The 'G' Word

As you may have guessed, the big ‘G’ refers to gluten, aka the second food enemy of our time (a close second to sugar, of course).

People are sick, people are becoming aware of allergies and people are increasingly feeling discomfort and the blame is falling heavily on what we eat, which I don’t think is wrong. We’re probably all familiar with the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, and by this principle, it makes sense that when attempting to discover the cause of your reaction or discomfort, identifying what you put into your body is a pretty good place to start.

Gluten seems to be getting a lot of attention as of late, largely because of the many issues people seem to be having digesting it. As someone who is allergic to wheat, I actively avoid it, however as someone who is also a whole food advocate I find myself questioning: can this whole grain be inherently bad?

Upon considering gluten I have been reading up on what my favourite whole food advocate, Michael Pollan, has to say on the matter. He makes some enlightening points about gluten, the first being it’s interesting that there has been a dramatic increase in people who won’t eat bread anymore, something that has been on the table for…. ever, really!

Michael also raises the idea that maybe many of us are not allergic to food, but rather what’s been done to food. He shows us in the episode ‘Air’ of his Netflix series ‘Cooked’ the way that bread was traditionally made… with just 3 ingredients. In comparison, a loaf of bread you get at the local grocery store can have up to 10-20 different ingredients. It’s just not the same food at the end of the day.

You can read more about what Michael Pollan believes in this interview:

I personally don’t think that wheat as a whole grain is inherently bad for human consumption (unless of course you are coeliac or gluten/wheat intolerant or allergic), but I do believe that wheat is one of the most dominant grains in our diet, and it frequently appears in highly processed forms, often with large amounts of sugar and other additives, too.

There are so many different grains to choose from, but here in the West you could quite easily get away with a wheat-heavy cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. Although this may seem like a varied diet because the wheat appears in different forms, it is actually very wheat dense! This kind of diet doesn’t leave much room for variation; you may be missing out on the nutritional properties that other grains have to offer.

So for people who don't have an allergy to wheat or gluten, I wonder if a high sensitivity to gluten is a reaction to a wheat overload, or a reaction to the process that the wheat goes through and the preservatives and additives that are consumed with it?

When it comes to allergies, I do agree that watching our food consumption is a pretty good (if not the best) place to start. When you have a whole food diet it is much easier to identify what agrees with your body and what doesn’t. But when you eat a highly processed diet, you may react to any number of the hundreds of ingredients that are in your food. What I would suggest, as I always do, is to eat a diet that you predominantly prepare and cook yourself, with high amounts of fruits and vegetables and some meat and grains (and dairy if you can tolerate it). Process of elimination is more effective this way.

This article was posted on Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog, it provides a good discussion on allergies:

Even if you are not allergic, intolerant or avoiding gluten for whatever reason, it doesn’t hurt to vary up what’s in your diet and it definitely doesn’t hurt to switch an unhealthy favourite for a healthy alternative! Let me tell you the good news, you can still eat really great tasting food, without gluten!

Exhibit A - doughnuts! (Recipe here)

I seriously recommend investing in a doughnut tray. Even if you’re not gluten free, these doughnuts are baked and are much MUCH better for you, I would even go as far as to say they are healthy, which is more than it’s dear cousins over at Doughnut King can say!

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