As a child, I selected wheat bread over white and believed that was the healthier option. However, because of the changes in how we grow and use wheat, I strongly recommend dramatically reducing, and in some cases even eliminating, wheat in our diets. We are accustomed to eating wheat as a whole grain, pasta or baked good, but today wheat is added to everything from spices and soups to sauces, salad dressings and even cold cuts. Too much of a good thing is still too much, and now there’s cause to question if wheat really is a good thing.
Before the combine was invented, we harvested our wheat and piled it into bails that sat in the fields for weeks before it was collected for processing. In the evening, the wheat would get moist, and in the daytime it would dry out. This simple and natural fermentation allowed the grain to germinate, thereby changing the protein (gluten) and making it easier to assimilate. It also reduced the wheat’s inherent phytic acid resulting in a more alkaline grain with nutritional values and enzymes that were more accessible to our digestive system.
Today, the process of harvesting and processing wheat is seamless. The result? No fermentation, no germination and a product that can be difficult to assimilate and can cause inflammation throughout the body. While some continue to soak, sprout and ferment wheat to improve digestibility, this is rarely the case with the wheat used in processed foods. As a result, today’s wheat is linked to a variety of health issues that start with compromised digestive enzymes in the gut and can lead to osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, celiac and more.
Add to this, the rise of GMO (genetically modified) foods that has allowed us to grow more wheat for less cost (at least on the surface). GMO seeds are now engineered to grow more efficiently (requiring fewer pesticides, being resistant to drought…), but this can also change the molecular makeup of the food. While a recent study by Stanford University suggested that there was no nutritional difference between conventional and organic foods, it did not address the host of other toxins in our food as a result of non-organic farming methods and contamination from GMO crops.
These changes could well be at the root of our increasing gluten sensitivity and intolerance, and they are reason enough to change our practices around eating wheat (and all grains for that matter) to include pre-soaking for at least one hour and then draining to wash away water-soluble phytic acid and start the germination process. While these techniques will not make wheat or gluten acceptable for those with Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance), it can help those who are gluten sensitive.
If you’re curious about how wheat and gluten affect your unique constitution, simply go without. Eliminating gluten for just three weeks is long enough for most to realize changes in their health and well-being. And with so many delicious gluten-free grains to try (quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, amaranth…), I suspect you won’t miss the gluten for even one bite!
Note: Gluten is naturally occurring in wheat (wheat, spelt, faro, couscous, semolina, bulgur…), as well as barley, rye, and in oats as a result of being processed on machines that also process wheat. For a complete list of foods containing gluten, visit www.celiac.com.
For amazing gluten free recipes and more information check out my website at http://terrywalters.net/
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