You can’t swing a rope without hearing some spokesperson
for the American Dietetic Association tell you how great whole
grains are and how you should make them a big part of your
“Whole grains” are definitely better than processed grains.
The question is “how much better” and the answer is… not so
Sure, this sounds like nutritional heresy, but consider the facts.
Processed grains—like most cereals, pastas and breads—are
- They contain almost no nutrients (except the ones the manufacturers put back in with “fortification”).
- They contain minimal fiber.
- They are almost always high on the glycemic scale, meaning they raise your blood sugar quickly. This inevitably leads to a sequence of events resulting in energy fluctuations, cravings, and for some, the fogginess and mood swings associated with low blood sugar.
Whole grains are supposed to offer the solution to the problems
of processed grains, but the truth of the matter is... they don’t.
Grains—unlike fruits, vegetables and most nuts—can never
be eaten without some processing. You can’t pluck a stalk of
wheat and start chowing down. Even a natural, whole grain has
to be turned into a food, and its “natural” state is much farther
from “edible” than a berry or a carrot.
“If your whole grains have been ground into flour, then
it’s not whole grain anymore,” says Todd Narson, DC. “The
flour in these products was once a whole grain but it isn’t anymore.”
Big food companies love to proclaim their products are
a “good source of whole grains” but read the ingredients, not
the advertising copy on the package. “Whole grain flour” is
only marginally better than regular flour.
It’s amazing how many people buy into the conventional
wisdom about grains being a great source of fiber. They’re not.
Most commercial breads have one or two grams of fiber at best,
and there’s not much difference between the amount of fiber
found in breads made with whole grain flours and the amount
of fiber found in breads made with white flour. For comparison,
a cup of beans contains between 11–17 grams of fiber, and half
a Florida avocado contains 8.5. Those are real high-fiber foods.
Then there’s the blood sugar issue. Because whole grains—
in theory—are higher in fiber, they are supposed to have a
much more muted effect on blood sugar.
But that’s not always the case. A quick glance at the glycemic
load tables shows there’s only a few points difference between
white spaghetti and whole wheat spaghetti, and brown
rice and white rice are within spitting distance of each other.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t good things in brown rice that
aren’t found in white rice, but it does mean if you’re trying to
control your blood sugar, whole grains are very far from a “free
Finally, there’s the gluten issue. Gluten—a protein found in
wheat, barley and rye—is a very reactive substance that causes
a lot of problems for an awful lot of people. Shari Lieberman,
PhD, CNS linked gluten to an enormous range of symptoms
and disorders including neurological disorders, autoimmune
disorders, and digestive disorders, and that’s just for openers.
Dr. Leiberman suspected gluten sensitivity may be an issue in
chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anemia, asthma and many other
Many people who have tried going off gluten report remarkable
improvements in a host of symptoms they hadn’t suspected
were linked to their food. If gluten might be a problem
for you, whole grains won’t solve it.
So does this mean you should discard the concept of eating
whole grains? No. But read labels carefully. Try to find “flourless”
breads, or those made from sprouted grains. Check the
fiber content on the nutritional facts label.
And remember, there’s no basic physiological need for
grains in the human diet, so don’t worry too much about it if
grains just aren’t doing it for you.
Eat them if you like—but if you’re one of the many people
who feel better without them, don’t give it a second