The other day a guy told me that his doctor advised him that he should avoid gluten. He then asked me if there is gluten in rice. As a responsible Paleo-diet practitioner, my humble response was the following:
“IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THERE’S GLUTEN IN THE DAMN RICE!”
Now, the reason it just doesn’t matter is that our human evolutionary diet DID NOT INCLUDE GRAINS. That means our ancestors, for millions of years didn’t eat wheat, barley, rye, rice, or any of the other grains commonly consumed today.
Does anyone know exactly what “gluten” looks like in its isolated form? If I go to a restaurant, I can’t order a “bowl of gluten” or the “gluten casserole” or a “side order of gluten”. Since this is true, I am therefore at the mercy of those telling me my whether or not the foods I eat are actually “gluten free”.
Alternatively, I can pretty much avoid grains all together. In this way I will automatically be avoiding gluten. Logically, that’s a really logical position to take. I could also consider a meta-analysis involving real people. That is, people who are not eating grains that are really, really, healthy, and tend to avoid many of our modern diseases of civilization. In other words, it doesn’t make much sense to avoid the particular constituent ingredient that has been identified as particularly harmful to your health, when you should be avoiding the foods that it exists within – because they are not your natural human foods.
It just doesn’t make much sense to me to eat a very questionable food group, because we “haven’t yet identified or proven the specific constituent ingredients that are hurting us”. If something is shown to be clearly not optimal for your health and well-being, you should avoid that thing, especially when there are wonderful alternatives that have been proven to be just the opposite – really good for you. It is further enlightening, reinforcing and useful to understand that these wonderful alternatives are part of the evolutionary human diet.
The alternative course of action would be similar to NOT bothering to avoid radiation because you are not really sure exactly why this invisible, seemingly undetectable force (you can’t see it, taste it, or smell it) will likely kill you. So, avoiding radiation as much as possible, regardless of knowing exactly why and how it is hurting you is a good idea. Is finding out exactly why it is harmful a worthy endeavor? ABSOLUTELY! But avoiding that bad thing and studying it are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE events. This is why evolutionary science makes so much sense and continues to be such a responsible and healthful guide in regards to our food choices.
This is sort of like “reverse scientific reductionism”. In my opinion, the practice of scientific reductionism is manifest in its worst form in the following way. An isolated nutrient from a typically healthy food is found to quite possibly improve one’s health or a specific condition. Let’s use the example of beta-carotene which is found in high quantities in carrots and is known to help counter age-related macular degeneration, thus helping those with deteriorating vision. Now, the folks at a large food processing company get hold of this information. Then, they use one of their really, really unhealthy, fattening processed cookie products or breakfast cereals as a method of delivery. They infuse unnaturally high amounts of beta-carotene (which can be an unhealthy practice on its own) into the cookie or cereal and then package and sell it as a “healthy” food product that will improve your eyesight. (Yup, this is basically legal).
Trying to avoid gluten, but not the less than healthy foods it naturally occurs within, would then be sort of like “reverse scientific reductionism”. Yet, this very idea has spawned the nascent “gluten-free” movement and a completely new sub-industry that has conveniently popped up to fulfill the demand for every imaginable gluten-free food product. This is making some opportunistic people in the food industry a ton of money.
In contrast, with Paleo eating, WE START WITH THE ANSWER. Our ancestors didn’t have a clue what micro-nutrients or other chemical properties were in the natural animal foods, fruits, vegetables or nuts they consumed. They just ate those foods and remained in a state of health that was far superior to our unfortunate modern day state of ill-health.
Now, I don’t want to get all “scientific” on anyone, but sometimes we need to bring this stuff out into the open. Here is a pretty good summary of why one should avoid grains:
Saying NO to “gluten”, but not the foods that contain gluten is similar to being okay with mass murderer stay in your house with your family, BECAUSE YOU GOT RID OF ALL THE KNIVES IN THE HOUSE. The fact is, he’s a bloody murderer. He can still hurt you or your children with a blunt object, poison, a gun, or in an infinite number of other ways.
Back to the title of the blog; the fact is there is no gluten in rice, at least not the same kind that is in wheat. Do I still eat rice? I don’t buy it, but I love Japanese and Indian food, so I have a little when I am eating that stuff. But otherwise, I avoid it. I eat such a small amount of rice and other grains that my “glutin” intake is so close to zero as to be inconsequential. Preliminary research shows that the lectins and the appropriately named “anti-nutrients” in rice are not as dangerous to human health as many others in the grain family. Still, following the advice of the best that evolutionary science has to offer, and the wonderful, simple intuition to eat mainly what you genetically evolved to eat:
AVOID ALL GRAINS
AVOID ALL DAIRY
Following this advice will make you seem like a genius, especially compared to the doctor or nutritionist who is suddenly telling you to “stop eating gluten”.