Deciding to go Wheat-free?

February 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm 2 comments

I haven’t posted in a while due to my internship which keeps me busy 24/7!  But, there is one issue that is driving me crazy!  I just couldn’t keep quiet so I did some research and wrote a blog on a pet peeve of mine!  I hope I sway a few people from partaking of a wheat-free diet for the wrong reasons!

The popularity of the wheat-free diet has risen recently partly due to Oprah Winfrey touting the weight-loss potential of a gluten-free diet.  Celebrities also credit a wheat-free diet for their rapid weight loss and some claim that wheat-free diets improve athletic performance.  Authors and homeopathic gurus are profiting from this new fad.  The biochemistry and science of nutrition does not support any theories of weight loss or improved athletic performance due to a wheat-free diet.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, which seems to cause an allergic response in 1 in 133 individuals.  This allergic response is diagnosed as Celiac Disease.  A gluten-free diet is the only prescription for celiac disease, a genetic disease in which the body develops an immune response to proteins found in the grains of wheat, barley and rye.  This immune response occurs in the lining of the small intestine.  The villi in the small intestine become seriously damaged and are not able to absorb essential nutrients from foods we eat.  Malabsorption eventually leads to anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, skin rashes, joint pain, certain cancers, and depression, to name a few.   Symptoms of celiac disease include severe cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting.  Other indicators may be constipation, weight loss, or some experience no symptoms at all.

Gluten sensitivity/intolerance, on the other hand, is a non-immune response to gluten in which the individual may experience similar symptoms to celiac disease, but the intestinal lining is not affected.

Wheat can be an important contributor to a healthy diet.  This grain is a good source of incomplete protein, providing 8 out of the 11 essential amino acids.  Wheat can be paired with many other grains or legumes to comprise a complete protein.  In fact, wheat provides more protein than rice or corn.  Thiamin is an important component of wheat as it is important for a good appetite, digestion and healthy nerves.  Iron is a vital nutrient in wheat.  It is involved in oxygen transport in the body.  It is also essential for cell growth.  A deficiency in iron results in fatigue and a decrease in immunity.   Niacin, another component of wheat, promotes the efficient use of protein by the body.  B12, also found in wheat, is involved in red blood cell formation, neurological functions, and DNA synthesis.  Zinc is important for skin healing and growth, selenium helps prevent cellular damage from free radicals and magnesium, needed in 300 biomechanical reactions in the body, are all essential components of wheat.  Wheat bread is now fortified with folate, which is involved in the production and maintenance of new cells and DNA synthesis.  It is important in the reduction of the occurrence of neural tube defects in the fetus.

If you feel you must cut out wheat, cut out the white wheat.  White bread supplies only .5g of fiber and most of its nutrients are chemically added after the wheat has been processed and bleached. Research reports that a gluten-free diet is typically high in fat and low in carbohydrates and fiber.

Know the facts before you jump into a diet that you hear about on the internet or from celebrities that it is the “secret” to losing weight.  There is no secret to losing weight.  Eat less calories than your burn.  Exclusively cutting out wheat will not help you lose weight or make you healthier.  I hope this information contributes to the information you have gathered in your decision to go wheat free.

If you are indeed gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, I know of a wonderful website authored by Meg Schade, a friend of mine, who has celiac disease.  She shares how she copes with this new complication in her diet and includes some really yummy recipes and restaurants.   Her blog is called Meg’s Food Reality.  I hope you like it!


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meg  |  February 21, 2011 at 1:09 am

    You’re the best! Nice work!

  • 2. Karen  |  March 31, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    OK – excellent. I’m glad to understand your perspective and have validation for not jumping on the band wagon and cutting out bread. And – YES – down with “white!!” 🙂 Thanks Marcia!


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