Great Grain Robbery

Great Grain Robbery
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Milling whole wheat into white flour may cause as much as a 300-fold decrease in phytonutrient content.

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In 2007, whole grains were linked to a healthier body weight in people both young and old. Whole grains are the very staples of human civilization. The Aztec empire had amaranth; the Incas had quinoa, Asian empires were built on rice and buckwheat; African empires had millet and teff, and wheat, oats, rye, and barley kept Europe going. You should be able to find any of these whole grains in bulk at your local natural food store. When whole wheat flour is milled into white flour, at least 25 nutrients are removed, and five are chemically replaced to “enrich” it. It is the Great Grain Robbery! And that’s just the vitamins and minerals. There’s also a 2- to 300-fold loss in phytonutrient content. So, if we have a choice, never again white bread, white pasta, or white rice. Instead, eat the grain, the whole grain, and nothing but.

A healthy body weight is important, but more important than the circumference of our waist is the circumference of our carotid arteries that supply the blood to our brain. Researchers at Wake Forest University followed 1,000 people for five years, and measured the amount of plaque in their carotid arteries. This is what our blood flow should look like. This is what our blood flow should not look like. Those eating whole grains had a slower progression of their atherosclerotic disease. These were all omnivores who ate meat, so the plaque in their arteries continued to grow, but those eating whole grains had slower growth—slower closing off of their arteries—than those eating just refined grains. To use diet to actually stop the plaque from growing, to reverse the disease, and actually start opening up our arteries, they’d have to have gone on a nearly completely plant-based diet, and eliminated cholesterol and saturated animal fat.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

In 2007, whole grains were linked to a healthier body weight in people both young and old. Whole grains are the very staples of human civilization. The Aztec empire had amaranth; the Incas had quinoa, Asian empires were built on rice and buckwheat; African empires had millet and teff, and wheat, oats, rye, and barley kept Europe going. You should be able to find any of these whole grains in bulk at your local natural food store. When whole wheat flour is milled into white flour, at least 25 nutrients are removed, and five are chemically replaced to “enrich” it. It is the Great Grain Robbery! And that’s just the vitamins and minerals. There’s also a 2- to 300-fold loss in phytonutrient content. So, if we have a choice, never again white bread, white pasta, or white rice. Instead, eat the grain, the whole grain, and nothing but.

A healthy body weight is important, but more important than the circumference of our waist is the circumference of our carotid arteries that supply the blood to our brain. Researchers at Wake Forest University followed 1,000 people for five years, and measured the amount of plaque in their carotid arteries. This is what our blood flow should look like. This is what our blood flow should not look like. Those eating whole grains had a slower progression of their atherosclerotic disease. These were all omnivores who ate meat, so the plaque in their arteries continued to grow, but those eating whole grains had slower growth—slower closing off of their arteries—than those eating just refined grains. To use diet to actually stop the plaque from growing, to reverse the disease, and actually start opening up our arteries, they’d have to have gone on a nearly completely plant-based diet, and eliminated cholesterol and saturated animal fat.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Learn more about the health benefits of whole grains:

For additional context, check out my associated blog post:  Plant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

53 responses to “Great Grain Robbery

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    1. Rice is great food when combined with bean,egg,fish, meat, vegetable etc.
      Bread need things like sugar, butter, mayonnaise etc.
      So I would say eliminating white bread and processed food is better.
      Of course there’s brown rice and whole wheat too.

      Rice allow high population and density. For example china, india, and japan.




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  1. When I read the food label, how do I know I’m getting whole grains when I buy bread? Do I need to buy Ezechial or the like that is a sprouted whole grain or is it ok to buy whole wheat flour? It’s all very confusing.




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    1. That is a wonderful question Lisa. My favorite questions are always the most practical ones. All you have to do is make sure it actually has the word “whole” in the first ingredient. They’ll try to whip out all sorts of fancy words for white flour, like “semolina from durum wheat,” but don’t be fooled. The FDA actually regulates the term “whole” and they can’t use it (legally) unless it is actually a whole grain product. I’m so glad you asked! Now if you want to take it to the next level, then yes indeed Ezechiel and sprouted grains are even better.




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      1. Trader Joe’s also sells a Sprouted 7-Grain bread in a pink wrapper, just to let anyone know…not quite as expensive at the Ezekiel’s but their sprouted bread is wonderful too!




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      2. FYI
        Don’t forget the “Five to One (ore less) Fiber Rule”.
        Video: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-five-to-one-fiber-rule/

        Far as I know millet is Carbohydrate 73 g, Dietary fiber 9 g, so ratio is 14,6 (=73:5) which is much more that recommended 5 in the video.

        “The editorial concluded, the recommendation to consume diets with adequate amounts of dietary fiber may turn out to be the most important nutritional recommendation of all.”

        Just saying…




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  2. I use to put a variety of raw whole grains (oatmeal, wheat, flaxseed, quinoa, amaranth, barley) with soy milk, bananas and a spoon of cocoa powder in a mixer and make a delicious beverage. Is it ok to eat these grains raw? When I eat all of them at the same time, am I absorbing all the nutrients? Or would it be better to eat each one separately? Thank you!




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    1. I know some wheat and rice starch are not digested when not cooked. Probably lots others are too. To me not digesting starch is a good thing, but not particularly sure if bacteria and excessive gas would result from this. Obviously, you are not getting gas so probably it is not issue.




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  3. Hi Flavio. Eating a variety of grains is great, and it’s good that you’re eating whole grains which include gluten-containing wheat (gluten is much maligned, yet absolutely fine for the vast majority of us to consume: see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/update-on-gluten/, as well as protein-rich quinoa and amaranth – which are actually pseudograins, as they are closer to seeds. It’s a good idea to soak quinoa as the seeds have a coating of saponin, which is a slightly soapy coating. And flaxseed is always better ground first as the hard shell is very tough to digest (more about flaxseed here: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/just-the-flax-maam. Otherwise, if you have a really high powered blender, the raw grains can be reasonably well broken down. But for maximum nutrition and digestability, it’s a good idea to soak or sprout grains and seeds beforehand. Soft oats only need a few hours. Harder wheat can do with overnight. Any longer than that and you’re into sprouting territory – which is also interesting territory to explore. If you have a mill or high speed blender, you can also take the raw grains and process them into a flour, which you can then add water to to make a smooth and nutritious porridge – a change of texture from smoothies. Top with cinnamon and fruit and enjoy.




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  4. Dr. Mercola warns against leaky gut.
    “There’s no human requirement for grains. That’s the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we’re hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish.”
    “Grains are the seeds of a plant. They’re its reproductive material, and plants don’t make their reproductive material to give away for free to other animals. If they did they’d become extinct, and so the evolutionary strategy that many plants, particularly cereal grains have taken to prevent predation is to evolve toxic compounds so that the predator of the seeds can’t eat them, so that they can put their seeds in the soil where they’re meant to be to grow a new plant and not in the gut of an animal to feed it.”




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    1. Nuts and seeds are also the reproductive material of plants and they are both a staple of the ancient human diet (most likely) and a nutrient and calorie-dense food. So that bit of the argument goes out the window. A sprouted grain is basically a plant in its earliest stages of life and is quite nutrient-dense, so I don’t think Mercola really has that much of a point here, at least in my opinion. I agree that eating bread and cereal isn’t nearly as healthy as eating fruit and veg all day long, even if it is whole grains you’re eating, so that much is valid. Also, it’s clearly a bad idea to raise animals for any use, so we indeed shouldn’t be feeding them the grains either.




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      1. Actually most nuts and all seeds, legumes and grains, some more than others are ALL not digestive friendly unless they are soaked and/or sprouted and obviously like grains, nuts and seeds as well las legumes, as you stated they are the reproductive material and as such all have a protective coating to avoid predation in their shell that are toxic upon consumption. Improperly consuming these food types can effect your immune system and be a major factor in a leaky gut issue because of these toxic compounds. In order to break down the toxic compound of the shell they require soaking and/ or sprouting, which chemically signals the breakdown of the toxic barrier. Most civilizations still do this, this information has been passed down through generations and more recently confirmed by scientific research and study.




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  5. Hi, I currently eat a vegan/plant based diet and I’ve recently been looking into gluten, wheat, and grains, I found a lot of people think that they are bad for our stomachs and reak havoc to our insides and I’m stumped, I thought they were good and fight cancer etc. I’m trying not to stress so much about it but I am tired of the conflicting research, is wheat/grains bad for us? I just want to live the healthiest lifestyle available and I can’t find any answers. What is your take on wheat/grains are they good or bad?, I did also hear this about some beans as well.
    Thank you, Becky




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  6. I heard that unrefined rice (brown rice) has lots of oxalic acid? which prevents vitamin and mineral intake, making brown rice not better than white rice. Is there any evidence for this?




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  7. My internist is BIG on the carotid scans and I had mine done last year…clean as a whistle!! He was very happy but not too surprised because of my blood work and he knows I grow (some) of my own food and love to cook (and eat raw too!)  I’m over 50 and I do include whole-grains in my diet…need to bump up my quinoa IQ though to be honest…nice video!




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  8. It’s pretty cool how the Vitamix can be used to make flour in seconds — from whole grains. So, what are the downsides of using homemade flour? Is baking with these flours a wide open culenary frontier for us?




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  9. I am thinking millet is one of healthier food. By not cooking, starch and thyroid toxin will not be digested by the body.
    Baking soda is used for alkaline water.
    So how about making dried uncooked cracker from combining water/baking soda/millet? And perhaps adding uncooked milled beans too?
    Would that be ultimate staple? Could be tossed on top of green salad with olive oil and herbs.




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  10. What does Dr. Greger think of the book Wheat Belly by William Davis? Should we avoid wheat and even whole grain wheat? The book came out after these postings and this video.




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    1. Wheat belly is from processed wheat and elimination of all the fiber and nutrients. Wheat is a grain and is a wonderful source of nutrients, but we have stripped it down to the sugar




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  11. In the Ross Horne’s book “Improving the Pritikin you can do better”, Ross explains how Pritikins followers started suffering from hardened arteries from too much proteins from grains. How do you comment that?
    Thanks!




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      1. Hi JacquieRN! Horne was an adherent follower of Pritikin but then he saw many people getting cancers and having their arteries going sclerotic from too much grains.




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  12. Hi Dr. Greger! I would like to hear your opinion on the Ross Horne’s book “Improving on Pritikin -. You Can Do Better” in which he evidences how high grain diet caused sclerotic (hardened) arteries from too much proteins in grains. Ross Horne shows how Pritikin was right to reduce fat intake but made a mistake in promoting a high grain diet – a diet that birds are designed for. Thanks in advance!




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  13. Hello Dr. Greger,
    Wondering if you have any videos or articles on the “Wheat Belly” Dr. William Davis? What are your views on eliminating wheat from your diet?
    Thank you,
    Ann ~ Milton ~ Ontario




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    1. I don’t think so, but it is important to discuss with your doctor. To my knowledge millet contains less of the compounds, known as goitrogens (naturally occurring compounds that affect thyroid metabolism), than other foods like cruciferous vegetables. Dr. Greger discusses these compounds in this video: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/overdosing-on-greens/

      There may be some value as to when you take your medication and eat these compounds. I know many folks discuss this topic. From what i gather, avoiding these healthful foods is unnecessary even for folks taking thyroid medications.

      Hope that helps,
      Joseph




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      1. Don’t forget the “Five to One (ore less) Fiber Rule”.
        Video: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-five-to-one-fiber-rule/

        Far as I know millet is Carbohydrate 73 g, Dietary fiber 9 g, so ratio is 14,6 (=73:5) which is much more that recommended 5 in the video.

        “The editorial concluded, the recommendation to consume diets with adequate amounts of dietary fiber may turn out to be the most important nutritional recommendation of all.”

        Just saying…




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  14. I want to know about sourdough. Is there any nutritional benefit to it? I
    recently bought sourdough starter to make my own sourdough bread. I started
    with basic white sourdough white bread to practice and want to move up to whole
    grain versions.




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    1. Sourdough bread is less likely to boost blood glucose due to its lower GI. The book AntiCancer mentions this and I discuss here. Hope that helps!




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  15. Is buckwheat flour less nutritious than buckwheat?

    Does the former raise insulin significantly more than the latter? And if combined with smashed potato (to make gnocchi)?




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  16. Although vegan for many years, having recently switched to a WFPB diet, I have developed a great appreciation for the recommendations of the researchers in the first study cited in this video.




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  17. Hello there!
    I would love to know if we can digest well soaked millet without cooking it? Or is there any problem with uncooked (just soaked overnight) millet? Thank you! Keep on with this great videos.




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  18. Using the carb/fiber formula in your book, “How Not to Die”, where do you find rice & quizno that meet this formula. I’m having no luck, locally (Indianapolis), or on-line.




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    1. hello! i lived in indianapolis for a few years. don’t worry about the carb/fiber ratios of your rice and other grains as long as they are WHOLE. this fiber rule of thumb was meant to apply to processed foods to help you pick better ones. but unprocessed is preferable, even if it has a higher carb ratio. whole foods are wonderfully designed and promote health.




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  19. Is pearled barley healthy or should only hulled barley be eaten?

    I have the same question. I was looking for a new grain to try and bought pearl barley. Its tasty but is it healthy?




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  20. Hello Cam, thanks for your question.

    I am a volunteer medical moderator who helps Dr. Greger answer questions on the site. I am a whole foods plant based dietitian located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
    So, pearl barley is tasty, easy to prepare, and widely available. Your question, “is it healthy?” Here is some information on hulled barley versus pearl barley.

    Hulled barley is a whole grain, meaning the three parts of the seed—bran, germ and endosperm—are intact, providing optimum nutrition. Hulled barley, as its name suggests, has had its inedible, outermost layer—the hull—removed. All grains grown for human consumption must have their hull removed, if they have one.

    Pearled barley is not a whole grain, since it has been polished (aka “pearled”), processing that removes the nutritious bran layer, making it an incomplete food. This is true of other “processed” grains, such as my beloved white rice, which sadly, is kinda like eating a bowl of sugar. I do have it occasionally, but try to stick with brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and other whole grains.

    Congratulations for being adventurous and trying something new. Give hulled barley a try, and let me know how it goes!

    Thanks for writing.

    Lisa Schmidt
    THE Mindful Nutritionist
    Scottsdale, AZ.




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  21. Thanks for the answer on pearled barley that said…I just read on update on this sight in regards to white vs brown and with a little vinegar you will get less fiber with white rice but it is not a bowl of sugar so I think at this point if I can find a cost effective hull barley I will try it but for now I will stick with the pearled barley. I am finding that the barley keeps me away from bread which is very important right now. I am on a 15 dollar a week food budget so pearl barley it is. I have since found some statistics on pearl barley and it is pretty healthy.




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