without having the entire blog revolve around it – because, believe me, it’s been tempting. But, you know, I like posting pictures of The G Man and relating amusing stories about The Young One and rambling on about Beloved and our life. Having said that, I’ve had a lot of people ask that I relate the hows, whys and wherefores of all this, and FBF is the perfect venue for it.
I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on it, too – and a lot of questions.
I know my decision to cut grains from my diet has probably been the most puzzling for a lot of people, and those who don’t question it are likely to think the reason is that it is the fastest and most efficient way to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat. While that certainly is a factor, it’s a relatively minor one – there are lots of reasons I’ve gone grain-free. I’ll start with the personal ones.
Yes, grains are loaded with carbohydrates, even whole grains. I simply cannot eat a lot of carbohydrates. My body does not handle them well. I’ve had to make a decision of where I get my carbohydrates from, and it simply isn’t going to be from grains.
The fact of the matter is there is no nutrient in grains you can’t get from another food source in greater quantities. For example, 100 grams of whole wheat flour contains 44 mcg of folate; however, a 100-gram portion of lamb liver will give you 400 mcg of folate and a 100-gram portion of yardlong beans will give you a 658 mcg per 100-gram portion. The virtues of whole grains are often cited for their fiber content, but you can find dietary fiber in better quantities in other, more nutrient-dense foods. For example: 100 grams of cooked brown rice offers up 1.8 grams of dietary fiber; by contrast, a 100-gram serving of cooked collard greens offers 2.8 grams – even green peas have 5 grams of fiber per serving. This is true of every benefit grains offer – you can get it somewhere else in greater quantities.
Grains can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Grains contain substances like phytic acid that binds up minerals and prevents proper absorption. So even though though your diet might be rich in iron, calcium and other vital nutrients if you eat commercially processed grain, you’re not fully absorbing nutrients from the other foods you eat.
There are a lot of other personal reasons that I’ve given up grains – they have inflammatory properties that aggravate my arthritis, my digestion has improved ten-fold since I eliminated them from my diet, the mood swings of menopause have been minimized a great deal since giving up grains; the list could go on and on. For me, grains are not a good thing. If you can eat grains without experiencing any of this, bully for you…but it is estimated that 30% to 40% of people of European descent are gluten intolerant to some extent. A lot of people unknowingly are eating things that make them sick.
For a not-so-personal reason: I’ve given up grains because they are unsustainable. Industrial agriculture is decimating the planet, and Confined Animal Farming Operations (CAFO) are not the only perpetrators. Monocrop agriculture, where the vast majority of our grains (and soy, but that is a rant for another day) come from, is raping our planet. Not only from a standpoint of the fossil fuels used to transport them over long distances, although that is certainly an issue, but also in terms of what it is doing to our ecosystems. Only a small portion of the land on this planet is suitable for farming – you may have no idea how much damage irrigation alone does to the environment. Tilling land for annual monocrops also does incalculable damage to the soil; damage that can take decades, if not centuries, to reverse. Animal rights activists decry the fate of farm animals, but do they realize that the topsoil that makes large-scale agriculture possible is actually alive and that we are killing it with shoddy, unsustainable farming methods? We won’t even go into the thousands upon thousands of animals that are killed annually for the sake of monocrop agriculture, either through loss of habitat or due to planting and harvesting with large, industrial, destructive farming equipment. If you’re a vegetarian for ethical reasons and are eating corn, wheat or soy, there is blood on your plate whether you realize it or not.
For me, I’m sorry that it took so long to discover all of this. I also know that as a single person, what I do makes very little difference in the scheme of things – this change in my personal diet isn’t going to save the giant Pandas. I realize, too, that not everyone can afford to purchase food, be it plant or animal, that is ethically and sustainably raised. Life is a compromise, often an uneasy one – we do the best we can. Eating meat and plants that are ethically and sustainably produced, as often as I can, is my compromise. And that is one of the many reasons I’ve given up grains.
Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday