6 Ways “Heart-Healthy” Whole Wheat Can Destroy Your Health

Shocked Woman Eating BreadNew studies show that even whole wheat may contribute to serious health problems.

Here are 6 ways wheat can destroy your health.

1. Wheat is Loaded With Gluten

Gluten is the main protein found in wheat and a few other grains like rye, spelt and barley.

Its name is derived from its glue-like (glu-ten) properties.

This protein gives dough its elastic properties and makes it pliable. If you’ve ever handled wet dough in your life, then you will know what I’m talking about.

The problem with modern wheat is that many people are unable to properly digest the gluten in it.

The immune system “sees” the gluten proteins in the digestive tract, thinks they’re foreign invaders and mounts an attack… not just against the gluten, but also the digestive wall itself.

This is the hallmark of celiac disease, a serious disease which may affect up to 1% of the population (1, 2).

However, there is evidence that a much larger percentage of people may be “sensitive” to gluten. They don’t have full-blown celiac disease, but they do have symptoms when they ingest gluten (3, 4, 5).

There are studies in people who don’t have celiac disease showing that gluten can damage the intestinal lining and cause symptoms like pain, anemia, bloating, stool inconsistency, tiredness, among others (6, 7, 8, 9).

There is also evidence that gluten can make the lining of the intestine more permeable, potentially allowing partially digested substances to “leak” from the digestive tract into the bloodstream (10).

Of course, it’s important to point out that not all people are sensitive to wheat. Some people appear to tolerate it just fine.

The best way to know if you’re sensitive to wheat and gluten is to eliminate it for 30 days, then reintroduce it and see if you notice any symptoms.

Bottom Line: There is mounting evidence that a significant percentage of the population may be “sensitive” to gluten. Gluten sensitivity can cause various adverse effects.

2. Wheat Spikes Blood Sugar Rapidly

Woman Eating Bread

Refined grain products like white bread get digested quickly, which leads to large spikes in blood sugar.

The large spikes are followed by rapid drops which tend to stimulate hunger and call for another high-carb meal.

This phenomenon is commonly known as the “blood sugar roller coaster.”

However, products made from whole grains that contain more fiber are supposed to lead to slower rises in blood sugar.

The problem is that whole grains aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. Often, they have been pulverized into very fine flour, which also gets digested quickly, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar.

The glycemic index is a marker of how quickly foods elevate blood sugar levels. The average whole wheat bread has a glycemic index of 71, the same as white bread (11).

Eating a diet that includes a lot of high GI foods is associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer (12, 13, 14).

Elevated blood sugars also cause complications when the glucose reacts with proteins in the body. This is called glycation and is one of the components of aging (15).

Bottom Line: Most whole grain products have actually been pulverized into very fine flour, which tends to raise blood sugars rapidly and can cause all sorts of problems down the line.

3. Wheat Contains Substances That “Steal” Nutrients From The Body

Bread Caution

Calorie for calorie, wheat isn’t very nutritious compared to other real foods like animals and vegetables.

It also happens to contain substances that “steal” nutrients from other foods.

  • A substance in wheat called phytic acid can bind minerals like calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium and prevent them from being absorbed. Whole wheat contains even more phytic acid than refined wheat (16, 17, 18).
  • Wheat doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids in the right ratios and is therefore not a very good source of protein for humans (19).
  • In gluten sensitive individuals, the digestive lining can become damaged, reducing the absorption of all nutrients (20).
  • One study shows that wheat fiber can make people burn through their Vitamin D stores 30% faster, increasing the risk of deficiency (21).

Bottom Line: Wheat contains a substance called phytic acid, which can reduce absorption of important minerals. It may also cause people to burn through their Vitamin D stores faster, contributing to deficiency.

4. Wheat Consumption is Associated With Several Brain Diseases

Bread

Studies show that wheat consumption is associated with serious disorders of the brain.

Gluten And Cerebellar Ataxia

Cerebellar ataxia is a motor disturbance caused by lesions in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls motor functions.

One form of this disease may be caused or exacerbated by gluten consumption. It is called gluten ataxia and involves an autoimmune attack on the cerebellum.

Multiple studies show an association between gluten, gluten sensitivity and cerebellar ataxia (22, 23, 24, 25). A controlled trial has also shown an improvement in ataxia patients who went on a gluten-free diet (26).

Gluten And Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder which afflicts about 0.3-0.7% of people at some point during their lifetime (27).

There are strong statistical associations between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and schizophrenia. Many schizophrenic individuals have antibodies against gluten in their bloodstream (28, 29, 30, 31, 32).

There is also a controlled trial and several case reports showing that some (not all) schizophrenic patients see improvement on a gluten-free diet (33, 34, 35, 36).

Other Brain Disorders

Other disorders of the brain that may be associated with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are autism and epilepsy (37, 38, 39, 40, 41).

These are just a handful of disorders that have been shown to travel with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that wheat or gluten causes these disorders, only that some evidence suggests that gluten may be a contributing factor in some patients.

This definitely needs to be studied more thoroughly, but given that there’s no actual benefit to eating wheat, then I personally prefer to be on the safe side and avoid it.

Bottom Line: Being sensitive to gluten is associated with many disorders of the brain, such as schizophrenia, cerebellar ataxia, autism and epilepsy.

5. Wheat May be Addictive

Boy Eating a Sandwich

There are some who believe that wheat may be addictive.

It is definitely not proven yet, although there are a few interesting observations that allow for some speculation.

When gluten proteins are broken down in a test tube, the peptides they form are able to stimulate opioid receptors. These peptides are called gluten exorphins (42).

Opioid receptors are the receptors in the brain that are stimulated by drugs like heroin and morphine, as well as endorphines that are released naturally when we do something like running.

The theory goes like this… the gluten we eat gets broken down into these opioid peptides, which then travel into the blood and eventually into the brain, where they cause addiction to wheat.

Gluten exorphins have been found in the blood of celiac patients (43). There’s also some evidence in animals that the gluten exorphins make it into the body (44, 45).

At this point, this is only theoretical. No hard evidence proves wheat to be addictive.

Personally I find the idea to be plausible. Back in the day when I used to eat wheat I would often crave it. Almost every food that I would get powerful cravings for foods that included both sugar and wheat.

Bottom Line: The digestive products of gluten may be able to stimulate opioid receptors and contribute to addiction. However, this needs to be studied more before we can make any conclusions.

6. Whole Wheat Drastically Raises Small, Dense LDL Cholesterol

Girl Eating Sandwich

Elevated levels of LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol are associated with a greater risk of heart disease.

However, studies show that there isn’t just one type of LDL. The size of the LDL molecules appears to be important.

People who have mostly small, dense LDL particles (also called Pattern B) are at a greater risk of heart disease.

The association isn’t nearly as strong for people who have mainly large LDL particles, known as pattern A (46, 47, 48, 49, 50).

One randomized controlled trial split 36 overweight men into two groups.

One group was instructed to eat whole oats, the other whole wheat. The study went on for 12 weeks and they measured important risk factors for heart disease (51).

The oat group had reductions in total LDL, small, dense LDL and LDL particle number (LDL-p – another important risk factor).

However, the wheat group had increases in LDL by 8%, increase in LDL particle number by 14.2% and a whopping 60.4% increase in small, dense LDL particles.

The wheat group also had increases in total cholesterol and triglycerides, but the difference was not statistically significant.

According to this study, wheat should drastically increase your risk of heart disease… and keep in mind that it’s “heart-healthy” *cough* whole wheat we’re talking about here.

Take Home Message

I often see mainstream nutrition professionals telling us to choose whole wheat instead of refined. I completely disagree, because the idea is based on flawed logic.

Saying that whole wheat is healthy because it’s better than refined wheat is like saying that filtered cigarettes are healthy because they’re better than unfiltered cigarettes.

Using the same logic, everyone should be smoking filtered cigarettes for the health benefits. It just doesn’t make sense.

105 Comments

  1. Almarie de Villiers says:

    “Of course, it’s important to point out that not all people are sensitive to wheat. Some people appear to tolerate it just fine.”

    Or they have the symptoms, but are so used to it that they think it is normal.

    • Yup, that’s definitely possible.

      • Rebecca Hidalgo says:

        What is the difference between whole wheat bread and whole meal bread? Are they the same or different? Please enlighten me. I’m confused… thanks.

      • Hi, I am literally addicted to bread. I can’t see myself eating a meal without it because it’s so filling and keeps me satisfied.

        I’ve been eating bread/wheat for my whole life (17 years) and I’ve always been bloated 24/7 (I have IBS) and cramps and constipation issues, I also have arthritis which affects mostly my joints. Is this because of wheat?

        If yes, I wanna stop right now but what substitutions for wheat can I have? Are there any other breads that are “safe” to eat? Please let me know, and also, which foods contain wheat? I wanna make sure I’m not eating them by accident from other sources as well, thanks.

        • Dominique says:

          Wheat has very addictive properties. All of the symptoms you posses can very well be attributed to a sensitivity or even an allergy to wheat. The best way to find out if you indeed have an allergy is to stop eating it. Most frozen foods have wheat in them, as well as creamy soups.

          Easiest way to start a wheat free diet? Meat, vegetables, fruit, natural foods. Rice, potatoes and corn are all safe. Most labels that say Gluten free on them are safe, but be warned. Gluten free breads and other products are high in calories. I recommend using those items for treats and not everyday meals.

          Hope this helps, Abz.

        • If you are addicted to bread, more than likely you are addicted to sugar as well. If you are addicted to sugar, more than likely you have undetected yeast and fungal overgrowth in your colon. If you have that, more than likely, they overgrowth is giving you these intense cravings because it needs sugars to feed on. Yes, stop!

          But I get it… you will need substitutes. Cold turkey efforts don’t work. I had this problem. The bread was easier to come off of than the sugar. There are products like Quinoa. It is a protein rich grain. Instead of spaghetti, use spaghetti squash. Instead of lasagna, use strips of zucchini. Instead of other Italian dishes, eat eggplant Parmesan. You will have to find sites that have these substitutes and recipes.

          Because you will still have the sugar craving, buy gourmet coffees, and sweeten them with Sweet n Lo or Stevia. Take 6 garlic gels a day for the rest of your life to keep the yeast/fungus at bay. If you get constipated for whatever reason, take 8, three times a day. Drink tons of water in between meals, at your desk, in your car, watching TV.

          Eventually you desires will change. Just keep substituting with the good stuff. Don’t starve. Medical doctors will never tell you this, because they haven’t been educated. I learned about this 28 years ago. It is still true. Read “Yeast Connection and the Woman.”

    • True! Sometimes you have to stop eating it in order to have your symptoms go away so you can realize what they are! I got rid of eczema, bloating, arthritic pains in my hands, back pain, acne… all from giving up wheat! Giving up dairy helped immensely with the acne also.

  2. Great article! I love how you broke it all down. I’ve been off of gluten/wheat for months now. I just tested my diet yesterday by having pizza. I had no adverse effects, but I think it could trigger the cravings to come back. I’ve been on a yeast elimination diet, so no gluten, yeast, sugar, etc. and I agree that the biggest cravings I have had are for sugar/gluten combos.

    • Thanks Janet! I actually didn’t have any adverse effects to wheat myself that I could notice, but I would crave it like a madman and binge on it. Haven’t eaten wheat in over 8 months now.

  3. Where do sprouted grains fit into all of this? They don’t seem to spike blood sugar levels and they’ve got lots of fibre. Do they count as wheat products?

    • Traditional preparation methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting can reduce phytic acid, improve nutrient availability and digestibility and also reduces other anti-nutrients in grains like lectins.

      Wheat and other grains prepared in this way are probably much healthier. But I don’t think these preparation methods do anything about the gluten, so if you’re gluten sensitive then wheat, spelt, rye and barley are still off the table.

      I’m definitely not saying that *all* grains are bad, this article is exclusively about wheat. I eat some oats and rice every now and then myself.

      • Research Mat Lalonde on why you shouldn’t eat wheat or any sort of grains/pseudo cereals.

        Also check out wheat belly as previously mentioned.

        Lastly there are effects of wheat that are being discovered after a long life of consuming them.

  4. Svetlozar U says:

    I don’t like being manipulated.

    Under 3 it says “Wheat contains an “incomplete” amino acid profile, meaning that humans can’t make full use of the protein in it”

    This is meant, or is at least way more likely, to be interpreted as “your body cannot use it”. When you mean “wheat is not a good source of protein”, which is a far more simple and more accurate statement. All this technical language and the play on words is used to convince your readers of the evils of wheat. I personally find it insulting to be manipulated with such tactics. What’s worse is that I really love this website, but a tiny bit of propaganda makes me question all of the information, make this great site unreliable.

    I come here to find the hard facts, good or bad so I can make better choices not to be influenced in my decision making.

    • It wasn’t meant to be misleading or a play with words, I apologize.

      We can use the wheat protein for energy, but we can’t make *full* use of it for structural purposes because it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids in the right ratios. That’s the message I meant to convey.

      I’ve changed that bullet point to: “Wheat doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids in the right ratios and is therefore not a very good source of protein for humans.”

      Do you think this way of wording it is more accurate?

      I didn’t want to get into too much detail (it’s just a bullet point) but wheat doesn’t contain much of the essential amino acid Lysine, the main reason we can’t make “full” use of wheat protein for synthesizing body proteins.

      It is possible to circumvent this issue by eating lysine-rich foods like legumes or animal foods along with the wheat.

      • I think it is very important to point out the difference between commercial flour verses fresh milled flour. You left out a VERY important part of the story for your readers. There is a reason commercial wheat is BAD!

        100 years ago during the industrial revolution we Americans messed up a good process so we could put our flour on the shelf and make it last a long time. The millers took the bran and germ out of the wheat and along with it all nutrients and essential vitamins and oils.

        Please give your readers the true story and if you don’t know it yourself, do the research! History of white flour in America.

  5. I’ve never knowingly had a problem with wheat, other than banging on weight. But I cook a lot of French inspired dishes, which is a good way to get a lot of fat into food, in a particularly palatable way. Now, even my standard gravy is properly a veloute, or sauce brun, which may or may not be cream enriched, per serving this will be based on a roux of 14g each of fat and flour.

    I can’t imagine this could be a problem for me, could it? Better surely with fat ie. lowering GI than using corn flour or arrowroot. I’ve never used arrowroot, however, I do know corn flour thickened sauces don’t recover well from freezing, they look like they have cellulite LOL.

  6. Thanks for this concise summary of the problems with wheat. I was at least aware of most of the points you made except for the one about wheat possibly being addictive. That is so interesting, I look forward to more research being done on that. From my own unscientific observations and intuition it rings true.

  7. Jessica says:

    I think it’s important to mention that Autism is NOT a brain disease. There are so many misconceptions about people with Autism and the use of the word disease is a major contributor.

    • It fits the definition of “disease,” although maybe “disorder” is a more politically correct term.

      • As someone who has an autoimmune disease herself, and believes it is linked to gluten sensitivity, I also am a social worker for individuals with developmental disabilities. Autism may fit your definition of “disease”, however, it is not just “a more politically correct term” to use as it is classified as a disorder. Please do not use fear tactics at the cost of others to try to further your cause, it only lowers your credibility.

        • I don’t think there’s any difference between the word “disease” and “disorder.” They are used interchangeably.

          “Disease” according to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/disease

          “A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.”

          Autism fits the description. But I’ve changed the word in the article to “disorder.”

        • J. McDonald says:

          Autism spectrum diagnoses are on the rise, yet research into the disorder is still in its infancy, as the bibliographic references in the article suggest. To assert that gluten intolerance is a root cause or even has a strong correlative relationship to autism is way too premature at best and irresponsible a worst.

          Typically, parents of autistic kids are very vulnerable to suggestions of any kind and desperately want to find and believe in a magical key to a cure. Finding that food intolerances do not yield the anticipated results can be doubly frustrating and dispiriting, and provide a serious disservice to the well-intentioned efforts of parents.

  8. Ian Day says:

    I went on a low carb diet 5 years ago – in effect eliminating wheat, though I was not aware of wheat problems – just an assortment of debilitating diabetes problems. Chronic tiredness, crippling muscle pain (peripheral neuropathy) & the beginning of retinopathy & reduction in kidney function.

    My health improved rapidly – symptoms cleared within 3 months, & 5 years on I have NO health problems.

    Diabetes UK (who disapprove of low carb) suggested the elimination of wheat was the cause of my health improvement.

  9. I love reading about being more healthy and find that being wheat and gluten free is probably good but you must be very strict with yourself and I just can’t seem to get there. I can for a bit and then I crave a piece of pizza or a part of a bagel. I find the gluten free bread products gummy when mixed with egg to make a meatloaf or turkey burger. I need to lose weight to be more healthy and I am sure that lots of people reading your articles could benefit from advice on how and what to eat to accomplish those goals. I am not a big salad eater, as my husband is, so help!!!

    • Actually, I would avoid anything labelled “gluten-free” – these replacements products are usually junk foods in disguise made with highly refined ingredients.

      There are some tips on eating healthy here:
      http://authoritynutrition.com/healthy-eating/

      • I’m glad you said that Kris. I was diagnosed celiac a couple of years ago, and sent to a dietitian for advice on going gluten-free. The first thing I noticed when I walked into her room was that the walls were groaning with shelves of processed foods (I’m not exaggerating – over a hundred toxic products were on display). I never went back.

  10. Agreed with this article. Since I have cut down on whole wheat, I feel much better. I read another article on how whole wheat bread is just as bad as white bread.

    I stick with brown and white rice (and some quinoa and oats) and have no trouble maintaining my weight.

  11. Maryann says:

    My husband stopped eating wheat and his “gut” disappeared.

  12. In a world in which there are studies that show practically every food out there is bad for you, it’s important to take everything you read with a grain of salt. However, I know an individual with Gluten Ataxia and I appreciate that you’re spreading awareness of it because not many people know that condition even exists. And I agree that wheat does seem addictive – I stopped eating things like bagels and crackers to help me lose weight about a year ago. It worked and I no longer crave it!

  13. I have just started eating vegan. Seitan is the gluten taken from wheat. Do you have any suggestions? It is a great substitution for meat!

  14. Ali S Lokhandwala says:

    Dear Kris,

    I wonder what would be your take on wheat grass! Is this also to be avoided? Does it also have all the harmful properties that wheat has?

  15. Felicia says:

    Thank you for this great article. I stopped eating gluten to see if this would help with some autoimmune skin issues I was having. It did! I noticed an improvement just after a month of going gluten free. On the down side, I fell off the gluten free wagon and now I seemed to have developed a rash on my arms. I have been begun trying to go gluten free again and hopefully this will help clear up the skin rash. For those with autoimmune disorders, I recommend trying a gluten free diet… Doesn’t hurt to try.

  16. Luis de la Fuente says:

    Yet somehow, low phytic acid intake is associated with lower rates of osteoporosis:

    http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2008.0087

  17. Hi Kris!

    So are grains like buckwheat and millet considered healthy and okay to eat every now and then?

  18. I’m looking into this eating style and wondering if the origin of the problem is the way the wheat is grown? Or the way it is processed? I heard someone say that the problem with wheat is the way that it is grown now vs the way it was grown a long time ago.

    So, my question is… What about “Organic Whole Grain Wheat”? Does being “organic” make any difference? We’ve noticed on some of our daughter’s snacks that they say they are made with Organic W/G Wheat. Does that make any difference?

    • Nah… organic wheat is still wheat.

      There are some who say that only modern wheat is harmful, the semi-dwarf varieties that are bred for the high yield. If you can find one of the old strains then it may not have the same harmful effects. Haven’t seen any studies comparing the two though, so take this with a grain of salt.

      • J. McDonald says:

        I followed two sets of references in your bibliography and remain unconvinced that the correlation between gluten and various disorders is significant enough in the general population to warrant a change in dietary or food production systems. Most of the abstracts mention that the correlation are with a very small sample size or that the population tested already have abnormalities that affect 1% of the population or less.

        I think it’s important that any information regarding the alleged correlations should NOT be generalized for the entire population. I also noticed, through web searches, that a lot of people are poised to make significant profits by promoting their own formulas for wheatless-based anti-aging diets based upon research that’s relevant for a very small percentage of the population.

        Healthy skepticism and a good dose of critical thinking is always in order.

        For myself, I found that eliminating milk even in light to moderate amounts has had a significant and positive effect on my digestive functioning. I’ve eaten whole wheat based products for all of my 60-plus years and have not had addictive or digestive or any kinds of problems. But I also must add that I regularly mix my whole grain consumption just because rice, oats, barley, and other grains simply taste good– which is the lesson that I think we all must take from this kind of discussion.

        Maintaining a diversity in consumption of foods provides, IMO, the best hedge against food-based maladies since doing so allows the body to produce antidotes to minute amounts of toxic elements that reside in most foods, and thus provides a biochemical incentive to maximize the adaptive mechanisms available in our biological systems.

        • Any time you do any study on humans, you are always supposed to use a small sample group. A lot a people have problems with understanding this scientific method but surveying an entire population is highly inefficient simply because there is too much data to analyse. Any scientist or statistician would agree with me on this particular survey. Think about it in this perspective, when you are taste testing soup you only try a spoonful in order to know what the soup tastes like.

          • Too much data to analyse? What?

            The goal is to get a sample that is representative of a population, hence if the sample size is too small, there isn’t enough statistical power and the conclusions drawn from the study will be of limited usefulness. This is stats 101…

            J. McDonald’s point was that many of the studies used samples that were known to already have sensitivity to gluten. Therefore, none of those conclusions should be applied to the general population, since the majority doesn’t have have these sensitivities.

          • Brittany c says:

            Dazey, I don’t know where you heard that studies should always be done on small sample groups. That tells us absolutely nothing. The larger the group, the stronger the validity of the outcome. It’s common sense. The most important aspect is using a relevant variety of individuals in the study- if you use twelve people, are all of the bases covered? Of course not. You would have a biased study by default.

  19. Philip Gray says:

    Hi, I’m a personal trainer so am always looking to increase my knowledge on nutrition.

    I have just read this and am interested in your thoughts:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-140768/Secret-benefits-grains-enjoy-them.html

    Certainly in nutritional courses I have done in the past whole wheat was advocated as a “healthier” alternative in products such as white bread etc.

    Would you say the health “benefits” of eating whole grain products from wheat outweigh any potential harm it may being doing- if eaten in moderation or should it be cut out completely?

  20. So if white and whole wheat bread is bad for you, is any bread good for you? I’ve switched to white wheat bread and haven’t had any issues, but I only eat this type of bread product maybe once a week. Are you saying any gluten/bread products should be eliminated? You offer no alternatives to bread in your article.

  21. There’s only one way to find out.

    Try it.

    And if you think “I’m not sure why, but I feel better”, then you probably *don’t* have a problem.

    I’ve tried it. My mood swings left, my joints stopped aching my mind cleared up. Wish I know about this 30 years ago! My life would be far different…

  22. If you really want to avoid Phytic acid, do not eat sesame seed flour, almonds, Brazil nuts, corn, oatmeal, pinto beans or soy beans. Each of these contain more Phytic acid than wheat.

    • Brittany c says:

      And that would cut out a huge portion of foods that are beneficial. Physical acid is not the problem. The problem is conflicting, alarmist studies touting headlines like “wheat is poison” and opinions like yours that take perfectly healthy foods and turn them into “junk”. Almonds, oatmeal, brazil nuts and pinto beans are all excellent additions to your diet if you have no nut allergy.

  23. I have no doubt that some people feel better when they give up gluten. Were their ailments due to an “allergic reaction” to wheat? Not necessarily. It’s just a correlation. Perhaps it’s just because they’ve dropped 50% of their caloric intake and have given their liver a break.

    Not all wheat products are high on the GI index. Take wheat bran as an example.

  24. Lol. I like your analogy of comparing processed wheat and whole wheat to filtered cigarettes. I’ll have to use that one.

  25. I gave up sugar 6 months ago. My wheat consumption increased. So had my belly and joint pains. I used to eat whole foods and very little breads. I agree about wheat addiction. I am having a rough time giving up the wheat. It is very firmly entrenched in our North American culture too. Giving up sugar was not anywhere near as hard as giving up wheat is!

    • Gail – what to replace wheat with? Vegetables, meat, cheese, nuts and FATS – you need calories and fats give you double the calories of carbs, wt/wt. Nuts are low carb and an excellent source of fats.

      I make a “nut cake” using ground almonds, coconut flour, flax seeds… along with eggs, butter and olive oil… and of course, baking powder.

      • Monique Liddle says:

        Ian,

        Could you give the recipe for your nut cake? I like to bake and giving up wheat is a difficult transition for me. I appreciate it.

        – Monique

        • Hi Monique – just seen your question –

          150 g mixed ground almonds, coconut flour, milled flax seed, soya flour (any ratio as available), 1 1/2 tspoon baking powder, spices as desired, seed mix, sieve together and add the residue in the sieve.

          Mix separately: 50 g butter and 50 g olive oil, melted together, 4 eggs, beat lightly and add to “flour” mix , mix well – should be a just pouring consistency, put in a silicone baking dish (about 8 x 7 inch) or 12 individual baking cases.

          Bake for about 30 minutes at 150°C, test with a blade or simply press down with a finger, should be a fairly firm sponge cake texture, the 8×7 will be about 1 in thick.

          Keep in fridge for 3 days or freeze – without sugar it goes off quickly. I make it 3 times a week.

          • I use it all sorts of ways – add a few sultanas or sweetener, use instead of carb with a meal, split & put a slice of cheese – microwave for 1 minute (not more). Use instead of bread or biscuits.

  26. Should be renamed “Six ways heart healthy grains can destroy your health…if you are sensitive to Gluten.”

  27. So you think your body has got the ability to break down dietary fibers?

    Dietary fibers like cellulose, β-glucans, fructans and lignin. When some are water soluble, which means that it has strong water-holding capacity which can increase the viscosity in intestinal juice. These can be broken down by bacteria in the colon and act as prebiotics.

    Cellulose and lignin are insoluble and very difficult to break down, no matter how finely the flour is milled. This means that among other things, β-glucans form a viscous gel in the intestine that can delay the absorption of fat and sugar and bind bile salts and keep them out of the body. This reduces LDL cholesterol and improves the regulation of blood glucose levels, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    There are also some anti-nutritional substances in whole grains. At the core is stored as phytate phosphorus in the aleurone layer and the germ. These inhibit iron absorption. However, one can reduce the phytate level in bread by fermenting the dough, thus making a sourdough bread.

    And I found that half of your points have nothing to do with whole wheat. Or are my facts all wrong? Looking forward to getting the facts right.

  28. Marianela Sanchez says:

    What type of bread do you suggest I give to my child?

  29. Based on experiences from friends and articles like this, I am contemplating a gluten free experiment. Not sure what to expect because I have a high wheat diet and no symptoms… current daily diet consists of a wheat and dairy breakfast, Safeway brand toast with a bowl of shredded wheat or cream of wheat cereal, sometimes an egg or two or pancakes in place of cereal, typical lunch is a sandwich and creamy soup or leftover animal meat from dinner, typical dinner is steak/chicken/fish or pasta, every dinner includes rice or potato and a spoonful of veggies.

    I have about 6 to 10 wheat beers per week and at least one bottle of red wine. At 47 years, 6 foot, 190 pounds, good lipids and zero regular exercise I don’t seem to have issues… other than more exercise and veggies, I don’t know what to expect from eliminating gluten.

  30. I gave up wheat about 3 weeks ago. Not sure why, but I know I was always tired during the day. I exercise regularly, but could not concentrate and could fall asleep doing boring desk work or sitting through meetings. That has all changed. No longer tired during the day. I don’t have as much sugar now either. I feel energetic and positive.

    Don’t know what it is. I read that wheat can cause tiredness and brain fog.

    But I am just amazed about how I now feel.

  31. I have a relative who took to eating wheat because of the “health benefits” as opposed to other grains and cassava flour. The whole essence was to avoid foods that spike sugar level. She doesn’t seem to react to gluten but surprisingly one aspect of the article holds true for her. She went for a blood sugar test and the level of rise was quite alarming. What’s your take about it?

    If wheat is not good for her, what may be a substitute? In her case she loves eating swallow foods with soup.

  32. Mmmm. As I love pasta and sourdough bread, your wheat article is giving me a hard time ;-) I mean, in Italy people are probably eating pasta every day, in Germany people consume sourdough bread, in France there is the wonderful Baguette, many different breads in Italy as well, Ciabatta, etc.

    I mean, can wheat be that bad really?!

    • There is some evidence that wheat has changed in the past few decades, the new strains being worse than the old ones. I plan on writing about this soon.

      Of course, it’s hard to look at a population and just one aspect of their diet. They may be doing other protective things that outweigh the negative effects of wheat. Plus I’m pretty sure these populations have started becoming obese and diabetic, like the rest of the world.

      There are some people who can tolerate wheat. If you’re metabolically healthy and don’t seem to have any adverse reactions to gluten, then I don’t see a problem with it.

    • The fact that all the nations you’ve named here have hundreds of sinfully delicious pastries made from wheat has nothing to do with wheat being good or bad for you.

      The countries you’ve mentioned here also have tobacco products, beers, and many hard liquors which, by your logic, should be wonderfully beneficial to one’s health. ?

    • Brittany c says:

      Nici, you’re right, wheat is not bad for you in general. In a perfect world, wheat would be a healthy addition to our diet. It’s the mass produced, hybridized wheat that can cause problems, BUT most of these claims in this articles and ones like it are overblown and not based on evidence. There is no evidence linking neurological disease to wheat or gluten.

  33. James Webb says:

    Another great article. I already stumbled upon some of the studies myself.

    I cut out wheat form my diet after watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbBURnqYVzw

    I’m adding it back in now (stuffing at Christmas) and I’ve noticed that my shoulder problems have come back. It being a coincidence is within the realm of possibilities, but I’ll see what happens when I take wheat out again.

  34. I have been off wheat for a couple of months now and feel so much better. I have eosinophilic esophagitis and had to have my esophagus dilated. Food would get stuck in my narrowed esophagus and I found out I had food allergies that eventually caused the build up of eosinophils (a white blood cell) which created scar tissue in my esophagus. I can no longer eat wheat, peanuts and soy.

    There are so many recipes using other types of flour and I have become creative with what I eat. Corn tortillas make great wraps for a quick lunch. I include turkey, avocado, lettuce and a little of either Annie’s organic mango salad dressing because it is wheat/soy free and has great flavor, or just mangos.

    • Eosinophilia can be seen with parasite infections. Eosinophils are increased with parasite infections – do a web search for your self.

      Regards,
      JL

  35. What can you eat if you skip wheat and sugar? Could you recommend literature on that? Thanks!

  36. I am an Indian and we eat, mostly, flatbreads made with wheat flour called chapatis and/or white rice with a curry. Now, since I have been eating healthier, I stopped consuming white rice and I’ve been eating chapatis (made without oil, just roasted on a pan). Is this healthy for my weight loss?

  37. Your article outlines some important points! Wheat is hurting so many people. I am 32 years old and my health has completely changed since I gave up gluten two weeks ago. I was sick every day. I felt broken. I was living on a heavy diet of whole wheat because doctors kept saying it was “good for me.” I’ve been to all kinds of specialists and nobody found anything wrong, but I continued to be sick daily. I do not have celiac disease, and therefore it never showed up in a test. But I am certain I have “gluten sensitivity,” as you described.

    Now that I have adapted a gluten-free diet, my stomach is so happy. I no longer run to the nearest toilet. I no longer eat Pepto like candy. I don’t feel tired like I used to. And it’s surprisingly easy to remove gluten from your diet!

    Grocery stores have many great alternatives that use rice, corn, and/or potatoes to give the same texture. In fact, I’ve found some really great foods that I think taste better than their wheat versions.

    Thank you for educating your readers on the problems with gluten. Life is so much better without it. Try it and you’ll see!

    • Brittany c says:

      Nathan, gluten-free foods that use rice, corn, etc instead of wheat are arguably worse for you. They spike blood sugar even more than the poorly harvested wheat (and I specify because not all wheat is bad- in fact wheat itself is not the problem at all), causing more problems for the average person. If you want to avoid wheat, eating made gluten-free food is not recommended. Eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruits and fresh proteins are what people who show sensitivity to gluten should be eating.

  38. I have to agree with most that is being said, but at the same time I still believe that wheat can be consumed in low moderation and by buying the right kind of bread. That does not mean I am calling it a healthy choice.

    I am a college student with a low income, and rather than not buying food that is “bad” for me I buy the foods with most nutritional value, which largely include fruits and vegetables, nuts and white meat.

    As a result I always buy a loaf of wheat berry bread because it has a great amount of insoluble fiber and bread happens to last longer than other perishable foods (meat, fruits and vegetables.) Therefore I usually only have 4-8 servings (about 2-4 sandwiches) of wheat per two weeks, that’s what is recommended daily on the food guide pyramid for just one day (6-9 servings per day).

    When considering that advice from our government, it’s no wounder we are having such a significant problem with gluten. Americans have been recommended to consume an extremely excessive amount of wheat. When the human body eats an excessive of anything there are always negative impact.

    I agree with the whole gluten free movement, but it is not for me because of the basic fact I love pizza and I need a sandwich here and there to fill me up when I run short on food. Knowing that I may be putting my health in a tiny bit of risk I always eat a clean and natural diet throughout the day.

    For all you brave non gluten eaters, I admire your commitment to spreading the word on the over consumption of wheat in America.

  39. Brittany c says:

    As an ND, most people expect me to agree that wheat is this nightmarish food, but truth is, the “evidence” that wheat causes diseases like Alzheimer’s doesn’t exist. Studies have shown no verifiable link to wheat and neurological conditions. If you were to study the causes of Alzheimer’s and autism (which is not a brain disease, and people confuse it as being gluten-related because children with Celiac’s can exhibit symptoms that replicate those of autism), you would find that no one has found a cause for either.

    Nothing even close to being solid has been found to cause either of these, and since they are so vastly different, they shouldn’t be grouped together. Also, wheat itself isn’t the issue. Many wheat farmers do use shortcuts that have caused a spike in the substances that may cause SOME of the issues listed here- some don’t. It’s still possible to find wheat that hasn’t become a nasty hybrid.

  40. Peter Pergament says:

    Greetings,

    I get what you are saying here. It is true that just about everything on the planet is good in some ways but not good in others.

    I personally have a very low gluten diet because my partner was gluten intolerant and even after we split up I just felt I didn’t need it as much. She would break out if she ate gluten.

    So now that you have thrown this food under the bus and helped get on board with the now very popular gluten free world, what is our alternative? In a world where our doctors and every TV show including health shows push “whole grain” breads as a needed heart healthy part of our diet, what are we suppose to do?

    Thank you for your time.

  41. I love how just about any kind of food is labeled *bad* on the internet.

    Milk.
    Green vegetables.
    Fruits.
    Red Meat.
    White meat.

    And now wheat.

    It’s a bloody marvel how our forefathers (mine at least, I’m south Asian) lived the healthiest lives on this diet, with wheat as a staple.

    But we’re too sensitive to consume it. Any of it!

    • I’ve never said that any of the other foods you mentioned are bad.

      You might want to check out this article: http://authoritynutrition.com/modern-wheat-health-nightmare/

      It is pretty clear that wheat changed somewhere around the year 1960. The wheat we’re eating today is very different from what our great grandparents ate.

      • You never said all those other things are bad. Someone like yourself on another health and nutrition website did. That was my point. Everything is bad to eat according to google.

        About your point on wheat being different from what it used to be, wouldn’t that be country-specific?

  42. I disagree with this article and the whole wheat gluten scare trend. I think that some people find that their bodies do not tolerate wheat/gluten, and that’s a valid reason to avoid wheat. However, to just say that wheat is “bad for you” is ridiculous.

    Whole wheat has health benefits too. There are people in parts of the world that have lived on wheat… even white wheat at that and live well into their 90′s and beyond. Italians have white pasta every day. How are they faring?

    I don’t believe that our bodies see wheat/gluten as foreign invaders. Just like anything else this is a trend that’s gone out of control. One thing that most other countries don’t do is eat the junk food, prepared dinners, processed foods that we do. Although unfortunately, lately fast food is becoming popular even in other countries.

    We need to ditch the processed foods and go back to basics (making stuff from scratch), and don’t overindulge. Now if you want to talk about GMO’s and other junk that they try to slip into our “natural” food, that’s a different story.

    • There is some evidence that it is mostly modern dwarf wheat that is problematic: http://authoritynutrition.com/modern-wheat-health-nightmare/

      The older varieties like Einkorn don’t seem to have the same negative effects, even in people with gluten intolerance.

    • jumpeight says:

      Bravo!
      Another trendy dietary item. For the autoimmune disease CD, that affects 1% of the population, every teenager out there seems to fall into that 1% thinking of all the “miracles” that will occur when they drop wheat.
      Go to any mainstream scientific journal (Harvard Health would be a good start or Mayo Clinic) and good evidence-based science refutes much of the above. They are alarmed at the trend of cutting out whole wheat from our diets, as whole wheat is a nutritious staple (or should be.)

      If one cares to check out any of the Mediterranean diets-which are not fads, but a way of life in that part of the world for centuries with healthy results, you will see that wheat is a part of the diet.

  43. Kris,
    I would like to compliment you on this presentation. Although rather damning of ‘wheat’, your comments esp. are reasonable and thoughtful.

    As a sourdough baker I have a vested interest, and no doubt also bias, in this sort of issue and yet I do study it, including reading things like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain.

    I have no proof of anything but would like to chime in with the following:

    a) I have many regular customers who are quite thin and with very bright minds/dispositions, i.e. no brain fog.
    b) I have been getting brain fog type stuff for a while now so personally wonder about the bread connection!
    c) I use only heritage grains, offer a range of breads which include 100% fresh-ground rye, but also white loaves (made with Red Fife white flour).

    In terms of heritage grains, it’s all anecdotal although I think maybe in Italy they have done studies with Khorasan which is sort of heritage durum. They did find in one study that 50% of the celiacs in the study could tolerate slow-fermented (‘sourdough’) breads; they also found over time that the sourdough eaters did better, whether eating whole grain or white sourdoughs, than the whole grain or other eaters of non-sourdough.

    In terms of gluten, if you over-ferment – especially a sourdough which has a mix of yeast and bacteria in the culture, usually about a dozen or so of each vs. the single-strain, sugar-fed laboratory grown commercial product, then the gluten will break down completely, the bread will flatten back down into a gloopy pancake, and when baked it becomes sort of rubbery, but the gluten is almost entirely dissolved as such.

    Also, the word gluten refers to literally hundreds of different protein concentrations and isn’t really a sold thing itself.

    Finally – and I believe MOST importantly and something you will enjoy further researching if you haven’t already – just as with germ/bacteria issues in pathology, what is most important is the terrain (as Pascal was belatedly realizing shortly before dying). I believe most of the gluten and brain fog and auto-immune issue probably have more to do with gut population than anything else.

    And our gut population configuration determines whether or not eating X or Y is harmful or beneficial. Which is why I always think twice in the gluten discussion, but also any other ‘nutrient’ discussion: cholesterol, X fat, Y grain, Z vegetable etc. Because it is not so much the individual element or ingredient that is important on its own, but rather its interaction with the gut bacteria culture. So for some people X is fine, and for others it isn’t, meaning we need to spend more time developing ways of characterizing different types of gut populations.

    The American gut project is beginning interesting work on this. Articles by Michael Pollan are also interesting when he touches on this aspect.

    Keep up the good work.

  44. Michael Gyau says:

    Good morning from London, UK over here! Great article might I add. I have been trying to put on weight by weight training and following a high carb/high protein diet.

    However my main source of carbs were wholemeal breads, shredded wheat for example.

    Eating these in high quantities lead to bloating, cramps and problems in the toilet but I couldn’t figure for the life of me why I’d always get sick and not put on anymore weight. I now know that I am sensitive to gluten and that it is in so many foods! It really upsets me. Would you have or anyone else in this chat have any ideas for gluten free high carb/calorie meals?

    I’m 25 and I’ve been damaging myself for so many years it seems and attributed it to being something wrong with me other than what I was putting into my diet. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

  45. Michael Gyau says:

    Thanks for the prompt response. Lastly, white or sweet potatoes or does it matter?

  46. I went wheat-free a little over two years ago. It was a suggestion from an acquaintance that had problems with lower extremity swelling, similar to mine. I could see a difference in less than two weeks. Arthritic discomfort also decreased a lot, and some minor skin eruptions cleared up. I think it was more than coincidence because when I ate anything with gluten, my “itchy spots” would flare up, again.

    Expected to replace wheat with corn, but discovered I was also sensitive to corn! I now make my own bread with Pamela’s bread mix (one of the few that I found that had no corn flour or cornstarch) and generally use a baking mix of brown rice flour blend for occasional pancakes or just brown rice flour when “gravy craving” rears its ugly head.

    I have also lost 45 pounds more or less, with no effort or planning and find I no longer seem to crave food as I once did. I am definitely not a celiac sufferer and I was not willing to go back to eating gluten in order to produce the antibodies necessary for diagnosing a problem with gluten, so I just consider myself gluten sensitive and enjoy the lack of problems when I avoid it.

    One last note… my biggest problem has probably been finding gluten-free beer, but it’s out there and some of it is even an acceptable substitute!

  47. Is Ezekiel flourless breads and cereals healthy to eat if you are trying to avoid wheat?

  48. Just read the book wheat belly!

  49. I think you need to research the benefits of fresh milled wheat. Wheat is not bad, it is the way it is processed that makes it unhealthy. I make my own whole wheat bread from wheat berries that I mill into flour, my family is healthier than ever.

  50. Hi Kris, I liked the article.

    I am not a whole wheat addict, but I do have a bit of a taste for whole grain oat bars, which I know isn’t the best thing to eat considering the phytic acid, lectin, and glucoside content inherent in whole grains, but I love the taste.

    Firstly, what do you think would be an “acceptable” amount to eat per week? Something that would allow me to indulge but not suffer the negative effects (I am a bodybuilder and I know phytic acid hurts protein absorption).

    Secondly, if there isn’t really an amount you’d think is good, where can I get something with the whole grain flavor?

    Thanks in advance!

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