Live Real. Eat Real.

Taking It All With A Grain Of…Grain

This is a followup to Tuesday’s post about the invitation I received to interview Dr. Stork about the importance of hearthealthywholegrains in our diet, especially as an “easy fix” for weight loss, all courtesy of General Mills.  The overwhelming consensus in the comments section is that, while it would have been extremely entertaining if I’d accepted, I most likely would not have been allowed to ask my questions.  Frankly, I agree.

So we’ll talk about them here.  Or rather, we’ll talk about the fact that grains, even “whole” grains, ain’t all they’re, um, cracked up to be.

Recently, the marvelously foul-mouthed intelligent and entertaining Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal dismantled the eyerolling OpEd piece by Melody Cherny in Food Safety News titled Don’t Eat Like A Caveman.  In his post, he makes use of some graphical charts to illustrate the commonly held disbelief that whole grains are nutritionally superior to other foods in terms of B vitamins, minerals and fiber.  I’d asked for, and received permission from Richard, to use these charts, but decided instead to take it just a little bit further.

I’ve claimed here previously that there isn’t anything, be it nutrient or fiber, found in grains that can’t be found in greater quantities in other, more nutrient-dense, foods.  So, let’s start with fiber, shall we?  We’ll ignore for the time-being that the phytates found in grains, particularly whole grains, bind to their nutrients and prevent your body from absorbing them; we’ll also ignore that the government-issued Recommended Daily Allowances are only high enough to prevent diseases of malnutrition, such as rickets and scurvy, and are woefully short in terms of optimal nutrition.

A serving of whole wheat bread is about 1 ounce, or one slice, and contains 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of protein, 13 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of fiber.  It contains 2% of the RDA of vitamin E, 4% vitamin B6, 2% calcium, 4% folate, 9% copper, 5% iron, 8% magnesium, 37% manganese, 8% niacin, 3% pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), 9% phosphorus, 5% riboflavin, 19% selenium, 9% thiamin, and 7% zinc.*

In comparison, a serving of raspberries is roughly 2 ounces, or 1/2 cup, and contains 30 calories, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, 7 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of fiber.  As for the micronutrients, that half-cup of raspberries contains 1% of the RDA of vitamin A, 3% vitamin B6, 21% vitamin C, 2% vitamin E, 1% calcium, 4% folate, 5% copper, 2% iron, 3% magnesium, 35% manganese, 4% niacin, 3% pantothenic acid, 1% phosphorus, 5% riboflavin, 1% selenium, 2% thiamin, and 4% zinc.

The RDA content of micronutrients for both of these foods, per serving, are very similar, but look at the macronutrient content – you can eat 2 servings of raspberries, an entire cup, and double your micronutrient intake as well as your fiber intake (8 grams), while consuming roughly the same amount of carbohydrates and fewer calories than that one slice of bread.

But those whole grains are an “easy fix” for better weight loss – so says Dr. Stork.

In her silly opinion piece, Ms. Cherny states, “…I do not agree that people should exclude whole grains…from their diet. Nor do I agree that people will become healthier by consuming large amounts of meats, seafood and eggs.”  Fine, then we won’t deal with “large amounts” – we’ll talk about reasonable amounts.

It’s generally accepted that a serving of meat is 4 ounces.  So, let’s start with salmon, since it contains a healthy portion of what many Americans lack in their diet – omega 3 fatty acids.  Which, of course, there are none in those supposedly “heart healthy” whole grains.  Four ounces of salmon has 164 calories, 7 grams of fat (2 of which are the all-important omega 3s), 0 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of protein.  As for micronutrients, that same 4 ounces contains 5% of the RDA of vitamin A, 47% B6, 195% of B12, 1% of vitamin C, 5% vitamin E, 4% calcium, 3% folate, 6% copper, 3% iron, 11% magnesium, 1% manganese, 58% niacin, 18% pantothenic acid, 42% phosphorus, 14% riboflavin, 74% selenium, 12% thiamine and 6% zinc.

Now let’s see what happens if you eat 4 ounces of what my friend Mr. Nikoley refers to as “nature’s multivitamin” – liver.  (Don’t go “blech” at me; properly cooked it is delicious, something both Beloved and – more importantly – The Young One will attest to.)  Four ounces of beef liver has 162 calories, 4 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fiber and 23 grams of protein.  It contains 1,708% of the RDA of vitamin A, 82% vitamin B6, 3,260% vitamin B12, 33% vitamin C, 9% vitamin D, 5% vitamin E, 1% calcium, 70% folate, 420% copper, 43% iron, 7% magnesium, 17% manganese, 103% niacin, 172% pantothenic acid, 51% phosphorus, 286% riboflavin, 85% selenium, 27% thiamine and 55% zinc.

Can we say, “Wow”?

Wow.

For those of you who prefer a visual representation, here’s a chart, showing the nutritional data for 4 ounces each of whole wheat bread, raspberries, salmon and beef liver:

4 ounces
Whole Wheat Bread Raspberries Salmon Beef Liver
Calories

279

56

167

162

Fat

5

0

7

4

Carbs

52

13

0

7

Fiber

8

8

0

0

Protein

11

1

24

23

RDA of Vitamins & Minerals
A

0%

1%

5%

1708%

B6

16%

5%

47%

82%

B12

0%

0%

195%

3260%

C

0%

38%

1%

33%

D

0%

0%

0%

9%

E

6%

3%

5%

5%

Calcium

8%

2%

4%

1%

Folate

14%

7%

3%

70%

Copper

0%

9%

6%

420%

Iron

21%

4%

3%

43%

Magnesium

30%

6%

11%

7%

Manganese

146%

64%

1%

17%

Niacin

31%

7%

58%

103%

Pantothenic Acid

13%

5%

18%

172%

Phosphorus

37%

2%

42%

51%

Potassium

286mg

172mg

474mg

365mg

Riboflavin

21%

9%

14%

286%

Selenium

75%

1%

74%

85%

Thiamin

36%

3%

12%

27%

Zinc

27%

7%

6%

55%

Look at that – the only nutrients the whole wheat bread are appreciably higher in is magnesium and manganese, and you can fix that by adding an ounce of almonds to your meal of raspberries and liver.  Plus, the four ounces of bread – just four slices! – is more calorically dense, with far more carbohydrates, than 4 ounces of any of the other foods listed.

But adding more whole grains to your diet is an “easy fix” for better weight loss.

Uh-huh.

Bite me, Dr. Stork.

* All nutritional information comes from the FitDay database.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

 


16 comments

Michele says:

I’m pretty sure my non-gmo and organic tofu beats whole grains hands down and the way I fix it it tastes delicious.

Bite me, Dr. Stork. Ha! Love it!
I don’t think properly prepared (soaked, sprouted, etc.), organic whole grains (in major moderation) should be completely excluded from someone’s diet (unless, of course, they need to lose weight or heal their gut, etc.) — but man — do you notice all those exceptions I had to put in there?? There are so many other foods with far greater nutrient density that should be consumed long before grains enter the picture.

Woot! Take it to the mountains, girlfriend!

I’ve never been much of a grain eater …
But once in awhile?
There’s nothing better than a hot piece of fresh baked sourdough bread, all melty with butter.
: )

Nicely put Jan! You know what? A positive piece that highlights the differences instead of just bashing the other is EXACTLY what our movement needs. You back up the claims, and in a positive light. Kudos to you.
One concern I have with liver though – i wonder how healthy CAFO liver is? I think pastured is the only way to go. If you can’t get pastured (because of legal restrictions – such as here in Canada/Quebec,) then leaving the liver by the wayside might be a better option.
I bring this up because the liver and kidneys are the filters of the body – if they are constantly bombarded with pesticide laden grains, hormones, etc, then they are passed off to you when you eat the
Sure, they are incredibly cheap as a CAFO item, but my concern is still there. What are your thoughts Jan?

Jan says:

Jason, your question has made me, well, THINK. I do have an answer for you, and will give it its very own post soon. Let’s just suffice to say that I don’t think worrying about CAFO raised animals should keep you from eating this nutritional powerhouse.

MamaBadger says:

I just made the point to someone on the opposite side of the fence, that where is comes from is way more important than what it is. If you’re getting healthy grains, then eat them in moderation. Same thing with meats. Now, find me healthy grains. Far more challenging than finding healthy meats.

That said, I do love a nice slice of home made bread now and again.

VandyJ says:

I can agree with you on everything but the liver. It’s a texture thing. I just can’t stomach it. But I’ll happily eat raspberries!

chuck says:

if anyone has ever read the book “Wheat Belly” they will realize that the most commonly available organic whole grains are very different than the stuff our grandparents ate just 50 years ago. wheat has been messed with so much that it is just a good idea to find other sources of sustenance or if your smart, nourishment.

It’s sad when the things you love the most are your worst enemies. Pass me the raspberries, please! :)

Be says:

I was never a huge fan of liver and can still be challenging to cook for. BUT, I have grown to love it. Even now, the taste is not the driving factor – I always FEEL better after eating it. ARH-ARH-ARH- might be the micro-nutrients??

The problem with wheat of all sorts (I think even primitive lines, sorry Dr. Davis), is that they have a dietary addictive quality – a high glucose reaction that spikes cravings that lead to over eating. Hence, empty calories.

Nancy says:

I’ve been eating chicken livers (from pastured chickens) more often ever since Jan posted the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Livers recipe :-)
Our half-beef (grass fed) came with several packages of liver, so I need to see what I can do with that.

Jan says:

Nancy, I have a couple of recipes for grass-fed beef liver on this site – just do a search for “liver.” Both are delicious, and I hope to have another one soon. I also have 2 pounds of pastured chicken livers in my freezer – I need to find something else to do with those, as well!

Lynn says:

thanks for this post. I have done whole grains and the “healthy” diet thing for years without results. More that I am looking at things, the more I am convinced the I need to eliminate grains from my diet. This is a great post to help with understanding that I really do not need grains in my diet.

Jan says:

Lynn, it took me a LONG time to realize that grains were only making me sick and miserable. There’s so much misinformation out there, telling us whole grains are our salvation, that it’s often difficult to sift through it all to find out what’s right for us personally. And while I do believe that there are some people who do well on plant-based diets – my friend Michele is a perfect example – I don’t think there are many who do well on a grain-based diet…especially modern hybrid grains.

Lynn says:

The funny thing is that I kind of came to that realization on my own and then set off to see if there was any research to support what I thought I was seeing with my own body…and I am finding the research to support it.

I will tell you that I feel so much more energized since I have pretty much eliminated grains for about a week so far with one minor slip up with a pita. Crazy…but I am determined to stick to it.

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