Wheat – especially white flour – is highly processed and inflammatory. It has changed dramatically over the last 100 years and may now be a grain to avoid (or minimise) for our health.
Top 8 Reasons To Be Wary Of Wheat
1) Modern wheat milling removes the nutritious outer hull and germ
In the past the wheat was milled using stones to crush the wheat grain and separate it, which tended to leave some of the outer hull (bran) and inner layer of the germ. In the 1870’s steel roller mills were invented and although much more efficient – producing larger quantities – they also allowed further separation of the wheat, creating a much purer white flour.
Modern wheat milling removes the nutritious bran which is high in fibre. It also removes the germ which contains healthy fatty acids, vitamins like thiamin and B6, and minerals including magnesium and zinc(1).
2) After milling you are left with soft white flour high in refined carbohydrate (sugar)
White flour is a simple starch (chain of sugars) which breaks down to sugar very quickly (within 30 minutes) and so is considered a high GI (glycemic index) food. For example a piece of white bread contains approximately 18g of carbohydrate (2) so within half an hour you turn it into 4 teaspoons of sugar. It is this fast breakdown to sugar that makes white flour create an inflammatory response in our body (3) that makes us more susceptible to many diseases including diabetes.
3) Wheat has changed dramatically over time
Ancient wheat varieties included Einkhorn (a great source of lutein, zeaxanthin and ß-carotene (4)), spring and emmer wheat (high in tocopherols (4)). In the 1950’s wheat was bred and modified into a strain of new semi-dwarf high yielding wheat that was easy to collect by machine and mill, but required higher use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Older wheat’s are shown to produce less inflammatory reactions and allergic responses in the body (5).
4) Because of chemical and genetic modification
Since the 1990’s hundreds of worldwide trials of the genetic modification of wheat have led to the unfortunate appearance of genetically modified wheat in our food supply (despite never being safety approved for use (6)). Chemical pesticide levels in wheat are often higher than the recommended level for safety (7) and are at a level that can result in toxic effects to human health (8). Pesticide levels are much lower in organic food including wheat.
5) Modern wheat is very high in gluten
Modern wheat is 13% gluten and has more reactive types of gluten in it than ancient wheats which have different (and potentially less damaging) gluten epitypes (9). Gluten-related disorders are increasing in incidence all over the world (10).
6) Gluten can damage the gut wall
Gluten increases the permeability of the gut wall (i.e. it becomes more ‘leaky’) in everyone, not just people with coeliac disease (11). When the gut wall becomes more ‘leaky’ it makes us more prone to immune system problems and autoimmune disease (12).
7) Gluten can disrupt the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from infection and disease
There seems to be a link between a sensitivity to wheat and gluten, and brain disorders like schizophrenia that can be explained by damage to the blood-barrier(13) – the barrier between our blood stream and our nervous system that protects our brain. It seems to be that it makes our gut ‘leaky’ and can also make our blood-brain barrier ‘leaky’ leaving us more open to disease and brain problems.
8) Many people notice health changes when eating wheat, including:
- nasal congestion (a constant blocked or runny nose)
- skin conditions
- irritability and brain fog
Gluten and wheat can cause inflammation in people even without coeliac disease (14) and we can see inflammatory changes in the body which can lead to symptoms like those above.
Top Tip – Try 3 weeks without wheat… Do you feel better?
5 Tips For Avoiding Modern Wheat
- Eat rice noodles instead of pasta – Quick and easy to cook, rice noodles are a great wheat free and tasty alternative to pasta. We eat them with home-made pesto, bolognaise and stir fries.
- Ask for gluten-free options – The growing number of gluten sensitivities means that many places now cater for gluten-free and mark it on menus or will provide options when asked.
- Avoid over-processed gluten free foods high in sugar – Gluten-free ranges can be high in sugar and additives. Stick to gluten free grains like rice, corn, oats*, buckwheat, quinoa or lower gluten, older, less-reactive grains like ancient wheats, spelt and rye. *Oats do not contain gluten, but often grow with wheat so it can be at very low levels only relevant to coeliac disease.
- Rice flour – Can be used instead of wheat flour for thickening sauces and gravy, and as a substitute in some recipes.
- Remember alcohol can contain wheat – Many beers are made from malted wheat or barley, naturally high in gluten. You can find gluten-free options now available in many places.