As much as I hate to admit it, there are actually some good things in grains.
Hold on: I’m not about to retract all the arguments I’ve made these past few years about the incredible health destruction that wheat and grains have wrought. No amount of good in grains, for instance, can negate the effects of gliadin-derived opiates that drive appetite, intact gliadin that triggers intestinal permeability and starts the process of autoimmune diseases, phytates that block almost all iron and zinc absorption from the diet, wheat germ agglutinin that is a potent gastrointestinal toxin and inflammatory factor, and amylopectin A responsible for sky-high blood sugars.
In addition to the all the nastiness inherent to wheat and grains, there are a few things that are good. For instance, B vitamins can be found in “fortified” breads and cereals. Cellulose fiber that is indigestible to humans and indigestible to (most) bowel flora can help bowel regularity through a bulking effect.
But there is indeed one group of components of wheat and grains that we lack when we eliminate from our diet: prebiotic fibers that nourish bowel flora. The prebiotic fibers in wheat and grains, such as arabinoxylan and amylose, are indeed beneficial for our bowel flora. The problem with sourcing prebiotic fibers from wheat and grains, of course, is that the good comes with a boatload of bad, including gastrointestinal irritants that disrupt bowel flora and push you towards dysbiosis.
Prebiotic fibers can be obtained through a variety of other foods, such as various vegetables, legumes, and fruit—wheat and grains are not the only dietary sources. But when you cut out wheat and grains, your intake of prebiotic fibers drops by around 3-4 grams per day. It is therefore advisable to obtain prebiotic fibers from other sources, as discussed in this Wheat Belly Blog post. And it helps to add more than the lost 3-4 grams, as you can obtain even greater health benefits by doing so, such as reductions in blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as improved bowel regularity (a far better way than getting more cellulose, as you would with bran breakfast cereals) and reduced colorectal cancer risk. So, despite the little bit of good in whole grains, they remain mostly bad, quite awful really–the little bit of good does not compensate for all the destructive components of wheat and grains.
It is highly likely, by the way, that the prebiotic fibers found in higher quantity in whole grains compared to white flour products account for the apparent health benefits of whole grains. But don’t be fooled by this. Recall that, in living the Wheat Belly lifestyle, we use clear logic. We don’t replace something bad–white flour products–with something less bad–whole grains–observe some relative health benefits, then wrongly conclude that a whole bunch of the less bad thing must therefore be good. By obtaining your prebiotic fibers through sources such as modest servings of lentils or hummus, raw white potatoes or green unripe bananas, you get all the good with none of the bad as you do with grains.
If you are having a tough time getting your prebiotic fibers, by the way, I included several recipes for easy and tasty Detox Shakes in my new book, Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox to make the process easier.