Here at Caveman Foods we’re beginning to notice that all around the world, more and more people are beginning to “go against the grain” and adopt a grain-free diet. But what’s the reason for this big shift? Is it for health reasons, such as anti-inflammatory dieting or weight loss, or is it because it helps us think more clearly? Let’s dig in and have a look!
For hundreds of years since the agricultural revolution, humans have had grain as a major staple food in our diet. But lately, dietary trends have been emerging that exclude grain as a major food group. Why is this? For starters, this trend may be emerging due to the popularity of gluten-free diets in the past decade. In fact, around 1 in 5 people now eliminate or limit gluten consumption in their diet in the United States. While gluten-free diets are a necessity for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that causes a severe allergy to gluten, only about 1% of the population has celiac disease. So why is it so popular if so few people need to follow it? Some speculate that even if you don’t have celiac disease, it’s still possible to be what is called “gluten-sensitive,” meaning that while you may not have celiac disease, you may still have adverse reactions to gluten itself such as inflammation, weight gain, and indigestion, which is why individuals may benefit from a gluten-free diet even if they don’t have celiac disease.
While gluten-free diets aren’t necessarily grain-free diets since some grains are naturally free of gluten (like buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa), they can have similar benefits. As mentioned earlier, gluten-free diets can limit inflammation and weight gain, both of which are added health benefits of a grain-free diet. Additionally, grain-free diets can limit blood sugar levels and are believed to reduce pain for individuals with certain conditions such as fibromyalgia or endometriosis, though the scientific link between those conditions and a grain-free diet is not quite concrete.
So why specifically would individuals be choosing no grains over grains? As mentioned before, the biggest reason is likely for weight control. Grains are typically very high in carbs and low in other macronutrients like protein and fat, which can derail weight loss efforts very quickly if not eaten in moderation. In fact, removing grains from one’s diet can yield effects very similar to the Keto diet, which focuses on eating mostly fat and protein-rich foods while foregoing carbs. While Keto isn’t necessarily grain-free, the two are certainly very similar as those on a Keto diet will typically forego grains in the same way those on a grain-free diet will due to their carb density. Grain-free diets also enhance weight loss by keeping blood sugar levels down. The reason blood sugar affects weight loss is because most grains can be high in carbs while low on fiber, making them easily digestible, and so the body’s blood sugar levels will spike when the carbs in those grains are converted into sugar. If there’s too much excess sugar or not enough activity for the body to use all that sugar, it will be stored as fat, which can hinder weight loss even further. So for that reason, grain-free diets make an excellent choice for those trying to lose weight because they keep blood sugar levels much lower overall. It’s also for that reason that low-carb diets are recommended to those who are pre-diabetic, because they can help control diabetes symptoms and can reduce the need for additional medication in those who take it.
While a grain-free diet can be a great health choice, it comes with it’s own set of precautions that ought to be followed because grain-free diets carry their own set of risks and complications. Grain-free diets can increase the risk of things like constipation and nutrient deficiencies since grains can be high in fiber and other vitamins and minerals we need on a daily basis, so if you do switch to a grain-free diet make sure you’re supplementing properly to get everything you need! And if you’re starting a grain-free diet, don’t go all in right away - take things slow and give yourself time to adjust to your new diet, and don’t restrict everything right away. While we love to eat grain-free at Caveman Foods, we don’t mind the occasional treat here and there because above all, we believe in living a balanced, healthy lifestyle, not one that is overly restrictive and draconic. So, in short, stay balanced, and stay healthy!