Should You Stop Eating Wheat? What Moms Need to Know

muffins from oven

As moms, we hear a lot of noise about wheat. We use bread to make sandwiches for our kids because that's the healthy choice -- right? We know it should be whole grain bread, not merely "whole wheat," and definitely not bread sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Oh, and gluten may or may not be toxic. So what if, on top of all of this, you learned that ALL wheat is toxic? That it leads to obesity, tooth decay, even hyperactivity. What the heck are you supposed to feed your family now?!?

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One doctor is on a mission to make us re-think that important staple, and he's even got Dr. Oz hooked on his theories. Cardiologist Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, believes that everyone should cut back on wheat, not just celiacs and gluten-sensitive people. 

Davis is sounding the alarm over wheat bread and other foods made with it that we think are healthy because he believes wheat is at the root of a dizzying number of illnesses and conditions, from attention disorder and depression to chronic tummy trouble and rheumatoid arthritis. This is based on his experience as a doctor and on the research of many others in the medical community, he says. In fact, we shouldn't be eating any grasses whatsoever: not wheat, not corn, not barley, and not rye.

Why not? It's because wheat contains proteins that humans can't digest, or at least can't digest completely, Davis says. One wheat protein blocks mineral absorption. And if you're wondering why you can't lose weight no matter what you try, guess what? Wheat may act as an appetite stimulant. Davis estimates that we eat 400 to 800 more calories a day on wheat.

Intrigued, I had to give it a try! I don't usually eat a lot of wheat anyway ... or so I thought. It turns out I had to change a lot to try out the grass-free diet. Goodbye, morning granola.

What I ate for breakfast: I like some protein first thing in the morning, so I had full-fat yogurt with chia seeds and pecans stirred in. I hadn't been a big fan of chia seeds before, but I liked them this way. I tried not to stare at my son's daily chocolate croissant.

What I ate for lunch: Going wheat-free takes some planning, which is not my forte. But for once I rose to the occasion. Over the weekend I roasted some butternut squash and some chicken. And that's what I ate for lunch nearly Every. Single. Day. 

What I snacked on: I usually had an apple, some dark chocolate, and roasted cashews or almonds -- but then, that's my usual snack.

What I ate for dinner: I ended up doing something I'd said I'd never do -- cook separate meals for myself and my son (I didn't want to subject him to my little experiment). While he had pasta, I'd have a couple of poached eggs on sauteed greens. Or I'd have chunks of cheese with carrots and cucumber. 

On a night when my boyfriend scored last-minute opera tickets for us right after work, I had wine and dark chocolate for dinner. Probably not what Dr. Davis would recommend for dinner, exactly, but loaded with resveratrol. And definitely wheat-free! 

How I felt: Here's the weird thing -- I didn't miss the wheat at all! Davis writes about going through withdrawals, but nope. Didn't happen. I felt fuller for longer after meals. On the other hand, when I did get hungry, it hit me suddenly and I was RAVENOUS.

I'm in pretty good health to begin with, so I wasn't looking to lose weight or cure myself of anything physical. I was hoping my scattered attention span would click into focus -- but no luck. Maybe if I kept it up for a month? 

At any rate, Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, author, and plant-based diet expert, thinks the dangers of wheat and gluten have been blown out of proportion. She attributes the miraculous cures of Dr. Davis' patients to cutting out processed food.

That said, Hever doesn't think wheat is absolutely necessary for everyone. "But it is a difficult grain to avoid, it's a helpful food, and it can be part of a healthy diet," especially if you stick with her recommendation, a plant-based diet with whole, "intact" grains.

Here's something interesting. When I went back to eating wheat (because of course I did), I noticed that I felt a little more bloated and bread tasted bland. Going off wheat made me more conscious of what I was eating overall.

But do I plan on cutting out wheat completely? Not a chance. While Davis' theories are interesting and it might be worth scaling back a bit on grains, they're too integral to the healthy eating habits I've instilled in my son and me at home to totally eliminate them from our diet.

So what do you think? Is the harm of wheat overhyped, or are you curious to see if it's at the root of some of your health issues?

 

Image © iStock.com/Rich Legg

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