Wheat. It’s in almost everything we’re encouraged to eat from the time we’re just babies — Cheerios have practically become the mascot for toddler food! We get so much wheat in part because the FDA’s food pyramid has forever recommended that we do.
And if you’ve watched a movie like Food, Inc., or read a book like In Defense of Food, you know that some form of grain comprises around 90% of what you’ll find in an average supermarket. Have you ever really looked around the supermarket with that stat in mind? I did the other day, and it was quite frightening. When I really thought about it, it was so clear that everything was the same, just in different boxes. Very creepy.
So are humans really meant to digest wheat? There’s compelling evidence that we’re not. In fact, many anthropologists would probably agree that until the agrarian revolution 10,000 years ago, we were hunter-gatherers and ate whatever we could find! That likely included meat, veggies, some fruit, and some nuts. It probably didn’t include wheat. Have you ever tried to make bread from some stalks of wheat? Good luck.
In the course of human history, 10,000 years is nothing! If human history were condensed into a year, we’d only have been eating wheat for about a day. Without getting all science-y on you, could we have evolved to optimally digest wheat in that time? Probably not, though some of us are certainly able to tolerate it.
But here’s the sad part: Scientists argue that up to a third of us can’t really tolerate it very well. A third of us are at least slightly gluten intolerant/sensitive? Say what? Hey, don’t shoot the messenger! I ‘ll be the first to admit I think I’m in that third. When I eat wheat, I feel more bloated, sometimes get horrible stomachaches, and feel more sluggish.
“Okay, Nutritionsita,” you say, “But what about all the benefits of whole grains? The fiber, the vitamins? Don’t those count for anything?” Well, yes, but the fact is, you can get the same nutrients from other sources (like veggies or some meats). And you don’t have to fortify a veggie to get the nutrients, like you do with some grain products.
The bottom line for wheat/grains, and just about every other food, is this: If you like it and don’t have problems digesting it, go ahead and eat it. But at least try to eat it in the LEAST PROCESSED form you possibly can. For wheat/grains, that means WHOLE or SPROUTED.
For my part, I’ve cut wheat out of my diet almost completely within the last few months and I feel 100% better. Does that mean I’ll never have a good, crusty piece of bread or drink a cold brew? Of course not! But they’re just not regular staples anymore. And the funny thing is, even though I’m probably the biggest carb-lover I know, I don’t really miss ’em.