Are There Benefits of Going Grain Free?

It seems like this time of year everyone is preaching about some exciting new diet. Whether it’s a low-fat, gluten-free, grain free, paleo, vegan, or ketogenic diet, it seems like everyone has their own “secret” to feeling their best.

Everybody is different

It’s easy get confused when reading about all the different diets that people swear when they all seem to be so different from the each other. You might wonder how someone can drop a few pant sizes, sleep better, and feel more energized by switching to a vegan diet while others say the same thing about when they adopted a Paleolithic diet of meat, nuts, and seeds. Is everybody lying about their perceived benefits? To put it simply, no. We commonly hear the phrase “everybody is different,” but more importantly, every body is different. It is no secret that a diet full of vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, nuts, and high quality protein is beneficial to the body. It is the balance and sources of these nutrients, however which make a difference at an individual level.

People have different metabolisms, body types, and genetic predispositions for their body to behave a certain way when eating certain foods. For instance, some people need a lot of carbohydrate to feel energized. They are usually highly active individuals, have lean body shapes, and are most commonly men.  Other people feel terrible when they eat too much carbohydrate, they bloat, they feel sluggish, and they usually suffer from headaches or food cravings just a few hours after eating. Those people benefit from a higher fat, higher protein diet. As long as both patterns are focusing on high quality foods from whole, natural sources, their body is going to be adequately nourished so they feel and look their best.

Listen to your body

There are also food intolerances and allergies that further affect the optimal eating pattern for each individual. Many people lose the ability to break down lactose as they age, making dairy a difficult food to digest. People who experience upset stomach, cramping, bloating and gas after following a diary-heavy meal would benefit from cutting back on dairy or only eating dairy that’s lower in lactose such as in aged cheese or yogurt. The same can be said about grains. Some people find they are sensitive to wheat and other varieties of grains such as corn, oats or even quinoa. If you experience negative symptoms after eating certain grains, try avoiding them for a while to see if you feel better. The take home message is: listen to your body.

The bad reputation of grains

Grains get a bad rap from some communities for containing “anti-nutrients” and say they should be avoided. Anti-nutrients (such as phytic acid, lectins, or lignans to name a few) are things that your body has a difficult time digesting. They are compound made by the plant to protect itself from being eaten and are found in everything from grains, legumes, and even spinach or broccoli. Despite the name which makes them sound more harmful then they are, these compounds are not something you need to worry about. Some of them are broken down when soaked, sprouted, or cooked, and others are actually used by the body to help neutralize free radicals and other potential threats. Remember that whole grains are nutritious foods that have been eaten by healthy populations for centuries, and didn’t pose a threat until we started to refine them and process them. White flour, white rice, processed pastries, crackers, sweetened  cereals, and cookies were not the way grains were consumed throughout history.

Do you experience negative symptoms after consuming grains? 

There are people who are sensitive to the proteins (especially gluten) in some grains. If you are suffering from headaches, cramping, bloating, or other gastrointestinal distress you might be one of them and you could benefit from going grain free. Again, listen to your body, pay attention to how certain foods make you feel, and try a few days without grains to see if your body struggles with digesting particular grains. If you find that you are sensitive to a certain grain, don’t fear. You can still cover all of your nutrient bases by eating a good balance of other foods, especially fibrous vegetables!

Just because something is a healthy food for somebody, doesn’t mean it is a healthy food for you. In this month of fad diets, weight loss promises, and diet-food overload, remember that you already have the secret to eating right…it’s you! You are the one who ultimately decides what works for your body by listening to it and honoring its message to you. Enjoy your food and if you are curious about a few grain free options here are some bread alternatives you just might love!

Grain Free Cinnamon Pecan Bread
“Non” Bread Grain Free Recipe

Do you have any other favourite grain-free recipes? Please reply in the comments below!

Hayley is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist, a part-time yoga teacher, and full-time mother. She is passionate about health, nature, and empowering others to reach their full health potential. She works as a health coach, nutrition writer, recipe developer and group fitness instructor. She is energetic and passionate about delicious food and promoting health of the body, mind, and spirit. She hopes to inspire others to eat closely to the way that nature intended, capitalizing on the amazing benefits of whole, unprocessed foods. Follow her posts for nutrition advice and delicious recipes!

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