Is a Grain-Free Diet Healthy? Everything You Need to Know

A grain-free diet may offer several health benefits.

May help treat certain health conditions

A grain-free diet is most commonly followed by those with certain autoimmune diseases, and several studies support its use in these cases.

For example, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects around 1% of the Western population. It causes your body to mistake gluten, a protein in wheat, as a threat, sending your immune system into overdrive (1).

This can lead to gut inflammation, which in turn can cause severe nutrient deficiencies and other digestive issues. People with celiac disease must exclude all gluten-containing grains from their diet (2, 3).

Similarly, some people are allergic to wheat and must avoid all foods containing it. Others may be intolerant to gluten or other compounds in grains despite not having celiac disease or a wheat allergy. (4).

People with such a gluten intolerance commonly report symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, headaches, or fatigue when eating grains and may benefit from excluding them from their diet (5, 6, 7, 8).

Finally, in a 6-week study in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), following a grain-free diet improved symptoms in 73% of participants (9).

May reduce inflammation

Grains may contribute to inflammation, which is believed to be the root cause of many chronic diseases.

Some test-tube, animal, and human studies suggest a link between daily intake of wheat or processed grains and chronic inflammation (10, 11, 12).

However, not all studies agree (13).

The lack of consensus may be explained by the type of grain researched. For instance, while refined grains may increase inflammation, whole grains appear to have very little effect on inflammation, and in some cases, may even lower it (13, 14, 15, 16).

Moreover, cutting out grains may cause some people to naturally increase the quantity or variety of fruits and vegetables they eat — both of which may help reduce inflammation (17, 18, 19).

Still, it’s worth noting that whole grains may offer anti-inflammatory benefits of their own. Unless you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance, you likely don’t need to completely cut out grains to successfully fight inflammation (20).

May enhance weight loss

A grain-free diet may promote weight loss, likely because it’s naturally devoid of processed grains found in calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods like white bread, white pasta, pizza, doughnuts, cookies, and other baked goods.

What’s more, cutting a whole food group out of your diet may reduce your overall daily calorie intake, creating the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

Yet, research clearly shows that, as long as you create a calorie deficit, you will lose weight regardless of whether your diet contains grains. In fact, evidence suggests that eating whole grains may promote weight loss and boost your metabolism (21, 22, 23, 24).

Therefore, cutting out all grains from your diet is not a requirement for weight loss.

May lower blood sugar levels

Grains are naturally rich in carbs.

Thus, diets rich in grains may cause problems for people who have a difficult time dealing with large amounts of dietary carbs, such as those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Refined grains, such as those found in white bread, white pasta, and many other processed foods, are particularly problematic, as they’re devoid of fiber.

This leads them to be digested very quickly, generally causing a spike in blood sugar levels shortly after a meal (25, 26).

That said, fiber-rich whole grains may help stabilize and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Therefore, cutting out all grains is not the only way to lower blood sugar levels (25, 27, 28).

Other potential benefits

A grain-free diet may also offer other health benefits:

  • May improve mental health. Studies link gluten-containing diets to anxiety, depression, mood disorders, ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia. However, it’s currently impossible to know whether grains caused these disorders (29, 30).
  • May help alleviate pain. Gluten-free diets may help reduce pelvic pain in women with endometriosis, a disorder that causes the tissue lining the inside of the uterus to grow outside of it (8, 31).
  • May reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia. A gluten-free diet may help reduce the widespread pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia (32).

Despite promising preliminary results, more studies are needed to confirm these effects.

It’s also worth noting that most of these studies only looked at the effect of gluten-containing grains. There’s no evidence to suggest that it’s necessary to exclude all grains from your diet to attain these benefits.

summary

A grain-free diet may reduce inflammation, aid weight loss, and improve digestion and blood sugar levels. It may also promote mental health and alleviate pain in people with fibromyalgia or endometriosis, though more research is needed.

Finding yourself confused by the seemingly endless promotion of weight-loss strategies and diet plans? In this series, we take a look at some popular diets—and review the research behind them.

What Is It?

A gluten-free diet is not new. It is the sole treatment for 1-2% of Americans who have celiac disease, a serious condition where the body attacks a protein called gluten, naturally found in many whole grains, causing a spectrum of symptoms that range from bloating to intestinal damage. Up to 6% of people have a related stomach-upsetting but less threatening condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. With such a small number truly needing this diet, why have sales of gluten-free products topped $12 billion according to market research?

What is new—and driving these sales upward—is the use of a gluten-free diet for weight loss, partly fueled by celebrity endorsements and personal testimonies of not only pounds quickly shed, but increased energy, improved digestion, and even clearer skin. Consumer surveys reveal that people perceive gluten-free products to be healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, and almost a third of Americans are now avoiding or reducing their intake of gluten.

How It Works

A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing or contaminated with gluten. Gluten is largely ubiquitous in foods, found as a main ingredient (in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, cross-contaminated oats), in sauces (soy sauce, malt vinegar, flour), and as additives or fillers (maltodextrin, wheat starch). See What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?

When first going gluten-free, perhaps the most noticeable change is having to relinquish favorite staples of bread, pasta, cereals, and processed snack foods. Because some of these products, which are typically highly processed, may be low in nutrients and high in calories, one may feel better and even lose some weight soon after removing them from the diet. Although there are now plenty of gluten-free counterparts to take their place, a gluten-free diet usually causes one to revisit naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains like brown rice, quinoa, and millet. Including these minimally processed, high-fiber foods may also help to promote weight loss and a feeling of well-being.

The Research So Far

Though research has explored the effects of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal disorders, autism, and fibromyalgia, there is none that examines the diet’s effects on weight loss alone or for general health benefits. Because of the lack of experimental studies on weight loss, some researchers have instead examined the long-term effects of people with celiac disease on gluten-free diets, or who are generally healthy and consume a diet low in wheat and other gluten-containing grains. They have found that gluten-free diets: 1) may promote certain nutrient deficiencies, 2) may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, and 3) may actually cause weight gain.

  • Intakes of people with celiac disease on a strict gluten-free diet were found to have inadequate intakes of fiber, iron, and calcium. Other research has found gluten-free cereal products to be low not only in those nutrients but also B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.
  • A study of over 100,000 participants without celiac disease found that those who restricted gluten intake were likely to limit their intake of whole grains and experienced an increased risk of heart disease compared with those who had higher gluten intake. Many studies have found that people with higher intakes of whole grains including whole wheat (2-3 servings daily) compared with groups eating low amounts (less than 2 servings daily) had significantly lower risk of heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and deaths from all causes.
  • Gluten may act as a prebiotic, feeding the “good” bacteria in our bodies. It contains a prebiotic carbohydrate called arabinoxylan oligosaccharide that has been shown to stimulate the activity of bifidobacteria in the colon, bacteria normally found in a healthy human gut. A change in the amount or activity of these bacteria has been associated with gastrointestinal diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Research is conflicting, but some studies have shown weight gain or increased BMI in people with celiac disease after starting a gluten-free diet. This may be partly due to improved absorption of nutrients, a reduction in stomach discomfort, and increased appetite after starting the diet. However, another suspected reason is an increased intake of gluten-free processed food options containing high amounts of calories, fat and sugar.

Potential Pitfalls

Gluten-free foods wear a health halo, a belief that a food product is healthful even when it may not offer special health benefits for most people. Research has shown that if one aspect of a food is advertised as healthy or people believe it to be healthy (in this case, the term “gluten-free”), there is a tendency to eat more of it. This may promote weight gain. Also, an overreliance on processed gluten-free products may lead to a decreased intake of certain nutrients like fiber and B vitamins that are protective against chronic diseases.

Bottom Line

Although a gluten-free diet is the primary treatment for celiac disease and may help to alleviate symptoms in various conditions related to gluten sensitivity, there is currently no evidence showing that a gluten-free diet is effective for weight loss or for general health benefits. For individuals who don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no need to restrict gluten consumption. A healthy dietary pattern typically includes higher amounts of whole grains and lower amounts of refined grains and added sugar.

Related

  • Gluten: A Benefit of Harm to the Body?
  • Healthy Weight
  • The Best Diet: Quality Counts
  • Healthy Dietary Styles
  • Other Diet Reviews

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Why sugar free?

When we eat any type of carbohydrate it is converted by the body to glucose which stimulates insulin to be released (or it may have to be injected). It doesn’t matter whether it is a fizzy drink, sweets, table sugar or a complex carbohydrate such as wholegrain bread, pasta, rice or potatoes.

It also doesn’t matter if it is ‘natural’ or ‘processed’. Honey, raw sugar, medjool dates, fruit etc all raise your blood glucose levels equally as processed sugars. Saying that, if you are able to tolerate carbohydrates then your choice should always be natural, unprocessed carbs.

Always go for nutrient dense, real food, whole food such as berries, non starchy vegetables etc. Choose complex colourful carbs where possible. They are absorbed slower and are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Eat a rainbow!

By maintaining a lower blood sugar level, you require lower insulin levels. Insulin is the major regulator of metabolism and by controlling insulin you stop fat from being stored, lose weight, allow fat to be utilized as fuel, improve your blood lipid profile, increased energy, reduce hunger, reduce risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and most importantly reduce inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer.

The modern problem with sugar is that it lurks everywhere. It is found in canned tuna, roasted chicken, peanut butter, baked beans, cereals, meats, healthy fruit yoghurts as well as the obvious places such as biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks.

Marketing gurus have led us to believe many foods are healthy when they are not, this is called the “healthy halo”. Foods that appear to be healthy but are actually laden with carbs and sugar – cereals, fruit yogurts, dried fruit, muesli bars, low fat products, gluten free products. We are also eating more than we ever used to.

Cakes were once eaten for a special occasion but are now an everyday food for many. It is seen as the norm to have sugary snacks, high carb treats, fizzy drinks, after sports energy drinks. It is seen as restrictive if you politely say no. We need to change this around as see handing out sugar to our children as the exception, not the norm.

So by eating low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein, you will lose weight, stabilize hunger and improve health.

Eat whole food, real food.

The problem today is that after many years of eating a high carb diet, the body can become insulin resistant . The insulin receptors are becoming damaged due to the constant high levels of insulin and the receptors now require higher amounts of insulin to be able to respond. The pancreas has to produce higher and higher amounts of insulin until it becomes damaged and exhausted leading to Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetics (which is an auto immune condition) who inject high amounts of insulin to cover high carbohydrate meals also can become insulin resistant.

The complications of diabetes Type 1 or 2 (blood glucose is too high and cannot be reduced without medication)

  • fat metabolism changes and plaques start to develop in arteries. Atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease with raised bad cholesterol, raised triglycerides, mineral and fat deficiencies.
  • diabetic neuropathy – nerve damage mainly in the micro vessels in hands, feet and eyes become damaged from the high glucose
  • weight gain
  • constant fatigue
  • poor circulation
  • increased urination and thirst as the bay tries to excrete the high levels of glucose via the urine
  • increased inflammation, especially in the small blood vessels, leading to circulation problems and tingling in the fingers and toes

Why wheat and grain free?

Since reading Wheat Belly, by William Davis MD (cardiologist), we have stopped eating any wheat or grains. Please read this and Dr David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain, which is another eye opener. Eliminate the wheat, eliminate the belly!

I think Dr Davis sensationalises many aspects, but what is clear is that by eliminating wheat from your diet, it immediately puts a stop on eating processed foods such as bread, cakes, pasta, rice, biscuits etc, reduces the carb intake of your diet, reduces insulin levels, and stops a leaky gut (which most people have with/out symptoms) causing malabsorption of vitamins and minerals, and stops hunger.

The “Wheat Belly” or “Muffin Top”, is the result of the glucose-insulin-fat deposition on the abdomen.

Modern wheat and grains have “been genetically altered to provide processed food manufacturers the greatest yield at the lowest cost; consequently, this once benign grain has been transformed into a nutritionally empty ingredient which causes blood sugar to spike more rapidly than eating pure table sugar and has addictive properties that cause hunger, overeating and fatigue. ”

The Diet Doctor has discussed Wheat Belly on his site.

This new modern wheat is also linked to immunological diseases such as dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease.

Being a cardiologist, he has first hand experience of using the current dietary guidelines of reduced fat, high carb diet. He put “over 2000 of his at risk patients on a wheat free regime and seeing extraordinary results”. Patients returned with huge weight loss, energy improved, acid reflux gone, skin conditions gone, rheumatoid arthritis pain improved, better sleep, improved mood and concentration ……

Sadly wheat is found in so many foods we wouldn’t consider it to be and so many new products and new types of bread are being introduced. We have come to feel wheat is a necessary part of any meal. Eggs and toast, cereal, sandwich, pitta bread, hamburgers with buns, crackers for a snack, pies etc. It is eaten in greater quantities year on year. Add on top the increased sugar consumption and its not a pretty picture.

Modern wheat contains –

  • amylopectin A which is efficiently digested to glucose rapidly giving blood sugar spikes followed by insulin spikes. Amylopectin C found in legumes is the least digestible (beans, beans good for your heart, beans, beans make you …). Amylopectin A in wheat causes you blood glucose to rise more than simple carbohydrates such as table sugar. The GI (glycaemic index) for white bread 70, whole grain bread, 71, fruit loops 69 oats 66, snickers 55!
  • an apetitie stimulant
  • gluten in wheat contains the family of proteins called gliadens and gluten ins. Gliadens (αβγ) are the proteins that triggers the immune response in celiac disease.
  • Genetic modification has added anti fungal enzymes to aid texture and leavening.
  • in conclusion, wheat is a rapidly absorbed carbohydrate with a high GI full of reactive proteins causing a leaky gut.

We have all been told to eat healthy, whole grains, and there is no disputing the science that when whole grain flour is substituted for white flour, there is a reduction in colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes. But by increasing your vegetable intake when eating LCHF, you far exceed any loss of fibre of Vitamin B group from not eating whole grain bread. Dr Davis explains that by replacing something bad (white flour) with something not so bad (whole grain) then it must be good for you, this theory should also work for cigarettes. If high tar cigarettes are bad for you, then low tar should be great!

A sandwich might have a little salad inside but the bulk of what you are eating comes from the bread, but by removing the bread and eating instead a huge salad with a variety of ingredients, you will be better nourished and more able to absorb the vitamins minerals it contains.

Do not eat gluten free products unless they are wheat free and grain free. By removing gluten from wheat, it is usually replaced with rice starch, corn starch, tapioca starch etc. Although they are now gluten free and may cause the same immunological response, the carbs (mainly the amylopectin A it still contains) will still break down to glucose and still cause an insulin spike and still cause hunger, fat storage, and gain weight (and the muffin top).

So by eating low carb, by removing wheat and grains, you remove the biggest source of carbs and processed food. Eliminating wheat and grains are an excellent strategy for rapid weight loss, appetite control, and blood sugar control.

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., is a registered dietitian; author of “Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations” (LifeLine Press, 2011); and a frequent national commentator on nutrition topics. This article was adapted from one that first appeared in the Washington Post. Tallmadge contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Are you shying away from “bad” foods that are actually good for you? With all the hoopla about healthful eating, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

As a nutrition consultant, I’ve come to realize there is no shortage of surprises and superstitions in the world of nutrition . As a follow-up to 5 So-Called Health Foods You Should Avoid, I thought it would be fun to give you reasons to enjoy some of your favorite “bad” foods that could actually be good for you.

Gluten and wheat

They are “the most demonized ingredients beyond high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil,” said Melissa Abbott, culinary director at the Hartman Group, a company specializing in consumer research. Yet decades of studies have found that gluten-containing foods — such as whole wheat, rye and barley — are vital for good health and associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and excess weight.

“Wheat is a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals,” said Joanne Slavin, nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota. She added that the confusion about gluten, a protein, has caused some people to avoid eating wheat and other grains. Only about 1 percent of the population — those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy — cannot tolerate gluten and must eradicate it from their diet to ease abdominal pain and other symptoms, including the ability to fully absorb vitamins.

One reason wheat-free or gluten-free diets are popular is that people who don’t eat wheat often end up bypassing excess calories in sweets and snack foods. Then, they start feeling better, lose weight and mistakenly attribute their success to gluten or wheat avoidance. Learn more about a gluten-free diet and who may benefit from it in Go Gluten Free? Most People Shouldn’t (Op-Ed).

Eggs

Eggs also don’t deserve their bad reputation. In recent decades, their high cholesterol content has been thought to play a role in increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and heart-disease risk . But cholesterol in food is a minor factor contributing to high blood cholesterol for most people, and studies have not confirmed a correlation between eggs and increased heart-disease risk. The major determinant of LDL cholesterol is saturated fat, and while eggs are high in cholesterol (184 milligrams in the yolk)they’re relatively low in saturated fat — about 1.6 grams in the yolk.

Interestingly, some of the biggest egg eaters in the world, the Japanese, have low cholesterol and heart-disease rates, in part because they eat a diet low in saturated fat. In contrast, Americans eat eggs alongside sausage, bacon and buttered toast.

“The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small,” says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Elevations in LDL (bad) cholesterol of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs.”

Potatoes

Potatoes have been blamed for increasing blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, excess weight and Type 2 diabetes. A recent Harvard study that followed large populations and their disease rates linked potato consumption with being overweight, blaming it on the blood glucose rise.

But many foods, including whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereals, cause similar spikes in blood glucose, and are correlated with superior health and lower body weights.

How could the higher body weight in the Harvard study be explained? The study lumped all potato products together — including potato chips and french fries, which are, of course, very fattening versions of potatoes usually eaten in large portions alongside hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas.

“It’s an easy food to attack, but the meal pattern may be the culprit,” said David Baer, a research leader at the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture. “Other epidemiological studies have not verified a connection between potatoes and weight gain or any diseases, and no clinical studies have shown a connection.”.

Potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber that many cultures — Scandinavians, Russians, Irish and Peruvians — relied on as a nutritious staple for centuries. And they were not fat.

Fruits

People often ask me if fruit is too high in sugar, especially for diabetics. This fear of fruit, I believe, is left over from the Atkins craze, which discouraged eating some fruits on the grounds that they are high in carbohydrates.

Avoiding fruit could actually damage your health. Study after study over many decades has shown that eating fruit can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes.

Fruit is high in water and fiber, which help you feel full with fewer calories — one reason why their consumption is correlated with lower body weight. Even though they contain simple sugars, most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index. That is, when you eat fruit, your blood sugar raises only moderately, especially when compared with refined sugar or flour products. Several health organizations — including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (via the U.S. Dietary Guidelines), the National Cancer Institute, and the American Heart Association — recommend Americans eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables a day because of their superior health benefits.

Soy

Though popular for centuries in many Asian cuisines, soy is sometimes seen as dangerous after studies found elevated rates of breast cancer among rats when they were fed a concentrated soy derivative. But studies looking at whole soy foods in humans have not found a connection. In fact, the reverse may be true.

Soy, “when consumed in childhood or adolescence, may make breast tissue less vulnerable to cancer development later in life and probably has no effect on breast-cancer risk when consumption begins in adulthood,” said Karen Collins, registered dietitian and nutrition adviser with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Actually, Collins said, the evidence is so strong that soy protects against heart disease that the FDA allowed a health claim for labels on soy food products.

Alcohol

Alcohol is feared because of the potential for abuse and alcoholism, as well as complications such as liver disease — which are all valid concerns.

But decades’ worth of research shows that moderate alcohol consumption “can reduce deaths from most causes, particularly heart disease, and that it raises HDL (good) cholesterol,” the USDA’s David Baer said. Wine may have additional benefits because its grapes are filled with nutrients called polyphenols, which reduce blood clotting, inflammation and oxidation.

The key is to drink alcohol moderately and with meals. What’s moderation? One serving daily for women and two servings for men, with a serving being 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Fried foods

While it’s true that frying food usually increases its caloric content, that doesn’t necessarily make it unhealthful.

As long as food is fried in healthful oil instead of butter, shortening, or trans fat, and it’s eaten in moderation, it isn’t less healthy. In fact, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; and heart-healthy, cancer-preventive carotenoids, such as beta-carotene (found in carrots and sweet potatoes), lycopene (found in tomatoes) and lutein/zeaxanthin (found in deep-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale), need fat in order to be absorbed by the body.

“The consumption of certain fats, such as saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids , is associated with an … increased risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, the unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids have significant metabolic benefits and are health promoting,” said the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Her latest book is “Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook In Season”. This article was originally published on LiveScience.com.

Whether it comes in the form of organic, sprouted multigrain bread, a squishy white loaf or a strand of spaghetti, all wheat is bad for you, says cardiologist William Davis, MD, author of the bestselling book Wheat Belly. Davis claims that today’s wheat is both addictive and toxic. By eliminating what he calls “Frankenwheat” from your diet, you’ll dramatically shrink your belly and also ward off or reverse myriad health problems.

From This Episode:

Are You Addicted to Wheat?

How could wheat be so poisonous? According to Dr. Davis, the vast majority of wheat grown and harvested today is only a distant ancestor of the real wheat that your forebears ate. Over the years, wheat has been genetically modified in order for American farmers to produce a high-yield crop of dwarf-size plants that was never tested to see if it was healthy for human consumption. While mass production of wheat has allowed us to feed more people, it has also resulted in producing a “supercarbohydrate” wheat plant that is far less healthy than its predecessor.

Today’s wheat may be dangerous because it greatly elevates blood sugar levels, leading to insulin spikes that cause chronic inflammation and excess belly fat (visceral fat). By eating some form of wheat morning noon and night – which many of us do – you’re not only gaining weight, but are also becoming more susceptible to a whole range of inflammatory diseases and ailments including heart disease, diabetes, fatigue, acne, arthritis, IBS and even dementia.

According to Dr. Davis, modern wheat is also a highly addictive complex carbohydrate since it contains a special protein called gliatin, which has the same effect on brain receptors as opium. Gliatin stimulates the appetite, creating incessant hunger and cravings for more wheat products and refined carbs.

Dr. Davis also argues that replacing white flour products with whole wheat flour products is no better than replacing unfiltered cigarettes with filtered cigarettes –you’re just eating food that is “less bad” for you, rather than making healthy food choices. Dr. Davis states that even whole wheat bread – despite having a bit extra fiber – can increase blood sugar to an even higher level than a candy bar can because of its high glycemic index.

Today a huge amount of gluten-free products exist on the market. Gluten is problematic for people with Celiac disease, a gluten intolerance disorder that affects about 1 in 133 Americans, or 1% of the population. But Dr. Davis believes the problems with wheat extend way beyond gluten to impact everyone. Plus, processed gluten-free foods are not exactly healthful since many of them contain what he calls “junk carbohydrates” – cornstarch, rice starch and potato starch, all of which are terrible for maintaining proper blood sugar levels.

Dr. Davis promises that by eliminating wheat from you diet, you’ll eliminate its appetite-stimulating properties, thus experiencing a dramatic reduction in hunger levels. His Wheat Belly Diet is for anyone who wants to reverse disease, lose weight and feel better overall. What’s more, according to Dr. Davis, most people on the diet start to see a reduction in pounds within just a few days.

The Wheat Belly Diet

Step 1: Go Cold Turkey

Eliminate wheat entirely from your diet. This extreme method is the only way of breaking the dependency since wheat is so addictive. Research shows that by removing wheat, you’ll reduce your calorie intake by about 400 calories per day. Eliminate breads, pastas, cakes, cookies – everything you know of that contains wheat. Also, eliminate all hidden wheat by reading food labels. Items that’d you’d never suspect to have wheat include canned tomato soup, licorice, taco seasoning mix and even chewing gym. And avoid processed gluten-free foods that contain unhealthy additives such as cornstarch.

Step 2: Add Real Foods

You may eat unlimited amounts of:

  • Vegetables
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Eat limited amounts (1/2 cup per day) of:

  • Legumes
  • Fruit
  • Corn

Step 3: Add Wheat Replacements

  • Instead of wheat bread, make your own loaves using ground almonds and coconut flour. Try Dr. Davis’ Wheat Belly Bread.
  • Swap wheat pasta for shirotaki or konjac noodles and spaghetti squash.
  • Add non-wheat grains, including quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice and oats.

By giving up wheat, you don’t have to sacrifice taste. The Wheat Belly Diet provides you with plenty of tasty recipes:

Start with:

  • Breakfast: Lemon Poppy Pancakes
  • Lunch: Wheat Belly Pizza
  • Dinner: Pecan Crusted Chicken With Wild Rice
  • Dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

The Wheat Belly Diet

Forget your beer belly — William Davis, MD, a preventive cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisc., says your wheat belly is the real health hazard. Davis’ prescription for a whittled middle is simple: Cut all wheat from your diet. Better yet, Davis argues in his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, that eating wheat-free will both prevent and reverse health problems such as acne, cataracts, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

The Wheat Belly Diet suggests we get back to eating more like our ancestors who existed solely on foods found in nature, not those grown for production or manufactured for sale. In that way, the diet is similar to another popular diet, the Paleo or hunter-gatherer diet, says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, a Boston nutritionist, author of Nutrition & You: Core Concepts for Good Health, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Here’s how to find out if going wheat-free is right for you.

The Wheat Belly Diet: What Is It?

Your menu choices on this eating plan include natural foods such as eggs, nuts, vegetables, fish, poultry, and other meats. You can use herbs and spices freely and healthy oils, such as olive and walnut, liberally. Eat fruit occasionally — just one or two pieces a week — because the naturally occurring fructose in fruit is a simple carbohydrate. As part of this diet, you’re required to eliminate all fast food, processed snacks, and junk foods, and drink lots of water.

The Wheat Belly Diet is in fact gluten-free, but Davis doesn’t advocate eating packaged gluten-free foods. His reasoning: These products often simply substitute brown rice, potato starch, rice starch, tapioca starch, or cornstarch for wheat flour, and those substitutes can raise your blood sugar or glucose higher than wheat.

The Wheat Belly Diet: How Does It Work?

Cut wheat from your diet, and you’ll eat about 400 fewer calories a day than you normally would, Davis says. This calorie deficit alone is almost enough to add up to a pound of weight loss per week. “Anything that is going to cut calories is going to work because losing weight is a numbers game,” Blake says. “Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll lose weight. Likewise, eat more than you burn, and you’ll gain weight.” Another reason the diet works, Davis says, is that wheat contains a unique protein, gliadin, which stimulates your appetite — so when you eat wheat, your body just wants more wheat. Eliminate wheat and your appetite diminishes on its own. Wheat also causes blood sugar spikes, and elevated blood-sugar levels can cause your body to store calories as fat. Lower your blood sugar by eliminating wheat, and it can contribute to weight loss.

The Wheat Belly Diet: Sample Menu

Breakfast: Plain yogurt with berries and almonds

Lunch: Grilled chicken breast with salsa, 1/2 cup brown rice, steamed vegetables sprinkled with extra-virgin olive oil

Dinner: Baked eggplant topped with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, mixed green salad spritzed with extra-virgin olive oil

Snacks: Black-bean dip and raw vegetables

The Wheat Belly Diet: Pros

  • If you adhere strictly to the diet, you will lose weight. Over three to six months, you can lose 25 to 30 pounds depending on your age, gender, and physical activity, Davis says.
  • The diet is simple. There’s no need to count calories, limit portions, or calculate fat grams. All you have to do is eliminate foods that contain wheat.
  • The diet is rich in vegetables, which are full of vitamins and fiber. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce the inflammation that can cause conditions from acne to arthritis.

The Wheat Belly Diet: Cons

  • The diet is restrictive, and it may be hard to maintain for the long-term, especially if foods such as bread, cookies, and pasta are among your favorites. “Losing weight doesn’t have to be this challenging,” Blake says. “Do you really need to go to this extreme?”
  • Wheat is in a huge number of packaged foods. You have to read food labels carefully because it can be hidden in everything from chewing gum to granola as an emulsifier or leavening agent.
  • When you remove all wheat from your diet, if you “cheat” and eat a slice of whole-wheat toast or half a bagel, the wheat could cause digestive problems, such as stomach cramps and gas.
  • You could be missing out on some important nutrients. “Whenever you limit whole types of foods, you have to make sure you’re eating healthfully,” Blake says. “This isn’t a well-balanced diet. You should sit down with a registered dietitian to be sure you’re meeting all your nutrient needs if you choose this diet.”
  • Although you can lose weight with this diet, it will be lost from all over your body, not just your “wheat belly” or love handles, Blake says. Weight loss doesn’t work that way — you don’t lose from a specific area.

The Wheat Belly Diet: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

The foods you can eat on the Wheat Belly Diet are healthy, and you should lose weight rapidly if you stick to the plan. Weight loss can affect more than just your appearance: Study after study has shown it can boost heart health, reduce pain, improve your energy levels, and more. For example, someone who is prediabetic and loses just 15 pounds can reduce the risk for diabetes over three years by 58 percent, Blake says.

Because the diet is so new, not much is known about the long-term effects, Blake says, but serious health consequences are not anticipated. Overall, Blake remains skeptical.

“There’s nothing wrong with wheat,” she says. “It isn’t wheat that’s causing you to gain weight; it’s the calories you’re eating. Just eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, and you can cut calories and lose weight while still occasionally eating foods that contain wheat.”

Wheat-Free Diet: A 5-Step Detox Plan to Lose Your Belly

by: Yuri Elkaim

By now, most people know that gluten is causing a great deal of trouble for many people who are either living with Celiac disease or have a sensitivity to gluten. What many of us don’t realize is that there’s yet another problem gluten causes: “wheat belly“, otherwise known as visceral fat.

It’s a funny sounding term, but the effects of this condition are no laughing matter.

The name wheat belly was coined by Dr. William Davis, and refers to a syndrome that affects your brain, your hormones, your immune system and so much more. It also results in a bulging belly, but that’s just a symptom.

Let’s explore why wheat is such a bad thing, and just how it’s the arch nemesis of an effective fat-burning diet.

The Wheat We Eat

The reason we hear so much more about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity isn’t because it’s a new thing. It’s because wheat is a new thing.

The wheat we eat today isn’t the same wheat that Americans were eating even sixty years ago. Back in the 1950s, researchers began playing with the actual DNA of wheat in order to create a seed that produced more wheat in less space and with less maintenance. They wanted a miracle product.

They were successful, and today’s wheat is less than half as tall as its genetic parents and far more productive for the farmers that grow it.

But all of that hybridization and modification had other results as well.

Today’s wheat is much higher in the substances gliadin, amylopectin and agglutinin—all of which are found in gluten– and also much lower in fiber. Together, these changes are having a drastic effect on the health of those who consume wheat and wheat derivatives.

It’s not that we’re diagnosing more celiac; it’s that we’re creating more celiac. Along with it, we’re creating a number of other health issues, one of them being belly fat.

Wheat: It’s Not Just About the Gluten

Even if you don’t have celiac disease, almost everyone exhibits issues related to gluten consumption, because there’s simply too much of it in our diets.

This is not only because of the wheat, but because food companies put it in absolutely every processed food. We’ll get to that in a minute, because in order to understand why the food companies use it so much, you need to understand the other contents of wheat itself and what they do to the body.

There are three other substances in wheat that help to create the syndrome we now call “wheat belly“: They are gliadin, amylopectin and agglutinin.

Gliadin is a protein found in large quantities in today’s wheat. Our bodies break gliadin down into peptides in the digestive tract and those peptides bind to the opiate receptors in the brain.

Different people react in different ways to this process, but there are certain adverse reactions that are quite common: appetite stimulation, withdrawal symptoms that come about two hours after eating wheat and wheat products, and dependency.

In short, gliadin creates an addiction to wheat.

Amylopectin is a carbohydrate contained in wheat that is responsible for today’s wheat having a higher glycemic index than many candy bars. The blood sugar high from eating wheat is often followed by sudden crashes, which again happens over about a two-hour cycle.

This is why so many people go through a two-hour cycle of eating foods high in sugar and flour, then crashing two hours later, experiencing brain fog, headaches and other symptoms, then craving more.

This is exactly why food companies love it so much and put it in virtually everything, from soup to salad dressing and even licorice: the more you eat, the more you crave. The end result? You buy more food.

Agglutinin is the third issue. Agglutinin is found in the germ of the wheat and is thought to interfere with the production and release of leptin, the hormone that signals fullness or satiety.

When combined with amylopectin and glutenin, you have a very vicious trifecta: together, they trigger a dependency on foods high in sugar and flour, plus an inability to tell when you are satisfied. This is one reason why we don’t just eat one donut, we eat six. We don’t eat one slice of pizza, but four.

Needless to say, this addiction to high calorie foods and inability to know when to stop eating them is a huge contributor to all of that excess visceral fat around the abdomen. It’s also responsible for chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other issues related to obesity.

Wheat Free Diet: How to Break the Addiction

After all of that bad news, you’re probably ready for some good news and thankfully, I do have some.

Studies have shown that it only takes about five days to break the addictions to wheat and sugar and about two weeks to get your hormone levels back in line, reduce the chronic, systemic inflammation caused by wheat, and stimulate your body to start getting rid of your belly.

Here are the steps you can take over the next two weeks to completely reverse the wheat cycle and start losing weight. It all comes down to going on a wheat free diet.

In just fourteen days you will find that you:

  • have tremendous energy
  • don’t need caffeine as much as you used to
  • have less inflammation
  • can think more clearly
  • no longer have cravings
  • have steadier and better moods
  • sleep better
  • will probably lose a significant amount of weight!

By breaking this cycle, many people report losing as much as ten pounds in two weeks. After that, fat loss slows but it will continue as your body lets go of all that stored fat.

Step 1: Cut all wheat out of your diet.

What this will mean is getting rid of virtually every processed food. Food companies put wheat derivatives in almost every packaged food you buy a the supermarket. You’ll frequently see it listed as a “stabilizer.”

With this in mind, make it a point not to eat food from cans and bags for the next two weeks and base your diet on fresh vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, meats, poultry, eggs and seafood, nuts and seeds and healthy fats like avocados, olives, grass-fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil.

Stay away from both white potatoes and corn, which are actually starches, not vegetables. Sweet potatoes are okay and having a baked sweet potato with some cinnamon and butter is a great way to calm the cravings for something sweet.

Step 2: Cut all sugar out of the diet, at least for the first two weeks.

It’s nearly impossible to find sugary foods that are not also loaded with flour, and it’s even harder while you’re still addicted to wheat. An effective wheat free diet is also a no-sugar diet, so cut out the sweet stuff.

If you absolutely have to have a little sugar in your tea or coffee, go ahead, but do try to eliminate the caffeinated beverages and cut back a little on how much sugar you use.

Note: I don’t suggest drinking coffee or caffeinated tea under any circumstance, but given that I’m asking people to break their addiction to wheat and other unhealthy eating habits, convincing the coffee junkies among them not to get their morning fix might be too tall of an order.

If going without coffee and tea will send you over the edge, have the java and stay on track with getting rid of the belly.

Step 3: Stick to low-glycemic fruits for your sweet tooth.

You will crave sweets and carbs, although the intensity will dissipate dramatically after about three days. When you want something sweet, reach for low-glycemic fruits like apples, pears, plums and berries. Try to limit them to just two or three servings a day, though, to help you break the addiction as quickly as possible.

Step 4: Do NOT count calories or restrict portions of other foods.

When you’re really missing that bagel, focus on the fact that you can eat as much as you want of meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.

You should not count calories or restrict eating of these foods in any way. The protein and healthy fats are going to help you feel full and will also help retrain your body to use more protein and less carbs for energy. They’ll also help reset your hormones.

Believe it or not, you’ll still lose fat, because you’re correcting imbalances and cycles that have nothing at all to do with caloric intake. So if it takes a six-egg omelet or five drumsticks to help you get through that donut craving, have at it. This healthy breakfast tip will also help curb your cravings.

Step 5: Get plenty of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is extremely important for several reasons. The chronic inflammation caused by eating wheat uses up a lot of Vitamin C. A poor diet also usually means you’re not getting enough C to begin with.

Taking 2000-3000 mg of Vitamin C per day for these two weeks will ensure that you have enough on board to help reduce the inflammation, restore proper hormonal balance and also help your body dispose of that stored fat. You see, Vitamin C is one of the main components your body uses to create l-carnitine, a wonderful little compound that acts like a shuttle bus for stored fat.

When your brain signals the body that it’s okay to get rid of stored fat, l-carnitine transports those stored fat cells to the liver, where they’re converted into glycogen and burned as fuel. So you need plenty of Vitamin C on board during these two weeks.

If you follow these five steps, I promise that you can reverse the effects of wheat belly and break your wheat addiction in fourteen days. You will also lose a significant amount of that troublesome stored fat you’ve been carrying around.

It will also help you a great deal if you exercise at least fifteen minutes each day, especially when cravings are at their worst the first week. Endorphins released by exercise will help replace the opiate effects of gliadin and the temporary feel-good of eating sugary, floury snacks.

Just remember, the first few days are the hardest. After Day 3, it gets much easier and the rewards are huge, so stick with it. You can do anything for two weeks.

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There are loads of myths about the health risks and benefits of practically everything we eat. Many of the most commonly held myths focus on three foods eaten nearly every day: bread, milk, and eggs.

While these used to be food “basics” with limited options, over the past few years, dozens of products in these categories are now available, making it more challenging to make healthy choices.

Are these ‘health foods’ really healthy? Food facts you need to know

March 2, 201603:48

It’s time to take a closer look at what’s true and what’s not — with facts that can support smarter choices and healthier eating.

RELATED: Eat chips?! 3 myths about food and healthy skin get busted

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

Eating bread will make you gain weight. Truth or myth?

MYTH! Eating bread won’t make you gain weight. Eating bread in excess will, though — as will eating any calories in excess.

  • Bread has the same calories per ounce as protein.
  • Whole wheat bread and white bread have the same calories per slice.
  • Whole grains packed with fiber will leave you feeling fuller, so you can eat less to still feel satisfied.

Organic milk contains more nutrients than regular milk. Truth or myth?

MYTH! Organic and regular milk contain the same nutrients.

  • Organic and regular milk are equal in protein, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients.
  • Almond milk is naturally very low in protein, but some brands are fortified with added protein, to match or exceed the protein in milk.

  • Exposure of the milk to antibiotics and hormones is roughly equal for both milks: if milk is organic, the cow has never been on antibiotics; if milk is regular, it will still not have antibiotics in it, as milk is thrown out when produced from cows on antibiotics.

RELATED: Allergy myths busted: Guess what you didn’t know about gluten?

Brown eggs are healthier for you than white eggs. Truth or myth?

MYTH! The color of the egg has nothing to do with its health benefits.

  • Different types of chickens produce different colored eggs.
  • Nutrient levels are determined by the feed the chickens eat, which is why there are some differences.
  • Eggs are a healthy option, regardless of their color. The body can absorb and process pretty much the entire egg.
  • One large egg contains 75 calories, 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat.
  • Eggs also contain iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids.

Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.

How some low-income communities are finally getting access to healthy food

Jan. 26, 201601:57

14 “Healthy” Foods That Are Actually Bad For You

Beware: Just because it seems healthy doesn’t mean it is! Check out my list of 14 “healthy” foods that are actually bad for you before you go on your next shopping trip, or out to pick up a quick bite. These are some common mistakes that people tend to think are healthy. Remember, the most powerful tool for nutrition you have is knowledge of what you’re eating.

1. Wheat Bread

You can add wheat to literally any carbohydrate and label it as a wheat product. These days, you can get Whole Wheat Lucky Charms – do you really think that makes them healthy? If it isn’t 100% whole wheat, bread can contain enriched flour, which gives you a sugar spike and crash without any nutritional value. Basically, enriched flour means nutrients are stripped from the bread.

Swap it for: Fiber-rich breads that are 100% whole wheat. Other breads like multigrain and sprouted are good options too, as long as those are the first ingredients on the package. Better yet, if you want to cut 200 calories, try wrapping your sandwiches with romaine lettuce.

2. Dried Fruit

Sure, it’s got fiber. It also has tons of added sugar and sulfur to keep it preserved longer. YUM! Since the fruit is dried, it has at least 3 times more calories per volume than its fresh counterpart. A bag of banana chips has three times as many calories as a banana and 20% more fat.

Swap it for: Fresh is ALWAYS best with fruit! It will keep you feeling full longer, and you get all the nutrients that weren’t sucked out in the drying process.

3. Trail Mix

If you’re not on the trail, skip the trail mix. Packed with salted nuts, sugar covered raisins and even M&M’s, even a small handful can contain 300+ calories. Trail mix is a quick energy snack to people on the trail who need those extra calories to burn, but not a good option for healthful snacking. In your everyday life you don’t need that ton of sugar and salt.

Swap it for: A single portion serving of unsalted nuts. Measure it out from the bag so you know exactly how many to eat. A small handful of almonds can satisfy your hunger and give you a great nutrition boost until your next meal.

4. Flavored Soy Milk

Yes, soy can be a source of protein and potassium. But drinking the vanilla or chocolate flavors adds 10 grams of sugar and 50 calories per cup. No thanks!

Swap it for: regular soy milk, or you could try almond milk or hemp milk. If you’re staying away from dairy these are two great options.

5. Fat Free Flavored Yogurt

Say it with me: fat-free foods are NOT health foods! I always say fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar makes you fat. Most flavored yogurts pack 15 grams of sugar in 6 oz., and yes, even if they’re flavored with fruit they’re not healthy.

Swap it for: Greek yogurt with fresh cut fruit. Raw blueberries are my favorite – they have the highest antioxidants of all fruits, and taste great. If you want that added sweetness, add a drizzle of honey or agave.

6. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

One of the biggest benefits of peanuts is that they’re full of monounsaturated fats, aka good fats. Take that out of the peanut butter and what do you have left? Tons of sugar and the same amount of (now empty) calories. Typically whenever you see reduced fat in any product, it means that the fat was replaced with sugar or salt.

Swap it for: Just stick to the real thing and have less of it. Get natural peanut butter with no added sugar. It’s the best way to go for nutrition, and just a little bit will help fill you up.

7. Fruit Cocktail

You may think that anything with fruit in it is healthy for you. But it’s how fruit is preserved that can make a huge difference. A cup of fruit cocktail may be around 110 calories, but has 26 grams of sugar. That is your entire daily value!

Swap it for: After this article you know that real fruit is ALWAYS better! A banana or an apple is just as portable as a little plastic cup.

8. Pretzels

While they have 1/10 the fat of potato chips, pretzels have just as much sodium and are nutritionally empty. They’re also made with white flour, which spikes your sugar and just makes you hungry soon after. Look at the back of the bag: Pretzels have a ton of ingredients (a big red flag) and are incredibly calorie dense because the number one ingredient is enriched flour, followed by salt, corn syrup and corn oil. Doesn’t sound too healthy anymore, does it!

Swap it for: Kale chips. For fewer calories, you will get protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep you going. Kale chips will satiate you for way longer than pretzels, without the sugar crash, and they’ve becoming increasingly popular lately for just this reason.

9. Protein Bars

Read. The. Label. Too many protein bars are just processed bricks of artificial ingredients and fillers. Most of them end up being not much more than a candy bar with protein sprinkled in it. You do not want to grab these as snacks, and if it has over 200 calories and more than 8 grams of sugar, leave it on the shelf!

Swap it for: If you’re looking for a protein boost try beans in a meal, damage, or humus and vegetables for a snack. These options will have protein from the source instead of being added on to a candy bar, like many protein bars end up being.

10. Frozen Yogurt

No matter what mix-ins you choose there is absolutely no nutritional value in frozen yogurt. You’re not doing yourself a service by eating fro-yo instead of ice cream. It’s a sugar treat that needs to JUST be a treat!

Swap it for: Just have the real thing in a smaller portion. Half a cup of real ice cream is more satiating, you’ll feel more full and you’ll be eating the real thing. It’s a treat – nothing more, nothing less.

11. Organic Snack Foods

I was shopping with my mother at an upscale grocery store when she picked up a box of organic toaster pastries and started laughing. “Organic or not, a pop tart is still a pop tart!” she said, and she’s right. It’s very popular these days to use the words organic or gluten free, and people think these are synonymous with healthy – they’re not.

Swap it for: A snack that will love you back. Instead of sugary cookies, try fast-baked apples – microwave apple slices with a pinch of cinnamon. Instead of greasy potato chips, try a handful of shelled, unsalted pistachios.

12. Granola Bars

If it’s a choice between a granola bar and skipping a meal, granola bars are useful. However these bars are packed with sugar, sodium and saturated fat. If you thought a granola bar was healthy as a snack, you might as well have a Snickers! Doesn’t sound all-natural anymore, does it?

Swap it for: Sliced mango and a small piece of dark chocolate. For a fraction of the calories and sugar, you can eat something delicious, nutritious and still satisfy your sweet tooth and snack cravings.

13. Sushi Rolls

Fish, rice & seaweed – why isn’t this healthy? A regular salmon or tuna roll can be a good treat, but it’s the westernized versions you have to watch out for. For example, a salmon rolled with rice and seaweed is 120 calories per serving. A Philadelphia roll with salmon, cream cheese, spicy mayo and house sauce can add up to 500 calories per serving. You might as well have a McDonald’s Big Mac!

Swap it for: Sashimi! It’s usually accompanied with radish and ginger, and arranged beautifully. Avoid ordering anything spicy or crunchy, as these typically add 300+ calories to your otherwise healthy dish.

14. Veggie Omelette

Like sushi, this food isn’t inherently evil – if you know how to order it. The extras that get added in are what needlessly raise the calorie level. The veggies in your omelet are often cooked in a sea of oil to begin with. Combine that with the oil and butter in the pan and cheese, and you’re looking at over a cup of oil in your seemingly healthy breakfast.

Swap it for: a dry omelet – restaurants know this means no oil in the pan. Ask for steamed veggies, and hold off on the cheese. Remember, the devil is in the details so keep that in mind next time you choose to be healthy!

Get more tips form Jennifer daily on her Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/TheRealJenniferCohen and on Twitter at @theRealJenCohen

When it comes to heathy foods, the rules are always changing. Fat was the enemy, then it was sugar. “Eat more protein” turned into “eat less meat.” But we’ve always seemed to agree that wheat bread is healthier than white bread. For better or worse, that too might be a myth.

In his new book, Modernist Bread, Nathan Myhrvold makes the bold claim that wheat bread is no better for you than white bread. Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, has spent the last 15 years advancing the culinary field through science. His Modernist Cuisine team of scientists and chefs have been known to test 100 versions of a recipe or cut an entire oven in half if they think it will prove a point. Their first book, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, won the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year in 2012, ushering in a wave of science-based cooking. So when Myhrvold makes a declaration, it’s not just a hunch.

This particular declaration, however, turns our most basic thinking upside-down. “If you made a list of what everybody knows to be true about nutrition, one of those things would be that whole grain breads are both more nutritious and better for you, health-wise,” says Myhrvold. “And, unfortunately, there’s no evidence of either one, and kind of evidence to the contrary.”

The first volume of Modernist Bread

Photo by Nathan Myhrvold

After sifting through 50 years of studies, the Modernist Cuisine team found that all types of breads have pretty much the same result on your body. It starts with the difference between white and wheat bread. Every kernel of wheat has an outside (bran) and an inside (the large endosperm and a much smaller sprouting germ). White flour is made by separating the bran and germ from the endosperm by smashing it in a flour mill and sifting them apart, saving only the endosperm. For whole wheat bread, the two parts are still separated, but in the final product, they get mixed back together. The addition of the bran gives wheat its darker color.

It’s long been thought that the bran was the healthy part of bread because it contained more fiber and vitamins. But it was a theory that never held weight in any controlled study. “If you look on a nutrient-by-nutrient basis,” Myhrvold explains, “there’s a couple things that would be slightly better on,” including vitamins like manganese, phosphorus, and selenium, “but they’re generally not important in the sense that they’re not things most people run a deficit of.”

If Myhrvold is right, how were the rest of us so wrong? The notion that wheat is better than white started with a doctor, Denis Parsons Burkitt, whose 1979 book Don’t Forget Fibre in Your Diet, became an international best seller. The book was based on the idea that fiber—which comes from the bran in wheat bread—prevented certain cancers. By the end of the next decade, health professionals were all on the whole-grain bandwagon, touting not just cancer prevention but the overall health benefits of whole wheat. But most of Dr. Burkitt’s research was based on anecdotal work he did as a missionary in Africa, and later studies (including the groundbreaking Nurses’ Health Study that followed more than 88,000 women for 16 years) proved this to be false.

As for the other health claims, through fecal analysis and blood tests, we can see that our bodies don’t absorb many of the vitamins and minerals in raw grain. “Human digestion doesn’t break down in the same way that a chemical analysis does,” says Myhrvold. So a lot of the nutrients that are supposedly advantageous in bran aren’t actually absorbed by humans, such as vitamins like zinc, iron, and calcium. And a compound in bran called phytates can actually bind to some of the potentially beneficial minerals to block absorption. It’s called the antinutrient effect, and it’s just as depressing as its name suggests.

Many people reach for whole grains because they take longer to digest and don’t spike blood sugar the way refined carbohydrates do. Whitney English, MS, RND, explains that the fiber “causes starch to break down more slowly in the gut than simple sugar. Therefore, it is absorbed and released into the bloodstream more slowly. This prevents blood sugar spikes and results in a longer, steadier flow of glucose into the body.” Still, Myhrvold points out that even whole grain bread is only 11% bran, and he believes the effect on blood glucose is minimal.

Regardless, it’s important to remember that not all bread is created equal—loaves with added sweeteners like honey and corn syrup will certainly give a blood sugar spike, and there are preservatives and other additives in many grocery store brands. Whether you go white or wheat, the only ingredients in your bread should be words you recognize.

Being gluten-free is en vogue these days, but your waistline may benefit from the fad. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, in his recent Huffington Post article entitled: Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat:

“Two slices of whole wheat bread now raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of table sugar.”

Most of the patients that I see believe that whole grain breads are actually good for them–adding fiber, vitamins and nutrients to their diet and improving their overall health. Dr. Hyman disagrees, saying that whole grain breads are still processed and contain significant amounts of added sugar.

“The biggest scam perpetrated on the unsuspecting public is the inclusion of “whole grains” in many processed foods full of sugar and wheat, giving the food a virtuous glow.”

Hyman reports that both white and whole grain breads raise blood sugar levels 70 to 120 mg/dl over starting levels for people with diabetes. High glycemic index foods make people store belly fat. Increased sugar levels in the body triggers inflammation, causes fatty liver disease, and eventually leads to the whole cascade of obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes. These three health conditions now affect 50 percent of Americans and they are considered the cause of most of our health care costs.

Gluten Associated Health Problems

Gluten is that sticky protein in wheat that holds bread together and makes it rise. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and contaminated oats. Celiac disease is a condition where gluten triggers severe inflammation in the digestive tract. Gluten sensitivity has been linked to insulin sensitivity, weight gain, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, digestive disorders, nutritional deficiencies and cancer. According to Hyman’s article, celiac disease and gluten-related problems now affect at least 21 million Americans.

How Does Gluten Cause Inflammation?

If you are sensitive to gluten or you have celiac disease, eating gluten is likely going to cause some digestive upset. This is because the gluten protein triggers inflammation both in the digestive tract and throughout the whole body. Dr. Hyman explains,

“It damages the gut lining. Then all the bugs and partially-digested food particles inside your intestine get across the gut barrier and are exposed your immune system, 60 percent of which lies right under the surface of the one cell thick layer of cells lining your gut or small intestine. If you spread out the lining of your gut, it would equal the surface area of a tennis court. Your immune system starts attacking these foreign proteins, leading to systemic inflammation that then causes heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes and more.”

Why Is Gluten Sensitivity So Common Now?

According to Dr. Hyman, it is because the type of wheat grown in this country has changed. The wheat that we consume is genetically modified.

“We eat dwarf wheat, the product of genetic manipulation and hybridization that created short, stubby, hardy, high-yielding wheat plants with much higher amounts of starch and gluten and many more chromosomes coding for all sorts of new odd proteins. The man who engineered this modern wheat won the Nobel Prize — it promised to feed millions of starving around the world.”

What Makes Wheat Addictive and Fattening

Dwarf wheat contains very high levels of a super starch called amylopectin A, which makes bread fluffy which increases the starch content and contributes to added weight gain. In addition, wheat also contains proteins called “exorphins.” They are like the endorphins you get from a runner’s high. They bind to the opioid receptors in the brain creating a mild morphine-like effect. The wheat polypeptides are absorbed into the bloodstream and cross the blood brain barrier. They are called “gluteomorphins,” after “gluten” and “morphine.” This high encourages the body to want to binge on breads, pastas, cookies, cakes and pastries.

How To Find Out If You Have Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity

Testing for celiac disease can be done through a blood test assessing for elevated antibodies to gluten (anti-gliadin, AGA, or tissue transglutaminase antibodies), as well as an intestinal biopsy. If you do not have celiac disease, then you might have gluten sensitivity. The gold standard for diagnosis of food allergies and food sensitivities is an elimination / rechallenge diet, where you avoid the food for 4 – 6 weeks and then rechallenge the food to see if you get reactions. You can also do a food allergy test panel assessing IgE and IgG antibodies to 96 foods.

Source: Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, Huffpost Healthy Living

For more information about natural treatments to heal celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, gastrointestinal problems, or food allergy testing, call Boulder Natural Health today at 303-960-3920, or send us an email!

The book Wheat Belly revolved around a simple concept: proving that grains are the “magic bullet” cause of many problems, one of which is weight gain.

There’s research, case studies, and even a few stats that look great on paper. There’s only one problem.

The weight loss hypothesis and overstated claims aren’t accurate. Many people want to know how to lose weight. But that’s much different from “how to lose fat.” Or more importantly, how to maintain that fat loss for the long-term.

Any book or program that highlights one food as the root of all problems is oversimplifying how weight gain works.

While there are plenty of reasons to remove grains from your diet (in fact, it’s something I do with coaching clients who need the adjustment), eating grains does not have a direct effect on weight loss and fat gain.

Or maybe more importantly: wheat and grains are not the cause of obesity.

These food sources do not automatically make you gain weight. And the removal of grains (or carbs, fat that matter) doesn’t remove the laws of thermodynamics or the role of calories.

You see, if there’s one attribute that I’m universally disliked for it’s my somewhat agnostic approach towards nutrition. I’ve been in too many research labs, read too many studies, and worked with too many clients to ignore an undeniable truth: many diet approaches work for fat loss, muscle gain, and general health. From low carb diets to high carb diets–I’ve seen both more.

Why? Because there isn’t a single “cause” of fat gain.

It’s why the played out “eat less, move more” just doesn’t work as actionable advice that leads to better results.

And it’s not just opinion. Scientists have literally created a battle royale of diets, pitting one against the other, only to find out that…surprise!…there’s more than one way to drop pounds. Many diets work. That’s a scientific fact.

Create a diet that primarily (but not exclusively) consists of real foods (think proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yes, even grains) and you can lose weight and be healthy.

So after reading Wheat Belly and other similar demonizations of wheat, I was beyond frustrated with the overgeneralized claim that has scared many people into unnecessary wheat-less eating habits with the misguided belief that it offers weight loss magic.

But the recent influx of clients who have reached out about how they removed grains and gained weight has reached critical mass. And while it’s not my preference to undress the work of others, there is a social responsibility to help you make choices that make it easier to lose weight and enjoy eating.

Wheat Doesn’t Make You Fat: The Proof

To make a point about grains and weight loss, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this site: share a shirtless picture of myself.

I’m not a fan of playing the body image game, so why share now? To make a point that the over-generalized wheat hypothesis just doesn’t make sense.

If you’re going to make a blanket statement such as, “wheat makes you fat,” then disproving that theory would be pretty easy. If you have examples of people that eat wheat and aren’t fat, then we can’t apply the rule universally.

And that’s the issue with wheat and weight loss: any book or program that highlights one food as the root of all problems is oversimplifying how weight gain works.

Having abs doesn’t make you healthy. But they are a pretty good indictor that you’re not resistant to fat loss.

This picture shows me on a diet where I ate cheesecake once per week. Yes, I was counting macros. And, sure, about 80 to 90 percent of what I ate was in the form of vegetables, fruits, proteins. Did I mention I also ate grains every day?

By this association, I should conclude that adding cheesecake to your diet once per week results in abs, right?

Obviously that sounds insane and isn’t true. But it’s the same style of reasoning that leads a researcher like Dr. Davis to say, “I have clients who removed wheat and lost weight. Wheat must be the problem.”

The point here is not that removing wheat is ineffective. Instead it’s that we can’t definitively draw a cause-and-effect conclusion that wheat causes weight gain.

Not only because the wheat hypothesis lacks proof to suggest that with certainty, but also because there are far too many case studies of people who do eat wheat and can lose weight.

Take the picture above. During that time of the above picture, this was my diet.

As you can see, wheat and grains were a prominent part of what I consumed every day. Eventually I achieved sub 10-percent body fat following this plan. And it’s not because I did anything special or removed any particular food.

I ate well, I exercised hard, and I was extremely patient with the process.

That’s not to say that people don’t have wheat allergies or sensitivities. Those are real and can be problematic.

Gut health can play a role in weight loss, and we continue to research and learn about the microbiome. And I do believe that many people can benefit from removing or limiting grains.

But that does not mean grains cause weight gain or prevent you from dropping fat.

Whether it’s wheat, or gluten, or dairy, or carbs, or fat, the finger-pointing at the “cause” of weight gain must end.

I also have many clients who wanted to eat wheat and were terrified about removing some of their favorite foods. We made sure that their diets were not devoid of carb sources. Here are their “wheat bellies.”

The Science of Fat Loss: The Only Undeniable Truth

Selecting a diet based on blind removal of a food group can lead to weight loss. But that should be a choice that matches your lifestyle, not one that is done on undeserving faith that any food possessing a magical “weight gain” gene.

And just because an adjustment in a diet leads to weight loss doesn’t mean that altered variable is the cause of weight gain.

If you want to remove wheat because it’s not something you enjoy or eat often, then do it.

If you have reason to believe (medically) that wheat is a problem for your digestive system, then make the adjustment.

Or if you feel better not eating grains, then you should alter your diet and do what works best for you.

But don’t believe that any one food–especially one that is “natural” and is has numerous studies suggesting health benefits–is suddenly problematic.

In the end, any diet that suggests absolute certainty on a topic and doesn’t even acknowledge other possibilities is just delivering more hype, which is likely to lead to long- term frustration.

Is Wheat Your Problem?

If you’re interested in why wheat is not the cause of weight gain (as well as other research claims), for a full review that analyzes all of the research presented in Wheat Belly. Unraveling the truth about wheat and weight loss.

Wheat Belly Deception: Understanding Wheat, Insulin, and Fat Loss

Do Carbs Actually Make You Fat?

Why Weights are Better Than Cardio for Fat Loss

“We’re going to reveal the major signs of gluten sensitivity,” promised Dr. Oz on one of his shows several years ago.

His first sign: weight gain.

“It’s not just eating the gluten that makes us heavy,” Dr Oz claimed. “When you have a gluten sensitivity, it’s really getting your hormones out of whack, and that then leads to inflammation and swelling.”

This makes you “hold on to fat” that you should have burned off, he told his viewers. “And even if you go on a diet, if there’s gluten in there, you don’t lose weight.”

Really?

Because weight gain is anything but typical in celiac disease, the classic, well-studied illness caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten.

“Do people gain weight because they have celiac disease that’s not diagnosed?” asks celiac disease expert Joseph Murray. “Not usually. Usually they tend to be underweight compared to the general population.” Murray is a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

That’s because their reaction to gluten damages their intestinal lining, so it absorbs less—not more—of the food they eat. “Some people with celiac disease don’t absorb as many calories from what they’re eating as a normal person would,” notes Murray.

common symptoms of celiac disease

“Diarrhea, bloating, gaseousness, abdominal pain, anemia, fatigue, joint pain, headache, skin rashes, and mouth ulcers,” says Murray, who is also president of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease. “And in children, growth failure, short stature, and maybe developmental delay.”

Dr Oz may have been talking about non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Some people have fewer GI symptoms like gas or diarrhea when they stop eating gluten, even though they don’t have celiac disease.

Is weight gain a major sign of non-celiac gluten sensitivity? It’s hard to say, for one good reason: “We don’t know if there is a true non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” says Murray. “It could be wheat intolerance, it could be wheat sensitivity, or it could be something else entirely.”

studies in people with possible non-celiac gluten sensitivity

In 2011, Australian researchers reported that 34 patients without celiac disease had fewer GI symptoms on a gluten-free diet. “That study was probably the best evidence that there may be a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” says Murray.

In 2013, the Australians put 37 patients with possible non-celiac gluten sensitivity on a diet that was low in FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). FODMAPS include fructose, lactose, sorbitol, and other short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed. A low-FODMAP diet is also low in gluten, but it’s not gluten-free.

While their symptoms lessened when people ate the low-FODMAP diet, adding back gluten produced no more or fewer symptoms than adding back a placebo (whey).

“That tells us that their symptoms were probably not due to gluten,” says Murray.

“The whole premise that there is a disorder called non-celiac gluten sensitivity is way overblown. There really isn’t hard scientific evidence to support it.”

Dr Murray’s advice if you think you’re sensitive to gluten

Find out if you have celiac disease. That means a blood test for three antibodies and, if you have them, a biopsy.

Why test first? Going off gluten can make the antibodies temporarily disappear, which makes celiac harder to detect.

“If you have celiac disease, you need to know it, because you need to be gluten-free completely, and for life,” cautions Murray. “And your family members should be tested, because they’re at much higher risk for celiac disease.”

More reasons why you need to know for certain

A gluten-free diet can be expensive, and it may be low in fiber or folate or other vitamins.

And you need to know that the treatment is working. “If someone has celiac disease, they have a damaged intestine,” says Murray. “We need to make sure that it recovers or you’re at increased risk for malignancies.”

Just trying a gluten-free diet might delay the correct diagnosis.

“I’ve seen patients who have had conditions like Crohn’s disease, and the diagnosis has been delayed because they were trying out a gluten-free diet,” says Murray. “Sometimes they felt better for a few weeks, and then their symptoms started to creep back again.”

It’s not surprising that some people feel better without gluten, he adds.

“They’re eating less, at least for a while, and they may be eating healthier because they’re eating less junk food. There’s also a placebo effect.”

Murray’s bottom line

“Test first, test right is the message. This is a chronic disease that requires lifetime treatment. It requires certainty.”

Sources: Am. J. Gastroenterol. 106: 508, 2011; Gastroenterol. 145: 320, 2013; J. Gastroenterol. 108: 656, 2013.

Other relevant links:

  • Does a gluten-free diet help you lose weight and feel energetic? See: Gluten-Free Diets and Weight Loss
  • Who should be tested for celiac disease? See: Testing for Celiac Disease
  • Do more people have celiac disease? See: Is the Incidence of Celiac Disease Rising?

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This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.

Wheat and weight loss

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