(modern day) wheat – why is it bad?

(modern day) wheat – why is it bad?

I remember my brother (Uncle F-word to my kids) cursing when he first heard me talk about eating wheat-free, as he’d just made the switch from white to wheat. 

“WHAT?! I thought wheat was healthy?! I’m just trying to switch from white bread and now you’re telling me that wheat’s not good enough?! Bleep bleep bleep!!!”

(Though, I now think he has said “F* it!” and has gone back to white, but homemade white, which is actually night and day to store bought white bread and is often tolerated by gluten intolerant people, more about this below.)

Wheat, with it’s high glycemic index (the ranking of a food’s immediate effect on the body’s blood sugar levels), has an addictive quality – the more you eat, the more you crave. Think of when you eat sugar, how you crave more. Two pieces of wheat bread raises your blood sugar levels more than one candy bar (or 2 tbsp of pure sugar, says Dr Davis, author of Wheat Belly). Other important concerns are the health problems that prolonged elevated blood sugar levels can cause, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I’ve eaten wheat my whole life, as have generations before us, and no one had problems!”. Well, the difference is wheat today contains higher levels of gluten then years before. Grains have been manufactured differently since the 1950s. Not only were synthetic fertilizers and pesticides being used, scientists started cross breeding wheat to increase supply, making it hardier, often containing up to 40 times more gluten, making today’s modern wheat harder to digest. The processing even changed, for reasons like providing longer shelf life. 

I cut out wheat and dairy from my diet in 2000 and my chronic headaches and sinus infections (sinusitis) went away. I notice now that if I eat gluten I am bloated by end of day. I used to think it was just me and how my body was. My kids often asked me if I was pregnant again (har har). Once you know what it feels like to feel your best, it’s hard to settle for less. My 10 year old son also knows the effects of gluten and prefers to be gluten free. He’s had a change in his diet this past fall (more gluten) and tells me it has affected his memory and ability to focus; his sleep talking also comes back when he’s had more gluten. (See a past blog I wrote for more info on effects of gluten.)

If I ever stray from my gluten free breads I choose whole spelt or naturally leavened sourdough bakery bread that contains minimal ingredients, and ones I can read and understand.

Whole spelt, considered the Grandfather of wheat, is grown differently (i.e., has the hull on, whereas wheat does not), has a lower glycemic index and is easier to digest, is also often tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities. It was my go to, high fiber grain before I switched to gluten free and I still use it when needed (i.e., baking gifts or pizza night), esp as a great choice for the kids. 

I have met two small shop whole wheat naturally leavened bread bakers that claim their sourdough bread is tolerated by those who are gluten free intolerant. These sourdough breads contain a mixture of grains such as whole wheat, oats, sprouted quinoa, kamut, etc.. One loaf is called the double fermented. I asked does this mean it contains even less gluten and the owner said yes. So much so that he has to be careful because he can run into issues with it rising. A friend of mine that has immediate digestion issues from gluten, including bloating, has confirmed that he can indeed eat their sourdough bread. Lactobacillus bacteria (good bacteria), found in sourdough, when you ferment for long periods of time actually eats bacteria, it kills the gluten (only in sourdough). This bread has no preservatives, only flour, yeast, water and salt – no chemicals used to oxidize like the big companies use. They claim that since they do small runs, they have this kind of control. This does not apply to commercially made sourdough bread, where something changes and gets lost in the processing. I know that the local bakery in Collingwood where I buy the sourdough loaves from uses only the best quality wheat. Talk to your local bakery and find out what their standards are. I know this bakery will shut doors in the early afternoon if sold out, and is fine with that. He does not want to increase and meet demand because it would affect the quality of the bread they produce. I guess when you ferment your sourdough bread for 36 hours, as they do, you can only handle producing so much. 

Lactobacillus bacteria (good bacteria), found in sourdough, when you ferment for long periods of time actually eats bacteria, it kills the gluten (only in sourdough).

I’m not sure if everyone can tolerate this naturally leavened sourdough bread as a couple of months ago I wondered why I felt bloated at night and then, I realised I had some (a lot) of the local bakery bread that day. So I’m not personally sold on the fact that it works for my body. Though, maybe I would have been ok if I had just stuck to two pieces. (I will test it out again, in moderation this time.) I think it depends on each individual, as well. So experiment or just keep a balance. I’m ok with getting bloated the odd time, I just won’t do it before going to the beach (“Oh my god, Anna! I didn’t know you were expecting again!?”…”Ummm, ya, I’m not. That’s just baby Gluten.”) UPDATE  I bought a sourdough loaf today and the kids and I devoured it, dipping pieces in oil, balsamic and sea salt. I stuck to two pieces and so far so good.

Educate yourself. Just because someone tells you something is good for you, do not assume. Find out for yourself. I know when I’ve been told about a new health craze or superfood to try, I do the research before diving in. Become informed, ask questions, get to know your local suppliers. This is another great example of the benefits of eating fresh and local. 

NOTE The best gluten free bagels ever! Even gluten lovers love these ‘sprouted whole grain flax bagel thins’ by O’Doughs. I just noticed when I grabbed this link that they do hamburger buns as well! I’m excited for hamburgers all over again. And I also noticed you can order from their website. This is the first gluten free bread product that my entire family will happily eat and actually, prefer over other gluten bread products. Highly recommend.

For more information on gluten and bread, take a look at this article.