When I first met Mia, our beauty food expert, she mentioned that she mainly eats grain free. I was intrigued, but it wasn’t until I started seeing grain-free recipes popping up all over Instagram that I started to process that this was a thing. So, I called up my friend over at RASA to ask her what the deal is.
Here’s what she had to say:
The Moment: So, we’ve been hearing a lot about eating “grain free.” It feels like it’s the new gluten free! What’s the difference, and what are the health and beauty benefits?
Rigden: Organic, non GMO, unrefined grains (including wheat) have a host of health benefits and can definitely be included in a healthy diet, but people (myself included) are increasingly becoming interested in eating less grains or eliminating them all together. It’s important to note that not all grains are equal. For example, there is a big difference in how your body processes refined rice flour and whole grain brown rice. Refined and processed grains are metabolized in your body similar to sugar, and will give you that same energy rush/crash you might get from a candy bar. You don’t get this with whole grains, but in their full, unadulterated form, grains can be difficult to digest (and less nutritious), especially if not prepared properly. Ideally, grains would be soaked or sprouted, but this is time consuming so most people skip this step, and its unclear what you get in a restaurant. That said, you may notice better digestion by eliminating grains. Improving your digestion has a lot more benefits that you might think; it can elevate your mood, give you more energy, reduce inflammation, clear your skin, and much more.
The Moment: What are all of the foods that fall under the category of grains? i.e., what can’t we eat?
Rigden: Grains are basically seeds of cultivated crops (mainly grass). Examples include rice, barley, rice, corn, wheat and oats. Buckwheat and quinoa are considered psuedo grains; this is a little bit of gray area, but I would still consider them grains.
The Moment: Wow, that eliminates a lot of delicious foods. Ouch. What are your tips for keeping this diet from feeling super restrictive
Rigden: Listen to your body. Try it for a week and see how you feel. I would definitely advocate for cutting out refined, processed and GMO grains in commercial pastas, breads, cookies, etc., but having some whole grains in your diet isn’t bad, it just needs to be balanced properly. Think of a rice bowl (brown, white, whatever); This isn’t necessarily bad, but normally you’ll get about 75% rice with a few veggies and maybe some protein and healthy fats. I would swap this for 75% vegetables with some grains (if you choose to eat any) and a smaller portion of protein.
The Moment: If you go grain free, do you have to eat grain free 100% of the time?
Rigden: Absolutely not (unless, of course, a doctor tells you that you should abstain from eating certain foods). The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you’re miserable restricting yourself or eating a salad while all your friends are eating pizza, have a bite. It won’t kill you, and I’d even argue that the health benefits of enjoying a wholesome meal with friends could outweigh any adverse effects of a little grain consumption.
The Moment: Do you have any recipes you can share with us that are good replacements for some of our favorite grainy foods?
The Moment: Do you have any personal tips for going grain free?
Rigden: We’re all different. If you’re interested in trying a grain free diet, experiment for a week or two. Get a journal and log how you feel, keeping in mind it could take at least a week for you to truly feel (and perhaps see) a difference.
Be careful of products marketed as gluten or grain free. Read labels and stick to foods that are naturally grain free or made with ingredients you recognize. Also, make sure you are eating plenty of healthy fats and lots of veggies, especially if you’re vegetarian. If not, you’ll be hungry all day, and that’s no fun.
The Moment: Anything else you want to share?
Rigden: I enjoy eating grain free about 80% of the time. I find that too many grains weigh me down and make me crave more grains, so this works for me. That said, I don’t enjoy restrictive diets, and when a delicious, well prepared grain dish is in front of me (or a bowl of tortilla chips and guac!), I’ll always have some sans regret.
Special thanks to Mia Rigden!
Photo by Sally Griffiths