Should I Go Wheat Free?

Laura_Brieser-SmithOne of the current diet crazes is the wheat free diet. Those who promote this diet claim that wheat is an unhealthy food and is causing people to develop many health problems. But is there really any evidence to support these claims?

To answer that question, we need to look at what it is about wheat that could be potentially bad for us. The first component to examine is gluten. Gluten is a protein component of wheat and other related grains, such as spelt, kamut, rye, triticale, and barley. It gives an elastic texture to dough. Some people, such as those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy, may lack the digestive chemicals (enzymes) needed to break down gluten. For those people, wheat and other gluten-containing grains really are bad news and consuming them can lead to a host of problems including gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and general fatigue. Other theories about wheat state that it has been so genetically modified that it has become harmful to us due to the production of unique proteins that humans cannot digest. It is true that the properties of wheat have changed over time.  However, this is due to traditional agricultural practices of cross-breeding for desired traits, not genetic modification in a lab, which have caused these changes.  There are currently no breeds of genetically modified wheat on the market.  The real problem with wheat is that we are just eating too much of it and a lot of our consumption comes in the form of highly refined flour in foods such as white bread, cakes, cookies, etc.

The bottom line is that if you have a true allergy or intolerance to wheat and gluten, then you definitely need to avoid wheat. However, for most people wheat can be a part of an overall healthy diet. Make sure that you include other grains in your diet, such as rice and quinoa, rather than relying on wheat products as your sole source of carbohydrates. When you do choose wheat products, such as pasta and bread, make sure they are made from 100% whole grains.  Also, be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables to create a healthy well balanced diet.

Laura Brieser-Smith, RD, MPH, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices.  She can be reached at 303-635-1131.

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