Apparently, you should only eat wheat-a-bit(bix).. get it? weetabix.. nope? ok. moving on…
It seems that lately, and by that I mean today and yesterday.. I am writing more articles about what you shouldn’t eat than what you should. This one isn’t necessarily conclusive, and the jury is still out – but I thought I’d let you make the choice for yourself.
So, the subject in hand – wheat. You hear so much about it that is good.. high in fibre, great for your heart and a slow-digesting carbohydrate source (not diabetes promoting) – ‘gives you a tapered source of energy throughout the day’.
It’s recommended to mums to feed to their kids for breakfast, whether directly (weetabix) or indirectly (most other cereals have considerable amounts of wheat in them – yes even you, rice crispies), and it’s also pretty much the base ingredient of pasta. I don’t know about you, but I love pasta.
Wheat is pretty much everywhere, and in the majority of the foods you eat if you follow the diet of the average person (oh man, I nearly forgot – it’s in bread), and that’s what makes avoiding it so damn hard.
This is the point where you close your eyes, repeat over and over again ‘I love bread’, ‘I love bread’ and hope that this article says that wheat truly is great.
First things first, I am not differentiating between wholewheat and wheat here. If you only eat wholewheat bread/pasta – this still applies to you! I’m also not getting into the ‘grains in general are bad for you debate’, although I imagine I should throw my hat into that ring (with an opinion taped to it) at some point…
This article is concerned with all types of wheat. So.. finally, what is potentially wrong with it?
What may be wrong
You’ve probably heard your mother say ‘don’t eat anymore sweets, sugar is bad for you’ at some point during your life, and equally – you’ve probably ignored that advice and eaten more sweets anyway. Cue sugar rush, and the corresponding low afterwards (she did warn you) – I bet you felt rubbish. But what happened inside the body?
Well all that sugar gave you high blood sugar levels, and then your pancreas released a boatload of insulin to get that sugar into cells instead of chilling in the blood. If this happens on a regular basis, your resistance to insulin increases and the pancreas has to release more and more every time. And then eventually your pancreas says ‘screw it’, and stops giving out insulin – hello, diabetes.
How does this apply to wheat? Well unfortunately wheat has a higher GI (glycemic index) than table sugar, and this means starch in wheat gets broken down even faster, and gives you even more of an insulin spike than table sugar would. The rapid rise and fall of insulin, even if it doesn’t end up giving you diabetes, will increase your hunger and make you feel like rubbish (potentially interspersed with moments of feeling like superman).
Another problem is that wheat contains gluten, and it seems that a lot more people in the population are ‘sensitive’ to gluten than it was previously believed. Celiacs disease (allergy to gluten) is very widely under-diagnosed, and while you may not know it, you could be lining yourself up for problems later on in life by consuming wheat on a regular basis. Wheat could even be behind things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with it; if you occasionally get joint pain, oily skin, acne, or just feel tired a lot – all can be a result of wheat-intolerance, mild or otherwise. Of course, those are the ‘pleasant’ symptoms.
In one trial, whole wheat was actually shown to increase levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in individuals, when consumed in cereal every day for 12 weeks.
While there have been plenty of studies that back up my bad mouthing of wheat, lets take a quick look on the other side of the coin.
Even though us humans have been consuming wheat as it is today for a relatively short amount of time (when compared to our existence) – it hasn’t killed us off yet. While Caveman Dan and his associates wouldn’t know what to do with a slice of bread, and equally neither would their digestive systems, yours and mine seem to handle wheat (in general) none too badly. You probably know plenty of people who eat wheat every meal and they seem just fine – your grandma probably ate wheat everyday of her life and lived to a grand old age. But then again, my grandma smoked for probably over 50 years and lived till 90, and we all know how bad smoking is for your health.
There is no decisive answer here, studies are skewed towards wheat being a bad food choice – and it makes sense when you consider our population have only been exposed to it for a relatively short amount of time. The fact remains though, that you would be hard pressed to live a diet entirely devoid of wheat, but it is doable.
Personally, I eat wheat probably every other day, but I’m going to trial not eating it at all for a month and see how I feel.
All I know is, it will be a bitch to cut it out completely!