What Sets Grains Apart – It’s Not Starchy Carbs

This post is basically for the purpose of highlighting a couple of others’ posts on grains in case you haven’t seen them.

First, Mark Sisson took on the "Better Fed" and "Feasting on Grains" nonsense I posted on the other day.

Let’s suppose that Mercader’s dating estimates are correct. Let’s also suppose that the tools Mercader tested had indeed been used to prepare food, as the presence of other food residues suggest. First off, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the sorghum was also used as food. Tools, for prehistoric humans (if not for moderns as well) needed to serve multiple purposes, supporting not just food preparation but shelter construction and other daily living tasks. As one archeologist skeptic, Curtis Marean of Arizona State University in Tempe, explains, grasses were regular parts of “bedding” and “kindling.” Another critic, Huw Barton from the University of Leicester, questions Mercader’s assumption that the sorghum had been used for food based on the curious presence of the residue on tools not associated with food preparation, including drills.

See Mark’s entire post. And I suggest also reading the article Mark links to.

Next up is the always pointed & frank Dr. kurt harris, MD. While he doesn’t take on this piece of nonsense garbage that I and Mark did — probably because it’s just too stupid for his tastes — he takes on grains themselves: as poison garbage. And, too, he takes on the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) for their silly insistence on what should really be termed ‘proper preparation of poison.’ Now, I certainly don’t want to become and enemy of WAPF, I’ve linked to many of their articles many times, and Price, as Kurt says, was a giant in nutrition. But I do not get this insistence on "neutralizing" what’s just toxic poison.

The larger point is this – The whole exercise of finding a way to justify eating gluten grains is beyond pointless.

We have here a class of plant proteins derived from the seeds of plants that do not want to be eaten and that we did not evolve eating – cereal grains. These gliadin proteins (glutenins and gliadins) have known effects on gut permeability even in those without celiac disease via the innate immune response. These effects are in addition to those of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), a secondary plant compound found in wheat germ that is elaborated solely to discourage consumption of seeds by animals.

The WAPF position is that, rather than simply avoiding eating things with gluten, we should soak, sprout and ferment these noxious plant seeds and eat them anyway, in hopes that our preparation has hydrolyzed enough of the gluten to make short enough peptides that the immunogenicity is diminished.

I suggest wheat advocates who worship tradition pay for access to this short report published in GUT – I did – and then explain why a celiac, or indeed anyone with a gut should expose themselves to even microgram amounts of incompletely hydrolysed gluten when 5 out of 6 people without evidence of CS (Celiac Sprue) have evidence of an abnormal innate immune response using a highly sensitive assay.


You can live fine with zero gluten grains in your diet. Wheat flour is vitamin poor, has no nutritious fat that isn’t rancid, and the proteins in it are incomplete in their amino acid complement. There is absolutely no upside to eating wheat if you are not starving

So why engineer some convoluted preparation ritual in order to eat it? Why not just avoid it?

At any rate, see Kurt’s post to get the real scoop on what’s going on with grains, gluten in particular. And the comments have to be seen to be believed. Also in the comments, Kurt demonstrates why dairy is not at all in the same category as grains from an evolutionary, paleo diet standpoint.

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  1. Patrik on December 30, 2009 at 11:25

    What is disheartening is that a lot people interested in Paleo don’t have a firm grasp of evolutionary principles and framework. For example, those that seek to justify wheat consumption don’t get that as Kurt points out:

    …wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), a secondary plant compound found in wheat germ that is elaborated solely to discourage consumption of seeds by animals.

    The wheat plant does NOT want its seeds to be crushed and eaten. Since it cannot run away or fight back physically with tooth or claw, it fights biochemically. This is an evolutionary adaptation that we should respect!

    By the way, this is the same reason unripe fruit tastes bitter to us as well as the same reason seeds within ripe fruit taste bitter as well. That ability to taste bitterness and gag is one of our evolutionary adaptations to avoid naturally occurring toxins…like the ones in wheat.

    To wit, fruiting plants have evolved to have their seeds dispersed by way of creating a coating of desirable and scarce sugars (what we call the fruit – usually brightly colored to call attention to it) that are eaten by herbivore/omnivores which then disperse the seeds elsewhere in a fertile bit of feces to germinate in.

    Wheat, you will notice, does not have fruit around the seed to attract predators. Again, wheat does not want to be ground up (by machine or teeth) and eaten. To be fair, neither do large herbivores like cattle, but they don’t poison their own flesh, they either fight or run.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 30, 2009 at 13:32

      “The wheat plant does NOT want its seeds to be crushed and eaten. Since it cannot run away or fight back physically with tooth or claw, it fights biochemically. This is an evolutionary adaptation that we should respect!”

      Yes, and what animals seem to have adapted fine to grass seed consumption? Birds, so far as I know.

      • Patrik on December 30, 2009 at 14:54

        I am sure there are other animals as well — however, the point is not to forget that those animals are evolutionarily adapted for grass seed consumption, while we are not.

  2. Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life on December 30, 2009 at 15:07

    Thanks for summing up the argument against grains. I’ve been an ardent fan of the WAPF for about a year now, but during the last two months I have drifted away from grains more and more. Now they are an occasional treat around here, and I’m learning more and more to cook and prepare our meals without them. The kids hated this at first – where’s the cereal, oatmeal, buttered toast? I was making healthy (soaked) versions of these but I think we’re better off without them now.

    I think you are going to eat grains, it’s important to properly prepare them. Otherwise you will just be exacerbating everything that’s wrong with grains in the first place. But I think reducing or elimating grains will reap better results for most people.

    I don’t totally discount soaking grains. After all, many traditional cultures have used this method and endured a lot fewer health issues than our modern society (they probably put a lot less emphasis on grains, though, compared to us). However, I say if you can stand to cut back on grains or live without them entirely, it’s only going to benefit your health.

  3. warren on December 30, 2009 at 18:42

    i keep wodering how much of these gluten protiens end up in beer and if its not just the carbs in beer that i should be watching out for.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 30, 2009 at 18:50

      beer has lots of gluten. scotch doesn’t. guess what i’m drinking? :)

      • Patrik on December 30, 2009 at 21:16


        While I love(d) beer, it/gluten triggers migraines for me. I have switched to Jameson on the rocks which I am assuming doesn’t have gluten (due to distillation) as it I suffer no ill effects.

  4. ‘”Healthy” Whole Grains’ « Live Long Food on July 29, 2010 at 07:54

    […] than try to peck around and re-write what and link I am simply going to post it in the entirety. HERE  it […]

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