Grains belong to the cereal group and form the staple part of our every day diet. Examples of grains include barley, millet, oats, rice, wheat etc. Grains are modern man’s staple food and is consumed widely across the globe.
Grains are a popular food because of ease of storage, convenience of cultivation, and also yield a variety of by-products.
Examples of grain based food products include pasta, pizza, wheat flour, all baking goods, all-purpose flour, refined flour, dough nuts etc. Although grain plays a predominant role in the present era, it was never consumed by our stone-age ancestors and hence is not considered as part of Paleolithic diet.
Fossil remains and archeological findings provide strong evidence on the food habits of Paleolithic ancestors. The findings clearly indicate grains never featured as part of their pre-agricultural food habits. Intrigued by their findings, health researchers probed further and identified the reasons behind the exclusion of grains in the stone-age diet. The two basic reasons why grains did not feature as part of the Paleolithic diet are :
- They were not edible as a raw food and could not be easily / readily consumed.
- Stone-age ancestors did not know agricultural techniques and hence grains were not cultivated nor consumed.
In addition to this the food time line reveals that grains became part of the diet in the neolithic era when the practice of farming and agriculture began about ten thousand years ago. During the neolithic era grains formed the predominant role in the diet. The fossil remains of early humans that dated back to the neolithic period showed signs of osteoporosis, arthritis, dental caries etc. This was a clear indication for the strong association between grain consumption and emergence of diseases.
Researchers also identified the following biological reasons for absence of grains in the dietary regimen of cave-men. They are listed below:
Interferes with nutrient absorption: Grains such as rice, wheat, millet contain phytates that bind with nutrients in food and form chelates. These chelates are insoluble by the digestive enzymes in the body and are capable of damaging the digestive enzymes resulting in indigestion and other gastro-intestinal disorders.
Rich in anti-nutrients: Grains are naturally abundant in anti-nutrients such as phytates, lectins and glutens. These anti-nutrients produce toxins which severely damage the intestinal lining, result in inflammatory conditions in the body. The anti-nutrients also prevent absorption and digestion of other nutrients and increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Unfriendly to G.I tract: The toxins present in grains trigger inflammatory reactions in the gut. Such damages may lead to change in the permeability of the intestinal wall and result in toxins and other harmful bacteria reach the blood stream. In some cases they lead to serious implications by affecting important organs such as brain, heart etc.
Risk of disorders/diseases: Consumption of grains have been lined to auto-immune diseases and disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, gluten-intolerance, celiac disease etc. which leads to discomfort and poor quality of life.
Low in nutrients: Grains are not the richest source of fiber, vitamins or minerals as it has been promoted. They contain less fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals when compared to vegetables, fruits and other greens.
Evolutionary angle: An evolutionary insight on grains give an interesting angle for the presence of toxins in grains. The grain crops similar to all other living things produce toxins naturally in order to protect themselves from being eaten away by predators. Grains contain toxins and they are inedible in raw form, these are the two natural characteristic of grains which makes it unfit for consumption by predators such as humans and animals. This saves the grain (the seed) from being digested and ensures survival of the crop, which is the simple basis of evolution.
The toxins have been proven to cause abdominal distress in the intestines that range from mild discomfort, bloating to serious illnesses such as celiac disease, auto-immune conditions and severe brain damage.
An ancient wisdom
These pointers clearly indicate that grains were not intended as food for consumption by nature, which is evident from the toxins identified in them.
With increasing number of food allergies and intolerance based on grain and grain products, it becomes crucial for us to reconsider the way grains are looked upon as staple part of diet.
The absence of grains in Paleolithic diet should be looked upon as an ancient wisdom for great health and not just a dietary habit.