Grains are not the enemy, Carbs are not to be feared

You can enjoy whole grains as a nutritious part of a healthy diet and you don’t have to quit sugar


I can already hear the gasp.  Fancy a fitness trainer stating that sugar is not poison and grains are not toxic.  It’s now considered a controversial viewpoint.

When did moderation and balance become the alternative stance?


You’re probably relieved to hear that you don’t need to quit certain foods in order to be healthy.  You don’t need to follow a set of food rules or a particular diet to achieve your healthiest, happiest body.  You will need to eat plenty of vegetables, move more and eat according to your appetite – everyone certainly agrees on that!  I’d love to see an end to demonising, banning or quitting certain foods, rigid eating rules and shaming others for how they choose to eat.  Can we please stop the food fear?  Grains are not the enemy!


Grains are getting bullied.  We’re told on social media that they are responsible for disease and that they are “toxic”.  I invited two knowledgeable accredited dietitians, Alex and Zoe, to share their highly qualified views on the subject.



Alex from The Dietitian’s Pantry writes…


Don’t blame the grain!


I am surprised by how often people are so quick to blame grains for the cause of obesity and chronic diseases. I often hear or read that grains cause inflammation, obesity, heart disease and even cancers. Apparently this is based on the theory that when humans started to eat grains around 10,000 years ago (some research has suggested that grains were eaten prior to this) there was also an increase in chronic diseases.


However when you really look at the data the steep rise of these diseases has only been in the past 50 – 100 years.
Alex Hoare dietitian don't blame the grainThere is a multitude of reasons and factors that have contributed to the increase and grains shouldn’t cop the blame. I feel the rise of these health problems coincided closely with the rise of fast food chains (McDonalds begun in the late 1940’s), sugar laden drinks (Coke begun in the late 1880’s with apparently 1.7 billion products consumed worldwide each day!!), and the abundance of highly processed, nutrient poor foods.


To blame something such as barley, rice, wheat, oats, buckwheat, freekeh, and even beans, legumes and lentils for the rise of obesity and chronic disease just doesn’t make sense to me.


Some of the healthiest diets around the world include wholegrains on a daily basis (such as the Mediterranean diet, traditional Asian diets and the Okinawan diet).


Our food environment has changed dramatically in the past 100 years. There is now an abundance of highly processed, nutrient poor foods that can contribute to poor health. But if you choose a well balanced diet full of wholesome, minimally processed foods (which can include grains) you will be taking a step in the right direction to ward off chronic diseases.


So don’t blame the grain! Grains are nutritious, wholesome foods that can be included in a healthy diet. Choose minimally processed grains to get the most goodness from them!


Alex - The Dietitian's PantryAlex is an Accredited Practising Dietitian based in Melbourne. In her spare time she can be found running around the Yarra, in the gym, brunching at one of Melbourne fabulous cafes, experimenting in the kitchen or enjoying the great outdoors!  She loves inspiring, educating and encouraging others to live a healthy and active life.

Alex believes that eating fresh, healthy and wholesome foods and moving your body is the key to health and well being.

Follow Alex from The Dietitian’s Pantry:   Website  |   Twitter   |   Facebook  |  Instagram



Zoe from Figureate writes…


If sugar and carb rich diets are so harmful to the human race, as some celebrities are claiming, how can sugar and carbs be helping people win gold medals?


Link to full study here, but here are some excerpts to whet your appetite.

“the Kenyan-runners’ diets were extremely rich in carbohydrate, with 76.5 percent of daily calories coming from carbs.”

“There were some surprises in the dietary data, however. For example, just behind ugali (corn based) in second place for calorie-provisioning was plain sugar, which provided about one out of every five calories (20 percent) consumed by the Kenyans over the course of the day.”

“That’s right, the vitamin-free, mineral-free, “bad,” “simple” carb from which Americans are fleeing was consumed in rather prodigious amounts, about 133.5 grams (534 calories) per day.”


My comments:

Yes these were athletes running 75 miles (120km) per week, yes they are genetically different to many Australians and Americans, but the bottom line is that refined sugar and carb rich foods were not causing them any harm.

By no means would I recommend eating such large quantities of refined sugar, unless of course you were a Kenyan long distance runner or looking to compete against one!


Zoe Nicholson dietitian don't blame the grainWhat this article suggests is that sugar or carb rich diets can be beneficial in the right circumstance and that they don’t universally cause harm to human health.
 Given most of us will never find ourselves distance running, we do need to watch the amount the sugar and carbohydrates we eat.


However, rather than worrying about eating too many carbs, we could all benefit from moving a bit more, reducing highly processed foods and learning how to listen to our appetites again.


When we do choose carb rich foods, choose whole plant foods such as eaten by the Kenyan’s including rice, potatoes, oats, legumes and bread (less refined & high fibre versions).


While the diet studied was high carb and high in sugar, there were no highly processed foods such as lollies, donuts, sweet biscuits, chocolate, cakes, ice-cream etc. It is these highly processed foods we need to be thinking about in terms of how much and how often we eat them (if at all), not carb rich plant foods.


Please share to help counter the anti-carb movement.



Zoe Nicholson - FigureateZoe Nicholson is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 9 years experience in private practice.  

A love of food is key to being a dietitian and one of Zoe’s primary goals is to help people establish a healthier relationship with food in order to enjoy all types of food. Zoe strongly believes we do not need to diet, eat “diet” foods or deny ourselves and she educates on how to manage health without dieting.

Zoe takes immense pleasure in seeing people change their attitude toward eating and health, enabling them to enjoy all food and feel better about their body size and shape. To do this, she uses a combination of life experience, common sense, food awareness and psychology.

Follow Zoe from Figureate:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 



A huge thank you to both Zoe and Alex for sharing their well studied and fully accredited wisdom.  I adore their approaches and love that there are so many intelligent, passionate people supporting a balanced approach to wellness.