Seven years ago, I wrote a diary called Evil Corn. Now I’m addressing Evil Wheat.
After I discovered I’m a Type II diabetic, I lost 100 pounds (took me 3 years!) on a low-carb diet, and I still treat wheat products the way other people treat alcohol or chocolate–I think carefully before I indulge.
Despite this, I used to scoff at all the people who suddenly seem to be allergic to wheat–or to "gluten," which is essentially the same thing. Gluten is the protein found in wheat grains, which gives wheat dough its elastic texture. Gluten is also found in cereal grains, especially wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. It causes digestive disorders such as celiac disease.
Since celiac disease is characterized by extreme bouts of diarrhea (and sometime vomiting), I always said to these folks, "If you had celiac disease, you’d KNOW it!" But I’ve just read a book called "Wheat Belly, " by a cardiologist named William Davis, and I’m starting to change my mind.
First of all, Evil Wheat is a modern invention–it’s not the same grain our ancestors ate. I’m not talking about genetically-modified wheat here (although that’s coming down the pike), I’m talking about wheat that’s been hybridized and modified to make it easy to grow and harvest on vast, industrial farms. GM wheat will only be the final nail in the "wheat coffin."
Davis says that modern wheat raises our blood sugar levels, which makes us hungrier so we eat more, and even gives us a kind of "high," so we crave more of it. And it’s hiding in all kinds of processed foods. It’s almost impossible to eat breakfast without ingesting it, so almost all of us start out the day with a meal that makes us hungry and we continue the process with a sandwich or hamburger in a bun for lunch.
According to Davis, the calories from eating wheat tend to turn into "visceral fat," which is the worst kind of all, because it surrounds our organs. This results in a "paunch" in mean and a "wheat belly" in women. He blames wheat for the obesity epidemic in this country, and says we’re given precisely the WRONG advice about what to eat–even by the government.
We’re told to eat "healthy whole grains," but it turns out that these raise our blood sugar levels even more than foods made of white flour.
The first wild, then cultivated wheat, was "einkorn," eaten 5,000 years ago. Next came "emmer" wheat, which flourished in ancient Egypt. The "triticum" wheat of today is the product of breeding to generate greater yield and characteristics such as disease, drought and heat resistance.
There’s a lot of flim-flam out there: I recently went into our local health food store and saw a big of chips labeled "low gluten potato chips." Since potato chips of any kind consist of potatoes, salt and fat–and no wheat of any kind–I found this ludicrous.
So what’s left to eat? (Sigh) Not much–corn and oats are carbohydrates that are "out" too. But I figure I don’t need to cut them out completely–I’ll just cut down. After all, what’s life for if you can’t be at least A LITTLE evil?