Figuring out what to eat has never been more complicated. We are surrounded by cheap processed foods containing ingredients we can’t pronounce. We are bombarded with advertising and corporate-supported health claims. Conflicting diets and their accompanying success stories pull us in opposite directions – Eat Vegan! Paleo! Raw! Mediterranean! and on and on.
One thing is for sure, the Standard American Diet, SAD as it has come to be known, is no longer working for us. The old food guide pyramid encouraged us to eat mostly from the whole grain food group, with a side of veggies, fruit, dairy, and meat (all lean and low-fat of course!)
And the food companies were happy to present us a never-ending supply of processed foods based on the USDA recommendations.
Meanwhile, not only are we becoming increasingly overweight and obese, but our children as well. And 1 in 3 of us will suffer from diabetes in our lifetime.
I don’t know if there is a definitive answer to healthy eating. To be sure, the more I know about our industrial food system, the more frightened and worried I become for my children and their health.
I grew up with a strange dichotomy in my home – my mother grew a huge organic garden and I enjoyed made-from scratch dinners, always at the table, and always promptly at 5:30. I still remember crawling through the massive garden, eating green beans, cucumbers, and corn right off the plants.
But my mother was not immune to convenience and marketing, and we always had a well-stocked pantry with canned foods, Doritos, chips, sodas, and a basket of candy that lived on top of the refrigerator. I enjoyed Saturday afternoon shows with a bag of Cheetos, greasy orange fingers and a can of grape soda. Lunch often consisted of peanut butter and fluffernutter on white bread.
But I have no doubt, however bad the processed foods I ate as a child 30 years ago were, that they are nowhere near as toxic as the processed foods we are consuming today. And sadly, many of these foods are being promoted as healthy, as a result of slick marketing and corporate-controlled science.
So what does all this have to do with wheat?
I have followed the gluten-free trend for some time now. I understand the pathophysiology involved with celiac disease. I have nieces who have been diagnosed with celiac, and I have worked with a dietitian diagnosed with celiac who not only teaches a gluten-free diet, she lives it as well.
But I also know moms who have decided to eliminate wheat and gluten from their families’ diets out of safety concerns that are unrelated to the diagnosis of celiac.
And when I looked at how much wheat was present in my families’ diet I realized there was an imbalance. We are consuming a huge amount of wheat on a daily and weekly basis.
A friend of mine, who happens to be a vegan and a nurse, was talking about the book “Wheat Belly”, by William Davis, MD. I decided to pick up a copy at our library, and while I found the history and science of our modern version of wheat interesting, I felt his health claims for eliminating wheat were repetitive and over-the-top. Many parts of the book reminded me of an infomercial.
Regardless of my feelings about the book, I did decide to do an experiment. Over the past month, I have drastically reduced my wheat consumption. (Please keep in mind I am experimenting with wheat specifically, not gluten.)
While I haven’t eliminated wheat completely from my diet, I have gone from about 4+ servings each day to about one serving a week. And here is what I have experienced:
-my almost chronic headaches disappeared,
-modest weight loss,
In fact, I feel so much better without wheat, that I really don’t have much desire to eat wheat foods. And this is from someone who loves to bake, especially fresh bread.
So what do my meals look like without the wheat? Well, mostly vegetables, proteins and some other starchy foods. The starchy foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa and oats seem to offer some “fullness” to my meals, especially when I am getting more exercise and my appetite is increased.
So what does all this mean? Is our modern wheat really that bad for us? Is is making us hungry and fat?
I’m not convinced it is the consumption of wheat as much as the overconsumption of wheat.
While I feel better without so much wheat in my diet, I do want to enjoy an occasional slice of pizza, some fresh bread, or a Sunday morning bagel. Of course, there are plenty of recipes for gluten-free substitutes for all our favorite wheat foods, and perhaps I will start experimenting with some of those as well. Although I prefer to avoid the over-marketed, over-processed gluten-free aisle at the local grocery store, especially since many of those products contain ingredients that are simply unhealthy and/or unsustainable.
Do you eat wheat-free? I’d love to hear your story.