By Laurel-Lea Shannon
Do you put weight on easily and have trouble taking it off? If so, wheat may be the culprit. Many women claim that just looking at a piece of chocolate cake adds inches to their waistline. Of course, that’s an exaggeration but the fact is, wheat can take a toll on your weight and your health, even if you don’t have celiac disease or a gluten allergy.
How does wheat make us fat?
In his book Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis, a preventive cardiologist, explains how. “Modern wheat contains amylopectin A, which is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than just about any other carbohydrate, including table sugar,” says Davis. That’s not all it does. Amylopectin A, a complex carbohydrate unique to wheat, also stimulates your appetite, making you eat more than you need to.
Eating just two pieces of whole wheat bread can skyrocket your blood sugar to a higher level than a chocolate bar will. Then, two hours later you feel hungry again, and sometimes fatigued. To pick up your energy you eat more grains—maybe you snack on some pretzels, crackers or a muffin. That temporarily takes care of your hunger, but the problem with eating grains is that they send your body on a roller-coaster ride of blood sugar highs and lows. That imbalance in blood sugar is what causes weight gain and a host of other health problems. Wheat eaters consume, on average, an additional 400 calories each day. That number quickly adds up to unwanted pounds.
Wheat isn’t just making us fat. According to Dr. Davis it’s also responsible for a lot of health issues, including edema, sinus congestion, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux. Another serious side effect of consuming wheat products like bread, pasta, pizza, pretzels, breakfast cereals, muffins, cakes and cookies is that they create chronic inflammation in the body. “That leads to hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and other conditions,” says Davis.
He doesn’t recommend switching to gluten-free products either. Laden with potato, corn and tapioca starches, gluten-free flours are a poor alternative to wheat and have their own detrimental effect on your health.
What’s the solution?
Skip the wheat products. Instead, eat a nutritious diet from whole food sources like vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, fish, chicken, lean meats, avocados, and olive oil. Dr. Davis claims that if you do that for one month many of your chronic health issues will disappear. You’ll lose weight, sleep better, have increased energy and feel happier.
Filling the wheat gap
If you go on a wheat-free diet, don’t try to fill the gap with other non-wheat grains like rice. They too, are rich in carbohydrates, and can cause spikes in blood sugar in some people (not all). Healthy grains like quinoa, millet or brown rice should be eaten in moderation, no more than ½ cup at any meal.
If you have trouble visualizing meals without bread or pasta, don’t despair. There are lots of different food combinations you can have that don’t contain wheat. Here are a few meal samples.
- a two-egg cheese omelette with steamed vegetables
- a fruit smoothie made with yogurt, keifir or protein powder
- a piece of leftover chicken and steamed vegetables
- a large vegetable salad with lean protein (fish or chicken)
- a bowl of chili or lentil stew
- salmon cakes and steamed vegetables
- baked chicken, baked sweet potato and salad
Snacks (if needed):
- raw nut trail mix (limit dried fruit, which has concentrated sugar)
- hummus with vegetable sticks or rice crackers
- a piece of fruit with yogurt
* Source: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.
Nothing here should be construed as medical advice, but only topics for further discussion with your doctor.
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