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Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Nutrition, Chewing It Over, Food | 0 comments

Why All the Grain Bashing?

Why All the Grain Bashing?

biggBread bears volumes of historical, religious and cross-cultural significance. I grew up with the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (رباعیات عمر خیام):

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

and had a chance to attend a Catholic memorial mass last weekend, with the blessing of sacramental bread and wine. However, our high venerated and beloved bread has been under a bit of fire lately. Curiosity begs that we put on our big girl panties, and have a look at the antithetical objection, before dismissing it as a blasphemy.

According to the science of evolution, it is postulated that grains are not an ideal food for humans, simply because we have not been eating them long enough to have fully adapted to digesting them. Our species has been evolving for 1.5 million years now, lived as hunter-gatherers mostly, and ate mainly:

  • land mammals, sea animals, birds, eggs, insects
  • fruits, vegetables, nuts & honey
  • cooked tubers

The exact proportion of each food varied widely between groups and among seasons.

aggOur predecessors began eating grains about 10,000 years ago with the start of the agricultural revolution.Wheat (early ancestor called emmer) had its origin 11,500 years ago, followed by rice in China and corn in South America.

Even though wheat cultivation began early, it didn’t become widespread in Western Europe for another 4,500 years. This means:

  • If you’re of European descent, your ancestors have been eating grains for roughly 7,000 years.
  • If you are of African descent, your ancestors have been eating grains for 9,000 to 0 years, depending on your heritage.
  • Many American groups did not adopt a grain-based diet until 100-300 years ago, and in a few cases they still have not.

From an evolutionary standpoint , 11,500 years is a blink of an eye compared to 1,500,000. Add to this the fact that many people descend from groups that have been eating grains for far less time, we can see how grains placed a selective pressure on humans  as a species.

dentIt is theorized that adaptation to a grain-based diet is the major reason for diminished human stature and dental health, and made it rain for yo’ dentist. Of course, we didn’t stop adapting, but has it been a enough?

The fact that up to 1% of people (mostly European descent) may have celiac disease and 30% are genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity, we can safely say that we haven’t had enough time to fully adapt to grains on a population level.

(Read more about gluten and bread here)

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