When talking about wheat, we usually hear that gluten, one of its components, is the problem. Gluten is a protein in wheat and related grains, such as rye and barley. It is the substance that makes dough elastic, chewy, gives it its shape, and allows it to rise. The more gluten a product has, the chewier it is; so, pizza crust and bagels have more gluten than pastries do.
Even though wheat, and the gluten that comes with it, is okay for most people to eat in moderation, here are the reasons it makes sense to avoid it as much as you can.
1) We eat too much wheat
Except for people who have celiac disease or are hypersensitive to gluten, most people can tolerate eating gluten. However, because our diets have changed to consist mainly of foods that are low in fat and cholesterol and high in carbohydrates, most of what we eat today is products that are made from wheat. Think about all the breads, cereals, and pastries you eat that are made from wheat flour. So, we eat a lot more gluten today than people did 50 years ago.
2) Our bodies aren’t used to eating modern wheat
In addition, the wheat we eat today is not the same grain it was 50 years ago. It has been hybridized and/or genetically modified to have a much higher yield per acre. Wheat farmers today can grow 10 times more wheat per acre than they could 100 years ago. It has also been hybridized to be much more disease, drought, and heat resistant than older wheat varieties. No animal or human testing has been done to see if this type of wheat is healthy for human consumption.
This new variety of wheat grown today is also much higher in carbohydrates than ancient wheat — 70% carbohydrate and only 10% protein. Ancient (einkorn) wheat comprised nearly 30% protein.
3) Wheat raises blood sugar
One of the carbohydrate types in modern wheat is called amylopectin A, which converts quickly to glucose (the sugar that is your body’s main fuel source) and causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Increased glucose causes the sugar-regulating hormone insulin to spike. Insulin takes the excess glucose the body doesn’t need right away from the bloodstream and converts it to fat. This fat is stored in the abdomen.
This rapid blood sugar spike after eating wheat is the main reason why people who eat lots of wheat-based products, even whole wheat products, gain weight. Visceral (abdominal) fat, as we know, causes inflammation and leads to other chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and colon cancer.
Blood sugar spikes about two hours after eating wheat-based products. This is why wheat acts as an appetite stimulant — you feel hungry again after about two hours and grab the next available wheat-based product to satisfy your hunger.
Should I stop eating wheat?
If you eat a lot of whole wheat-based products and continue to gain weight, think about cutting back and see how it affects your weight and your health in general. You may find that, not only are you losing weight, but you also feel more clear-headed and energetic.