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.


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

For Moms and Mother’s Day… sweet as honey

Raw Honey Nut MeusliThis mother’s day I’m planning to have energy to burn, to feel great, and do whatever I want. Sunday is a break from the daily great big rush of getting my (now 13-year-old) son and I out the door in time for school and patients. He always likes to make me a Coconut Milk Yogurtspecial breakfast; something special to start our day with lots of protein and other genuine building blocks. Whether he gets creative and makes me Berry and Almond Scones, or  A Garden Variety Quiche, this yummy Raw Honey Nut Meusli served over Coconut Milk Yogurt (don’t for get the fresh seasonal strawberries) is a ready-made and simple option.

And besides, I think moms, mother’s day, queen bees, and honey just sort of go together. Our Raw Honey Nut Meusli can be made at any time and stored—so all my #1 son has to do is pour a bowl and add unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Voila! Ready to go. Mom’s breakfast in bed.

Since my cooking style is really along the lines of “handfuls of this;” “some of that,” when my neighbor (with the same cooking style) told me this recipe we of course never wrote down anything, or exactly measured. I think I recall the ingredients as she said them but you never know… my family loves this recipe, and Judith, I certainly welcome your edits… the rest of you, please add a little of this and that and do send in any suggestions and great variations.

This is my neighbor who also keeps bees. Their honey has found many ways into our hearts. A few years ago, my son missed a school lesson on bees and I was grateful to walk up the street and learn about their hives. We helped Bill check the queen bee and feed each hive as it was early in the season before flowers are blooming. The trick is to grow the hive population early in the year so that all summer they can Queen bee in hivefocus on making honey. As we pulled out each frame, it was amazing to me that the bees didn’t react or get mad. We followed Bill’s instructions for no sudden movements; some of the bees would land on our clothes, sit there, and leave in as harmonious a relationship as you could imagine. From time to time I recognize their honey bees when they visit my many flower gardens.

As an aside, Bill told me that the Southcentral Alaska Beekeeper’s Association does classroom presentations. I set this up and it was well worth it. Our speaker, Tina, brought a contained hive, her own raw honey, and we all gained an appreciation for these amazing insects—without which there would not be flowering plants.

Health benefits of raw honey: (if you want a goodly scientific review article, go here)

Although we need to go easy on our sweets—it is Mother’s Day and mothers are sweet. My Raw Honey Nut Meusli recipe uses raw honey made by neighborhood bees, but not very much. It is important that your honey is raw and from a known source: as soon as honey is pasteurized it becomes just as bad as table sugar for spiking your blood sugar—and your waistline! Raw honey is alive with enzymes and other health beneficial nutrients. Pasteurized honey is, well, sterile and not any better for you than high fructose corn syrup.

Most store-bought honey is pasteurized; if it doesn’t specifically state “raw” on the label, it isn’t. More recently, most store-bought honey is also subject to a procedure called “ultra filtering.” This high-tech procedure of heating (sometimes after watering-down the honey) and then forcing it through extremely small filters removes pollen and thereby the ability to trace the source of the honey. Why is this important? Many low-grade hives in china and other countries are infected and routinely treated with antibiotics. It is illegal to sell antibiotic-contaminated honey in the U.S. and Europe, but the only way to trace this is through the pollen “fingerprint” that indicates its source. Ultrafiltration removes this—and I am sure is being touted as good by those manufacturers as in “now ultrfiltered!” Check here for a list of cheap brands that use this trick.

Raw honey was the only widely available sweetener throughout human history until replaced in the 1800’s with industrial sugar cane and more recently high fructose corn syrup. Bees contribute to the nectar they collect and make it very, very different from these cheap sugar extracts.

As long ago as 1892, honey ointments were scientifically shown to have antimicrobial activity. Other health benefits are described even in the earliest writings; Sumerian tablets dating back to 2100–2000 BC, mention honey’s use as a drug and an ointment. Besides antiseptic properties, raw honey helps clear infection by boosting the immune system, having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, and by stimulating cell growth.

Not all honey is created equal and there is a lot of conflicting stuff on the internet because, well, because anybody can say anything. I always go back to the scientific literature. In this case, the story on raw honey is very clear:

  • Raw honey’s ability to fight bacteria, fungus, even parasite infections has to do with certain enzymes.
  • Heat (pasteurization) and light destroy these enzymes and honey loses all antiseptic properties becoming no better than sugar. In fact, it becomes a food source for unwanted guests after it is sterilized by heat treatment.

So even though manufacturers of cheap pasteurized and ultra-filtered honey claim their product has the same health benefits, in truth it doesn’t—there is a big difference.

Today, we know that diets high in fructose—especially high fructose corn syrup—cause obesity, adult onset diabetes, may be linked with other chronic inflammation symptoms such as gout and heart disease, and cause unwanted health effects too numerous to list.

Although also high in fructose (the exact amount varies by honey type), raw honey does not elevate blood sugar in the same way nor does it appear to cause the body to make and store fat as does high fructose corn syrup.

Raw honey also increases the amount of antioxidants in the blood (which would help reduce inflammation and promote healing). Interestingly, although table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are known to feed cancers—raw honey does just the opposite and actually has both anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties.

Bill, I know that a lot of people dislike bees or are afraid of them. Thanks for bringing greater understanding of them into our lives. Judith—thanks for your kind gift of raw honey.

Reference: Honey for Nutrition and Health: A Review. Bogdanov, S; Jurendic, T; Sieber, R and Gallmann, P; J Am Coll Nutr December 2008 vol. 27 no. 6 677-689

The adventures of chocolate and grass-fed beef …

Amazing Brisket Chocolate RubAlthough the Irish in me absolutely loves my brisket as corned beef and cabbage; slow cooked to perfection and tenderly falling apart—this year I wanted something just, well, different. I wanted adventure. Not only that, but whatever I cooked had to accommodate my time constraints of either being in the office completing the Alaska Health Improvement Center expansion and remodel or out on the ski slopes enjoying our record-setting Anchorage snowfall.

Both of those reasons are why I haven’t written in quite a while—good problems to have, sorry for the hiatus, I hope this makes up the damage 😉

I bring you an adventurous rub with convenience. But first a few words:

Selecting your meat:

Meat grade. Beef is graded based on the age of the animal and the amount of fat marbling. The most common grades, from lowest to highest are: Select, choice, prime, and Wagyu. As long as your meat is grass fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics, the more marbling the better. Fat makes the meat more tender, flavorful, and juicy. And, fat does not make you fat—definitely not!

What about grass fed beef? Unfortunately, if your meat is not grass fed and humanely raised, it is loaded with all manner of hormones to make the animal get to size faster plus those animals need antibiotics because they are more likely than grass-fed to get sick. As well, the grain-based feed used often contains toxic chemicals—some that are even banned from production like PCBs. In fact, you might be disgusted by some of the things fed to commercial dairy and beef cows. Out of respect for you coming here to find a delicious recipe I won’t list them, but if you are interested go to this  Union of Concerned Scientists page.

Two of my favorite vendors: In Anchorage you can select the cut you like by visiting Duane Clark at Sears Mall 10-4 on Wednesdays. I’ve seen the Clark family farm and met his animals. Beautiful.

If that can’t work, order your quality grassland meat products from US Wellness Meats. Good quality and low shipping costs.

Grains fatten the animals more quickly, but they don’t result in healthy fats in those animals. Grass-fed meat is low in “bad” fat (including saturated fat). It gives you from two to six times more of a type of “good” fat called “omega-3 fatty acids.”

We’ve heard how omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health. People deficient in omega-3 fatty acids tend to experience more anxiety, hyperactivity and depression, they are more likely to get Alzheimers, they tend to have irregular heartbeats and are more likely to have serious cardiac events and even high blood pressure.

Grass-fed, but not grain-fed, meat is an excellent source of omega-3s because these fats are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of plants. Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA. Even those cattle that are “finished on grain” lose their valuable store of LNA as well as two other types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA very rapidly when sent to the feedlot.

With Brisket, this is very important because the fat surface on the outside of the meat will baste and tenderize as you slow cook the meat. In other words, you want the fat.

I cannot stress this enough: When shopping for brisket, go grass-fed and go for the highest grade you can find. If the grade is not labeled, chances are it is “select.” Avoid it. Brisket is the classic example of “garbage in garbage out”. Please don’t write to me and say you can’t figure out why your brisket was tough if you did not buy USDA Choice or better. Also hand pick the piece with the most fat striation visible.

US Wellness Meats sells quality grassland meat products – Visit us Online!

For your recipe, go here. Let me know how you like it.

Treat Mom to a Healthy Brunch!

Us mom’s work really hard to make sure we give our families our best. But where are we going to find the energy for this if we aren’t giving our bodies the genuine building blocks they need, or have way too many environmental stresses dragging us down?

Personally, and as a somewhat biased mom, I advocate for Mother’s day about 365 days a year. Fathers day too (I’m not gender biased mind you ;-). And for that matter, children’s day too.

I’m only somewhat joking. Shouldn’t every day be a celebration of family? What if every day we found one special thing that we could do for each of our loved ones?Goji Cacao Energy Balls

One of those things can be to take the extra time to give your body the food it needs and eliminate the “anti-foods” it doesn’t need so that you can find the energy to do all those things you love. The patients we see in our office every day are on the path to this and you can be do. Chronic Family Fatigue hasn’t yet been voted into having its own diagnosis code, but it is very real and caused by improper  — and family-wide — nutritional habits.

So if you are looking for a special way to treat mom, or dad, or simply put your best foot forward. Just try some of the delicious ideas on this blog.

Lasagna, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-freeToday’s recipe: Garden Vegetable Quiche, is just great with slices of peaches or nectarines and berries.

There are recipes that our children love for snacks. Try: Goji Cacao Energy Balls, my son’s favorite.

And there is comfort food: Lasagna, Gnocchi and more.

Happy Mother’s day, Father’s day, and Children’s day. And enjoy health and the energy that goes with it.