Gluten is Not a Food Group

Gluten isn't a food group- and why you might not want to eat it

One of my more controversial posts is how grains are killing you slowly and despite the continually emerging evidence about the potential problems associated with consumption of modern grains, many people are still unsure.

While I personally know that I feel better when I don’t eat grains (especially gluten) and that my kids do better without them, I’m not in the business of trying to force a particular diet on anyone. At the same time, I wanted to address one common objection I get, especially from people in the nutrition field- (I’ve heard this twice this week):

“Unless you have Celiac disease, it is dangerous to avoid an entire food group and this puts you at risk for nutrient deficiencies.”

To clarify:

Gluten is not a Food Group!

Though grains did form the base of the outdated “food pyramid,” even the food pyramid did not define gluten as a “food group” by itself. Additionally, there are not any nutrients in gluten that can’t be found in higher amounts in other foods.

What exactly is gluten? (definition from Chris Kresser):

“Wheat contains several different classes of proteins. Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. (They’re essential for giving bread the ability to rise properly during baking.) Within the gliadin class, there are four different epitopes (i.e. types): alpha-, beta-, gamma- and omega-gliadin. Wheat also contains agglutinins (proteins that bind to sugar) and prodynorphins (proteins involved with cellular communication). Once wheat is consumed, enzymes in the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminases (tTG) help to break down the wheat compound. In this process, additional proteins are formed, including deamidated gliadin and gliadorphins (aka gluteomorphins).”

In other words,  gluten is a small part of a small group of foods, and it doesn’t provide any specific health advantages by itself.

Gluten is found in grains including wheat, rye and barley (as well as some others). Whole grains, including those with gluten, are often considered part of a healthy diet even though the same nutrients found in whole grains can be found in equal or larger amounts in foods like vegetables, fruits, and meat or organ meat. It frustrates me to hear things like this from the Scientific American:

“For most other people, a gluten-free diet won’t provide a benefit, said Katherine Tallmadge, a dietitian and the author of “Diet Simple” . What’s more, people who unnecessarily shun gluten may do so at the expense of their health, Tallmadge said.

That’s because whole grains, which contain gluten, are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, Tallmadge said. Gluten-free products are often made with refined grains, and are low in nutrients.”

You know what else is a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals? Vegetables.

You know what also has MORE fiber, vitamins and minerals? Vegetables.

You know what also doesn’t have the potential to cause gut damage (in most cases)? Vegetables.

If we are feeling really brave, we can even add in foods like liver, broth, fermented vegetables and eggs (if tolerated) and blow the nutrition profile of grains completely out of the water.

Do We Need Grains?

Let’s break down the reasons that we are often told that we need grains: fiber, vitamins and minerals. Do grains really have spectacular amounts of these substances that are hard to find elsewhere?

Fiber

I think Mark Sisson summed this up perfectly in this post when responding to the assertion that “You need the fiber!”:

“Okay, for one: no, I don’t. If you’re referring to its oft-touted ability to move things along in the inner sanctum, fiber has some unintended consequences. A few years back, scientists found that high-fiber foods “bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering” which “increases the level of lubricating mucus.” Err, that sounds positively awful. Banging and tearing? Rupturing? These are not the words I like to hear. But wait! The study’s authors say, “It’s a good thing.” Fantastic! So when all those sticks and twigs rub up against my fleshy interior and literally rupture my intestinal lining, I’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s all part of the plan, right?

Somehow, I’m not convinced that a massive daily infusion of insoluble grain fiber is all that essential. And that “lubricating mucus” sounds an awful like the mucus people with irritable bowel syndrome complain about. From personal experience I can tell you that once I completed my exodus from grains, the IBS completely stopped. If you’re not yet convinced on the fiber issue I’ll refer you to Konstantin Monastyrsky’s Fiber Menace. Anyway, there’s plenty of fiber in the vegetables and fruit I eat.”

In other words- you can get fiber from fruits and vegetables without the potential harm to your digestive system.

Vitamins and Minerals

Grains are often suggested for their vitamin and mineral content, specifically for B-vitamins and Magnesium. Just as with fiber, thees things can be easily found in other foods. Health Habits takes on the assertion that grains are a great source of these nutrients:

“Hmmmm…why don’t we take a look at the nutrition info again and see if that’s true.

  • Thiamin … And the winner is fruits, vegetables and once again…bran.
  • Riboflavin … veggies win again
  • Niacin … and again
  • Folate … and again
  • Iron … and again
  • Magnesium … and again
  • Selenium …and last but not least, it’s a tie between veggies and grains!!!

So, except for the fine showing in the selenium category…

Fruits & vegetables are the best source of vitamins and minerals.

The Bottom Line

Gluten is not a food group.

Grains do contain some nutrients, but these nutrients can be found in larger amounts in fruits, vegetables and meats/fats.

I will agree with many nutritionists that going gluten free isn’t going to do much good if you just replace the gluten with gluten free processed foods. These gluten free processed alternatives often have more sugar and chemical substances to balance out the lack of gluten.

If, however, you replace the gluten containing foods (and all grains) with vegetables, fruits, fermented probiotic-rich foods, homemade broths, organ meats and humanely raised animal meats, you will not be missing out on vitamins and minerals. In fact, according to the latest statistics I’ve seen for food consumption in the US, you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest of the population on vitamin and mineral intake.

Since grains are often fortified with additional nutrients, it is important to make sure that you are eating a varied and nutrient rich diet when you go grain free. I’ve also found that rubbing magnesium oil (here is the recipe) on my feet at night is an easier way to absorb magnesium and replace the magnesium that is often added to grains.

Additional Reading

Chris Kresser on the Gluten Thyroid Connection

Mark Sisson on Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals

Chris Kresser on Toxins in Grains

SCD Lifestyle on the Problems with Gluten Free  Food

Sarah Ballantyne on Gluten Cross Sensitivity

The Paleo Parents on Gluten Sensitivity and Gall Bladder Disease 

Where do you stand on the gluten/grain issue? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. It seems like gluten-free diets catch a lot more criticism than low-fat or low-carb. Those diets are eliminating entire macronutrients!

    Oh well. If the naysayers lived with my husband through the 10 days he’s sick from inadvertently ingesting a few specks of flour residue, they’d get it.

  2. I took my 3 year old son off of Gluten two months ago and three weeks ago we went completely grain free and sugar free. I already feel like I have a different child (he was having frequent meltdowns and pretty crazy mood swings). He also gained 2 lbs during that time which, compared to the 4 lbs he gained all of last year, is pretty spectacular. I basically made the switch on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. Thank you so much for your site – it has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, invaluable as support through this process. I’m a single mom and full time law student – it’s a bit overwhelming but I can’t imagine doing anything differently now that I realize this is what is healthiest for my little guy.

    • I have a similar situation with my 4 year old son. I really like the idea of trying a grain-free and sugar-free diet. I am just so overwhelmed and don’t know how to start! I’ve trained myself to provide well-balanced meals (half plate of veggies, 1/4 protein, 1/4 grain or starch), but it appears I’ve been missing the boat. How do I begin to replace the starches and grains with fruits and veggies?

      • Replacing starches and grains with fruits and veggies is easy….. just make the switch.
        My typical lunch includes one serving of meat, and two vegetables (with olive oil or butter).
        My typical supper is one serving of meat, 1/2 cup fermented sauerkraut, one veggie with butter, and occasionally a side salad.
        Between/after meal snacks: nuts, occasional fruit, cheese.

  3. I completely understand your frustration. In the end, I think you have to just choose what’s best for you and let other people make their own decisions. I was on a gluten-free diet due to allergies but we found out our allergies were caused by a parasite. At the moment, I’m just avoiding what I consider to be empty carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, white rice, etc, because as you say – other food has better nutrition. My choice although the doctor thinks we should do the low-carb thing but I think that’s a bit too extreme. Just replace the pure carbs with more vegetables is pretty much what we did which does lower the carbs.

  4. I’m not a huge fan of wheat but I still love my oats, brown rice, barley, rye, and certain other grains which can still contain traces of gluten. I think whole grains have their place to some extent and I don’t believe that just because a product is ‘gluten free’ that it is healthy. If I had a severe sensitivity to gluten I would most certainly avoid it. I guess with any way of eating you can argue the pros and cons. It comes down to what feels right for you and your own body.

    Thanks for the interesting article.

  5. Where do I begin to get started? Feeling overwhelmed.

    • It is overwhelming, trial and error is often how to start. There are tons of different types of gluten free foods at many common stores now. Unless I have a reason, I only shop the outside of a grocery stores. You will find the fresh, unprocessed foods there. My first step was throwing out all my breads, cookies, pastas, etc. Nowadays you can find all these items gluten free too! Also, it’s also a different kind of full without those to swell up in your belly. Good luck!

  6. Although I am weary and exhausted of the gluten discussion, I really appreciate using Chris Kesser as a source, I find his website more reliable than the others that are on here. I find it frustrating when people dismiss Scientific American, which is a respected peer reviewed publication.
    I am of the opinion that every body is different and do what is right for you and respect what others do for themselves. Thanks for writing about this, I hope in the future to see more great sources on your website.

  7. Please discuss the seemingly useful technique of soaking and fermenting all grains. This seems a wise use of grains.

    • I was going to suggest this as well! One of the issues with grains is the phytic acid and anti-nutrients that severely reduce the nutritional value of them, and which traditional preparation can help reduce.

      I’m cutting down grains, and the only time I do eat grains now I do my best to make sure they’re soaked. It’s weird to get used to- but it’s quite cheap to do, which is nice.

  8. My favorite part: “In other words, gluten is a small part of a small group of foods, and it doesn’t provide any specific health advantages by itself.” I am completely over the “scare tactics” mainstream dietitians and nutritionists (usually being paid or endorsed by the processed food industry) use when referring to a diet sans gluten or grains. Missing out on nutrients… really? Most fail to account for the fact that most of the vitamins and minerals found in processed grains are fortified and synthetic – and aren’t event absorbable in the body! Sure – the nutrition label says “100%” of needed iron – but if only 30% is actually able to be used in the body due to anti-nutrients and inappropriate cofactors, there is a massive discrepancy there! Thanks for continuing to get the word out!

  9. I was told by an OB nurse that I would not get what I needed during pregnancy if I chose a gluten free diet. Many in the medical community do not understand. At 44 years old I had a very healthy pregnancy and birth.

  10. I have been doing a lot of reading about not eating any grains vs. eating only traditionally prepared grains. I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now, but I think that might husband and I have decided to just be grain free at home, and then just do our best when we eat out or go to other people’s homes, but not worry about it too much.

    I think it’s ok for us to eat traditionally prepared grains (soaked/sprouted/fermented whathaveyou) even though I know the soaking does not significantly reduce gluten and lectins and other bad guys (I am not sensitive to gluten at all). I also try to eat einkhorn and emmer wheat over modern dwarf wheat.

    However, it’s a lot of trouble to soak grains or flour, and to find these heirloom types of wheat, so it might not even be worth it to keep grains in the house.
    My next step is to buy some coconut flour and arrowroot powder or xantham gum or whatever you have to put with it to make it more similar to normal flour.

  11. I agree that we must not misuse terms and use “gluten” interchangeably with “starches” or “grains”. It’s relevant to point out also that many extremely nutritious whole grains are actually gluten free (quinoa, millet, etc., etc.). While the diet you’re suggesting is very balanced and nutritionally-sound, it is one that a high percentage of the U.S. will not arrive at without a significant amount of research, time spent cooking, motivation, and oftentimes, a higher $ cost.
    It’s also worth noting that ANY diet, gluten-free or not, that severely limits carbohydrates (especially those diets that generally put grains or flour-containing foods on the taboo list) is simply not sustainable. Variety, moderation…. so important in any diet!
    By all means, limit your gluten, but do it with care, variety, and knowledge.

  12. It’s also worth noting that while there are many who MUST follow a gluten-free diet, and others who may benefit from it, for the majority of the population it is not necessary to go gluten-free to attain excellent health and to make great strides in your eating habits.

    • But vegetables, clean meats and healthy fats are always more nutritious choices.

      • I think it’s also beneficial to mention that the actual structure of fruits and vegetables IS fiber, otherwise known as cellulose. When you bite into an apple the skin and flesh of the fruit is cellulose, or fiber, and the juiciness is the sugar and vitamins. Cellulose is indigestible by the body and only serves to add bulk in the colon to move things along. Those that eat a diet high in breads and grains and low in fruits and vegetables are robbing their bodies of the most valuable sources of fiber.

  13. You’re my role model Katie! I have no children yet but I feel so prepared thanks to your site! Question, hot do you feel about sprouted flours (sprouted breads)? It is said that the body recognizes sprouted flour as vegetables and it’s broken down as such. Is this true?

  14. My daughter does not have Celiac disease. She is, however, most definitely gluten intolerant. Half of a small order of french fries from a fast food place will have her bent over, heaving and crying in pain in less than an hour. Taking her off gluten was the very best parenting decision I ever made. Her grades improved. Her disposition improved. She started sleeping like a normal child. She started being able to focus for reasonable periods of time. Her eating habits improved (ie, she started eating whole meals regularly). Her “fog” lifted. Most importantly, the constant belly aches and head aches stopped. Most of these things improved within a week. Sadly, I made this decision not at a doctor’s recommendation, but because of a Dr. Oz episode on TV. We have spent thousands of dollars on testing and medications for acid reflux and ulcers that she did not have. Going GF is not for everyone. Giving up dairy is not for everyone. Having long hair, living on a boat, reading science fiction novels….nothing except breathing is for everyone. Modern grains are different. The modern environment is different. As parents, we have to respond differently to keep our kids healthy and safe. I just wish people would get their facts straight before they spout off. I love your comment – “Gluten is not a food group.”

    • Wow we had the same problem with our daughter…… exactly the same although we did finally get one answer from a Dr about bacteria in her blood which was causing the acid reflux but going gluten free has been the best thing for her. Everything you said that had improved with your daughter I could relate to, after two years of back and for the to Drs/Specialists and nothing happening we took it into our own hands. She also sees an Osteopath which has really helped. The article above is a fantastic read.

  15. I’m not so sure about all of it yet. I have a friend who, with her family, did the GAPS diet because she had a mental breakdown (psychiatric ward and everything). They experienced amazing results, and that’s what started my research. I can totally understand the reasons for GAPS, and I personally have experienced weight loss in the 3 weeks my family has been grain-free, but……
    I’m finding it difficult to budget for it. My husband isn’t totally on board with the grain-free thing either, so we decided to go mostly grain-free and eat traditionally prepared grains sparingly.

  16. Being celiac is hard enough, but it does not help that people feel the need to comment to me about how I’m going to be nutrient deficient and that I need whole grains. Uh no. I’m actually getting more nutrients now that I went gluten free and my guts aren’t crying. My fiancé gets terrified when he takes me out or heaven forbid to a hosipital. They usually only put my medication allergies. They also try to give me sandwiches!!!

  17. Thank you so much for this post. A few years ago, I went to a dermatologist because I had these red spots all over my upper arms. He said: “It’s nothing”. I couldn’t help but wonder why they were there. The spots were obviously caused by something. Well, a few months ago, I was surfing the web and I stumbled upon an article that said that the spots were caused by a gluten sensitivity. I stopped the gluten and the spots were gone within a week! I unfortunately started consuming gluten again over the holidays, but have recently cut it out again, so your post is also very timely. On another note, my father passed away from ALS a couple of years ago and recently, my brother found the following article regarding the link between gluten sensitivity and ALS. Another reason to stop consuming it!

    http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/is-gluten-sensitivity-linked-to-amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als/

    • Oh wow, Lousi! I am experiencing that exact thing right now and I also read an article on MBG that it was related to Gluten! I will have a crack at replacing it with other options in my diet and see if that makes the difference 🙂

  18. I whole-heartedly agree!! It’s so frustrating to hear when people knock the gluten-free way of living. There is so much science and many studies to back up the opinion that gluten is NOT good for us!

  19. I am entirely on-board with the grain-free lifestyle. I have been promoting and practicing it for my family for 2 1/2 years. Although my husband understands and has experienced the benefits of gluten free – he has never gone grain free- he refuses to maintain and eats gluten containing foods at least once a day. My 6 yo daughter has become pickier lately and only eats about 5-10 foods. In an effort to get her to eat more food, and alleviate some health problems related to nutritional deficiencies, I have decided to re- incorporate sprouted sourdough bread into our family diet. I will continue to personally maintain a grain free lifestyle, but I need to do what I feel is necessary to get my baby to eat.

  20. I think that if you want to avoid gluten, go for it. Just be smart about it, like you are, and be sure you get the nutrients you need. My general rule of thumb is to eat real food. Fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, etc. Prepackaged foods with foreign ingredients are not real food, therefore I avoid them more than I used to. I still eat them from time to time, but I try to eat fresh, from scratch food as much as possible.
    Eat what you want, but remember that you are what you eat…

  21. While I know a grain-free diet is optimal, it isn’t within my family’s budget to forgo them completely. We eat a properly prepared grain (I.e. Soaked or sprouted) or legume once per day, served with grass-fed butter. We rely on our budget-friendly bone broths and high-quality fats as well as an abundance of veggies. The single serving of lentils or slice of sourdough goes a long way in rounding out a plate of meat and veggies and contributing to satisfaction.

  22. It doesn’t matter how many vitamins grains have if one can’t digest them at all!

    I am interested to read the new Whole Life Nutrition Book since that’s the book that started me down this path originally. “With all of the confusion people have over what to eat today we broke down each popular diet from Raw Vegan to Paleo and talked about the benefits and drawbacks of each, all backed up with solid science.” I can completely see the benefits of avoiding gluten and it seems most other grains mingle with gluten at some point in their processing, so I feel better if I avoid them entirely. Our whole family is gluten free, but only two of us avoid grains. I soak their grains first, but it’s hard to tell if it helps at all.

  23. Just a quick question if your Vegan then your not left with a whole lot! Are there any gluten free alternatives that are good?

    • Nicky, check out internet recipes for bean burgers, they are quite good and with a gluten free bun you can a have great “hamburger”. Or wrap the ‘burger’ in a lettuce leaf. We also enjoy gluten free pizza, but it requires eggs and cheese. We haven’t experimented yet with an egg free crust, but I think you can get soy cheese, but I don’t know if they are any good.

      • David… Just a quick clarification, gluten free is not the same as grain free. Most gluten free products, as stated in the above article, cause issues for celiacs, too. :< Gluten free living works for many people with celiac, but rarely long term because of the treatment of the non-glutenous grains used in gf products which cause major issues in the gut. Regardless of the diet that we choose, the main goal is to have a happy belly and strong body. 😀

    • I am a celiac who has chosen to eliminate all grains (and I am reducing sugar intake and nightshade veggies, too). But I am also a vegetarian. I do eat eggs – I just really like them. Okay, so what’s a vegan to do? You can use tapioca, coconut, bean and potato flours to make crackers if you need them. There are tapioca crackers on the market (“Absolutely”), but many contain eggs. 95% of my diet is vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and beans. The crackers, chocolate & eggs make up the other 5%. And to be honest, I can take or leave them. So it is possible to live grain and animal foods free. – with joy and a happy belly. 🙂

  24. From history we’ve learned that great civilizations appeared where there were grains and great civilizations disappeared where people couldn’t cultivate grains anymore. Now it’s true that there are groups of people living happily in forests without grains, but they seem to live mainly in tribal way. It is also true that diet always has to be adapted due to climate/environmental changes but I wouldn’t trash whole human evolution by restricting some food that proved to be vital not long time ago. I would just be careful that I don’t eat more than I need. We need to keep those enzymes in our digestive system (enzymes that are digesting grains, milk, meat). Who knows what the future has reserved for us (specially from climate point of view) and we have to be prepared.

  25. There’s no good options for vegans other than stop being a vegan. Then you can enjoy all the wonderful benefits and nutrients from healthy meats and animal products as nature and evolution intended- as opposed to working against it and starving yourself of vital nutrition.

  26. Thank you for sharing this! I have been gluten-free for nearly 5 years now due to intolerance. In the past few months, I’ve learned more about real food and a traditional diet. Although I am gluten-free, I just wasn’t feeling like I was really 100% better. I do feel a lot better because I don’t have the frequent gastritis like I used to have. But I was still having occasional gut issues and have lately been noticing that there is more and more processed gluten free foods. And I was eating a lot of them. Gluten free yes, but now checking ingredients, healthy – no. So gluten free doesn’t necessarily equal healthy. But anyways…thanks again for sharing!

  27. Have you considered that perhaps a gluten-free diet is right for you, nut not for others? For most of human history, people all around the world tolerated grains very well. They ate them differently than we do now (always fermented and,or sprouted), and in different quantities, and the grains themselves were different (heirlooms, not the hi-gluten monster wheat we’ve foolishly bred). But I don’t feel it’s fair to demonize the grains that have sustained humanity for so long, when it is our current behavior that is to blame.

    I am lucky to have no digestive problems. No IBS, no allergies. It makes eating a pleasure. I think I must be in the minority these days. I credit it to years of a healthy, balanced diet — of which grains have played a large part. I use locally grown, freshly stone-ground heirloom varieties wheat, in addition to spelt and other grains, and have learned to soak them prior to use to maximize their nutritional content (which also neutralizes some of the gluten and makes grains easier to digest), much as my ancestors did.

    Gluten-free may be right for you, but that doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, and for nutritionally-illiterate folks going gluten-free may just lead them down a path to more processed crap and fewer nutritious foods.

    • “Most of human history”? Maybe for recorded human history, but most of our evolution for the past million of years has been without grains, since as you are pointing out they need to be processed in some way to even be edible. I’d guess if you are fine with whatever your diet is you can stick with it- I think the main point here is that grains are nutritionally unnecessary for everyone (assuming you have access to enough food in general, obviously bad sources of calories are better than 0 sources). And they’re harmful for at least a significant number of people. I’ve no doubt “properly” preparing grains is better than not- I just don’t see the need to properly prepare something that has healthier substitutes in my diet (vegetables, etc).

      • This is not a valid argument… Many of the healthiest foods are not nutritionally necessary yet we eat them. Bread is biblical and clearly had enormous importance for our evolution… baking bread is hardly processing its a magical wonderful process! It is ignorant and illogical to call vegetables a healthier substitute for grains because you are talking about an entirely different food group with a completely different nutrient and energy profile, with completely different health properties. Its ironic that evolution actually works against your argument since its its blatantly obvious that the healthiest and longest living cultures on the planet have and always will thrive on grains. In fact a successful, powerful, thriving, healthy, grain free culture is virtually unheard of in the course of human evolution and history…

  28. I always like your articles, they give me good things to think on.
    I have a large family, and we eat what we can afford. The gluten issue has been the one thing I can’t wrap my head around. Grains, in my house, really stretch our diet. We now have smaller portions of meat, because we get it from a local farmer and it is more expensive, so it will show up paired with a grain- beans, rice, pasta etc. it is the only way we can afford healthy meat that doesn’t make us sick. We also eat meat free at least twice a week. Fruits and vegetables are expensive. We have apples, bananas, and carrots on hand for snack and I make our main dinner course with vegetables, too.
    Food has gotten so expensive that I now make everything from scratch (which is a full time job). When we use grains I generally try to use the Weston Price principals of soaking first.
    The introduction of grains into the human diet allowed babies to survive if they couldn’t breastfeed & old people to gain greater nutrition when they couldn’t chew as easily.
    I am trying to listen and learn but I am often discouraged by a gluten free diet because it doesn’t seem to be accessible to everybody.

    Peace,
    Vivian

  29. I cut out bread two weeks ago, my bloating and gas subsided but best of all my eye allergy that I have been plagued with for 7 years just disappeared.

  30. Thanks for all the info. I’ve taken a lot from your website – thanks for sharing. Just curious what your thoughts are on sourdough bread, considering it is a fermented food? Thanks!

    • Definitely better than non-fermented, but still not the best source of nutrition

  31. After learning I was gluten sensitive,( had every symptom on the list!), I reduced gluten by 75% and my reoccurring migraines stopped. Gone were the constant bowel issues! Then I listened to the Gluten Summit online, produced by Dr Tom O’brien, and learned just how far reaching this gluten thing reaches -to all of us, not just celeics. I also learned I needed to get TOTALLY away from gluten to avoid all kinds of issues. Look up Dr Tom on his web page or facebook to learn more @ www. the Dr.com
    And NO I’m not associated with him at all. But the info he shared helped me understand my issues and form better choices for my health, with science behind all the changes. Katie, you are hitting all the nails on the heads on this issue! Well done!!!

  32. In general, I usually find your information helpful. But on the issue of grains, you seem to be very one sided. You conveniently leave out all the other spectacular grains that have been and continue to be the backbone of many societies like quinoa and amaranth, as well as other easily digestible and healthy grains like millet. In many eastern countries, their greeting translates to something like ‘have you had your rice today’, in reference to its being a ‘good day’. If you choose to not eat grain – so be it – but all grains are not killing people or we wouldn’t have almost 7 billion people on the planet. On the subject of modern wheat, I do agree that it should be avoided because of man’s interfering and changing it from the original design.

    • True, other grains do have fewer problems than wheat, but vegetables are still more nutritious!

  33. I am trying to go gluten-free right now – I’m not 100% successful yet. Are there any really tasty alternatives (or recipes) for things like bread, pancakes, and waffles? Those are my biggest downfalls and I would love to still have splurges – but I am totally convinced of the need to give up gluten. Thanks so much. Francie

  34. Question. What do you feed your kids then? I’d luke to hear specific examples if possible. My kids love bread, pancakes, waffles- all homemade but obviously it’s grain galore at our house… They only eat certain vegetables each and there aren’t enough calories in vegetables to fill up active kids… I would appreciate specific examples. Thank you!

  35. I have not been diagnosed by a MD with gluten sensitivities, Celiac disease, or anything like that. I divorced all grains, wheat, corn, soy trying to see if I could get rid of the cakes tops (I think I’m beyond muffin tops) that rest on the rim of my pants, yeah. Well 5 months ago and 50 pounds lighter now I’m glad I did it. Modern grains not sure totally whats been done to them or whay I’m having the reactions I have when eating them, but my daily headaches, bloating, belching general feeling of sloth all went away at least in my case. I recently tried a slice of pizza could not even swallow the 3rd bite, felt sick. 2 days of kale smoothies and green tea with ginger did the trick making me feel better again. I had dairy and tomato sauce several times in the 5 months but no bread/flour/wheat/yeast. I figure I’m gonna stick with it just because I feel better, oh yeah brain fog gone. SCORE!

  36. This article made me positively laugh out loud! Thank you 🙂

  37. I ought to show this to my boss. He’s always talking about how good grains are for you. He makes fun of my paleo diet all the time . Tells his patients to go vegan, and isn’t a vegan himself. Lol.

  38. Wow! Yours is the first article that I’ve read that explains gluten-free diets in a well-researched way. Most writers take one side, interview one”expert”, then write their piece. It is obvious that you are basing what you write on experience, much observation, and a pursuit of the real story. Finally I truly know why I’m
    giving up my beloved morning croissant!

  39. If you think you’re frustrated with those comments of Katherine Tallmadge, wow! It appears her comments were born from tunnel and just little bit of stupidity. We have a gluten free household due to Celiacs disease and though we miss some foods we used to enjoy we are lacking nothing in nutrition. Just because someone needs to buy gluten free it doesn’t mean they need to buy all the special gluten boxed food off the shelf to compensate(who could really afford that anyway). Vegetables and fruit provide great nutrition as does meat and other grains such as amaranth and quinoa and the list goes on. Rice flour is an awesome base for a huge variety of gluten free baked goods. We’ve been gluten free for many years and recently have had to go corn free and we make it work.

  40. If you think you’re frustrated with those comments of Katherine Tallmadge, wow! It appears her comments were born from tunnel vision and just little bit of stupidity. We have a gluten free household due to Celiacs disease and though we miss some foods we used to enjoy we are lacking nothing in nutrition. Just because someone needs to buy gluten free it doesn’t mean they need to buy all the special gluten boxed food off the shelf to compensate(who could really afford that anyway). Vegetables and fruit provide great nutrition as does meat and other grains such as amaranth and quinoa and the list goes on. Rice flour is an awesome base for a huge variety of gluten free baked goods. We’ve been gluten free for many years and recently have had to go corn free and we make it work.

  41. Thank you so much for all of your research and information you continue to share. We can all better ourselves and our life with better choices in keeping ourselves healthy and happy. I continue to check back with your recipes and natural solutions to what our bodies need. I love everything you posts that benefits the body. Keep up the great work and I have become a fan!! Xoxo

  42. Thank you so much for your website and your continued research and sharing on and about nutrition. I am beginning to lose weight for the first time in my life without even trying. I am so relieved and of course feeling better as each day passes being grain and sugar free. I wish I would have known about this when I was raising my kids! What are your thoughts on Einkorn? I have studied it in the past and was encouraged by the differences between it and modern grains. Thank you.

  43. I don’t eat gluten any more, maybe 8 years or more. About 6 months ago I stopped grains. Due to allergies I can’t eat nuts including coconut, eggs, conventional apples, tuna, oh I could go on and on. Since eliminating all those things, I have never been in better health than now. Every time somebody says eliminating gluten is not healthy, I just ignore it. Some relatives have gluten intolerance issues, but they refuse to even have a gluten free trial period. I think they will have bad results down the road. Some of us just refuse to see the truth.

  44. Well with all the hype about cutting grains increasing meats adding this eliminating that…I cut pasta out completely,red cargo rice is used with sweet potato over the Winter.I pre- soak beans and legumes,enjoy barley twice a week,limit myself to one probiotic loaf of bread a week and have eliminated meat and poultry.I do eat certain sea foods and eggs.Yup and I like a piece of chocolate now and then.Drink only water or green tea and I feel great.Just wanted to share.

  45. I really can’t argue with your research, and for the most part, agree. I have reduced by far, my intake of flour/grain products, and don’t really see much difference, but my daughter is gluten intolerant. My concern, if it can be stated that strongly, is Biblical. God has, via the Bible, mentioned grains and products containing grains as suitable, and indeed, lifesaving foods. I am aware that the grains in Biblical time were much different, and am looking into obtaining some of these ‘ancient grains’. I wonder, how do you (if you do at all) mesh Biblical stands regarding the health and suitability of consuming grains with your thoughts here?

  46. Katie, you mentioned something about the effects of “modern grains”. Would you eat grains if you were assured they were ancient ones that people had been consuming at least since biblical times? I just wonder if maybe everyone could switch to a strain of einkorn that had been around for hundreds of years and maybe gluten sensitivity numbers would drop off. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that gluten sensitivity has risen along with widespread contamination by GMOs.

    • I do think that would help overall, but personally, I’ve tried einkorn and I still react to it.

  47. We took our family off gluten 2 years ago and we noticed a difference right away. A year ago we went mostly paleo and had much better energy and digestion! Some people poke fun at our gluten free and now paleo diet but we know our bodies are much happier – so we don’t let the criticism get to us much! Thanks for the post.

  48. Katie,
    I changed my family to almost completely grain free last spring in an attempt to help my youngest son who had reflux for which he was on proton pump inhibitors since age nine months. As well as chronic croup for which he had received multiple doses of steroids (16 times in two years) and had a overnight hospital stay for double procedures and testing (worst night of my life).
    After my sons GI doc listened to me (a pediatric nurse) tell her how positive the changes were in him, she looked me in the eye and told me she wanted me to have a nutrition consult with him because I had him on such a “restricted” diet. I turned around and said, ” This kid eats green smoothies, soups made with homemade bone broth, a wide variety of grass fed meats, raw dairy, fermented foods, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies. Do you ask the moms who’s children eat a diet consisting of chicken nuggets and French fries to go for a nutrition consult? Isn’t the fact that he is growing and developing a sign that he is doing well nutritionally?” She then told me that he could get enough macronutrients and still be micronutrient deficient. What!? How micronutrient rich are Oreos and fruit by the foot?
    She had helped me through such an incredibly scary and difficult time with my son and I will always be grateful for her compassion and care when he was really sick but his doctors only gave me the prospect of more meds and more procedures. While with dietary change and some enzyme and FCLO supplementation my son has been croup free since last spring and off all meds since October. Not to mention the fact that his colds over the winter have been minor annoyances, when last year they were scary, emergency room trip inducing nightmares! I have seen the power of grain free which has helped not only my youngest. My entire family has felt the benefits. Some people will never be convinced. But I for one am a believer.

    • Keep in mind that classes in nutrition are rarely required in medical school and when they are it is a single 3 hour class. Doctors are notorious for knowing absolutely NOTHING about nutrition. I read 40 years ago that any woman who had ever been on a weight loss diet had a better education in nutrition than 99% of doctors. Keep doing what you know works for your family.

  49. One of my sons has autism. After I found out about the GFCF diet I immediately implemented it. Both my boys are now on the Gluten free and Dairy free diet. After only a few days there was a dramatic change. My son said a few words and began following directions. He was 3 at the time and in the 10th percentile for weight. He had loose bowels and red circles under his eyes. Now a full year later, he is a different kid. He is still very non verbal, but he makes the attempt to talk. He has normal bowel movements. He eats much better now!!!! There are no more red circles under his eyes. When he gets sick, he gets over it within days, instead of weeks. He is now in the 38th percentile for weight. His younger brother has no autism symptoms. The lack of dairy and wheat has had ABSOLUTELY NO ILL EFFECT! There are multitudes of replacements out there for gluten! My son a ton of food sensitivities, but he still eats a healthy diet. Gluten is certainly not a food group. Wellness Mama, you are my hero! I love you girl!

  50. I think we have to remember that all real, whole, properly prepared food has a place. I did the GAPS diet for two years, and once my digestive issues were healed, I found myself feeling the need for more carbs, specifically from grains. I slowly introduced them, sticking to properly prepared (soaked and fermented grains) and I feel great! I think we all have to do what is best for our individual body.

  51. You go girl!!! I don’t have true Celiac, but my bloating is gone, skin issues, and a lot of other symptoms since quitting gluten and a whollllle lot of other things 8 months ago. I love your site and all of the work you do… keep up the excellent work!

  52. I am a complete bread addict. I’ve always eaten toast when I’m not feeling well. To this day, when my stomach is upset for whatever reason (usually when taking medications) the only thing that I can tolerate is bread. Do you have any suggestions for other easy-on-the-stomach foods?

  53. I have recently switched to a gluten-free diet after being a vegan for a year and a half and eating too many whole grains which resulted in a leaky gut and acne. The acupuncturist/homeopathic doctor I see now had me take a blood test and sure enough, gluten was one of my main problems. After taking gluten and soy out of my diet for a month (while adding in salmon), my skin has cleared up. I did slip up this week and eat pizza, and I did break out. Not as bad as I once was, but definitely it is part of my problem.

  54. Thank you for this article! My son is turning 6 months on Thursday and I’ve decided that he will be on a grain free diet. Hopefully I will not receive to many opinions from family & friends. I am worried about him eventually going to parties and being offered snacks at pre-school that are not gluten-free. Do you have any suggestions about how you deal with this with your children?

    Thanks!

    • I decided the same, and it was easy until the age of 1, then kid starts to develop his personality, and become pickier and pickier. He’s 22 months now and I can count on fingers. He eats only home-made farmer’s cheese, sour cream, yogurt, fruits (loves berries), nuts and in terms of vegetables the only thing he agrees to eat that cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, sour krout and pickled tomatoes, that’ s it.
      He’s still breastfed, so probably he gets everything he needs, but I concerned about iron, cause he spit out meat in any form. And I’m starting to think about fortified foods with iron.
      So good luck with yours little one. Hope you can do it, cause I feel that we could end up eating cereals as much as he wants

  55. I was grain free for some time but I reintroduced buckwheat and oats.
    I believe that you need to listen to your body, try to go grain free. If you like it stick to it. Listen to your body. My opinion is that you need to satisfy all your food cravings except sugar and easy carbs cravings.
    I tried raw diet for a month (vegetable, some fruits, nuts and olive oil), too much fiber even with ample amounts of olive oil, made my bowls very irritated.

  56. so if you cut out processed wheat flour then what do you make for your kids school lunches if you cant made sandwiches – that is as convenient? wouldn’t serving a processed Corn Thin, be the same evil? any lunch box ideas? 🙂

  57. I always find your articles very interesting but I wonder what the global effects of this diet would be. In addition to nutrients, food needs to provide enough calories for someone to get through the day. We have a weird problem in this country where many of our poor are both malnourished and obese at the same time due to the consumption of cheap nutrient poor food.

    However, I also know someone who is a native of the Philippines and lived there during a famine. Calorie dense foods, such as rice and other grains, are lifesavers in these conditions. Another benefit to grains is that they are easy to store and more portable where refrigeration and access to fresh foods is a problem. Certain grains and dried beans also can provide adequate protein in these situations where clean drinking water is limited. Vegetables and meats require a large amount of water to raise. I know what my puny vegetable garden looks like with no rain for a week. If I couldn’t turn on the hose to water it, it wouldn’t take long for my plants to die. Without grass and other vegetation to graze on, livestock will not last long either.

    I recently watched a news story about India that discussed the problem of rice. Older heirloom varieties could grow in very adverse conditions, specifically in areas contaminated by salt water, where newer varieties would fail. However, the older varieties were lower yield and would not produce the yield needed to sustain the huge populations in this part of the world.

    I do think that eliminating grains can help very many people and is worth trying and would not be harmful. There are replacements for every food. Whenever someone eliminated an entire food group (grains are a food group, not gluten which is absent in many grains) nutritional needs can be met in other ways. I do think that when it comes to a choice of whether or not to eat any grains, much of the world would see this as a “rich people problem.”

  58. re: Selenium … 2 Brazil Nuts gives you your daily recommended allowance of Selenium !! (So grain is not needed … AGAIN). Excellend article .. thanks !

  59. Hey you used to have a replacement recipe for all purpose flour somewhere and I cannot seem to find it anywhere! Could you please send me a link or the article? Thank you! 🙂

    • I haven’t. We use coconut and almond flour some, but grain free flours don’t sub exactly in regular recipes and most baked foods are not the most nutritious to begin with

  60. I have noticed that certain grains have a negative affect on my system but not all of them. I’ve switched to eating gluten-free cereal and grains like quinoa and amaranth. When I do have a non-gluten free food, I make sure to just enjoy a small portion because going overboard is what can cause and upset. I am usually fine eating pasta but I am slowing make the switch to gluten-free.

  61. You guys are so right. About everything. Doctors have never been able to help me with anything! After paying too many of them too much money, I got fed up and researched my health issues. Of course, it all came back to diet (along with an undiagnosed thyroid illness). Paleo low carb style clean diet and t3 are all I need to fix my severe chronic acne (age 12-32), pcos, mood issues and weight. My skin glows and I have energy! I just wish my mum would see the light, she’s worse off than me. I’ll keep trying 😉

  62. Thank you for posting this! I love your blog and it is one of the few I will take your word on things. My mom has IBS and wants to go gluten free, you are going to be so much help. I love my pasta so it will be harder for me but I hope someday I can eliminate, if not significantly decrease gluten in my diet. (I have Crohn’s so it’s one of the few things I can eat when I’m having lots of symptoms.)

  63. The problem is people will drop grains and gluten and not add more veggies and other things into their diet to make up for it. Plus store-bought ‘gluten-free’ stuff cannot be expected to be any better for us than the regular “Food Like Products” that they try to get us to eat all the time. Besides grain is cheaper. The big food companies don’t want to add organic/non-pesticide/goo-for-you veggies to everything. It costs too much and gluten-free is too much of a buzzword/money maker. If I was going to go gluten-free I would have to make everything myself and not trust the companies to know whats good for me.

    I am currently trying to head that direction with a normal diet, gluten and all. Not buying stuff at the grocery store, just making (and attempting to grow) it myself. Not an easy feat as a college student. I’m doing a lot better. I’m not totally convinced that gluten-free is the answer. I do believe in balance, however. And balance means reducing the amount of gluten in grains in the diet. The “American diet” is just horrible and there is just too much to cover, and its impossible to focus on only one area.

  64. I just want to say that I absolutely love how you stand up for your posts. There are so many things floating around on the internet that confuse and deter people from even TRYING a healthy lifestyle and I love and appreciate reading your counter arguments and explanations. I’m a huge fan of your website and am so grateful for your insight. Thanks a billion for your time and effort and I look forward to your future posts!

  65. Oh lord! I thought I was doing good by tricking my husband into eating whole wheat noddles instead of white noodles. I have clearly underestimated the food nutrition situation… We are eating healthier than we were but now that we’re starting a family and have a house, I have a long road ahead. By the way, your posts are great (I’ve read about 50 so far). I now plan to buy ingredients and make products rather than buy them.

  66. The main argument (that I’ve heard/received from my doctor) is not about grains’ nutrient profile or even fibre content, but that they should be included due to the fact that they are the most important energy-giving element in our diet.

    I am grain-free, but I also have very low energy, so I’m scared they are right…even though I tend to NEVER side with the allopathic doctors because of past issues with them (undiagnosed problems, etc.)

    What are your thoughts?
    Can we get enough “energy” from a grain-free (moderate carbohydrate diet)…does this mean we have to up or maintain our level of starchy vegetables and fruits, for example?

    Thanks! LOVE your blog by the way 😉

    • I noticed when I went gluten free and attempted grain free, that my carb levels were SO LOW. Low carb seems to be good for a while, but as women, we tend to need more carbs than men to make a grain free diet work. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes! I’m happier at a mid range carb level (probably around 150 g/day?) and you might find that as you add a little bit of good carbohydrates back into your diet, your mood and energy will increase as well. I get this info from my own experimentation and from http://www.marksdailyapple.com, a super great resource for primal/paleo living, and the forum associated with the site. I sometimes eat white rice, as well, not a lot and not often, but sometimes you just need that little something extra to complete your meal!

      Hope this helps even a little bit!

  67. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Our nine year old son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 2 years ago. Within the past 2 years, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard what a terrible thing we are doing by depriving him of gluten. My husband was told by his doctor that he had to be gluten free because he was showing a non-Celiac sensitivity to gluten. Problem number one-getting him to switch-not a problem at all. He wouldn’t want to be shown up by his son who was taking it in stride. Problem number two-gluten free is not necessarily diabetic friendly (my husband has type-2 diabetes). I had to figure out how to make it so. The bread products that we consume are made with coconut, almond, or bean flours (which are all tolerated well by our family). They raise the protein level and drive down the glycemic index thus making a “breaded” product that the entire family can have.

    Oh, and by the way–digestive problems–not the only problems caused by gluten. We have since found out that gluten is most likely the reason that out of our 6 children, 2 children have asthma, 1 has symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, 2 have trouble losing weight, 1 has clearly defined behavioral and mood issues, 1 has severe acne, 1 has severe migraines. And then there is me–gluten sensitivity, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues and on and on and on.

    I really appreciate you speaking out about the fact that “gluten is not a food group” and for shedding light on the fact that even busy mommas can cut the chemicals and other things that “man” has messed up in God’s creation, and make their family healthy again. I will be visiting your site regularly for suggestions. And yes we would all do better with less bread in our lives!! 😉

  68. I realize this is an older post, but I’m curious of your stance on introducing gluten to weaning babies and/or if you have any research to share on this topic? I cannot breastfeed (believe me I tried EVERYTHING!) and am intolerant to gluten and have food allergies myself, so I am naturally concerned about allergies in my daughter. I have a background in nutrition as well, and I’ve been following the super baby food method (mostly) about the introduction of new foods with the 4 day wait period to wait for a reaction. I’ve read some articles stating that early exposure to gluten is helpful in preventing gluten intolerance in the future, so I am currently torn. I have a husband who eats gluten (with no interest in nutrition) so we’ve been on separate diets for a long time. I’m fearful if she never eats gluten/grains and then is exposed to some beyond my control (like, with dad, or decides to eat it herself) she will react more terribly than if I expose her at a young age? Ideas or advice?

  69. I am somewhere in the middle of all this. I have been grinding my own wheat, which is chemical free and non-GMO for about a year and a half. I use this to make bread, noodles, cookies, and tortillas. I find when I eat this, I don’t have the grassiness and bloating problems that I experience with store bought bakery products. I don’t eat a lot of it, but I have four kids who take lunch every day, so they do eat sandwiches! I like knowing that our bread is simply home ground wheat, honey, olive or coconut oil and yeast, rather than preservative and additive laden. I sometimes wonder if the gluten problems so many people have aren’t due to preservatives, chemicals, processing, extra sugar etc found in so many commercial products……

  70. Please tell me: is cornflour also bad for my health? And brown rice flour? Thanks!

    • They both fall into the group I would avoid.

  71. I love this! I have many testimonies to share but I will keep it short and just tell one. My 3 year old was born with lung problems resulting in asthma. He was on a nebulizer at less than a month old. I thought that my doc was amazing for getting him help so quickly…that was before I knew what I know now. We took him off gluten and have minimized his dairy and wow! He has not needed his nebulizer at all, even when he got the flu. A runny nose and the common cold used to turn into horrible spats of asthma and would last 3 weeks at a time. His behavior has also changed dramatically. He is a completely different kid. So happy 90% of the time with so much energy. So thankful Katie for learning so much from you and your resources ( Chris Kesser, SCD Lifestyle and more)!

  72. I’m very confused about the carbs. I never ate whole wheat because of horrible bloating and gas. But I loved corn and brown rice. I decided to go completely grain free and get off of any sugar which was in the form of alcohol. I don’t eat anything with sugar in it but I did like a glass or 2 of wine. So I stayed on the very strict paleo diet eating lots of healthy fat. I probably was lacking a bit in proteins if anything. I ate mostly organic, vegetables, mostly raw, organic meats and eggs, healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, no dairy, no processed foods, no sugars, no grains. I started getting more and more tired. My hair started falling out and I couldn’t keep up in my very intense exercise classes or long distant running. Come to find out I had slowed my thyroid way down. I am 51 years old, 5′ and weigh about 108lbs, female. I didn’t gain or lose weight so much except I just very much struggled with severe lack of energy. Do you have any suggestions? What was all that about?

  73. Whilst i have known about some of this information through my husband reading Mercola many moons ago and him being better to stick to minimum sugar and no gluten, it has taken me to find this site to finally follow through. I can only thank you for being such an inspiration Katie. I think what finally made me follow through is being able to relate to another mum. If she can do it with such a work load. I can too. I found it hard before to give up the croissants and toast. Now a month later I have lost weight, i feel great, positive my skin looks good. I am making my own toothpaste, I eat coconut flour mini pan cakes and or almond flour on weekends. We are nearly at 8 cups of vegetable a day. I am organising myself better and ahead of time for the next two to three meals. I have a long way to go and aim to have at least two weeks of meals planned out.

    Yes meat can get expensive but do your research. Here in Australia you pay $30 at Aldi (German store like costco ) for scotch fillet. Now i have found this site for all cut for $16.95. There is bound to be a place like this for you and if not create it, use the model this Aussies have done and everyone wins. https://countrymeatsdirect.com.au

  74. Reading this article came at the perfect time for me. Starting last night I decided to try a gluten-free, dairy-free diet due to a possible endometriosis diagnosis (still waiting for the test to confirm). I have many of the symptoms and had an early miscarriage last summer. Since then, I haven’t been able to get pregnant. I’ve read many success stories of women who gave up gluten and experienced success conceiving, as well as reducing the symptoms of endometriosis. I also read that it can help with skin issues, which my husband and I both suffer from. Hoping this works! Thanks for another great article. 🙂