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Stop Settling for Pseudo Health and Say No to Pseudograins

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
October 23, 2015
Stop Settling for Pseudo Health and Say No to Pseudograins image

The negative health repercussions of consuming grains has been covered to death, over the years. 1 2 3 I will not delve into the many issues with grains - suffice to say their problems have been well documented in many other pieces on this very website including the most recent Wheat Series. In fact, one of the seminal scientific research papers written by Dr. Cordain, “Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double Edged Sword” magnified the many problems of grain consumption.4 Enough said.

However, we are often asked about pseudograins, and if these might somehow be better to consume on a regular basis. The short answer is no. The common food choice is anything but ideal. But before we get to the why, which foods are considered pseudograins?

What are pseudograins?

As generalists, we think of pseudograins simply as seeds and grasses which we commonly categorize as grains. The more complex answer, however, is that pseudograins are the seeds of broadleaf plants, within a group called dicots.5 Most common pseudograins that fall within this category are amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia.

While they do not contain gluten, they contain a variety of other problematic antinutrients6 including lectins and saponins. 7 8 9 Pseudograins are added in surplus to processed foods and gluten free “creations” – despite often causing a similarly negative reaction within the body.10

Why you should not eat pseudograins

Perhaps the main problem with pseudograins is they aren’t completely digested but rather pass through the gut barrier intact.11 This can lead to increased gut permeability, eventually leading to what is commonly referred to as a ‘leaky gut’12 where pseudograins can effectively damage the gut lining cells.13 Worse yet, once out of the gut, they can still cause an inflammatory response.14 15 16 Not good.

Another important issue with pseudograins is bacterial overgrowth. When partially digested or undigested food enter the intestinal tract in excess, it helps to feed your gut bacteria.17 18 I’ve previously discussed the physiologic importance keeping ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria balanced and as modern science continues to make clear, this issue is fundamental to our overall health.19 20 21

Stop Settling for Pseudo Health and Say No to Pseudograins image

How do pseudograins attribute to disrupting gut balance? The ‘bad’ bacteria feeds upon undigested food particles, and can cause many to develop bacterial overgrowth from regularly eating gluten or pseudograins. Eventually, you may even see a breakdown of the gut lining. Again, none of these processes and developments are good for your body – or your health. In following The Paleo Diet you effectively eliminate the problems seen within these foods by excluding them and focusing instead upon complete proteins, healthy fats and nutrient dense carbohydrates.22 23 24 25 26 27 Stop settling for pseudo health. Regain your wellness.

Are Ancient Grains Paleo?
By Bill Manci


1. De punder K, Pruimboom L. The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients. 2013;5(3):771-87.

2. Matricon J, Meleine M, Gelot A, et al. Review article: Associations between immune activation, intestinal permeability and the irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2012;36(11-12):1009-31.

3. Flohé SB, Wasmuth HE, Kerad JB, et al. A wheat-based, diabetes-promoting diet induces a Th1-type cytokine bias in the gut of NOD mice. Cytokine. 2003;21(3):149-54.

4. Cordain L. Cereal grains: humanity's double-edged sword. World Rev Nutr Diet. 1999;84:19-73.

5. Van der kamp JW, Poutanen K, Seal CJ, Richardson DP. The HEALTHGRAIN definition of 'whole grain'. Food Nutr Res. 2014;58

6. Freed DL. Do dietary lectins cause disease?. BMJ. 1999;318(7190):1023-4.

7. Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. Br J Nutr. 2000;83(3):207-17.

8. Price KR, Johnson IT, Fenwick GR. The chemistry and biological significance of saponins in foods and feedingstuffs. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1987;26(1):27-135.

9. Francis G, Kerem Z, Makkar HP, Becker K. The biological action of saponins in animal systems: a review. Br J Nutr. 2002;88(6):587-605.

10. Jönsson T, Olsson S, Ahrén B, Bøg-hansen TC, Dole A, Lindeberg S. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence--do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance?. BMC Endocr Disord. 2005;5:10.

11. Arrieta MC, Bistritz L, Meddings JB. Alterations in intestinal permeability. Gut. 2006;55(10):1512-20.

12. Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012;42(1):71-8.

13. Rapin JR, Wiernsperger N. Possible links between intestinal permeability and food processing: A potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010;65(6):635-43.

14. Calder PC, Albers R, Antoine JM, et al. Inflammatory disease processes and interactions with nutrition. Br J Nutr. 2009;101 Suppl 1:S1-45.

15. Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):634-40.

16. Comino I, Moreno Mde L, Real A, Rodríguez-herrera A, Barro F, Sousa C. The gluten-free diet: testing alternative cereals tolerated by celiac patients. Nutrients. 2013;5(10):4250-68.

17. Bohm M, Siwiec RM, Wo JM. Diagnosis and management of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Nutr Clin Pract. 2013;28(3):289-99.

18. Sachdev AH, Pimentel M. Gastrointestinal bacterial overgrowth: pathogenesis and clinical significance. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2013;4(5):223-31.

19. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-72.

20. Foster JA. Gut feelings: bacteria and the brain. Cerebrum. 2013;2013:9.

21. Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014;34(46):15490-6.

22. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35.

23. Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007;50(9):1795-807.

24. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-synder M, Morris RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947-55.

25. Jönsson T, Ahrén B, Pacini G, et al. A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006;3:39.

26. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):341-54.

27. Berrino F. Western diet and Alzheimer's disease.. Epidemiol Prev. 2002;26(3):107-15.

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