Nourish and Nurture

Grains Decoded

February 15, 2024 Miriam Hatoum Season 4 Episode 89
Nourish and Nurture
Grains Decoded
Show Notes Transcript

Episode #89 Grains and Legumes Decoded – Friend or Foe

There is emerging evidence that the Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber and high in sugar and unhealthy fats, may initiate this process. In any case, staying away from an overabundance of grains and processed foods will help heal and maintain a healthy gut.

This episode examines many studies in the area of grain consumption and chronic inflammation in our bodies, and examines both sides of the story about whether or not grains and legumes are good for us.

Gluten intolerance is examined, as well as the concept called "Grainflammation" that plays a part in all of this. Lectins, Phytic Acid, and Leaky Gut are all explained and explored.

I talk about how just cutting down these foods because of their carbohydrate load will help you get out of diet prison and help you to get some footing with intuitive eating where the amount glucose produced by these foods does not constantly bathe your system to trigger cravings and urges to eat. 

Links to all the studies mentioned in this episode are in the transcript accompanying this episode.

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Episode #89 Grains and Legumes Decoded – Friend or Foe

You’re Listening to the Nourish and Nurture Podcast, Episode #89, Grains and Legumes Decoded – Friend or Foe.


 Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or even weigh, measure and track your food unless you want to? What if you could learn to have success by learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, which is the cornerstone to weight loss success? What if you could learn about what foods work best in your body for weight loss and why they work? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl.

I am celebrating Season 4 with a brand-new party dress, Nourish and Nurture. The title has changed but not the insightful advice and tips that you enjoy and look forward to. And now, you can get all my free guides that are designed to help you in your journey, in one place, at

Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services. And please know that I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

 Now on to the Episode…

I have high inflammation in my body. There are several blood tests to determine this, but believe me, you know if it’s a problem. Sometimes this comes out as arthritis. The doctor once said to me that my middle name should have been arthritis – it is all through my back, hands, feet and every joint. I have had two knee replacements, a hip replacement, and I just got back from the doctor and was told I need a shoulder replacement. OY VEY! 

It has plagued me in other ways. I had cataract surgery in the summer of 2021 and believe it or not, in 2023 I keep steroid eye drops at the ready because of inflammation flare-ups that I never had before the surgery. In the midst of this eye issue, I asked if there was any scientific evidence that removing gluten and sugar – the worst culprits of inflammation – would help my eyes and the answer was no, but it couldn’t hurt.

All this is to say that when I stray from Keto and Low Carb with too many carbohydrate indulgences I pay the price the next day – and usually for a few days with pain in my joints – until everything is out of my system, if you get my drift.

Did you know that Alzheimer’s Disease is now referred to as type 3 diabetes? The NIH has published a study (just one among many) that states: Inflammation clearly occurs in pathologically vulnerable regions of the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain. Animal models and clinical studies, although still in their infancy, strongly suggest that AD inflammation significantly contributes to AD pathogenesis…it should be possible to develop anti-inflammatory approaches that may not cure AD but will likely help slow the progression or delay the onset of this devastating disorder. 

That alone – arthritis aside – is enough to keep me mostly away from grains and sugar. The connection between grains, sugar and inflammation is what this episode is all about.

What is inflammation?

  • Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli such as
    • pathogens 
    • damaged cells, and 
    • irritants 
  • It is a protective response involving
    • immune cells 
    • blood vessels, and 
    • molecular mediators such as histamine 
  • The function of inflammation is to
    • eliminate the initial cause of cell injury 
    • clear out tissues that have been damaged from the original "insult", and 
    • initiate tissue repair
  • There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic.

Acute Inflammation

When an injury occurs, the cells of our immune system immediately travel to the site of injury or irritation and the inflammatory response begins. 

This includes widening of local blood vessels. 

  • This allows fluid and immune cells into surrounding injured tissues
  • This causes
    • swelling
    • redness
    • warmth, and 
    • pain at the site. 

  • We can see this acute inflammation at work, or sometimes it is out of our sight, such as when
    • bones are healing or
    • there has been internal damage from surgery. 
  • We want this inflammation because it is healing in nature.

But our concern is Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation in the body is another animal and we do not want this type. 

  • This is the body's inflammatory response - from stress to the food we eat. 
  • It can eventually start to damage
    • healthy cells
    • tissues, and 
    • organs
  • Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death and internal scarring. 

Dr. Erin Michos from Johns Hopkins says, "... sustained low levels of inflammation irritate your blood vessels. Inflammation may promote the growth of plaques, loosen plaque in your arteries and trigger blood clots — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes. We all should be making an effort to reduce chronic inflammation in our bodies." 

What is the inflammation and grains connection?

Modern life may actually be the main driver of gut inflammation. 

  • There is emerging evidence that the Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber and high in sugar and unhealthy fats, may initiate this process. 
  • In any case, staying away from an overabundance of grains and processed foods will help heal and maintain a healthy gut.

It is not my intention to demonize any particular food group. 

My goal is to report on some of the information available to us so that we can make informed decisions in order to make changes in our eating style or to not make changes, or to spur us on to do further research to see what the most current information is. 

Current is the operative word here. More and more research shows that grains, rice and legumes are at the root of inflammatory conditions such as type 2 diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular diseases, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases and more.

Not every person will find this to be so, and more likely there is a spectrum of tolerance for grains either because of the person's general health or genetics. You have to make your own decisions. One size does not fit all, but it's important for you to have this side of the story.

What are Grains?

  • A grain is a small, hard, dry seed with or without an attached hull or fruit layer.
  •  It is harvested for human or animal consumption. 
  • Grains are members of the grass family and can be thin leaf or broad leaf.
  • Plants from the broadleaf family are called pseudo grains or pseudo cereals and are often safe for consumption even if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. 
  • Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. 
  • Rice and legumes are also under the grain umbrella. 

Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains 

Cereal grains are whole or refined. 

Whole grains are grains that have been minimally processed to still contain the bran, germ and endosperm, the three parts of a grain. 

  • The bran is the outer shell that provides a rich source of fiber, trace minerals, phytochemicals and B vitamins. 
  • The germ nourishes the grain and is packed with antioxidants, the B vitamins and vitamin E. It is also a source of heart healthy unsaturated fats.
  • When grains are refined to make white flour, the germ and bran portions are removed, leaving only the endosperm. This process also removes the most nutrient-dense portions of the grain.

Just an aside here if you have never heard the term phytochemical: Phytochemicals are compounds in plants. (Phyto means “plant” in Greek.) These substances are found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. They give plants their color, flavor and aroma. It’s thought that there are thousands of different phytochemicals, and scientists are just starting to discover the different roles these substances may play. However, we’re learning that in addition to the roles they play in plants, they may also have health benefits for us when we eat them!

People consuming a diet high in phytochemicals have been shown to have significantly lower rates of certain types of cancers and heart disease. Although currently there is no conclusive evidence that any one specific phytochemical is guaranteed to reduce cancer risk or help eliminate cancer if you have it, promising evidence indicates that phytochemicals may have the potential to:

  • Aid the function of the immune system
  • Protect cells and DNA from damage that may lead to cancer
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Slow the growth rate of some cancer cells
  • Help regulate hormones

Now back to grains: Refined grains come from the same plant as the whole grain but 

  • they are missing the germ, bran and all the nutrients that go along with them 
  • they have a longer shelf life than whole grains because the oily germ — which is removed when the grain is refined — tends to become rancid when exposed to light and heat. 

When purchasing any bread or cereal product be aware of this from Dennis Thompson:

"Terms like 'multigrain,' 'contains whole grains,' 'honey wheat' and '12-grain' can be used to hawk breads, cereals and crackers as healthier options even if the product mostly contains refined flour. If they say it contains whole grains, it really does have to contain some whole grains. They would get into trouble if they made a claim that was outright false. But it's totally permitted to say it contains whole grains even if it's mostly refined grains."


People with celiac disease cannot eat foods containing gluten, a protein found in certain grains. It is the most severe form of gluten intolerance, affecting about 1% of the population and may lead to damage to the digestive system. Although celiac disease cannot be cured, the condition can be managed by eating the right foods. If you have celiac disease, avoid these grains: 

•       Wheat 

•       All varieties including einkorn, emmer, spelt and kamut 

•       All forms including wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat and hydrolyzed wheat protein 

•       All flours that contain wheat including plain all-purpose flour, white flour, bromated flour, enriched flour, phosphated flour, self-rising flour, durum flour, farina, semolina and graham flour 

•       Barley •Rye 

•       Cross-bred grain varieties, such as triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). 

•       Many people with celiac disease can tolerate small amounts of pure oats in their diet. However, gluten can get into oats used in commercial food during growing, harvesting and processing.  

“Pseudograins” which come from the seeds of broadleaf plants and not the thin-leaf cereal plants do not contain gluten, so if your main goal is to be gluten-free, these grains (and rice) are okay but if your main goal is to reduce inflammation then stay away.

Gluten intolerance is a fairly common problem, with celiac disease being the most severe form. 0.5–13% of people may also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a milder form of gluten intolerance that can still cause problems. Once you cut grains out of your eating plan and then add them back in, you will be able to tell right away if symptoms may be related to grain consumption. Some common signs are: 

·       Bloating 

·       Diarrhea, or at the other end of the spectrum, constipation 

·       Abdominal pain 

·       Headaches 

·       Feeling tired 

·        Skin problems 

·       Depression 

·       Unexplained weight loss 

·       Iron- deficiency anemia 

·       Anxiety 

·       Autoimmune disorders 

·       Joint and muscle pain 

·       Leg or arm numbness 

·       Brain fog 

Beware of Gluten-Free store-bought items. There is a common name for many processed foods: Frankenfoods. The term actually means foods that are genetically modified but has also come to mean foods that are very removed from their natural state by being processed with many ingredients and chemicals. 

Now a couple of other terms that might be new to you:

What Are Lectins and Phytic Acid?


  • Lectins are a protein in some plants and animal foods that bind to carbohydrates. 
  • They are given a bad rap because on the face of them, they are toxic and some are even lethal (like the ricin in the castor oil plant). 
  • However, cooking at high temperatures will destroy the lectins, making the foods safe to consume. 
  • An example of this is kidney beans, which contain a poisonous lectin, and when the beans are not cooked properly will cause severe stomach distress. 
  • Soaking legumes first, then boiling them at high temperatures will mitigate this poisonous lectin fallout, making them safe to eat. 
  • Some research shows that foods from the grain family might still cause gut problems no matter how they are prepared. 
  • That being said, most of these lectin-containing foods are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and numerous beneficial compounds.

Phytic Acid

  • Phytic acid is a natural substance found in grains and legumes. 
  • It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium and may promote mineral deficiencies and is often referred to as an anti-nutrient. 
  • Soaking, sprouting and fermenting foods with high phytic acid will mitigate its effect, but there may still be a tie to gut health. 

Both lectins and phytic acid contribute to leaky gut and poor gut health. 

General Gut Health

 A study  from Columbia University Medical Center found that some people develop a systemic immune reaction and intestinal cell damage after eating wheat, even though tests have established that they do not have celiac disease. 

It is estimated that this condition may be more prevalent than celiac disease. Lead researcher Armin Aledini, Ph.D. has been quoted as saying that the study did not confirm that gluten was the cause of this immune reaction and intestinal cell damage.

I mention this study because while even the most conventional of doctors will not argue with celiac disease which can be tested and measured, there is still controversy over general gut health issues such as leaky gut. There is a lot of truth in what Hippocrates said which was, "All disease begins in the gut."

A very interesting article from Global Journal of Digestive Diseases carries the discussion further: "Despite the fact that Hippocrates was mistaken in proposing that all malady starts in your gut, proof shows that numerous constant metabolic ailments do. Your gut microbes and the uprightness of your gut lining firmly influence your wellbeing."

What is Leaky Gut?

Inside our bellies we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

  • An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested foods, toxins, and parasites to penetrate the tissues beneath it. 
  • This may trigger inflammation and changes to the gut flora (which are normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tracts and beyond.
  • Increased intestinal permeability plays a role in certain gastrointestinal conditions such as
    • celiac disease
    • Crohn's disease, and
    • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The biggest question is whether or not a leaky gut may cause problems elsewhere in the body.

  • Some studies show that a leaky gut may be associated with autoimmune diseases such as
    • lupus
    • type 1 diabetes
    • multiple sclerosis, and
    • problems not classified as autoimmune such as
    • chronic fatigue syndrome
    • fibromyalgia
    • arthritis
    • allergies
    • acne, and
    • obesity 


Dr. Peter Osborne has coined the term "Grainflammation" which is perfect for this topic. In that article he talks about vitamin and mineral deficiencies, altered intestinal bacteria, leaky gut and gastrointestinal damage and mechanisms of gluten-induced damage, even without celiac disease.

A word about the other side of the story

  • In reading about grains being good for us, a lot of the research behind that viewpoint is funded totally, or in part, by
    • cereal companies
    • animal activist groups
    • religious groups, and 
    • strong agricultural and farming lobbies. 
  • That does not mean that the results of that research are falsely presented. 
  • It does mean that the research is highly biased. 
  • Furthermore, these groups that are represented in government have powerful and deep pockets to move a lot of these findings into policies. 

The food pyramid was pushed through by lobbyists and politicians, not doctors and scientists. Calories had to be maximized for both cost and density and the answer to that was carbohydrates — mostly heavily refined into breads and cereals. 

Carbohydrates in Grains, Rice and Legumes

If you take all this research out of the picture along with any controversy that comes along with it, you would still do well to eliminate or limit your consumption of grains, legumes and rice to reduce, or eliminate, chronic inflammation in the body.

The sheer carbohydrate content of these foods will keep you in diet prison because you will have to be weighing, measuring and tracking your portions to make sure you remain within your daily allowance of carbohydrates (or calories).

  • One cup of rice contains 45 grams of carbohydrates.
  • One medium ear of corn contains 22 carbohydrates.
  • One cup of cereal, like (original) Cheerios, contains 20 carbohydrates.
  • One cup of cooked kidney beans contains 41 carbohydrates. 

If you are following a low carbohydrate plan you have a little leeway, and if you are careful with portions and have something from a grain, legume or rice list no more than once a day you might be good to go, but you will have to be careful about everything else you may be eating that day. 

The Bottom Line

Grains, rice and legumes should be limited for better health

Yes, limiting or eliminating them will put out the fires of inflammation and go a long way in healing your gut.

But as you can see from some of the carb counts of these foods, just cutting down will help you get out of diet prison and help you to get some footing with intuitive eating where the amount glucose produced by these foods does not constantly bathe your system to trigger cravings and urges to eat. (In the show notes and transcript for this episode I put a link to my blog where I talk about the connections between sugar intake, insulin and hunger.)

Furthermore eating Keto or Low Carb is sustainable because you do not have to markedly change your family meals. 

If you come from a grain-heavy culture, there are some great websites for you to get started to find ways to cook for your family with the flavors and foods to which they are accustomed. 

Unless you are strictly limiting your carbohydrate intake for Keto, you may add your familiar "starches," but as a side dish, not as the whole show. 

This week’s Actionable Coaching Advice

This has been a very long episode so I am not going to include coaching advice for this week other than to continue your experiment from last week by taking two of your days and just figuring out the carbohydrate counts and also how eating the foods make you feel.

Just remember:

Do whatever you can to reduce chronic inflammation in the body. Do take the time to learn about the connection between inflammation and grains. Even if you do not cut out grains, rice and legumes, monitoring and limiting your intake will go a long way to better health.

I also want to mention here that  the studies I have spoken about in this episode are in the show notes and transcript for this episode.

Coming up next week

Coming up in the next episode I will doing an episode on setting goals. I did this for an earlier episode, and it was so popular, people asked me to do it again but to add things to it, so I want to share with you one of my big goal setting adventures for 2024. I don’t know that it’s a resolution, but it is a goal, and I will share that with you next week.

Please share the new Nourish and Nurture Podcast with your friends, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison. Please leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find it by bringing it up in the various directories. Also, don’t be a stranger. Like or join my Facebook page, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to hear on the show, and let me know you are a podcast listener. 

 Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time. 


My Blog on the connection between sugar, insulin and fat storage:

Amy Berger: Alzheimer’s Antidote available on Amazon

Inflammation and Alzheimer's disease

Columbia University Study

Aledini, A. (wheat sensitivity)

Global Journal Article

P. Osborne (Grainflammation)

Food Pyramid

 Phytic Acid:

E. Michos study

D. Thompson study 

Cooking websites:

Mexican: Dominican and Latino: Asian: Italian: