“Grains are the base of the food pyramid (or 1/3 of the plate in the new MY PLATE).”
One criticism of the USDA’s nutrition guides is that they tend to mix science with the influence of agricultural lobbyists. Many nutritionists disagree with the the USDA’s recommendation for grain intake. Based on my research and experience here is what I believe about grains.
Humans are not able to digest grains straight out of the field; they have to go through extensive processing before they end up on your plate. They were not a large part of the human diet before the recent “advances” in food manufacturing. Bread, pasta and other flour-based foods are the most highly processed grains. (Note: White flour acts chemically like sugar in the human body and can have an inflammatory effect.)
Our ancestors soaked or fermented their grains before making them into cooked cereals (porridges), breads, and cakes. All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer, the bran. If untreated, phytic acid can combine with minerals in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption, and may lead to mineral deficiencies and bone loss, to irritable bowel syndrome, and/or to other digestive issues.
If you think about it, wheat is everywhere in our diet: breakfast cereals, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, etc. Many people now have gluten sensitivities or allergies. Much of this issue is attributed to the changes in our wheat in the 1970’s. The Dwarf wheat which we now consume has four times more gluten than traditional Einkorn wheat. Damage from gluten can appear as digestive problems (bloating, cramping, constipation or diarrhea, or gas), mental/emotional/neurological problems, and autoimmune problems.
A maximum number of whole grain servings should be three per day (keeping in mind that ½ cup of cooked rice is a serving), and grains are not a necessary part of the human diet. Too many grains can crowd out room needed for essential multiple servings of fruits and vegetables. It is best to eat whole grains such as rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and steel cut oats. If you want to eat wheat products, stick to older forms of wheat such as spelt, kamut, and faro.