Grain-free is the new gluten-free when it comes to diet trends. Gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat and certain other grains like barley and rye, can trigger allergic and autoimmune reactions in some individuals. But gluten may not be the only problem and the avoidance of grains all together may be a better solution for some people.
Grains are staple components of diets around the world, but they aren’t actually required for human health. Grains are composed primarily of carbohydrates with small amounts of fiber, fatty acids, B vitamins, and minerals. We can get these nutrients from other plant foods—like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds—which are even better sources of fiber, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Eliminating grains from the diet can certainly have health benefits. Because gluten is only found in grains, grain-free diets are automatically gluten-free and can improve symptoms of illnesses caused by immune-mediated responses to gluten like celiac disease. Grain-free diets may also improve conditions unrelated to gluten and celiac disease. So far studies have shown potential benefits for maximizing athletic performance and treating patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, obesity, schizophrenia, and atopic illnesses like hayfever, asthma, and eczema.1
Grain-free diets can feel very restrictive and for most people they can be difficult to maintain long term. Eliminating grains from the diet often requires spending more time and money on food preparation and for some people it can limit social activities. A study that followed 260 people eating a grain-free diet found that most participants reported only minimal interference in daily function, relationships, and lifestyle, but eleven percent reported “high levels of interference with social leisure activities.”
Several grain-free diets already exist including paleo, ketogenic, carnivore, and Whole30. These plans eliminate other things as well and vary in the foods they allow. If you’re considering grain-free diet, you can follow a specific plan like one of these or you can simply stop eating grains. Here are four reasons to go grain-free.