Most of us who care about eating healthfully know to look for the words “whole wheat” on product labels, but there’s a growing movement—and not just among people with gluten allergies—to cut back on or cut out wheat entirely.
Cut out wheat? But people have been eating wheat for centuries! Do we really need to avoid it to stay healthy?
Well, say some experts, yes . . . and no.
The bad news
Americans consume 55 pounds of wheat flour each year, writes physician and author Mark Hyman, MD. And, he adds, “this is not the wheat your great-grandmother used to bake her bread. It is FrankenWheat—a scientifically engineered food product developed in the last 50 years.”
The wheat of today has been crossbred and hybridized to make it drought- and fungi-resistant, and to drastically increase yield per acre. The result? Wheat that contains 1) high levels of a starch called amylopectin A, which dramatically raises blood sugar levels and encourages overeating; 2) a “super gluten” that causes inflammation, which can trigger autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel, cancer, and numerous other conditions; and 3) highly addictive polypeptides that keep you craving more and more wheat products.
“The prevailing notion that cutting fat and eating whole grains will make you healthy is not only wrong, it’s destructive,” cardiologist William Davis, author of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, said in an interview with Canadian magazine Maclean’s. Dr. Davis likens the choice of organic whole wheat bread over white bread to selecting filtered rather than nonfiltered cigarettes—it’s a matter of the lesser of two evils.
“Artisanal Wheat On the Rise” by Jerry Adler, Smithsonian, 12/11
“Do Heritage Grains Hold Promise for the Gluten-Sensitive?” by Bonnie Tsui, Pacific Standard, 6/15/12
“Heritage Wheat Varieties,” www.grassrootsolutions.com
“On the Evils of Wheat” by Kate Fillion, Macleans, 9/20/11
“Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat” by Mark Hyman, MD, Huffington Post, 2/18/12