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Live Simply in the Kitchen: Are Grains Bad for You?

To eat grains or not to eat grains? That is the question. Oh yes. The {big} question. Pretty much everyone in the alternative foodie world agrees on dairy, produce, meat, sugar, etc. But grains? Are grains bad? Well, this is one of the most controversial topics. Many are staunch advocates of absolutely no grains. And just as many are touting the benefits of grains.

So, which is right?

Are grains bad for you? See why we've decided grains can be good. And did you know this about gluten-free products? #grains #glutenfree #soaking #sprouting

Well, that’s a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. (Did anyone else grow up hearing this from their parents? It seemed like they never had an “opinion” when I wanted them to. I can’t wait to do that to my kiddos. Heh. =)

Are Grains Bad? My Conclusion:

I will tell you that I am in the camp that grains are beneficial…with the great, big caveat that they are first properly prepared (more on this soon).

I have spent about a year and a half researching and reading everything I could get my hands on to determine what was best for our family. I’ll walk you through the process – don’t worry, it won’t take a year and a half for you to read this! I also cannot recommend these two books highly enough: Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, and Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

History of Grains

The grains of our ancestors were nothing like what we eat today. Almost any whole grains you can buy in the stores (even straight from the farmer!) have been so hybridized, altered, and cross-bred that they bear little resemblance to grains from hundreds of years ago. 

This is important to note because this means the nutrients bound up in those little grains have also been altered. There are a host of health problems today that are associated with today’s versions of grains – the most well-known link being celiac disease. Others include eczema, allergies, and schizophrenia!

“Yeah, but I eat all kinds of breads and stuff, and I don’t have any of these things.”

Oh, how many times I’ve heard this. Just read a few medical journals or books on the subject and you will quickly discover that, more than likely, you will have health problems. The make-up of the grains typically consumed by the Western world (Standard American Diet – or S.A.D.) means that there will be consequences – even if it’s somewhere down the road.

(Side note: I recognize that we live in a fallen world and our bodies are constantly aging. No amount of clean eating will keep us from getting sick, disease or dying. However, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. And, as such, I believe we have a responsibility to know what we are putting into them and how it will affect us. While we can’t see into the future, we can make decisions now that honor God with what we do know.)

Our Journey

So when I started the babies on baby food at seven months, I had just become aware that babies’ digestive systems are not yet mature enough to handle grains (pasta, breads, crackers, etc.). {source} They don’t produce the enzymes necessary for digesting gluten-containing grains until after their first birthday. So I held off. No grains. No puffs. No Cheerios. No crackers. We focused on animal and vegetable foods.

Their first birthday approached (okay, I did give them one cupcake each…eh.), and I continued to hold off. I did a lighter version of the GAPS diet with them (at some point, David and I will embark on the GAPS diet!). I wanted to give their bodies a chance to heal from the grains they did have – the first few months they were on infant formula in addition to my breast milk, while I was building up my supply. So they spent about 15 months completely grain-free, processed and packaged food-free. In fact, they had their first “sandwich” at two years old – on homemade sourdough bread!

Why We Don’t Eat Packaged Gluten-free Foods

Store-bought, packaged gluten-free products contain many refined ingredients that are little (if any!) better than their gluten-containing counterparts.

Remember the sugar-free fad where foods were made with artificial sweeteners…oh, what? They still sell that stuff in the stores?? Ew! Anyways, marketers jumped on what the researchers were telling us and began to market these products to consumers who trusted they were better.

Enter the gluten-free market. It’s not uncommon for many people to leave the doctor with a diagnosis of “gluten intolerance,” “gluten sensitivity,” or “celiac disease.” Companies know this. They are marketing their products to us – meanwhile the ingredients contain highly processed and refined ingredients.

The Answer

So what’s the answer? Are grains bad? If modern day grains are bad, and packaged gluten-free products aren’t wise…what choice do we have? Well, certainly going grain-free. And, while this isn’t a life-long lifestyle I recommend (except for those with celiac disease), it certainly is an option. However, I see great benefits to soaking and sprouting grains. (Don’t forget to sign up to receive email updates so you don’t miss the next post in this series!)

Are you a grain-free family or do you eat grains? How did you come to this conclusion?


  1. So glad you are discussing this….I am so torn on this right now. 🙂

  2. Hey Jennifer, What nutrients that are in grains do you see that are particularly beneficial that can’t be found elsewhere?

    • Hi! 🙂 I don’t believe they can’t necessarily be found elsewhere; however, I do find that traditionally prepared breads contain many nutrients – micro and macro. For example, carbs. In a bit of bread (good bread!), there will be a decent amount of carbs. An entire sweet potato (or ear of corn) would need to be eaten to get the same amount. Similarly, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, etc. are all nutrients that can be sourced from traditionally prepared grains. Certainly not something one can’t get elsewhere. However, since grains made up 1/2-3/4 of people’s diet for much of history (even in agrarian societies with access to alternatively sourced nutrients), I feel that the inclusion of grains is more beneficial than not. Again, *traditionally* prepared grains. :o)

      • The fact that you’d need to eat more sweet potato or corn to get the same amount of carbs is actually a GOOD thing to me. I think that is part of the problem with bread, it’s much to carb dense. Carbs are the only macronutrient our bodies DON’T need in order to survive. Our body survive, actually quite well, with zero carbs. Of course, you won’t hear that from most nutritionist today. But, if you look at the chemistry our bodies can convert the small amount of glucose that it needs from protein.

        Some of the brain research that is coming out regarding a diet of primarily proteins and fats is incredibly intriguing. They’re finding they are able to treat people with alzheimers and other disorders of the brain with a strict ketogenic diet (a diet lacking carbs) and they’re seeing great improvement. They’re finding the brain runs much more efficiently on ketone bodies than it does on glucose.

        As for the other vitamins, I would argue there are much better sources of vitamin B, iron, and magnesium and that our bodies are able to use those nutrients much more fully than those in even traditionally prepared grains.

        All that to say, I feel if the vast majority of Americans took your advice and began to traditionally prepare wheat (though, not wheat most easily found today because that wheat has been treated with radiation) that they would be WAY better off than they are eating grocery store bread.

        Our family isn’t completely grain free, though that is my ideal and we’re working our way there! We still eat corn and a little bit of rice because it sure is hard to give up all grains cold-turkey!

  3. just found your site and am enjoying clicking through. I was looking for information on sourdough starter/bread. Thanks! I appreciate your thoughts on grains but one thing is not correct. There is no genetically modified wheat available even if someone wanted to buy it. Modern wheat has been hybridized but not GMO. We do not eat any GMO products as much as possible. I have been milling my own wheat for flour for a little over a year (after my daughter nagged me to get into it). I am so thankful that she did! The only way to get all the nutrients God intended from the wheat is to mill it yourself (a very easy process). I found out all about it from a website They have a free CD that has tons of great information even it you don’t decide to do it. They also now have a free CD that address many of the false claims of those who are raging against eating wheat. I appreciate it as I want to hear both sides and make my own decisions. For those who are struggling with all the conflicting information out there, I highly recommend it. Thanks for all the information on your site – we believe in eating ‘real food’ too!

    • Hi Karen! Thanks for saying hi! I’m excited to share some sourdough recipes soon! We’ve so enjoyed sourdough as a family.

      Thank you for pointing out my miss-type – there is no concrete evidence of GMO wheat on the market today. I have corrected my article. However, as recently as June 2013, Monsanto has been undergoing some intense legal action due to an “escaped” GMO release of wheat. So, while we assume (sad that we can only assume and trust the untrustworthy, isn’t it?) there is none on the market and that it hasn’t made it’s way into the consumer’s hands, there is a massive likelihood that this day is coming (if in fact it hasn’t already been snuck in). Regardless, the hybridization that wheat has undergone in the past decades is just as detrimental to our health and our future children’s health. This is where sourdough comes in, I believe.

      And, yes, I appreciate the work the Bread Beckers are doing! From my years of research, I don’t personally feel that just grinding wheat is enough of a change from the store-bought stuff. But like you said, we must all be informed and make decisions based on the information we find. =)


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