Going grain free has taken the diet and nutrition world by storm. More and more people are picking Paleo and similar diets to lose weight and reduce stomach woes. Grain free diets don’t just slash gluten. They require you to give up all grains, period.
But going grain free is caught in a swirl of controversy. Are grain free diets truly superior? As with most diets, they have their pros and cons.
The Benefits of Going Grain Free
Grain-free diets provide enormous relief to individuals suffering from certain digestive disorders. Going grain free while adding a probiotic supplement helps heal the chronic intestinal inflammation associated with diseases such as coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The balanced gut benefits often remain even after resuming the consumption of certain whole grains.
Going grain-free allows the microbiome, the natural gut bacteria responsible for aiding in digestion, to replenish itself. When these bacteria fall out of balance, bloating, gas and diarrhea occur. Going grain free may aid in weight loss too. Grains, including whole grains, contain many calories. In addition to cutting calories, eliminating grains helps your blood sugar to stay stable, freeing you from binge-inducing hunger pangs.
Some evidence suggests that going grain free may alleviate the pain of certain autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers recently discovered the link between intestinal health and a strong immune system. Inflamed intestines lead to a weakened immune system, which can not only exacerbate autoimmune diseases but also may lead to susceptibility to germs and infection.
Eliminating grains may decrease the risk of developing Type II diabetes. However, contrary evidence also exists claiming that a diet high in whole grains can prevent the risk of this disease. Those who have already developed Type II diabetes should consult with their physician or nutritionist to determine if grain-free eating will help their condition.
Because of the high sugar content that many grains contain, switching to a grain-free diet may also reduce your risk of tooth decay and prevent cavities.
Potential Pitfalls of Grain Free Diets
While the benefits of grain-free diets may entice you to take the Paleo plunge, certain pitfalls are present. Eliminating an entire food group from your diet may lead to malnutrition. Grains contain a host of vitamins and minerals that often cannot be adequately replaced by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. You should consult with a qualified nutritionist regarding proper supplementation prior to going entirely grain free.
Going grain free can put a huge dent in your energy levels, especially when you first begin the diet. Grains contain complex carbohydrates, which the body converts into instant energy. Eliminating grains can make you feel sluggish and constantly fatigued.
Grains also contain fibre, which keeps your bowels moving smoothly. Even though cutting grains alleviates much of the grief suffered by those with coeliac disease and other intestinal disorders, individuals who are not suffering from a digestive disorder may experience constipation due to a lack of fibre in their diets. A quality magnesium supplement may eliminate constipation, but remember to always start slow and build your dosage gradually to avoid potential diarrhea.
Going grain free does not necessarily equate to weight loss. While many find that they do shed pounds, others maintain or even gain weight.
Finally, many people find that going completely grain free simply isn’t practical, especially when they’re dining out or at other people’s homes.
How to Get Started
After evaluating the pros and cons, you may have decided to give a grain free diet the green light. Maybe you don’t intend to eliminate grains entirely or for the long haul. Whether you go grain free for life or just cut back on your carbohydrate consumption, a few tips will get you started in the right direction.
- Lettuce makes for an excellent bread substitute for wraps. You can wrap anything from burgers to tuna salad in lettuce for a quick and tasty un-wich.
- Ground cauliflower serves as a handy substitute for regular flour. You can use it to create pizza crusts, mashed “potatoes” and even dessert treats. For an extra flavor punch, add some ground nuts to your cauliflower mix.
- Crave pasta like mad? Simply shred courgette into thin “noodles.” And skip the sugary pasta sauce in jars, opting instead for olive oil, fresh tomatoes and other herbs.
Nutritionists disagree on the benefits of grain free diets, but since the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, educating yourself about the pros and cons of such a diet can help you determine whether it’ll work for you. Even if you don’t decide to ditch the grain entirely, switching to more nutritious substitutes for refined grains definitely has its benefits.
Here’s to healthy and happy eating!
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work and you can read her previous post on The Art of Healthy Living.