Have Questions About Eating Grain? Here Are All the Answers

Have Questions About Eating Grain? Here Are All the Answers


With the advance of new high profile eating plans like Paleo, and the increased emphasis on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, many people are wondering if grain is still considered a healthy food. And if you do eat grain, what guidelines should you follow? A recent article by Marilyn S. Radke, M.D., M.P.H. offers some answers.

Dr. Radke emphasizes that whole grain foods support good health. Eating whole grains helps prevent digestive problems, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain kinds of cancer.  In their whole state, grains are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, making them effective in reducing hunger and controlling weight.

It is important to understand the difference between whole grains and refined grains.

Grains are the seeds of plants, and in their whole, or unrefined, state, they include three parts. Bran comprises the outer layer of the seed. It contains fiber, B vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.  The endosperm is the kernel and the bulk of the seeds; it contains complex carbohydrates, proteins and B vitamins. The germ produces the sprout, and it contains B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, unsaturated fats, phytochemicals and antioxidents.

In whole grains, the fiber has not been removed. Fiber is the portion of a plant the body cannot digest. In whole grains there are both soluble and insoluble fiber. Certain grains, such as oats, barley and rye have soluble fiber which slows the emptying of the stomach and absorption of nutrients, which helps control blood sugar.

In refined grain, the bran and germ have been removed, and only the endosperm remains. Refined grains such as white rice and white flour have lost as much as 80 percent of their nutrients. Vitamins and minerals have usually been added back into refined grains, but they still have many fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains.  To be sure you are eating whole grains, read labels carefully. Whole grain foods will say “100 percent whole grain” or “whole wheat.”  If the label says simply “100 percent wheat,” or another term, the grain has been refined.

Some other whole grains are: amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kasha, bulgar, kamut, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, spelt, teff, triticale, whole grain corn or cornmeal, whole rye, and wild rice. Refined grains include: corn flakes, couscous, cream of wheat or rice, degerminated cornmeal, enriched pasta, and most breakfast cereals.

Some people do have problems eating grain, and need to take special precautions. One American in 133 has celiac disease, an intestinal disorder which is made worse by gluten, a protein that occurs in wheat, rye and barley.

Wheat allergy is another type of immune reaction against gluten and other wheat proteins.  Other people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which also causes intestinal symptoms.

In each of these cases, the solution is to avoid gluten. Stay away from wheat, rye and barley, which of course includes pasta and cereal, as well as many processed foods. People with gluten intolerance can, however, eat rice, amaranth, quinoa or buckwheat flour. Today, it is possible to buy gluten-free bread, pasta and other food products.

Whether or not you choose to avoid the gluten containing foods, by all means make whole grains part of your daily diet. They are low in fat and high in nutritional value, and they satisfy hunger. And of course, always choose whole grains over refined.


  1. The nutritional density of grains, even whole grains, is low compared to fruits, vegetables, fish, meat (pasture raised) and nuts. Even if you do not have a negative reaction to grains, there are few good reasons to eat them.

  2. Sadly, this article continues the misguided advice of food industry advocates. Whole grains raise blood sugar more than a tablespoon of refined sugar. A simple stick test is all it takes to prove this. Wheat is the worst culprit of all, containing opiate-like proteins that cause addictions (“carb cravings”). So powerful is the addictive properties of wheat that the processed food industry adds modified food starch, wheat starch, and maltodextrin (wheat sugar) to many of its products — even diet products! Read the labels.

    I have forced myself to chip away the lbs on one low fat “healthy carb” diet after another, spending thousands of dollars in the process, only to gain it all back in days or weeks.

    At 277 lbs, 67 years of age, with miserable joint pain (low back and knees), high BP, pre-diabetic blood sugar levels, and an irritating “grunt with every step” I took the advice of a friend and cut out ALL grains and ALL refined sugars. I eat less than 10% of my calories from carbs (low impact carbs like veggies and berries), 20% from protein, and 70% from healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil). In three days, I went through a withdrawal from wheat opiates (“wheat flu”) that put me in bed for three days. When I came out of that, all my carb cravings were gone, my appetite dropped 75%. A week later, all joint pain was gone. Over the weeks and months, my FBG dropped from the 140s to the 100s and my BP dropped 40 points. I am six months grain free, have lost 35 lbs (but fit in clothes and look like I’ve dropped 50).

    Say what you will. Quote any government agency you want. Cite whatever “nutritional advice” you choose. I’ve rejected ALL grains (and all the thousands of products food producers inject with grains), and am more healthy, have more energy, less pain, and a general sense of well-being than I’ve had for 40 years.

    No grain, no pain. I can even fast for 18-24 hours with little trouble now, a real help overcoming my insulin resistance and belly bulge developed over the years by excessive inflammation caused by refined sugar and grains.

      • “No grain, no pain.” Simple enough fer ya?
        Lose weight, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation – the root of many human diseases, eliminate acid reflux, lower blood glucose, raise HDL, lower LDL . . . just cut out grains and grain derivatives and refined sugar. Avoid “beer gut,” and reduce likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Still lost in a rational fog?