The Next Question: What Are Grains?
You can’t really know if someone is good for you or not, unless you get to know them. The same goes for grains. You have to get to know them so you know which are healthy. So what are grains?
First, in order to understand what grains are doing, let’s chat a little about who they are. This is one of the major players in the carbohydrate family.
They extend from a long lineage of ancestors such fruit, vegetables, potatoes, wood, paper plates, weeds, and Lee Iacocca.
Ok, not sure about Lee, but carbs are pretty much everywhere. They are known as monosaccharides.
What Are Grains Made Of?
What are grains consisting of? Grain have a bit of a different makeup though as we will talk about. These different types of grains are descendants of ancient wild grasses. They consist of a bunch of scallywags that fit in the same family:
- rye, and
Each grain kernel consists of:
- 83% endosperm,
- 14% bran, and
- 3% germ.
I don’t expect you to remember that, but know this: we live in a survival of the fittest world and Mother Nature was kind enough to not only create all of these organisms, but also give them defense mechanism.
Grains and defense mechanisms? Absolutely. In order to know what are grains, you got to know they want to fight to live.
Just like the evil cows we talked about, the grains pack a slow kamikaze-like punch. The bran contains antinutrients that were genetically designed to prevent eating of the grain. The endosperm, majority of the kernel, is mainly starch. It is the energy supply to help the kernel grow. The germ is where the grain babies are made. This is the reproductive part of the grain that allows it to “spread its seed” so to speak.
The spreading is done with some assistance from the wind or animals knocking things around. When it finds a cozy pad, the grain does it’s business and keeps reproducing new offspring.
There are several different types of grains that we should consider before we dig into why grains hurt us in the next post. Here are a list of grains.
- Gluten: This isn’t a grain, but a common protein found in wheat, barley, oats, & grains. It is often seen in sauces and marinades as well. You probably have seen “gluten-free” labels at stores. This is one of those new “bad boys” that we will talk about. They cause digestive issues that give them this bad label and rightfully so.
- Oats: Oats are very similar to gluten in that oats has a protein called avenin among others. And with these similar proteins (prolamines) they both provide similar gut irritation issues that we will talk about in a bit.
- Corn: This is also in the same family because of a prolamine called zein. I know it sounds like a Superman bad guy and you will probably forget these names, but the bottom line is it has the same digestion consequences as oats.
- Rice: Same story. Rice also comes with it’s own proline rich protein called orzine.
- Whole Grains: Yep. Same thing with these indigestible proteins. They actually come packed with minimal support in regards to minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Counter this with the negative impact of smacking around your GI tract, systemic inflammation and it makes it not worth it.
- Quinoa: This is a cousin cut from the same biological cloth as other grains. It also has the same qualities that lead to gut irritation and systemic inflammation. They contain saponins molecules that punch holes in the membranes of the microvilli cells. Yes I know you think a lot about your microvilli cell membrane, but this damage causes hormonal and toxic issues in your body that makes it very hard to live.
- Bad Starches: This is a broad category that tends to cover some of these other folks. Unfortunately because they are similar a lot of starches, like potatoes, have the exact same gut irritation issues.
- Good Starches: Finally, it isn’t all bad. There are a couple exceptions though that you can eat like yams and sweet potatoes (Yes I know you could call these vegetables and not grains). These starches are great resources that are easy for your body to absorb. They don’t have the anti-nutrients like the protein lectin that we talked about that are present in grains. They also provide a great deal of nutrition that our bodies can make use of. As we will talk about in the workout recovery section, sweet potatoes and yams do a great job of replenishing liver glycogen. Other common post workout resources like fruit tend to overfill our liver glycogen because it has more fructose in it, while yams and sweet potatoes are more kind of your liver and insulin levels.
If you want to learn a great deal about sweet potatoes and a bajillion recipes then read this four part book called Sweet Potato Power.
So as you can see all grains are pretty much alike. They have unique proteins that each person will have some varying degree of reaction to, but for the most part they are all doing gradual damage to your body.
So when asking what are grains, it really doesn’t mater which type of grain because they are mostly poor for your health and help you pack on more pounds.
What’s Up Next?
So how does that damage work? We will talk about exactly what grains do to your body in the next post.