Monday, November 25, 2013

For the past few months, I've been working on improving my family's diet. We've considerably cut down on bread and wheat products, integrated more true whole grains (like rice, millet and quinoa) and I am feeling better about the wheat we eat. However, after reading the Wheat Belly Cookbook this weekend, even this may not be enough.

The wheat that is grown these days has been so genetically mutated, it's referred to as "Frankengrain", These modifications are purely for the benefit of higher yield, and to accommodate the populations' demand for a more pliable, baker-friendly dough. Yet these mutations were never tested for human consumption and this is practically of the "wheat" that is grown globally nowadays. It's changed so much only within the last few decades, far removed from the same wholesome stuff that our parents, or even what WE were eating as kids.

Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, obesity and diabetes are all results of the standard diet and wheat intake. Many people don't even realize they have an intolerance unless they either get a medical test, eliminate it from their diets, or get illnesses as a result of overload. Studies have down that wheat is the cause of any number of these afflictions - allergies, chronic sinus congestion, ADHD, autism, tummy fat, rotten teeth, acid reflux, bowel urgency, joint pain, migraines, dandruff, sleeplessness, skin rashes, moodiness, depression, seizures...

So why do we subject ourselves to this? Why do we feed our children this day in and day out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a special Treat? Because it's convenient, because it's everywhere, and because it's an opiate (like heroin) it activates your appetite, gives you that "hit" of temporary satisfaction and a few hours later, it's hard to not crave it and want more. Did you know that merely cutting the wheat out of your diet, you can not only reduce your overall appetite, you can also reduce your calorie intake by 400 calories every day?

In many cases, wheat is hidden... in ketchup, yogurts, some sauces and salad dressings, frozen foods... Big food companies tout their hyper-processed foods, like cereals, as whole grain and healthy, but in reality, they are products made from stripping the grain of anything good and then adding artificial nutrients back in. Anyway, these products are also laden with sugar or salt, and who knows what else, so it's best to skip out on anything processed.

This includes all the new gluten free products now popping up on supermarket shelves. People with celiac should also carefully read the labels and avoid any product that comes from a facility that also makes wheat products in case of cross-contamination. At the end of the day, even these GF products come from a factory, are constituted to replicate a wheat product, and can sit on the shelf for years and years.

Browsing through the recipes in the book, Dr Davis mainly uses almond flour, as does the popular GF website Elana's Pantry. Almonds high in calories and fiber., so too much can result in weight gain or gastrointestinal problems. Besides, what are the options if you, or a member of your family has a severe nut allergy? Almond flour is pricey, unless you're making your own nut milk and flour. I have tried a little gluten free baking, but it truly is a daunting task and a bit of mixology with some ingredients I'm totally unfamiliar with, like Stevia and xantham gum, and not sure I ready to try. (Look at what happened with agave!) His recipes also use a lot of dairy, which I'm also trying to cut down on, but that's another story. However, I will try out some of the recipes, and I'll definitely be checking out his new book Wheat Belly 30-Minute (Or less!) Cookbook, which will be released on December 24th. I will also try some of gluten-free-girl's recipes when I get the chance.

Cutting out the wheat is a challenge, most people would rather try ANY alternative, rather than making this lifestyle change. But think of it this way, when in Asia, where the culture is based on rice, it's a cinch to not even think about wheat, as it's not a part of every day meals. So it's really not that big of a deal. A good example in the book states that if you were told that eating green peppers could kill you, you could easily make up your mind and never eat peppers again. The only problem is that with eating bread, eating pasta, or eating cake there are so many socio-emotional and traditional attachments to it, and that wheat products are so prevalent in our world, it's a hard habit to break.

Like so many millions of people, I've always loved carbs, all the bad ones, like bread, pasta, crunchy snacks, and I've also loved baking, hence the transition to going gluten free has been a slow, but steady one. We do eat rice regularly, and eat lots of vegetables, but sometimes old habits are hard to break. Since my juice fast back in May, I've easily cut out the wheat the majority of the time. However, it's not so easy for everyone else. Here's how I've been working on my family's transition these past few months. First, I limited eating wheat products to once a day. Then, I made all my wheat product purchases to whole wheat/whole grain. I also try to use a smaller amount of wheat, say, instead of a baguette sandwich, I use a tortilla to wrap the filling for a packed lunch. This way, the proportion of healthy, whole ingredients of the filling (i.e, chicken, salad...) are predominant, and more substantially filling. When I need an easy standby, I do have some GF flour mixes and crackers on hand.

I feel the key is not to try to replicate a wheat product, because it will never really taste the same, and your brain will always make comparisons and prefer what you're used to. Ideally, it's better to make something new and different, with a twist on familiar favorites but 1000 times more nutritious (like raw bliss balls, zucchini pasta, cauliflower rice...) "Crowd out" the bad stuff by incorporating more vegetables (the Good carbohydrates) and load up on whole, unadulterated ingredients into all meals, eventually shifting that grain portion to the mere size of a hockey puck. For example, in a fried rice in your typical Chinese restaurant, you would be lucky if the percentage of meat and vegetables was 20%, with 80% rice (and you're hungry an hour later!) At home, when I make it, the ratio I aim for is 50/50. Your body would be even more satiated if the ratio was 70 to 30% rice. This helps wean yourself from reliance on grains in a meal.

Going gluten free improves concentration, mood, energy levels, better skin, better sleep, reduced appetite, less bloating, less joint pain and less swelling. Having eliminated wheat from my own diet, I can feel the difference, many of those stated above. I see and experience things with more clarity,  the "brain fog" is lifting, my foot doesn't hurt in the morning. I feel good about being conscious about what we eat and making healthier choices. To reach William Davis' "Wonderful Wheatlessness of Being" is definitely a work in progress. One day it will happen....

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