Bread is Not a Food Group!
Neither is pasta, rice, or pizza, or anything else we have misidentified as a carbohydrate. Wait, we did identify them correctly as carbohydrates, that is all they are made of or full of! But thanks to the bodybuilding and gym industrial complex, nobody knows anything about their food except for being able to say carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Every food has a little bit of all three (along with lots of other important stuff), just to varying degrees, like grain that is used in bread is (my best guess) 90% carbohydrate. Only 30% of a delicious sirloin is protein. So, I find myself amused that our vernacular has changed from saying meat, or steak, or fish… to protein. You know bro-science has taken a giant leap into the pop culture when you hear a soccer mom saying, “I need some protein!” Not “I’d like a piece of tenderloin steak with my salad, please!”
Here is my issue with the whole damn food pyramid and the how and the why it has set up so many of us for failure. Grains are a flipping seed! How did some very intelligent people say you should have 10-12 servings of grains (bread) and only a small handful of nuts and seeds? Grains are flipping seeds!
Because of this initial fallacy (thank you lobbyists), we treat man-made foods (breads and pastas) as their own food group and have seriously confused the sources of both our macro and micro nutrients. I have been doing some reading and it turns out that we can, in fact, eat the various cereal grains. When we pick them directly from the stock it is just fine. Here is why, and at the same time, a glimpse of what I share with customers when I give my tours at the brewery I work for. You see, the barley, quinoa, wheats, etc., that grow wildly can only be stored for about six months. They contain a decent amount of protein and other nutrients that our body thrives on. But when we first adapted to the grasslands of the savannahs and fertile crescent, we couldn’t mass harvest these seeds. We basically picked them by hand like everything else. If you have ever been dragged to a farm to pick your own berries by your mum in the spirit of teaching you a good work ethic, you will now know what I’m talking about when I say it takes a long time to pick a kilogram’s worth of berries. The same is true of the cereal grains. I would guess it would take you all day to pick the amount of calories worth of grain that you can get in a 480-calorie, old-fashioned glazed donut from Tim Horton’s (or Dunkin’ Donuts).
Hard to overindulge and get hyper fat and malnourished when one incorporates the manual labour involved.
Now let’s look at what is on your grocery store shelf. The breads and other products have been so highly refined, bleached white, etc., that they are designed to be stored for a hell of a lot longer (I’ve heard 30 years). The process of refining these grains, for store shelf products, strips all the nutrients from them that made them so valuable to our ancestors in the first place. All that basically remains is the carbohydrate. If you treat these man-made foods as their own food group, you will certainly cover your carbohydrate needs as a macro nutrient, but nothing else and you fulfill that carbohydrate need in over-abundance.
What we forget is that vegetables, fruits, and meat have carbs in them as well! Remember, a piece of steak is only approximately 30% protein. So, what is the rest of it made of? If it’s grass-fed beef, it is full of pretty much everything else your body needs that is healthy, which includes some carbohydrate.
Same with cabbage, spinach, broccoli and pretty much every other vegetable. Not only do they contain decent quantities of proteins, all the vitamins and minerals, as well as all the phyto nutrients and polyphenols we are only now starting to understand, they also contain some carbohydrates.
Now, after hearing all of this, does it not just make sense to get our energy from the foods that are the most nutrient-rich? As opposed to the nutrient-stripped slices of bread or bowtie pasta? Hence the term “empty calorie.”
So here is what I would recommend. Look at the food pyramid and see where they put nuts and seeds (it’s near the top) and consider the cereal grains as part of that category. The next step is to consider the source. You can buy the unrefined cereal grains at Whole Foods or other grocery stores, but as stated above, treat it like every other nut and seed and you will quickly discover that you will only need a quarter to half cup of these cereal grains, such as quinoa or einkorn, to meet your nutrient needs while keeping the calories down. Just because they are better for you in their natural state does not mean you get to eat it by the pound. Remember the berry picking.