Why Bread and Other Wheat Products Are Not Paleo

Posted on 12. Jan, 2012 by in SUPERHUMAN30 Challenge, What to Eat

If there’s one thing I have realized about spreading the good word of the Paleo Diet, it’s that Americans LOVE their bread.  You can take away their ice cream, you can take away their candy, you can even take away their beer, but don’t you dare touch their bread!

I honestly can say that about 80% of the people that I introduce to the Paleo diet will respond with some version of this line, “The diet sounds nice, but you don’t understand, I lllooovvveee bread/pasta way too much to ever go without it.”

I usually respond with some politically correct answer about how they will feel better if they can just go a few weeks without it, but what I am really thinking is…

“No Shit!  We all lllooovvveee the taste of bread and pasta!”

The fact that you love the taste of bread, pasta, or any other grain-based products is not some miracle that was bestowed upon you and you alone!  We all love breads and pastas, and it’s because of the way wheat reacts in our bodies!

Wheat is Addictive.

If your cravings for your favorite piece of bread or slice of cake feel like an addiction, it’s because you ARE addicted.   Gluten, the main protein found in wheat, breaks down into polypeptides that specifically bind to your brain’s morphine receptor.  This is the exact receptor for which opiate drugs bind to.

This mechanism is so similar to that of opiate drugs, that Naloxone, the drug used to sober up heroin addicts in the Emergency Room, works just as well to block wheat polypeptides from brain receptors in non-addicts.

What’s wrong with a little high with your sandwich?  Nothing.  Except for the fact that this euphoric feeling leads to drastically greater calorie intake at every meal without you even realizing it.

“In a study conducted at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of South Carolina, wheat-consuming participants given naloxone consumed 33 percent fewer calories at lunch and 23 percent fewer calories at dinner (a total of approximately 400 calories less over the two meals) than participants given a placebo.“   William Davis, MD, From Wheat Belly

The high from wheat products makes us want to eat MORE and MORE.  Just changing the addictive response in our bodies allows us to eat far fewer calories without even changing what we’re eating.

But that’s just part of the story on grains; let’s take a common sense look at some of the products we see throughout our grocery store.

Grains are just one of the Problems with Grain-based products.

Next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at some of the ingredients on the back of the breads, pastas, and cereals you used to buy (Since I know you don’t have any still lying around your house).  Even if we were to consider the grains themselves as healthy, almost all grain-based products are loaded with corn syrups, soybean oils, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and a bunch of other ingredients that we can’t recognize or pronounce.

Just look at the ingredients from my favorite “healthy” bread from the past, Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread.

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Cane Refinery Syrup, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Salt, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Cultured Wheat Flour, Vinegar, Dough Conditioners (Contains one of more of the following: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monoglycerides and/or Diglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, Calcium Iodate, Datem, Ethoxylated Mono- And Diglycerides, Azodicarbonamide, Enzymes), Calcium Sulfate, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Starch, Topping: Wheat Cuts, Wheat Flakes, Wheat Bran, Flaxseed. 

Or what about my favorite “healthy” snack, Fiber One Bars.

Ingredients:  Chicory Root Extract, Semisweet Chocolate Chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor), Whole Grain Oats, Corn Syrup, Rice Flour, Barley Flakes, Sugar, Canola and Palm Kernel Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sugarcane Fiber, Soy Lecithin, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Salt, Fructose, Malt Extract, Caramel Color, Cellulose Gum, Baking Soda, Milk, Natural Flavor, Mixed Tocopherols added to retain freshness.

It’s crazy how many ingredients it requires to make a simple loaf of bread or granola bar.  I think we all can agree that neither of these products resemble anything near real food.

But what if you are able to find a product that only contains grains and nothing else?  Aren’t grains a great source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals?

Grains are a Poor Source of Carbohydrates.

Dieticians everywhere love to tell you about the benefits of complex carbohydrates that are in so many grain products.   The theory behind complex carbohydrates is that because they break down slower in your body, they have less effect on insulin and blood glucose levels.  When insulin and blood glucose stay low, your energy stays consistent and body fat is easily utilized as energy.

This is a nice story to tell, but let’s actually dive in and look at the impact grain-based products have on blood sugar and insulin.

The gold standard for measuring insulin and blood sugar impact of any given food is the glycemic index.  The higher the glycemic index, the greater the insulin and blood sugar response, and the more likely you are to store fat.  Where does wheat bread rank?  Near the top with a glycemic index of 71.  Right up there with waffles at 76, bagels at 72, cornflakes at 81, and instant oatmeal at 66.  To put this into perspective, things like Coca Cola and a Snickers Bar, rank at 58 and 55 respectively.  And fruits, such as oranges and peaches, both come in at 42.  Courtesy of health.harvard.edu.

Combine this information with our habit of having grain-based products at all of our meals and you have a recipe for chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels.  Two of the key factors in diabetes, obesity, and aging.

Grains are a Poor Source of Vitamins, Minerals, and Fiber.

Did you know that most of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you see in your favorite grain-based products have to be added back after processing just to make it into the finished product?  So grain-based products aren’t actually loaded with vitamins and minerals, they just appear that way because of modern science.  I don’t know about you, but if someone has to shove a multivitamin into my bread in order to make it healthy, I would rather take the multivitamin on its own and eat something else….like that Snickers Bar.

Gluten is Toxic.

We’ve already mentioned gluten (the protein found in wheat and other grains) for its ability to break down and become addictive, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this toxic substance.  Gluten is kryptonite for people with Celiac disease.  It breaks down the lining of their small intestine which leads to liver disease, dermatitis, diabetes, nerve damage, nutritional deficiencies, and a whole host of autoimmune conditions.

While only a small percentage of the population has Celiac Disease (or at least have been diagnosed), it’s important to note that very few people, if any, are free from the effects of gluten.  About 83% of the population develops observable gut inflammation after eating wheat gluten.  On top of that, several studies have proven that a greater and greater percentage of the population is developing celiac disease.  This isn’t even because our ability to diagnose celiac has gotten better.  Even when the standards of diagnosis stay the same, blood samples from today have consistently shown greater instances of Celiac than they did just 20 or 50 years ago.

We tend to think things like acne, IBS, and acid reflux are all part of our genetics, but there is good reason to believe that all of these things are directly caused by the gluten in our diet.

I could go on and on about the dangers of gluten and grains but let me finish by telling you why I personally don’t eat bread anymore.

Why I Don’t Eat Bread.

After seeing all the research, and applying some of my own common sense, it has become pretty clear to me that grain-based products are NOT health foods.  They may be dangerous and even deadly for some people, but more importantly, they are not healthy.  Does that mean I will never eat another product containing grains for as long as I live?  Hell No!  I am still going to have the occasional beer, eat the occasional brownie or slice of cake, and I am going to enjoy the hell out of every sip or bite.  I will deal with the consequences of those foods later, but I will not feel a single ounce of guilt or remorse as I polish off the entire thing.

A key part of the Superhuman30 is to redefine what constitutes health food, and what constitutes junk food.  For me, this means that things like bread, pasta, and cereal never really enter the equation.  They definitely don’t fit in the healthy food category, and if I’m going to cheat, I can find a lot tastier things to cheat with.  Like chocolate peanut butter ice cream for instance.  THAT is something that really sounds worth it to me.  Not some turkey sandwich or fiber one cereal.

My goal for everyone over the next 30 days is to re-evaluate all of the foods in your life and determine which ones are worth it, and which ones aren’t.  So when you make an effort to eat healthy, you choose foods that are REALLY healthy, and when you want to branch off and cheat, you go for the foods you REALLY want and don’t hold back.

For More Information on the Dangers of Grains, Check Out Wheat Belly.

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