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The Great Grain Controversy (Q & A with Ramiel Nagel, Author of “Curing Tooth Decay”)


When I first read, Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, the issue of grains especially grabbed my attention, and I was intrigued by his suggestions on which ones we should eat and how best to prepare them. But if you already eat a grain-free diet or this issue doesn’t do it for you (don’t ask me why someone wouldn’t want to talk the issue of grains to death…? OK, I’m a little odd, but I know I’m not the only weirdo out there!), the book does cover a lot of other ground, too. You’ll also learn more about…

  • Orthodontic issues
  • How to find a good dentist
  • Foods you should always avoid
  • Why most people can avoid cavities while still eating potatoes, even though they do contain moderate amounts of phytic acid
  • The “one-amazing-meal-a-day” protocol
  • Why you should include plenty of vitamins A, D, C and calcium in your diet if you’re eating grains, coconut flour, or nuts
  • Why fruit should be considered a treat

If you’re like me, though, and unsure about grains in your life right now, you’ll want to keep reading…

It’s well known in the GAPS Diet world that avoiding grains is an important part of that protocol for healing health issues. That’s what first got my brain cooking on all this. Now after reading Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, writing the posts Lose your man boobs, your bagel butt and your wheat belly, and delving more into the book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, I’m really becoming more and more interested in making some changes. I’m no where near at the point of cutting grains out completely, especially with the kids, because that’s extra tricky, as most of you know, but this is definitely on the radar and lowering them considerably is the goal these days. (I’ve been having fun working to adapt recipes and will post them as I can.)

This subject has been on the back burner for a long time, and I knew it needed to be tackled, but as more and more people in the Real Foodie world weighed in on the issue of grains, the more confused I became. The bummer is, while I don’t care too much about bread, there are times I still want to make this now famous baked soaked oatmeal recipe, for example, and because of the latest controversies, I’m now wondering things like…

I’ll try to wade through all this today, with help from Ramiel Nagel…

Rami gave me a copy of his book at the Wise Traditions conference last year in Philadelphia, but after reading Curing Tooth Decay, I had even more questions. So he has agreed to help us all by doing a Q & A.

  • KK: You say in the book that “Adding vitamin C to the diet can significantly counteract phytic acid’s iron absorption blocking effect.” Does this counteract phytic acid’s blocking effect on other minerals as well?

Rami: To answer this question would require more research. It’s as simple as looking up studies on google and writing to people who are educated on the subject. Since the body uses minerals and vitamins in a whole way, I would suspect that it improves intake and usage of many minerals. Our bodies are master chemists, so how vitamin C interacts with other minerals in a diet and how that effects are health may be a more detailed question than you may have thought.

  • KK: Would you say that it counteracts this effect enough to just add more vitamin C into the diet rather than bothering with soaking, sprouting or fermenting grains at all? What are the best sources for getting more vitamin C into our diets?

Rami: That would be irresponsible to just rely on vitamin C. What I teach people is tools for having tooth health. Sometimes soaking or sprouting grains is not good enough, and other times grains may just need to be cooked for a long time.

I have a vitamin C chart in my book. For supplementation you can do camu camu, acerola berry, or rose hips. That would be helpful if you though you were deficient or if your body was overly toxic. (Vitamin C helps give our body what it needs to remove some toxins.) For food, broccoli and kale have very high amounts. Of course citrus.

  • KK: In chapter four you explain that oatmeal has a “devastating effect on teeth“. I wanted to clarify with you that you were referring to unsoaked oats, correct? (And oats should be soaked up to 24 hours in a warm environment, with an acidic liquid and a little whole wheat flour which provides phytase to break down the phytic acid, right? Or is even that not enough because you also say that oats should be first sprouted, and most are heat-treated so they won’t sprout???)

Rami: I wish it were that simple. This refers to soaked oats as well. Oats are full of toxins. They grow well in harsh environments, like the Islands off of Scotland. Unfortunately I haven’t found a very old traditional recipe for oats. But in the Nourishing Traditions article by Katherine Czapp about the (Scottish?) diet, there were hints that oats may have sprouted in the fields while being sun dried. I also don’t know the exact cooking or soaking methods, or if the bran was removed from the oats. It seems likely to me that at least some of bran was removed from the oats since that is what other cultures do with wheat and rye. Without knowing exactly, we are guessing. Oats also have almost no phytase, so they do require some type of starter.

The thing is, with healthy robust people who are living on fish, shellfish and organs with some limited dairy, their bodies may have been able to process quite a bit of toxins from the oats.

I find it interesting that flaked oats, such as the Quaker oats I ate as a child, have very little bran in it. If these were soaked, or if they where not heat treated and then soaked, you might have a safe grain.

I really don’t have a good recipe for soaking oats. Only that Edward Mellanby sprouted and then soured oats and in doing so removed phytic acid and much of the oat’s negative effects.

  • KK: Follow up question: So do you and your family eat oats at all?? If so, what kind and how do you prepare? I’d like your advice: should I suggest that my readers only eat oats as part of a healthy nutrient-dense diet and only rarely? I ask because I have a soaked baked oatmeal recipe that people love and wouldn’t want to lead them wrong!

Rami: I would look at oatmeal in a few ways. One is on standards. Is the oatmeal from the U.S.? Most, if not all, of the food I consume was grown in this country, with the occasional fruit, vegetable or fish from somewhere else when it isn’t in season here. So we don’t have fresh oats, I am not sure why. Our family does not eat any oats. As an oat replacement I would do a white rice cereal, or a white rice mixed with red rice cereal. The red rice has a little bit of bran on it.

I like how oats taste. I think the more processed oats are actually safer, because they have the bran removed. Unfortunately without the exact science on the issue, we are guessing. I can only relate from personal experience that soaked whole oats were not good for my family at all. I advise people not to eat oats if they have tooth cavities. And if they do eat oats, do so with caution. I think the flaked oats which have a good amount of bran removed could be safe in moderation provided someone does not have tooth cavities. Assuming these oats are soaked with a starter. The bottom line lesson from Mellanby, is soaking whole oats, is not a safe way to eat them regularily due to the high degree of toxins in the oats. Probably mostly in the oat bran and germ.

  • KK: Would you say you are a proponent of grain-free diets mostly, because it is not easy to be sure we are sufficiently breaking down anti-nutrients in grains through soaking or sprouting?

Rami: I would love for people to eat grains and be healthy. I think the problem is more that many of us have fairly damaged livers, and do not digest food well. At that point, grains become toxic and inhibit healing. That is why many paleo type of diets are so popular. With too much grains, many people struggle. But it is also true that most people do not want to remove anti-nutrients of grains at home. That is why there are bakeries.

  • KK: Is that a ‘yes’ then, that you think most should eliminate grains? (Unless someone makes or buys their own sourdough bread???) All this could be why many are giving up grains all together. This really is so confusing.

Rami: There are two problems with grains. I think the issue with grains is we do not hold them up to the same standards as our other foods. For example, fish must be very fresh or it stinks. Grains require careful processing or in general, they are toxic. Some bakeries process grains correctly, and most do not. Many of us our so compromised it is incredible. That is why avoiding grains works so well. It also works well because the grains are not prepared with love and care in general. So avoiding them works for many people. But in the long run, we actually want to have grains in our diet unless you live in a climate the traditionally doesn’t support grains, like a tropical island. Avoiding grains, or having grains that are do not irritate a compromised digestive tract like white rice, and perhaps sourdough bread is the way to go for most people. I met a woman from Mauritis (sp?) she had perfect teeth and grew up eating sweet potatoes and white rice. Of course she also had whole fish, head organs and all, and really good buffalo dairy. My Tibetan doctor has amazing teeth and bone structure, and she says that in the traditional diet, barley is consumed in large quantities. But it goes through a careful process of storing, aging and bran removal. (The animals get the bran.)

I found an interesting excerpt in Rami’s book related to this:

“By accident, medical doctor J.D. Boyd healed diabetic children’s decayed teeth by designing a grain-free diet. The diet meant to control diabetes not only stopped cavities, but it turned soft tooth enamel hard and glossy. These findings were published in 1928 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Boyd’s diet consisted of milk, cream, butter, eggs, meat, cod liver oil, vegetables and fruit. Please note that both Dr. Mellenby’s and Dr. Boyd’s tooth-remineralizating diet came from a time when milk, butter and cream were raw, farm-fresh and grass-fed.”

  • KK: Have you heard the latest buzz online that soaking grains with an “acid medium” like ACV or yogurt or whey, etc. isn’t necessary and that just soaking overnight in water is fine?

Rami: The acid in the soaking is merely to support lowing of the pH to enhance fermentation. So a teaspoon or two of acidic substances or some probiotics usually helps.

  • KK: I was surprised to read this: “Sourdough bread with unbleached flour that is sour in taste is the best grain product available in the western world.” So even though this is a white, refined flour, your opinion is that it is better than a whole grain sourdough? (Again, this is because it is difficult to break down all the phytic acid in the whole grains?)

Rami: There is a slight but important distinction between white flour, and unbleached flour. The difference is the bleaching process. Although because many sources called unbleached flour, ‘white flour’, it led to one unclear sentence in my book. To me the biggest news about grains is that the story that whole grains have more nutrients is false. I think a more accurate story is grains grown on healthy soils have more nutrients. We should focus on soil health, not eating every ounce of plant material that we can possibly digest.

  • KK: This makes sense, but most of us (myself anyway), don’t know anyone who grows grain, let alone how nutrient-dense their soil is… Bob’s Red Mill makes an unbleached white flour, but I don’t know how healthy his soil is, I guess I’m not sure why I’ve never looked into this – I don’t even know where his wheat is grown! But I’m still confused, and leaning toward limiting grains.

Rami: Yes, well what standards do you hold your beef and vegetables too? The grains don’t have to be at a higher standard. The point is that the argument of “whole” for the grain is a mistake. The mistake was unfortunately started by Weston Price himself. Some cultures did eat the “whole” grain but it was under special conditions, such as quinoa for example, or perhaps special corn in south America.

  • KK: “White rice does not seem to have the negative health effects on people like white flour does. The ideal rice preparation is with rice that is first aged for one year, freshly milled to remove about half or more of the bran and germ, and then soured. Since most of us cannot do this ourselves, our second best options are to choose between high quality white rice, and partially milled or brown rice prepared with a phytase-rich starter. If you are not going to soak your rice with a phytase-rich starter, then choose white rice.” My question is, where does sprouted/germinated brown rice fall (which I find online or at the health food store)? Is white rice still a better choice if not soaking in the phytase-rich starter? (You can read more about the benefits of germinated rice here.)

Rami: I think sprouting rice is helpful. But at the same time the consensus of evidence I have seen points to the most traditional way to eat rice is to have rice with traces of the rice bran. In the old days this was done with stones, maybe leaving 5-10% of the bran on the rice. But how much bran is safe to eat would very greatly depending on the variety of rice, the climate, and what foods were eaten with it.

  • KK: How in the world do we find rice with traces of bran?? Again, should we just eliminate rice from our diets? Ahhhhh! What about this, as a way to simplify your message to my readers, can you tell us what grains you eat and how they are prepared?

Rami: Alter Eco sells a coral rice. Personally we use this occasionally in small amounts with our regular rice. I eat white rice right now because it is easy to digest and my digestion was highly compromised from some prescription drugs I took 15 years ago when I used to go to doctors. Plus as a teenager I was starving due to a lack of healthy fats and I ate way too much junk food. I used to have excellent digestion. White rice is not part of my ideal diet, but I must eat it right now as a compromise because I cannot eat certain whole foods that most people can.

Yes, I have simple grain guidelines in my book. I also have grain and food combining guidelines. I don’t aim to control or even advise people what to do. It is simply after learning this information, what action do you want to take?

–Easy Grains: Sourdough bread from unbleached flour, some white rice perhaps mixed with some brown or red rice. Quinoa and buckwheat that are soaked are also probably safe grains. Whole corn or corn products made with Masa Harina (this has been soaked and roasted before hand, then gets cooked again) seem to be safe with moderate use. None of these solutions are necessarily ideal. But rather, pretty good for most people.

–Advanced Grains: Homemade sourdough with fresh ground grains that have the bran / germ removed by sifting / sieving. Bread should pretty much always be eaten with raw grassfed cheese (calcium). Rice with green vegetables (vitamin C), and animal protein. These combinations reduce the grain toxin effects.

My realization to keep grains simple is to simplify. We have a tradition in the U.S. of good sourdough. So I would go with that. Just the very important note is if you are using whole grains at home, the bran and germ should be mostly or completely removed from barley, wheat, oats, rye and probably corn. Because these have plant toxins like lectins that are not destroyed by fermentation. The wheat in Deaf Smith County Texas (where cows grazed on native grasses and people didn’t have cavities) used to have 6 times more phosphorus than the wheat from other places. So keeping the bran for the 20-50% of the more mineral content wasn’t necessary. I believe the bran issue is the long missed secret to healthy grains.

The way traditional cultures extracted the nutrients from grain bran is through an ancient fermented beverage: BEER.

People are making big decisions and assumptions about what food is healthy basically through guessing, rather than digging into the true ancient traditions of healthy cultures. Then combine that with capitalism and the ability to profit on new marketplaces, it means that errors will be made in how grains are prepared, and many people’s health will suffer.

Thanks Rami!


After seeing the confused and frustrated comments come through today, I’m adding a blurb here from my comment below…

I’m sorry to have confused and frustrated you all with this post! I’m feeling the same way, though, that’s why my goal is limiting grains (based on all I’ve read) and for those we do eat, I’ll try to make the best choices/preparations as we can, but even that won’t always happen in our real world!

As others have said in the comments, though, what you decide for your family will look different based on your own health issues or what works for you.

Does any of this sound familiar?


  1. Ugh! This grains thing is driving me crazy. I just recently started to soak my grains/flours and now I’m hearing to not do whole grains. Ugh. The curse of being a conscious consumer.

  2. @Brittany & @Katie – so with you!

    Sometimes I wish I didn’t constantly seek out information about healthy eating. It feels a bit like no matter how hard you try, you’re always doing something wrong. Kelly, thanks for the post. Must go learn how to grow my own grains in healthy soil now.

  3. It really made sense to me that wheat isn’t the same wheat as in “olden” times (your Wheat Belly post), we’ve pretty much screwed up every other food. BUT it doesn’t feel right to me to throw out a whole type of food as bad. I would like to find out where I can buy a safe source of grain- just as I’ve scouted out the best grass fed beef, etc. I’d also like to know the Beer bread recipe or method Rami Nagel refers to briefly!!

  4. I was a grouchy curmudgeon on Kelly’s Wheat Belly post. But since reading it, I’ve tested grain-free on myself with some pretty wonderful results. Can I go grain free forever? No way. But in “spurts” with breaks for healthy grain consumption? Maybe. In the meantime, this whole issue is one I honestly wish I never heard.

  5. Maybe I’m an exception (don’t think so), but I have been an oatmeal lover all my life (61 yr) AND have never had a cavity. My dentist always remarks on my healthy teeth. I find this whole grain issue overwhelming and too confusing, one expert says this, another says that.
    I love my oats, brown rice, multigrain breads, etc and think I will not change at this point, but thanks for the article and good luck!

    • Wow! Kitty, you are 61 and have never had a cavity? You must have healthy bones too. Your remarks were encouraging. I bought Rami’s book months ago and it only frustrated and confused me. Bread has been such a stable in our diets for centuries and is referred to in the Bible too often not to be an important food in our diets. We eat cooked oats every other day and my family does not want to stop.

      • Yes, Diane, I am 61 and have never had a cavity, neither have my two children. I do have good bones, have had testing to show that. I drink raw milk, have always made my own bread, love rice, oatmeal, etc., so I don’t agree with the premise that grains damage dental health, sounds like you and your husband are also evidence.
        I agree with the English reference that BREAD IS THE STAFF OF LIFE, just as Rice is the staff of life for Asians, and it goes on and on, I believe we were given these staple foods for a reason.
        And I tell you, I look at all the struggles going on in the world and I just want to enjoy my food !!! But one day I’m told I’m doing it right and the next day someone comes along and says it’s all wrong. Well heck, at some point it just becomes too much and I have to ignore it and stick with what works for me. I do soak my oats every night because I use a rice cooker to automatically have them ready in the morning :))

        • Kitty, I like your attitude and try to adopt the same, but I forget. I see people going grain free and doing well with it, but hesistate to even do a trial elimination because the evidence is not clearly convincing either way. I enjoy grains, I think whole foods are better than partial and I don’t really think it’s the grains in and of themselves that are causing the problems, but have no scientific proof.

          • Kelly, I agree with you. My measuring stick is my grandmother. I always think about what she ate all her ‘long’ life (96) – she made biscuits and bread from scratch every single morning, they always ate oatmeal (no soaking) and lots and lots of rice and beans, bacon, eggs, potatoes … and they were never sick or had dental problems. They were farmers.

            • My grandmother is currently 92. She’s still in decent health, though not a picture of health. She ate the SAD diet for the last 30+ years, I’m certain, but had fresh milk and eggs available.

              I think what still causes me to question is that 3 years ago I was eating a SAD diet and thought it was the best (only?) way to go and have made so many changes that I don’t want to be ignorant of more that may need to be made.

      • Diane,
        I was thinking the same thing. I’m in the middle of reading the book “Cure Tooth Decay” and have been scratching my head at the concept that grains are, overall, bad. They are mentioned as being a staple in biblical times… I have always whole-heartedly felt that whole foods were placed on this earth to nourish us. Reading insight that nearly completely contradicts is like being told, “Oh, those rice plants, ancient grains, beans, corn, wheat, and most fruit plants are just for looking at. You shouldn’t eat those! Here, eat this stripped grain instead!” Odd, but interesting…

  6. Kelly…. thanks for continuing to ask the questions and sift through this stuff. Right now I’m hyper aware of all the grains my daughter eats. Today is day 16 wheat-free for me and I’ve consumed very, very little grains during this time. So, as she asks for a sandwich for lunch, I’m spreading the butter on thick and praying for clarity for my family.

  7. Hi Kelly

    Oh I am so confused we love your baked oatmeal. How do I get the bran out of rolled oats? Are you going to keep eating oatmeal?

    Oh why do I read so much

  8. Grain free is so simple and freeing! So much less time in the kitchen. Much easier than “gluten-free”!

  9. I can’t believe how confusing this all is! If Rami is speaking at the conference, how confusing this must be for all the newbies like myself. I started “Nourishing Traditions” about 1 yr ago and when someone comes along with contradicting info, It makes me want to throw my hands up. Right when I thought I was on the right track soaking and doing all the things that take extra time for our health. Kelly, I agree about the baked oatmeal. My DH would eat it every am and I think it is far better than danishes and cereal. So I’m sticking to my story!

  10. This whole topic makes me want to go screaming from the kitchen! Conflicting advice abounds. It really is very frustrating. We read, research, think we’re doing the best for our families, and then something comes along and says, “no, actually, that’s really, really bad.”
    We are cutting down on grains, but I personally believe it is quite unrealistic to be grain free, especially with kids. Especially if oats are a no-no.

  11. I have a giant bag of whole grain rice because (as we all know) white rice is nothing but empty calories. Personally, I think the work “know” should be stricken from our vocabulary! The minute we “know” something, we find out how utterly wrong it is. :-(

    So, being someone who is always searching for something to slather my grass-fed butter on, I’m thrilled to discover sourdough bread, but my husband’s going to hate me when I take away his whole-grain! I think the worst of it is having to convince everybody that I’m not schizophrenic every time I make 180 degree changes in my diet (and then try to convince them to do the same).

    All that said… thanks, Kelly, for bringing these topics to light. “Knowledge is power,” as they say. It’s still a tough call deciding what information is reliable and what isn’t (we’re all subject to error), but when a body of information begins to support certain ideas (like grains are generally unhealthy), it’s more likely those ideas are true and trustworthy.

    The important thing is that we’re all capable of discarding a wrong concept once we “know” it’s wrong.

  12. Here’s what confuses me the most:
    1. Most of the bloggers and authors I read prefer more traditional foods and food preparations. It is evident via the Bible alone, let alone other sources, that grains were used regularly. My guess would be grains might have even been a staple during times of drought or winter as they would store better than fruits and veggies. So, considering they are traditional, dropping them all together just doesn’t make sense to me.
    2. There seems to be 3 sides to this issue- no grains, properly prepared grains, and processed grains. Even with the info from Mr. Nagel, most “real foodies” still use “properly” prepared grains. Are there any that actually use white rice or unbleached white flour? If not, why? See, my gut tells me “white” isn’t right but maybe my gut instinct is just wrong. I don’t know.
    3.Just because something is easier to digest doesn’t equal that it is HEALTHIER. All foods could easily be placed on a continuum of digestion and we limit those that are harder to digest but there would be some pretty healthy foods left off that list if we do it based on digestion alone. It just doesn’t seem that simple to me. Right? Does that make sense or am I not understanding something?
    4. I’m betting in a few years some new scientific info will be out that disproves who knows what about grains anyway. It will probably just contradict something that I’ve long believed 😉
    I don’t know… I know I’m just rambling and a lay person….

  13. Hi Kelly, count me as another confused real foodie. Every time I read a post about grains I think I will finally understand, but no, it just confuses me more. What is a phytase rich starter? Did I miss that somewhere? As I read the interview above I thought the best thing to do is just omit grains from my diet. I’m like you, cutting back on the grains we eat. I don’t know if I can cut it out entirely, but sometimes it seems like the healthiest way to go. What’s a real foodie to do?

      • Hi Kelly,
        According to the water that has been saved from soaking rice can be reused to soak grains and beans. From my experience when using the water for my next batch of rice, there are lots of bubbles in the rice after 24 hrs of soaking which makes me think there’s a chemical reaction going on (probably between the phytase and the phytic acid in the water). Thinking (and hoping) that the water is probably rich in phytase, I have been also adding some of this same water to soak beans and grains instead of an acid. Now for my question: do you think using some of this water would be a phytase rich starter such as you suggested?

        • I’m not sure, but I like how you’re thinking and it sounds like you’re on the right track at least!

          You also just gave me an idea…


          • Hi Kelly,

            I keep some rye flour specifically for adding to soaking oats because I read (who knows where! WAPF website?) that rye is higher in phytase.

            You know those dog images where they have the outrageously huge eyes bugging out? That’s me as I try to comprehend all of this, lol. Right now I’m burying my head in the sand because I’m under a lot of extraneous stress. Then I’ll peek out and look at rice because we eat that a lot (made with broth but I haven’t tried soaking yet) and learn how to soak it. Then I’ll try to get my sourdough started back up from wild-caught yeast. Then I’ll reread and obsess about the grain selections and prep.

            I hope you’ll post more on this topic – I love your informative posts and appreciate your time on this.

  14. On my goodness!!!! I am more confused than ever!!!!!! White rice, brown rice, red rice and now coral rice…. Sourdough bread over grain bread… It seems that there is an opinion about this topic for every different point of view. Did anyone else feel like he didn’t really answer the questions?

    My head hurts…..

    • Yes, I felt he did a very good job at not answering any questions, sounded like a salesman to me… I am glad someone else felt that way.

      • I got that impression too. The whole issue totally confuses me and hubby already accuses me of making food an idol. He’s right too.

        • I bought Rami’s book months ago. And emailed him similar questions that Kelly asked. And I felt the same way with his non-answers. It’s good to know I’m not the only one frustrated and confused.

  15. I could not agree more with Kristi. Reading this made my head hurt. I have oats soaking on my counter this morning, because sometimes we need a break from eggs and I figure it’s better than cheerios (which is what my husband would prefer). I have had issues with cavities, but my husband has had none ever, on a practically identical diet. It’s so frustrating to hear a+b=c when it doesn’t work that causatively for everyone.

  16. Ugh is right. I’m thinking a nice, deeeeep breath is appropriate here! We’re all confused by changing nutritional recommendations, esp those that challenge our understanding so frequently and so drastically. I’ve tweaked our diet so many times it’s not even funny…and even though it’s always been according to what I understood was best, I’ve learned to be careful. I think it’s important to remember that never in the history of the world has man’s food supply been perfect except in the Garden! We keep reading, studying, and reading some more, but we just can’t afford to be too overwhelmed by even good research/information. Our children deserve moms (and dads) who don’t jerk their foods around too much because to a sizable extent, it represents security to them. If oatmeal is a favorite, find a place for it. It’s good to keep tweaking, but tweak while bearing in mind that since we live in an imperfect world, we can only do the best we can with what we have.

  17. Interesting that his ‘easy grains vs advanced grains’ agrees (mostly) with Dr NCM’s recommendation for the GAPS diet. So at least there is a consensus. I think it’s fair to say that for most of us it’s better to do with less grains. How much less? That depends, of course. Since I’m on GAPS I do no grains or starches so that’s easy. I hope to eventually go back to some, maybe, but I feel like I’ll just get sucked down the tube of eating too many grains in the end. I’m starting to believe that grains are addictive and some people (like me) can’t really limit their intake of them. They just overtake our diet!! I may stick to coconut flour and almond flour for now…

  18. Excellent post! Food IN CONTEXT! Yeah!

    We need to take any food choices in the context of the health and diet and environment of our ancestors AND in the context of what is actually available today and our own personal health issues and environment. Our ancestors’ livers didn’t have smog or artificially created foods or depleted soils to contend with.

  19. In reading other’s comments, I just wanted to add that I have been trying to focus more on listening to my body over following food rules. Actually, my son’s digestion issues have helped a LOT….in that we had to do a very limited diet initially and then add other things back in slowly. I now care MORE about how I feel after I eat, then if it’s “good” or not. Even “good” food can be toxic if it’s not digested properly.

    I like the taste of brown rice, but my son can’t tolerate it, so we do white rice ….on occasion. White rice still has a little protein (non gluten) in it and low PUFA levels (easily balanced by coconut oil or good butter) and energy. It keeps better than brown for long term storage too. (The bran is the part that goes rancid first.) Hand scrubbing the brown rice in water will help remove the bran, traditional in Japanese cooking.

    I especially like than you can get a good quality (NOT enriched) Jasmine or Basmanti rice in an Asian market/or asian section for a lot less than brown rice. Leaves more $$ for other things.

  20. Thank you for this! I am in the process right now of cutting down the amount of grains my family eats! I have been confused as well as to which way to go! This post is very helpful.

  21. I’ll have to add this comment to the bottom of the post…

    I’m sorry to have confused and frustrated you all with this post! I’m feeling the same way, though, that’s why my goal is limiting grains (based on all I’ve read) and for those we do eat, I’ll try to make the best choices/preparations as we can, but even that won’t always happen in our real world!

    As others have said in the comments, though, what you decide for your family will look different based on your own health issues or what works for you.


  22. I’m completely confused too. Adding wheat to oats makes it healthier, but soaking just wheat isn’t healthy? White rice, brown rice and potatoes. I’m confused about carbs in general, not just grains. I’ve been on Real Food for 1 year now (as close to perfect as I can be at home, not so perfect going out to eat occasionally) and I’m down 10 lbs. But I’m stuck. Plus 10 lbs in one year isn’t great except that the previous year I gained 20. I have 60 more pounds to lose and NOTHING is working. I don’t want to do a starvation diet, and I find it impossible to stick to a grain free diet.

    Just budget wise… how do you go grain free? *runs around screaming in circles like the crazy she’s feeling!*

    ps…. thanks for keeping us thinking, but I am more confused now than ever! LOL.

    • Yes, the budget part is really what kills me. It make grain-free impossible for my family. But sourdough and white rice are far more budget friendly than bread made with alternative flours (almond meal, coconut flour, etc) and organic brown rice. I’ve actually been working on my first sourdough starter for a few days. I’ll give these changes a shot, and see what they mean for my family, then alter accordingly.

    • You should check out Matt Stone’s site. He has a lot of stuff about how people lose weight when they stop dieting. Your body probably has a compromised immune system and doing deprivation diets won’t help. You have to heal your metabolism.

  23. I largely have. My husband cut out all grains in order to lose weight and benefited not only from weight loss but a HUGE improvement in his digestive system. I am off wheat to see if I can improve a skin condition. And the kids get too many meals through the daycares so not worrying about them so much, but they are SUPER healthy as compared to their peers, so not so worried yet. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt, no pun intended :)

  24. I understand what you and the author are both saying/asking, and thought you did a great job on your interview. As far as making a *decision* based on this and other information, I would stay I’m still confused! I think the eating of grain depends on how healthy someone is, what ailments they are trying to correct, and what kind of other (nutrient-dense) foods they are eating.

  25. I am not confused anymore, after Primal Body, Primal Mind and several of the underground wellness blod radio shows I have been listening to. We are 5 days gluten-free and are having only very tiny amounts of rice right now. We’re DONE with grains!!! BTW–we are not even close to overweight and have no real health issues (just not vibrant like we want to be)–we’re all about making the changes BEFORE we HAVE to! I don’t just want to get by, I want to thrive, and I want the same for my kid!

  26. I used to think that going low carb or grain free was an extreme also, but I feel very differently now, really knowing how the body handles carbs/blood glucose. 10 years of WAPF diet (which I still mostly follow) and I had no idea I was causing a 4-alarm fire in my body with every meal. No wonder I am always tired!

  27. Don’t feel badly. People look for a black and white answer to food, and get frustrated when they don’t get it. It’s shades of grey for everyone. If people are confused, then they need to do a lot of reading and figure it out. No one is going to be able to get the answer to what’s right for them by reading a simple blog post, or an article that’s just long enough for them to read in a visit to the john. EVERYONE must read and not rely on information clearing houses; the clearing houses exist to point us to information to further explore, not to be the end word. Yanno? Your blog and blogs like them should be a place to discuss these issues, not a encyclopedic reference; that puts too much of a burden on the blogger. If one has more questions, then buy the man’s book!

  28. I was confused after the wheat belly post. I’m listening to the book on audible now and it makes sense. But I think some whole grains are important and when prepared properly, add a lot of nutritional value (and taste and texture) to healthy meals full of vegetables. I’ve been soaking my grains (and beans) with a piece of kombu, as I’ve heard that phytic acid is water-soluble, so soaking for a min of an hour greatly increases mineral absorption. If I’m in the kitchen while they’re soaking, I strain, rinse, and add fresh water a few times during soaking. I’m cutting down on wheat, but see no reason to cut out oats (what toxins are in it exactly?), brown rice (confused as to why white rice is better!), quinoa, teff, millet, etc. It’s a re-education and it’s not easy, but the more information you have, the better decisions you can make about what to put in your body! I did recently buy a breadmaker, though (and the increase of whole grain bread consumption really took its toll on my digestive functioning), and I like bread, so now >>> I’m hunting for good bread recipes that are low-wheat and high in good-for-you grains like those mentioned above!<<< I'm also curious to start exploring ancient grains (non-GMO heritage strains) and wonder what people think about that! I will say that I eat a mostly vegetarian (some fish) diet of local, organic, and/or home-grown produce. I limit most of my dairy consumption to yogurt and aged cheeses. So, maybe I'm eating clean enough not to have to worry excessively about all these 'toxic grains' claims? This sure is confusing!

  29. I’ve been studying the whole grain vs. nongrain issue for a while now…and right or wrong, here is what I’ve decided.
    Our diet is very good, very traditional – lots of bone broth, raw dairy, organ meats, veggies, fruits, soaked nuts and soaked grains. I’ve taken a lot of the grains out of our diet, baking (when I bake) mostly with almond, quinoa, and buckwheat flours…along with some coconut flour too.
    Occasionally, we like soaked oatmeal. Had it for breakfast this morning in fact. We don’t eat oats every day – or even every week, and we don’t have a grain heavy diet. Rice occasionally, or the oats. I do buy sourdough bread though, and we have that a few times a week. I also buy fermented buns for grilling burgers and hot dogs, and once or twice a month we have rice pasta. We eat so much less grain than the SAD, and when we do, it’s properly prepared grains. I’m doing what I believe is best for my family, and adding in prayer over our food. That will have to be enough. I can’t let all of the grain controversy control my life, and I don’t want to always be worrying about every bite my family is taking. I cook and prepare food the way that I do, so that I don’t have to worry. Does that make sense or am I just talking it circles? It actually sounds better in my head. :)

    For those in the Grand Rapids area, I just have to let you know that you can get a nice large round loaf of traditionally prepared sourdough bread at Costco for only $3.29 a loaf. The only ingredients are flour, water, salt. Now whether it’s bleached or unbleached, I have no idea, but it’s a really nice chewy sourdough, and perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich or peanut butter toast! The brand name is Boudin, and the package *says* it’s “The Original San Francisco Sourdough.”.

  30. I’ve pretty much figured it out. I think we need to avoid them. It’s the logistics that are in my way. How to avoid them as a family makes for frustration and confusion for me. I have been doing some gluten free stuff for the kids, but we are going to do a stretch of no grain with the kids to see what happens. Thank goodness for almond flour. :)

  31. I just went to a Nourishing Traditional Foods seminar in north Florida where Sally Fallon Morell gave her wonderful weekend of powerpoints and lectures. While I personally am limiting not just grains but all starchy carbohydrates I still prepare soaked, sprouted and/or fermented grains for the rest of my family. Sally’s presentation on menu and meal planning included many suggestions for grain-based foods including sourdough bread slices fried in bacon grease, the traditional soaked porridge with plenty of cream, and thin sourdough pancakes dried into crispy crackers to serve with sour cream and roe. This helped me to refocus on the fact that traditionally many very healthy societies depended on grains to nourish their populations, but today we have so many UNhealthy populations with damaged/leaky guts that food once easily eaten has become hazardous. Those with healthy bodies who are raising children from conception following the traditional wisdom of generations past will be able to eat grains. Others may not.

  32. Darn it, oats are one of the few grains we still eat! Does it make a difference if they are labeled organic?

    • Oh, I so appreciated that link! We use Kitchen Stewardship’s super delish granola bars as a daily alternative to desserts and I eat granola daily, and this post about grains just about made me want to cry. My husband and I are in our mid 30s and have had one cavity between us. We haven’t been eating “real food” very long, either. I haven’t even gotten to the point of soaking our oats yet (although I do sprout/grind our wheat flour). It’s posts like these that make me want to throw in the towel, so the passionate homemaking link helped me take a deep breath and keep on taking baby steps!

  33. I am so freaking confused right now, I just want to throw in the towel and go back to eating doritos and coke. LOL. Just kidding.

    BUT really, WHO is supposed to make head or tails of this stuff? No wonder my digestive system is so screwed up.

    I just wish I could prevent my kids from ending up the same way. Sigh….

  34. I used to always soak my grains, but recently I have gone completely grain free. I started Dr. Mercola’s “No Grain Diet” in order to lose weight after having a baby. In 3 weeks, I have lost 6 pounds and 2 inches off my waist. Not only am I losing weight, but I feel a huge difference in the way I feel. I have more energy and I feel great.

  35. I used to always soak my grains, but recently I have gone completely grain free. I started Dr. Mercola’s “No Grain Diet” in order to lose weight after having a baby. In 3 weeks, I have lost 6 pounds and 2 inches off my waist. Not only am I losing weight, but I feel a huge difference in the way I feel. I have more energy and I feel great.

  36. We eat grains. I try to use a variety and I always soak them (sally fallon style) before we consume them. I try to stick to 30% protein, 30% fat, 20% starchy carbs, and 20% unstarchy carbs diet. A few times a year I will do a 4-5 day food journal and see how close I am to that goal. It’s working for me but everyone’s body is different and some people do better/worse on grains than others.

  37. We eat grains. I try to use a variety and I always soak them (sally fallon style) before we consume them. I try to stick to 30% protein, 30% fat, 20% starchy carbs, and 20% unstarchy carbs diet. A few times a year I will do a 4-5 day food journal and see how close I am to that goal. It’s working for me but everyone’s body is different and some people do better/worse on grains than others.

  38. Hi Kelly, I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments but I did read “How to cure tooth decay” and personally, I was left feeling that he was much too hard on grains. He states that weston price is wrong about whole grains, but I dont think that is completely the case because there are plenty of cases of people eating lots of grains doing just fine. The main thing that caught me, however, is that he says it is not okay to eat grains that are not properly prepared and really recommends grains consumption be very limited. HOWEVER, he says it is fine to eat nuts in moderation. But nuts have lots of the same things grains do! Including being high in phylic acid! And in reading “healing with whole foods” he talks about chinese medicene it states that nuts are usually much harder to digest than grains! So, I don’t think Rami really has all the answers yet. I think he is getting close to the bigger picture but is not completely right. I think a big part of it that we really just need to focus on what we need to eat MORE of like oragan meats and stop focusing so much on what we SHOULDNT eat like grains. Thats how I changed my diet from the SAD to real food by focusing on eating more of good things and not focusing on what I cant eat.

  39. Kelly-
    I am going to ramble, so I apologize ahead of time. I have many relatives who have lived into their 90’s, no special diets. My uncle, who lived into his late 80’s, was a farmer. He had a perpetual tan, and rode his tractor with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I look at people that lived through the Holocaust, on so little nourishment, then went on to live into their 90’s. Sometimes I wonder if it is all just a roll of the dice. If we eat healthy food, everything in moderation and balanced, maybe that is all we should do. Is a positive and grateful outlook in life better than diet? I try to think what my grandparents would have eaten (I am in my early fifties), and try to emulate that diet as best I can. Some days they were hungry, not having enough food, so I try to eat only when I am hungry and just enough to satisfy my hunger. For heaven’s sake, back then when an adult had a hamburger and soda, it was the size of a Happy Meal. It seems like in America, food is so far from the original source that we have to scientifically break it down into calories, fat, fiber, etc. What is bad this week? Eggs? Whole Milk? Fat? Red Meat? Now grains have jumped on the bandwagon. What a way to take the fun out of a good meal. So for me, moderation of all things will be my goal. An occasional red glass of wine, some dark chocolate, will still be there, along with a slice of pie now and then. If one of my family has issues, then I will start eliminating specific foods from their diet. Until then, a traditional diet is the one I will follow.

  40. Oh, the grains issue! Certainly many opinions from many sides.

    Personally, we don’t eat any grains at all, including rice, soaked oats, etc. We occasionally use coconut flour, which does contain phytic acid too, but we avoid the grains all together. It is strictly anecdotal, but none of us (family of 6) have gotten a cavity since we made the switch. I know many people still enjoy grains and will continue to consume them, but for us, the health benefits have been well worth the change.

    I also consider the fact that there is absolutely no dietary need for grains. Every nutrient in grains is present in higher amounts in plant and animal foods. For me, the easiest answer to the whole grains vs. unbleached no bran vs. soaked vs sprouted has been just to get rid of them completely. Certainly, it takes more planning and more preparation, but it is certainly do-able and not that difficult at all once you make the switch, and I say this as a mom of 4 kids, 5 and under and I cook 3x/day.

    Thanks for another very informative article!

  41. “An occasional red glass of wine, some dark chocolate, will still be there, along with a slice of pie now and then.” Oops!
    Meant to say an occasional glass of red wine, lol.

  42. My husband went off grains and his stomach problems were solved and he lost nearly 20 lbs since July. I love, love , love grains (as do my kids) and have resisted going grain free for that reason and the whole, “WHAT DO I EAT NOW?” feeling. I do soak my grains but I really do feel that we need to get off them completely. I just find it so HARD to find a starting point. Especially since I just bought 50 lbs of spelt grains.

  43. I am pretty sure I left a comment late last night. I mentioned how I was thankful for the grain subject because I was pondering on what to write my next post on. I came back here to make sure I had the correct URL because I wanted to give thanks and a link to this post at the bottom of my article. I may have included links in my comment last night would that be why it isn’t showing? well I won’t put any today. If you still have my comment from last night you can remove the links and post them. My grain post will show tomorrow so give us a visit and you will see the link to this page.

  44. You’re all making such great points on this whole debate, I’m loving the discussion!

    Ann Marie & I had an interesting talk about this today and she had a very different take on the issue. She agreed to do a guest post for me on the topic, but I’m not sure when since she’s moving soon, doing GAPS, and a few other things going in the next couple weeks! Stay tuned. :)


  45. Just finished an hour of reading at cheeses laves, is it a wheat belly or cortisol belly, post.
    Grains, think I’m going to take a break from all the differing opinions.
    Grain free worked for hubby in losing the belly, but not for me. What to do? :-/

  46. If you have a fungal condition like candida or blood sugar issues or even weight issues then limiting grains is wise. It’s the over-consumption that is largely the problem and secondly not understanding the need to prepare them by soaking etc.

  47. Hi Kelly, thanks for taking the time to interview Rami and post the info here for us all. I’m always interested to hear what he has to say considering he’s done so much research. More and more I’m becoming a believer in eating a balanced diet and everything in moderation, so nothing wrong with grains every so often, problem is I think way to many of us have come to rely on them too much – at nearly every meal and in between meals too.

  48. I am continuously surprised about the fact that metabolic individuality is not taking into consideration when making such statements. There is no good or bad food (unless it’s processed, and then it’s mostly all bad); it can only be good or bad for your own metabolism. Broccoli and kale for example are considered healthy foods, but they are in fact to be avoided by certain “protein types” that can be pushed into an overly acidic state and experience an increase in the oxidation rate (which can be often translated into cravings and increased hunger).
    What it’s continuously missed in “allopathic nutrition” is the undeniable fact that on a biochemical level each of us is as unique as we are in our fingerprints.
    Standardized nutritional approaches fail to recognize that, for genetic reasons, people are all very different from one another on a biochemical or metabolic level. Due to widely varying hereditary influences, we all process or utilize foods and nutrients very differently. Thus, the very same nutritional protocol that enables one person to lead a long healthy life full of robust health can cause serious illness in someone else. “One man’s food is another’s poison.”
    Talking about the grains issue – indeed, considering the digestive problems most people have to deal with these days, going off gluten, eating sprouted grains and in certain cases avoiding them altogether are all smart choices. But you won’t find 2 people the same, that react the same after eating oats, wheat or rice. My recommendation to my clients is to first find out how your metabolism works, what are your genetically based nutritional requirements, what specific food reactivities you have and then make decisions accordingly. ANY NUTRIENT AND ANY FOOD CAN HAVE VIRTUALLY OPPOSITE BIOCHEMICAL INFLUENCES IN DIFFERENT METABOLIC TYPES. ANY ADVERSE SYMPTOM OR DEGENERATIVE CONDITION CAN ARISE DUE TO VIRTUALLY OPPOSITE BIOCHEMICAL IMBALANCES.

  49. so let me get this straight,
    grains like white rice which have little nutrition are easier for our systems to digest the nutrition they no longer have!!??
    grains are ok to eat if we first treat them like they did in the old days (100 years ago) when the average life expectancy was half what it is today.!!!???
    hmmmm no wonder everyone sounds confused,
    Balanced diet rules as far as I am concerned, I eat oats in my muesli, with fruit and milk and a glass of Juice and my intuition is that it is good for me.

  50. Hey.
    I am thinking on rasing rabbits feeding them non-commercial foodstuff. An inconvenient I have found is the lack of natural, economic and sufficient sources of phosphorous. Rice bran seemed a good option, but the phosphorous is binded to phitic acid. So I was thinking of soaking and fermenting the rice bran for a few days, maybe with some whole wheat flour I have. But, what proportions do I need if I use the flour? And time?. Reading about the acid medium recomended I thought that I could add whole orange peels (everything but the juice), which I also plan to use anyway, to the fermenting mix. Rabbits, though, are very delicate animals. I fear that harmful bacteria may develop in the fermentation process. The most I can do, I think, is to sun-dry the orange peels. Do you have any other ideas?

  51. I think we need to realize that people are in a different place with health status and upbringing. For example, someone who has never had liver problems and was raised fairly healthy might not have a lot of problems. Also if their parents were farmers, etc, and ate fresh milk etc then they are going to be born healthier as babies which may affect them the rest of their life positively.

    People like me who have had marked decreases in health from bad diet and, in my case, experimentation with raw vegan diets, may need to reverse their damage. In that case, only the ideal diet will do. I have found that a diet with meat and some dairy is much easier for me if I eat NO grains. My liver just functions far better. However, its still about balance, and sometimes I overeat meat and dairy to the point where I may be better off with grains and a moderate diet overall. But slowly I am finding that point of balance where maximum healing occurs, and I don’t need grains as part of it.

    Also, no cavities doesn’t mean ideal health. It could be genetics. It could be overall balance of calcium, magnesium, dairy, etc. in the diet. I’ve met people with no dental problems who were not picture perfect health. My cousin has very good teeth, with perhaps no cavities. He is overweight, has sleep problems, eats mcdonalds sometimes, and has frequent heartburn. The human body is a complex machine. We wouldn’t say that a person with perfect hair is eating ideal, so teeth cant be the end all either. And same with old age. My grandma is nearly 90 but she never exercised a lot or was in what I would consider ideal health.

    A grain or a seed is not able to run away, the way animals can. So what do they have for natural protection? Poisons, mineral blockers, etc. Its chemical warfare. Animals have wings and legs to get away. Seeds have anti-nutrients and mold inhibitors. But nature is a constantly changing thing. Some animals, such as birds, can be very good at adapting to the seeds defenses. Then again, birds are not exactly the strongest or largest animal…
    Humans have adapted by the use of sprouting, fire, and fermentation. But just because you can adapt does not mean that its the diet that will create the best state of health. My ideal state is strong muscles, straight back, clear skin, full head hair, no tooth problems, plenty of energy, strong lungs, joyful inside, sexually fulfilled, etc. And I expect no less than this for every year of my life into old age.

  52. Just wanting to express a thank you for posting this. The reality is there is no one answer. We all need to ask ourselves what resonates with our bodies and connect with the source. What is the soil like? How do I feel about eating this? We don’t need to follow the answers of aboriginal peoples, we need to simply ask the questions they asked. Our climates, soils, habitats (foodshed) has changed.
    Thank you for asking questions and posting this openly!

  53. So, what do you do about whole grains like kamut, teff and amaranth? There is no way to remove the bran and did all the cultures using these grains soak their grains everytime they ate them? I am sure they didn’t just grind them up every time. This is a bit confusing for me as I just bought a whole bunch of whole grains and flours off of that were organic and after I researched whole grains so hard, and now, someone is telling me they are not good for me? I wish someone like Michael Pollan (who promotes eating the WHOLE grain) would comment on the issue. If he has, can someone let me know!!?

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