Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Grain Brain

Grain BrainFor a long time, Hubs has argued that the overemphasis on whole grain everything has been one of the big issues in the modern diet, since it seems so many of our dietary issues have become more prevalent as that campaign grows.  Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, agrees with him wholeheartedly and has the research to back it up.

I recently received an advance copy of the book via Goodreads, and reading it has totally woken me up to the detrimental effects of grains in our diets, particularly to our brains.  I have obviously been strictly gluten free for years now, so that was nothing new to me, but Dr. Perlmutter has compelling evidence backing up his argument that all grains, not just gluten-containing ones, have a negative impact.

We mostly focus on the effects that gluten has on your gut, but I'm sure most of you that are celiac or gluten sensitive are very familiar with the brain fog associated with eating gluten.  When I first went gluten free it was like a dark cloud lifted from over my head, and any time I get contaminated I feel the effects immediately.  This book explains these effects on your brain, and even has an illustration via an MRI scan.  I was definitely very fascinated by all his research on gluten and the information regarding the history of celiac and gluten sensitivity in our culture.  For that alone, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about being gluten free.

What really surprised me though was the type of diet he advocates - I have always been taught that fat and cholesterol are bad for me, and have eaten accordingly.  Contrary to popular belief, apparently those two things are exactly what your brain needs to stay healthy!  Of course, he is not saying you should go stuff yourself with tons of fatty food - he recommends healthy fats like olive oil, and good sources of cholesterol like whole eggs.  He also advises that you avoid all carbs as much as possible, including grains like rice and corn.  And once again, his arguments are very compelling and backed up by lots of convincing (and slightly scary) research.  

The last part of the book outlines a basic diet plan with lots of suggestions on foods that fit into his guidelines, and also some recipes to get you started.  I haven't gone fully into the diet yet, but I plan to do it next week, and I'm already starting to wean myself off the carbs as much as possible, particularly sugar, since I was getting really bad about the sweets lately.  And it's not super strict - things like low-carb GF crackers and low-sugar fruits are fine, the idea is just to minimize those things but not eliminate them.  Plus red wine and dark chocolate (70% cacao) in moderation are both okay, and those are my minimum requirements in any diet plan!

I was very carb heavy over my weekend on Fire Island with Hubs' family, so I eased myself into it my first week back at work.  It worked out surprisingly well - I can already completely understand his argument that the effects of carbs in your blood sugar can drive your appetite and signal your body to want to eat more.  I didn't get nearly as hungry/snacky throughout the day, and I also didn't experience the afternoon slump that I tend to get at work that makes me dig for a sweet treat.  I've also been making healthy swaps at dinner - still eating some carbs, but very tiny portions mixed in with lots of veggies like sauteed kale.   

I'm going to keep on working at it and see how it works out - I figure if I can improve not only my physical appearance but also my mental well-being, it's worth a try.  Want to read about Grain Brain for yourself?  It's available now on Amazon in hardback, Kindle and audio versions.

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