The past few years have seen a significant rise in people eating gluten-free - and a huge array of new food options catering to those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivities. Going grain-free means going a step beyond gluten-free and eliminating all grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn, and often limiting pseudo-grains like quinoa or amaranth. So if wheat is the main culprit for those with gluten intolerance, why eat a grain-free diet?
First of all, eating 100% grain-free is not for everyone, and you should always talk to your doctor or holistic health practitioner before eliminating any food group from your diet. Grains are not inherently bad - in fact, a lot of evidence shows that whole grains are beneficial for the majority of people. But let's talk about a few of the reasons someone might choose to eat grain-free.
To Ease Digestive Issues
For people with certain digestive disorders like IBD, which includes Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis, there's research suggesting that eliminating grains eases symptoms. For example, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which excludes all grains and pseudo-grains, among other foods), can help manage IBD. For those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance that isn't fully resolved by a strict gluten-free diet, some people have reported that eliminating grains can sometimes be a step toward managing symptoms. In fact, digestive issues are what led our founder to create Ona Foods in the first place!
As Part of Another Diet
Another reason people choose to eliminate some or all grains is because they're following a diet, such as Paleo or Keto, that calls for the elimination of certain foods or strictly limits carbohydrates. The Paleo Diet, for example, goes far beyond just limiting grains, but many people like the emphasis it places on eating whole, nourishing foods.
For Other Potential Health Benefits
As grains - particularly wheat - have become more refined, they've been stripped of many of their valuable nutrients and proteins. At the same time, some research suggests that gluten and other cereal grains may be linked to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases because they can increase intestinal permeability (what some people call "leaky gut"). Another study also linked the grain-free Paleolithic diet to a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome. For these reasons, some people choose to forego grains altogether.
So what does this mean for you?
Every individual is different and tolerates foods differently. If you don't suffer from digestive disease and tolerate grains well, consider the stepping up the quality of grains you eat. Swap out refined grains for whole grains, seeds, and nuts and when possible, choose sprouted grains in which the phytic acid is neutralized and therefore can help your body absorb nutrients more readily.
If you're considering a grain-free diet, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about your concerns. They can help identify the root causes of your symptoms and ensure you're still getting plenty of fiber and nutrients from other sources!
P.S. Looking for grain-free snack options to suit your dietary needs? Check out our SCD and Paleo options.