But the media says…
This is a topic that myself and fellow dietitians are quite passionate about at the moment. It has been splashed all over the media that grains and dairy are harmful to our health. In reality, there are far bigger issues with our populations’ diet than whether they eat grains or not. This message is of concern for a number of reasons that I will discuss below. However, I will be focusing just on grains in this blog.
Making sense of these mixed messages
Dietitians encourage the incorporation of grains as part of a healthy diet, yet the media is telling us the complete opposite! This is a hot topic at the moment, largely because of the rising popularity of the paleo diet. Many people, particularly those who are paleo, want to eliminate grains all together. There is this misconception that wheat is bad for us.
Whilst I do believe that the elimination of grain products may be beneficial for some people (and it is important to acknowledge that), it is not necessary for everyone. Grains definitely have their place in a healthy diet. This food group provides a significant amount of our dietary fibre, energy and other micro and macro nutrients.
Many individuals claim that they feel better when eliminating grains from their diet. However, I have found that this is somewhat expected when you look at what their previous diet was like. Making the swap to wholefoods and less processed foods will make anyone feel better! Often when people cut grains, they do a complete diet overhaul and start preparing more meals from fresh ingredients and striving to eat healthier in general – this is bound to make them feel better.
I read one such example just this week of a woman who reported great improvements in her health and wellbeing after cutting grains from her diet – she stated that her previous diet consisted of McDonalds up to 3 times per day. Can her improved wellbeing be solely credited to the exclusion of grains? I have read many testimonials like this example. Admittedly, not all stories will be like this but it is also worthwhile to highlight dietitians and other individuals who eat a wholefoods and a balanced diet, inclusive of grains but who also feel in top health. I myself include a range of good quality grains in my diet each day and I feel great with blood results that reflect this! Also, the Japanese population have a grain heavy diet and they are one of the longest living populations. However, these stories are not being publicised.
What is good for one person may not be good for the next
Some recommendations and diets may not be appropriate for everyone. Dietitians provide tailored information based on the needs of the individual. They do not take a blanket approach by telling everyone that they should eliminate grains.
It is also important to note that grains are a very good option for people who have to stick to a tight budget. They are affordable, healthy, versatile staple products that can feed many families. For these groups in particular, cutting out grain products will jeopardise the quality of their diet and limit them to what they can buy that will fill up a whole family for an affordable price whilst maintaining nutrient density.
The Dietitians Association of Australia and sponsors
As dietitians, we do not get monetary incentives to promote the eating of grains – this has been questioned recently. We are in this business in order to promote good health and wellbeing and our guidelines are evidence based – meaning we are continually updating our knowledge by reading journal articles and evaluating new findings. Somewhat amusingly, the people who have been suggesting this payoff of sorts are ones that are promoting their paleo or grain free cookbooks, are sponsored by products like coconut water; they are conducting pricey talks and will be producing TV series on the subject. Yet you don’t hear them mentioning this as an influencing factor.
I am not writing this to undermine the promotion of a diet devoid of grains. I am rather writing this to clear up some confusion, to make life a little easier for some people and to enforce that dietitians only have your best interests at heart! As I mentioned earlier, we agree that for some people, a grain free diet can be beneficial.
All in all, grains are good for us! Choose good quality grains that are minimally processed e.g. multigrain bread opposed to white bread. Before eliminating grains, why not trial following a healthy, wholefoods diet first? Aim to avoid processed foods and eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, lean meat, dairy and wholegrain products. Drink plenty of water and even throw in some exercise. See how you feel doing this!
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about grains or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.