Why You Should Go Grain-free?

nutritious school lunch, wheat free, grain free, sugar free, easy, make ahead

I know, I know. I can hear you now:
“But they’re good for you!” “They reduce heart disease!” “They have fiber!” “They’re cheap” “They fill me up” …

This site exists to give you healthful grain and sugar-free options—and understanding. Knowledge is power—read on! Click on a picture to get that recipe or just explore this site.

Here’s a little food for thought: there is no vitamin or mineral you can get from grain that you can’t get in better quantities elsewhere. So let’s take a look:

1: The Food Pyramid (now My Plate) says I should get three servings per day. An appeal to authority (unless that “authority” is actually a preponderance of scientific evidence) does not an effective argument make. So what is the evidence?

  • We’re told that whole grains help control (or lose) weight. Karl & Saltzman (2012) state recent clinical trials have failed to support a role for whole grains in promoting weight loss or maintenance.”
  • We’re told that whole grains help cardiac health by reducing chronic inflammation. According to Lefevre & Jonnalagadda (2012) studies do not demonstrate a clear effect of increased whole-grain consumption on C-reactive protein or other markers of inflammation.”
  • We’re told that eating more whole grains generally prevents disease. Williams (2012) reviewed the entire body of scientific literature between 2000 and 2010 (135 papers) and found no association between whole grain consumption and improved cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, or overall mortality. There may be an increased rate of cancer.

Raw Honey Nut Meusli

2: Don’t grains have essential vitamins and minerals that I can’t get from other sources?

  • Whole grains contain no vitamin C, vitamin A or the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene (except yellow corn)
  • Calorie for calorie, whole grains are not good sources of vitamin B’s (normally found in a complex); grains contain no B12—a vitamin critical for nerve and brain health and protects against pernicious anemia. Your best bets are green leafy vegetables, avocados, red meat and seafood.
  • Whole grains contain very little calcium yet also contain factors that prevent proper absorption and use of any calcium you may be getting from other sources.
  • Whole grains are poor protein sources and have none of the amino acids taurine and carnitine—taurine promotes normal heart rhythm and cardiovascular health; carnitine helps proper energy.

3. In fact, poorly prepared grains prevent vitamin and mineral absorption. Grains contain substances like phytic acid which binds up minerals and prevents proper absorption. In other words, even if you get a lot of iron, calcium and other vital nutrients from other foods, if you eat them with grains they bind to things in the grains and pass through and out of your intestine. However, please note that souring, sprouting and soaking grains neutralizes phytates and renders the nutrients in grain more absorbable.

4. Grains upset your body’s calcium balance. Every food you eat, when digested, yields a net acid or alkaline load. This has very little to do with being alkaline or not before digestion—it is the chemistry of the digestion process that makes it net acid or alkaline. Whole grains are more acid than refined grains, hard cheeses are the most acid, the only alkaline foods are fruits and vegetables. Your kidneys have to balance acid-base and they do this mostly by causing calcium to leach out of bones and act as a pH buffer. And speaking of bone health, it appears that grains somehow prevent the kidneys from activating vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible to carry calcium out of the gut and into the bloodstream and then to your bones and teeth for calcification.

5. Grains are bad for your teeth. Weston A. Price, DDS extensively documented the change from healthy teeth and jaw structure to one of cavities and poor alignment in culture after culture that switched to a diet high in grains and grain products. Anthropological records of our pre-agricultural ancestors indicate very little to no tooth decay; however, that changed after the dawn of agriculture. More recent research links those changes to two main problems:

  • low mineral absorption rates and improper dental structure and enamel formation due to high levels of mineral-blocking phytic acid and inactive vitamin D; and
  • plenty of starches for bacteria to feed on.

6. Grains upset your gut; intestinal health is critical to your overall health. If you’re gut isn’t healthy you can’t absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, become malnourished and more prone to disease.

Here’s the sequence to leaky gut syndrome:

  1. Not very easily digested grains harm the intestinal lining in at least two ways: 1. the fiber mechanically shears the tiny little microvilli, think tiny cuts; 2. digesting the very high starch content of grains creates a net acid environment in your intestine (see #4)
  2. Along with other problems, the acid environment fosters the growth of unwanted bacteria, yeast, amoebas, and even parasites.
  3. Toxins from these unhealthy bacteria inflame your intestinal lining and make it leaky. You may or may not feel symptoms when these unfriendly bacteria grow but they tend to produce abdominal discomforts, gas, and because they cause a release of serotonin in the gut they may contribute to cravings for more starchy foods (eating which blocks transport of tryptophan to the brain reducing the ability of the brain to make serotonin and potentially affecting mood).
  4. Tiny particles of grains can now slip through the intestinal walls into the blood.
  5. Because these incompletely digested particles don’t belong in the blood, your body’s immune system responds. You develop antibodies to grain proteins (lectins) like gluten, gliaden, etc.—proteins that are very similar to proteins made for use by your body.
  6. The more you continue to eat grains, the more this occurs. You may not feel symptoms for a very long time. Gluten binds to the gut lining—gluten antibodies attack the gut lining producing celiac’s disease and Chrone’s (automimmune).
  7. The overworked digestive, pancreatic enzyme and liver detoxification systems cannot keep up with continued grain consumption. These organs are overworked ut the digestive system is no longer absorbing nutrients needed to support these (and other) organs. The body can feel tired, exhausted, and can experience weight gain or swings, eye puffiness and dark bags, digestive upset, excess mucous formation, chronic pain, headaches, and emotional swings.

If you’re white, there’s a good chance that you’re gluten-intolerant to some degree. Current research estimates that 40-60 percent of us from European descent are gluten intolerant to some degree and 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease

7. Grains inflame your joints. Studies show that grains—even whole grains—are linked to joint pain and arthritis. It looks like this may be part autoimmune because the amino acid composition mirrors that of the soft tissue in your joints. Being chemically similar, your body has difficulty differentiating between the two tissues. Once you have antibodies against grain lectins, your body will attack similar proteins of its own as if it were a foreign invader—this leads to pain, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and, of course, more inflammation.

8. Grains cause inflammation in part due to a high starch content. Check www.NutritionData.self.com for nutrition data including inflammation factor, glycemic index, and more. The more refined the grain, the more inflammatory it is. Chronic inflammation is linked to a myriad of degenerative, modern diseases including arthritis, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, bone loss, emotional imbalance and even cancer. Some inflammation factors (zero is neutral, negative promotes inflammation, positive is anti-inflammatory):

Buckwheat TabouliUnbleached white flour          -421
Whole wheat flour earns        -247
Whole cooked millet               -150
Cooked brown rice earns        -143
Cooked buckwheat groats       -79

9. Grains aren’t good for your skin either. Their very high carbohydrate content, even if they are complex, are broken down into sugars. These sugars instruct your body to produce more insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IFG-1). Elevated insulin levels lead to a cascading hormonal response that activates the sebum-producing glands in your skin so it produces more oil. Unfortunately, there is also an increased production of waxy keratin that tends to clog the pores.

10. Eating grain makes you crave grain. Several reasons: Foods rich in carbohydrates give you quick energy because they break down into sugar, but that energy wears off just as quickly as it came. BUT there is far more to this complicated story. It is downright baffling but people who are truly allergic and have antibodies to grains often have the strongest cravings. There are at least two explanations for this:

  1. Grains contain certain opioid-like compounds and also stimulate the body to produce certain endorphins. These narcotic-like substances produce a temporary “high” and a plate of spaghetti becomes one’s “comfort food.” Just like any narcotic, it takes more and more to achieve the same effect and there are truly withdrawal symptoms for stopping. We don’t have negative connotations for these foods so most people don’t ever consider giving them up.
  2. Because grains break down into sugar, they elevate blood sugar and stimulate the production of insulin. One effect of insulin is to allow the transport of the amino acid tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin—a neurotransmitter associated with good moods. The problem is that grains do not themselves contain any (or very little) tryptophan. Other food sources would be far more effective and without creating the imbalances of grains.

baseball beef sticks

Most of us have consumed large quantities of grains all of our lives. As a result, we have endocrine and inflammation issues including weight gain, joint pain, sugar imbalances and digestive distress. We also have signs of malnutrition including fatigue and emotional problems,    soft and/or misaligned teeth and low-density bones.

Avoiding gluten is a good start, but gluten is truly just the tip of the iceberg and you will not restore health by using rice, quinoa, or other grains that do not contain gluten but have all the other problems. Your body has been deprived of the genuine building blocks it needs for a long time—and it has been under a lot of stress

Nutrition Response Testing can determine the fastest, permanent repair program and get you back the health and quality of life you deserve. Not in Anchorage? Find a practitioner near you by searching your zip code.

References:

Lefevre M & Jonnalagadda S. Effect of whole grains on markers of subclinical inflammation. Nutr Rev. 2012 Jul;70(7):387-96.

Wu X & Schauss AG. Mitigation of Inflammation with Foods. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Karl JP & Saltzman E. The role of whole grains in body weight regulation. Adv Nutr. 2012 Sep 1;3(5):697-707.

Spreadbury I. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:175-89. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

Williams PG. Evaluation of the evidence between consumption of refined grains and health outcomes. Nutr Rev. 2012 Feb;70(2):80-99.

Copyright © 2013 GL Sternquist DC Inc. All Rights Reserve

Advertisements

HCG Diet – Weight Loss Miracle? Diet Scam?

Thanks to everyone who came to my packed, full house, talk on 7 Steps to Permanently Lose Weight. One question that comes up over and over and seems to return to our society every few decades (after just enough time, I guess, for people to forget the research) is the HCG diet. “My friend did this and lost …” or “I’m taking the safer homeopathic HCG …” or “I went to a doctor who prescribed the *real* HCG because it’s safer…”  Please read on.

First of all, let’s get some correct definitions:

Diet: n. the foods you routinely eat. Unfortunately, to some, “diet” means a special food restriction you do for a short period of time to lose weight. This is important; your food routine is 80% of your ability to maintain your ideal weight. If you became overweight, was your routine healthy?

Food: n. that which is eaten to sustain life, provide energy, and promote the growth and repair of tissues; nourishment. How much true food do you eat?

What is HCG?

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is hormone that supports the normal development of an egg in a woman’s ovary, and stimulates the release of the egg during ovulation. It is available by prescription only to treat fertility issues in women and sometimes increase sperm count in men. More rarely, HCG is prescribed to pre-pubescent boys to assist in the normal dropping of the testicles into the scrotum, or to cause the testes to release testosterone.

Is HCG good for weight loss?

The brutal answer is NO: There are some very high quality studies that clearly show HCG is NOT an effective weight loss aid (see below). Also, HCG is NOT available as an over-the counter (OTC) nutraceutical (a.k.a. nutritional dietary supplement) contrary to what HCG-promoting websites, multi-level marketing and advertisements suggest. HCG is ONLY available by prescription and is only approved for the uses described, above.

Still, people I know on the HCG diet are losing weight faster than I am!

Right. I hear this all the time: one of my patients knows someone who’s on the HCG Diet and has lost x-amount of pounds. Our own public library even sponsored HCG diet talks and it has certainly become all the rage, again. Whether these acquaintances have bought a fraudulent over-the-counter HCG product or actually found a clinic willing to prescribe HCG as a weight loss aid, they really went for the hype and did not look into the truth.

So, how is weight loss still possible?

This is the cold, hard, fact of the HCG diet: Consuming far fewer calories than what the body requires for fuel does result in weight loss, period. Consuming more calories than what the body requires for fuel will result in weight gain, period. If necessary, continue to read that sentence over again.

Doing the HCG Diet combines HCG with an excessively low 500 calories/day diet (see below). Here are some problems:

  • 500 calories is about ¼ the calories required to obtain the proper nutrients for a healthy diet;
  • Because 500 calories is not enough to maintain the energy, after time, the body’s metabolism will drop to “conserve” calories against further starvation. Slowed metabolism subsequently results in rapid weight gain after the low-calorie diet ends and the individual resumes normal caloric intake, with or without HCG.

HCG Diet Products are IllegalMy doctor, the advertisement, the health food store clerk, friend, neighbor… someone told me HCG was “scientifically proven.”

Whoever is making this claim is badly uninformed and probably listening to marketing hype.

The Research

There is a lack of scientific data to support the notion that adding HCG to a low calorie diet furthers weight loss or increases satiety (the sensation of being fed or satisfied) [i],[ii],[iii]. An evaluation of all 24 previously conducted studies asked whether HCG+ calorie restriction was more effective than calorie restriction alone (completed by Lijesen et al. in 1995 using a method—called a meta-study—of carefully analyzing all the available data, positive and negative, to come up with an unbiased answer). Lijesen wrote:

… there is no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight-loss, a redistribution of fat, staves off hunger or induces a feeling of well-being. Therefore, the use of HCG should be regarded as an inappropriate therapy for weight reduction…

Not only that, people on the HCG diet reported just as much fatigue, cravings and a few studies report side effects directly caused by the HCG and that required hospitalization including ruptured ovarian cysts.[iv]

Importantly, since the 1970’s doctors and researchers have known that HCG does not help any aspect of weight loss whatsoever[v]. Yes, history repeats or so it seems. The next quote is by Greenway and Bray from 1977 after testing two groups both put on the same diet; one was given HCG and the other placebo (by double blind is meant that no one, neither the dieters nor the researchers, knew who got HCG and who didn’t)[vi]:

Injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) have been claimed to aid in weight reduction by reducing hunger, and affecting mood as well as aiding in localized (spot) reduction. We have tested these claims in a double-blind randomized trial using injections of HCG or placebo. Weight loss was identical between the two groups, and there was no evidence for differential effects on hunger, mood or localized body measurements. Placebo injections, therefore, appear to be as effective as HCG in the treatment of obesity.

Not only that, HCG may not be very safe: research also shows that adverse reactions to HCG include arterial thromboembolism (blood clots that break loose in the blood stream and can plug up smaller arteries—read: stroke, cardiac, lung problems), CNS symptoms (eg, headache, irritability, restlessness, depression, fatigue, aggressive behavior), and genitourinary and hypersensitivity effects, as well as local effects from the injection (eg, pain, edema).[vii]

In both animal and human studies, HCG use with elevated insulin (injected or pancreatic response) increases the rate of bilateral (both sides) ovarian cysts.[viii]

How come HCG can be sold in my health food store or online?

It is illegal to sell HCG over-the-counter. As for homeopathic HCG, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States lists active ingredients that may be legally included in homeopathic drug products. HCG is not on this list and therefore cannot be legally sold as a homeopathic medication for any purpose.

In December 2011 and again in August 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warnings to manufacturers that the products they sell are illegal and make unproven claims.[ix]

Outline of the HCG dietThe Diet

Pretty bare-bones although some offices provide menu ideas or even a cookbook.[x] For one single and useful change you can make, read my earlier blog here.

The Bottom Line

I understand that weight loss can be frustrating. Please understand that weight gain is a SYMPTOM of some other health problem. Please understand that this health problem came about by not giving your body enough of the correct tools (food) and too many stressors (antifoods, drugs and other chemicals, stressful situations and people…)

I understand how many of you have unsuccessfully tried many things. You may have been told (or tell yourself) that achieving your weight goals is impossible, have no “will power” (which is a really wrong idea that comes only from having tried useless fad diets that don’t work. It is NOT lack of willpower that failed, it was the poor and misguided information given.), or is genetic (this is disproven), or…

You do not need to spend hours in the gym or nibble only bird seed.

Weight gain is a symptom of other underlying health issues that can be corrected.

Work with us. Restoring health is the first step in accomplishing your weight goals and weight will not stably come off until health is restored. KEEP HEALING! Use natural, whole food tools. Once your body is in “safe mode” the weight will come off.

Get the facts—food quality, not quantity counts.


References

[i] Lijesen GK, Theeuwen I, Assendelft WJ, Van Der Wal G.The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Sep;40(3):237-43.

[ii] Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR. Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9.

Abstract

Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of HCG on weight loss were compared with placebo injections. Forty obese women (body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2) were placed on the same diet supplying 5,000 kJ per day and received daily intramuscular injections of saline or HCG, 6 days a week for 6 weeks. A psychological profile, hunger level, body circumferences, a fasting blood sample and food records were obtained at the start and end of the study, while body weight was measured weekly. Subjects receiving HCG injections showed no advantages over those on placebo in respect of any of the variables recorded. Furthermore, weight loss on our diet was similar to that on severely restricted intake. We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of HCG injections in the treatment of obesity.

[iii] Robb-Nicholson C. By the way, doctor. I’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time and nothing seems to work. What do you know about the HCG diet? Harv Womens Health Watch. 2010 May;17(9):8.

[iv] Rabe T, Richter S, Kiesel L, Zaloumis M, Runnebaum B. [Influence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in combination with a 500 calorie diet on clinical and laboratory parameters in premenopausal women with and without hormonal contraception]. Aktuel Endokrinol Stoffwechsel. 1987 Jul;8(3):142-9.

Abstract

82 premenopausal, healthy, nonpregnant volunteers were treated with a 500 kcal reduction diet for 28 days. They were randomized into 2 groups–OC and non-OC users. In addition, 1 of the subgroups in each main group was treated with hCG injections (250 IU/day im for 21 days. The non-OC users (both with and without hCG injections) consisted of 24 subjects each. In the groups of OC users, 13 patients were treated with hCG, 16 were not treated; 5 volunteers discontinued their diet. All groups experienced strong sensations of hunger during the 1st week of the diet (9-16%) which decreased slowly thereafter. No differences between the individual groups could be found. Diet adjustment improved more greatly in those groups who had not received hCG (15-20%) than in the groups with hCG (2-12%). No change was found during the dieting among the subgroups. Serum electrolytes, urea, uric acid, creatinine, and liver enzymes did not change during the dieting. Slight changes were observed in serum cholesterol and triglycerides. Side effects were seen in 2 volunteers from the hCG group, 1 of whom suffered from severe headache and the other who suffered from ovarian cysts which were punctured by laparoscopy. The success of the diet was based on motivation and good information, rather than on the hCG administration. (author translation)

[v] Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr. Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/29/9/940.long

Abstract

Our investigation was designed to retest the hypothesis of the efficacy of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on weight reduction in obese women in a clinic setting. We sought to duplicate the Asher-Harper study (1973) which had found that the combination of 500 cal diet and HCG had a statistically significant benefit over the diet and placebo combination as evidenced by greater weight loss and decrease in hunger. Fifty-one women between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in our 32-day prospective, randomized, double-blind comparison of HCG versus placebo. Each patient was given the same diet (the one prescribed in the Asher-Harper study), was weighed daily Monday through Saturday and was counselled by one of the investigators who administered the injections. Laboratory studies were performed at the time of initial physical examinations and at the end of the study. Twenty of 25 in the HCG and 21 of 26 patients in the placebo groups completed 28 injections. There was no statistically significant difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received, weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or in hunger ratings. HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.

[vi] Greenway FL, Bray GA. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity: a critical assessment of the Simeons method. West J Med. 1977 Dec;127(6):461-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1237915/

[vii] Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin. Drug Facts & Comparisons . Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; 2005.

[viii] Poretsky L, Clemons J, Bogovich K; Hyperinsulinemia and human chorionic gonadotropin synergistically promote the growth of ovarian follicular cysts in rats. Metabolism. 1992 Aug;41(8):903-10.

[x] “The Original hCG Diet by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons”. HCG Diet Info. 2007-2011. Accessed on August 6, 2010 from: http://hcgdietinfo.com/HCG-Diet-Protocol.htm. Image created by Sean Casey.

Control your weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart health.

The sun is out and our unbelievable record-setting Alaska winter snowfall is finally leaving. Soon we’ll be wearing shorts, bathing suits and, looking in the mirror, yikes! extra winter insulation has just got to go: time to lose some weight!

There is probably no bigger argument in the corporate lobbying dietician/nutrition world than how to get to our ideal weight. Should we count calories, percent of protein, percent of carbohydrate or glycemic index? Which is the most important weight loss strategy (or how can we prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol, improve heart health…) And, of course, we have to shun dietary fat—which corporate lobbying “everyone knows” is bad (another article on that at another time). Truthfully, 30 years of well-done research is being smothered in corporate lobbying confusion.

The correct answer to successful weight control may just be: none of the above—it’s the type of starch that matters.

Decades of very well done research show that the worst food for your waistline (and your heart) is (the envelope please) wheat. (yes, even whole wheat). What type of starch you eat could well be the most important factor in you and your family’s ability to maintain an ideal weight.

First of all, some definitions:

Calories n. the amount of energy produced by food when used in the body.

The common, simple math, view of lose weight by eating fewer calories than what you use for energy is why many people are over fat.

Quantity sort of counts, quality is what’s important!

Carbohydrates n. a class of food including sugars, starches, and celluloses that produce quick energy. Net Carbs that are not quickly burned as energy are converted and stored as fat. ALL fruits, legumes, cereal grains, other seeds, nuts, and vegetables contain various forms of carbohydrates.

Starch is made up of units of a sugar, called glucose, chemically linked together. Depending on the starch source and processing, these glucose units may be very tightly linked or they may be weakly linked together. For this reason, different starches are digested at different rates.

In other words: not all carbohydrates are created equal! Work by Dr. Kay Behall and colleagues (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) shows how the form of starch now prevalent in all our engineered wheat (starting with crossbreeding programs in the 1960’s) actually causes blood glucose imbalances and leads to high cholesterol and weight gain. Although more recent engineering involves adding genes that do not belong in plants—genes causing these plants to make chemicals that are pesticides or help resist weed killers—crossbreeding to increase starch (or size, or color or anything) is a form of engineering. Just like forcing plants to make pesticides, forcing plants to make more starch/sugar or ripen slowly on the truck is not necessarily the best thing for your health.

The wheat we eat today is not the same wheat as yesteryear. Sorry dear reader: marketing campaigns of yesteryear promoting lighter, moister, cakes (and breads and muffins and sugar cookies…) were aimed to increase use of wheat engineered to produce the lightest, fluffiest, baked goods possible—and most inexpensively. Today’s wheat was selected to have the highest amylopectin content (a form of starch) so more refined foods could be produced per acre.

Common cereal grains, corn, rice, and oats, approach 100 percent amylopectin thanks to crossbreeding while the starch found in barley, along with legumes, is only partially amylopectin. Legumes and “pseudo-grains” are far lower in amylopectin. Could this matter to our health? YES!

During a decades-long career, Dr. Behall answers the question we forget to ask: “how does this affect my health?” (especially weight, diabetes, cardiac health and cholesterol).

how blood sugar and insulin store fatThe starch form of carbohydrates are long chains of sugar. When we eat starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, cakes and cookies, the small intestine breaks these down into glucose, a simple sugar that serves as your body’s main source of fuel. When glucose is absorbed through the intestine, blood glucose levels rise. Because high blood sugar is toxic, your pancreas makes insulin that removes sugar from the blood and into every cell in your body.

But different types of cells can accept different amounts of sugar. In fact, fat cells can continue to absorb blood sugar after other cells like liver and muscle have reached their limit and become temporarily resistant to insulin.

Once inside the cell, the glucose is either used as short-term energy (the exercise you do right after eating) or it is converted to fat and stored. Although muscle cells burn glucose to make energy, the typical person—even an athletic person—is not the sort of athlete that burns that much carbohydrate. Fat cells, on the other hand, convert glucose to triglycerides and store the triglycerides for later use (or leak them into our blood stream when they become over-full, raising our blood triglycerides).

Fat cells, also called adipose cells, have a higher capacity to receive sugar from the blood stream than any other type of cell in the body. Their job is to store it as fat.

In other words, if you are eating high amounts of starchy foods you are creating a blood sugar spike that is ultimately stored as fat in your fat cells.

And… the type of starch most prevalent in modern cereal grains (wheat, corn and rice) does this more effectively than the heirloom and non-engineered variants as well as more effectively than legumes or starchy root vegetables.

Why is the type of starch important? Dr. Behall’s findings show that amylopectin, the specific starch found in high amounts in wheat (and many other cereal grains), causes a higher insulin spike than food containing other starches (for those of you who like to know the exact name, this study compared amylopectin with the other common starch amylose. Interesting tidbit: it was amylose that was engineered out of wheat, rice and corn).

And… in a one-two punch, the type of starch in modern cereal grains also suppresses our fat-burning hormone: glucagon.

While insulin works to move blood sugar into cells and signals cells to store fat and nutrients, glucagon works oppositely. Glucagon is the hormone made when blood sugar levels drop below a certain point. It launches a cascade of events to prevent low blood sugar and burn fat for energy. If you want to lose weight (burn fat), you MUST NOT eat carbs between meals and you must limit their intake severely during meals. You MUST force your body to release and burn its fat stores. 

This same study shows that in these healthy volunteers, not only did amylopectin (in cereal grains) result in an insulin spike, but it also resulted in much lower levels of glucagon production for up to four hours after each meal (just in time for the next meal in a fat accumulating cycle).

No only that, but in another study, Dr. Behall also shows how reducing the type of starch found in modern cereal grains also reduces blood triglyceride levels in both healthy and pre-diabetic individuals.

If you want to control your weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart health, replace wheat, corn, and rice grains with less starchy carbohydrates such as root vegetables and especially green leafy vegetables.

And a few more helpful definitions:

Grains n. seeds from the cereal grasses (Poaceae, also called Gramineous, family). These include: Barley, Corn, Millet, Oats, Rice (any color) Rye, Sorghum (also called milo), Teff, Triticale, Wheat, (including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and wheat forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries) Wild rice.

Whole grains (In May 2004, the Whole Grains Council endorsed this definition): whole grains or foods made from them must contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.

This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.

For years now we’ve found that non-cereal “pseudo-grains” like buckwheat test better using Nutrition Response Testing. Some wild rices, such as forbidden rice and wehani rice work well if they are properly prepared.

Although we are not in the clinical trials business, we definitely observe that our patients who follow our clinical nutrition recommendations lose weight. Our combination of individualized nutrient and dietary recommendations allows slow and stable weight loss with improved overall health.

Try my recipes for quick breads, even muffins and get back to eating the way our bodies were designed.