Blog of an aspiring foodie

Grains are not the anti-Christ (BACKPOST)

Posted by beer_chris on 11-November-2003

Yesterday, while doing data entry at work, which is not exactly the most thought-provoking activity, my current favorite radio personality Tom Martino did a segment on the holistic-nutritionist set. The fellows in the studio had some type of machine that they said could detect nutritional imbalances caused by our 'poor' diets. Not sure how the machine works, but it gave Tom a 27000 on a 300000 scale. This took about 30 minutes to work.

The crux of the matter was that these fellows sold nutritional supplements, and although Tom consistently pressed them to admit that they were using the machine as a quack's appliance to sell supplements, they wouldn't cop to it.

By the end of the segment, he seemed to be a believer.

This was disturbing, but more disturbing was discussion (if you can call it that) with two of the callers. One was an MD who said that it just isn't possible for Americans to be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. His main point was that while processed foods can remove important nutrients, Americans are far too overfed on fat and calories in general to worry much about the vagaries of nutritional imbalance and supposed links between certain nutrients and cancer. This man was immediately dismissed with a reference to the scurvy outbreaks in the 19'th century that were caused by medical misunderstanding of the importance of lycopene to health. I suppose the point was that every illness is just another example of scurvy – disease kills and injures us not because we are fallible, mortal creatures, but because medical science has failed us somehow in understanding the real cure.

Second was a discussion about white rice. A fellow called in to call Tom out on a comment he made about white rice being bad in all ways. His point was that many cultures depend on white rice as a staple in the diet, and that many of these cultures, especially the east asian ones, live exceptionally healthy, long lives. Tom's response was troubling. He proceeded to condemn rice and all processed grains, especially pasta, as having no benefit – that all processed grains were nothing more then complex sugars which do nothing but to make us fat.

I just can't agree. This is like the folks who tell us grilling causes cancer. The implication was that there is some kind of fine line between fully processed, precooked foods and processed grains, and that somehow our fodd distribution system has failed us, especially in the area of grains and processed products. I can't argue the positives of processed foods – there are very few, but to equate them with processed grains and flours, foods man has been eating for thousands of years, is irresponsible. In a sense, grain cultivation is the root of civilization – the need for flours encouraged farming and crop rotation, tenents of human settlement and organization.

I just won't believe that something which man has been eating forever that tastes good and has become a staple the world over (like rice) is bad for me – it makes no sense. Show me an obvious side effect (like has been done with tobacco), and I'll consider stopping, but don't attack something simply because it presents a wide target.

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