Here’s All You Need to Know About a Grain-Free Diet

Updated on October 5th, 2020
Grain-Free Diet

Grains are a staple in most regular diets, but a growing number of individuals are avoiding this food group. Some do so due to intolerances or allergies, while others prefer a grain-free diet to improve their health or lose weight.

Eating grain-free is purported to provide multiple health benefits, from reduced inflammation to improved digestion and blood sugar levels. However, grain-free foods for humans may also have negatives and may be unsuitable for few.

This article takes a critical glance at a grain-free diet, including its potential drawbacks and benefits.

What is a grain-free diet?

A grain-free food removes all grains, as well as foods extracted from them.

This includes gluten-having grains like spelt, wheat, rye, barley, and triticale and non-glutenous ones like millet, millet, dried corn, grain-free rice, oats, and sorghum.

Moreover, unlike fresh corn, which is regarded as a starchy vegetable, dried corn is regarded as a grain. Therefore, foods prepared from corn flour are also skipped.

Plus, some individuals may choose to exclude ingredients derived from grains, such as high-fructose corn syrup or rice syrup. However, this is not a rigid requirement for such a diet.

How to follow a grain-free diet?

To stick to a grain-free diet, you need to exclude all grain-derived foods and grains from your diet. This includes pasta, bread, oatmeal, muesli, breakfast cereals, rice cakes, cookies, and pastries.

That said, many grain-free diets permit little amounts of pseudocereals, such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat. Pseudocereals can be made and consumed similarly to grains, but they are not technically regarded grains.

1. Low grain diet

A grain-free diet may be naturally low in carbs, but this is not a precondition. Those who wish to incorporate more carbs can get them from legumes, fruits, and starchy vegetables, such as squash, potatoes, and fresh corn.

There are no restrictions concerning grain-free foods.

Therefore, you can include as much fish, meat, nuts, eggs, seeds, fats, sugar, or dairy as you wish — though proponents of grain-free diets tend not to encourage consuming overly processed foods.

2. Grain-free diet benefits

A grain-free diet can offer multiple health benefits.

Grain-free diet for weight loss

A grain-free diet can promote weight loss, likely because it’s naturally devoid of processed grains found in nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods like white pasta, white bread, doughnuts, cookies, pizza, and other baked goods.

May enhance mental health. Studies link gluten-containing diets to depression, anxiety, ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and autism [1]. However, it’s presently impossible to know whether grains caused these conditions.[2]

It can help relieve pain. Gluten-free diets can help minimize pelvic pain in women with endometriosis, a disorder that causes the tissue lining the inside of the uterus to grow outside of it.[3]

It can minimize symptoms of fibromyalgia. A gluten-free diet can help minimize the widespread pain experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia. [4]

Despite promising preliminary results, more research is required to validate these effects.

It’s also worth mentioning that most of these studies only looked at the effect of gluten-having grains. There’s no proof to indicate that it’s necessary to exclude all grains from your diet to attain these benefits.

[Also Read: How to Lose Weight Naturally]

Which grains are the least inflammatory?

Some foods can help your body fight swelling or inflammation. Veggies and Fruits are excellent choices. So are whole grains. They pack loads of fiber, which aids with inflammation. So go for brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains instead of regular pasta or white rice.

[Read: Anti-Inflammatory Foods That You Must Try Now]

Can you eat potatoes on a grain-free diet?

Yes, potatoes are not grains. But they are not part of a low-carb or keto diet. For the nutrient to carb ratio, you might be better off eating sweet potatoes instead. However, you can get potato starch and use it as a replacement for wheat flour in some grain-free or gluten-free bread, sauces, and gravies.

You should be careful, though, some potato products like chips may not be all potatoes and may contain grains.

[Read: Potato Diet for Weight Loss]

Is oatmeal a grain to avoid?

Yes, a grain-free diet excludes all grain-containing foods. It can also limit the intake of alcoholic beverages derived from foods or grains having grain-extracted ingredients.

[Read: Benefits of Oatmeal]

Is a grain-free diet healthy?

Going grain-free is too limited and unnecessary for most dieters, but there could be true benefits for people with digestive conditions.

Grain-free diet plan

Sample menu

Here’s a typical three-day menu suitable for a grain-free diet.

Day 1

Breakfast: tofu or egg scramble with homemade hash browns and plenty of vegetables.

Grain-free meal plan

Lunch: salad topped with your choice of vegetables, salmon or smoked tofu, a raspberry vinaigrette dressing, and cooked amaranth

Dinner: coconut-lime curry with marinated tempeh or shrimp on a bed of cauliflower rice

Day 2

Breakfast: smoothie prepared with milk (or a plant-based, grain-free variant), flax seeds, frozen mango, spinach, and an optional scoop of protein powder

Lunch: carrot, hearty pumpkin, and white-bean soup topped with roasted cashew nuts

Dinner: oven-baked sweet potato, topped with chili, chopped lettuce, fresh corn, salsa, and guacamole

Day 3

Breakfast: mini breakfast quiches with spinach

Lunch: bun-less veggie or meat burger, topped with hummus, roasted peppers, a side of buckwheat pasta salad, and avocado 

Dinner: spiralized zucchini noodles topped with tofu or meat, roasted pine nuts, Bolognese sauce, and nutritional or Parmesan yeast

Bottom Line

Though restricting individual grains may benefit a few health conditions, cutting out all grains is unnecessary for many individuals and can even be harmful to your health.

Moreover, the purported benefits of a grain-free diet can often be achieved in ways that don’t need cutting out a complete food group from your diet. Therefore, it’s worth considering whether this diet offers you more benefits than disadvantages before giving it a try. 

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