To say that there’s a lot of conflicting information about health out there is an understatement. One debate revolves around grains, and whether or not they are a necessary part of our diet. Wheat and gluten get a lot of press, and you may be wondering, what’s the big deal?
Over the years wheat, more specifically gluten (one of the proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley), has become problematic for many people all over the world. In the same way that some people have peanut allergies that can be deadly, some people have a severe reaction to eating even a small amount of gluten. These people have a condition called Celiac disease. The cases of celiac disease have increased dramatically in the last decade. There are also some people who when they consume gluten just don’t feel right. Gluten can be implicated in a long list of symptoms, from digestive discomfort to difficulty concentrating to auto-immune conditions. So why is this a more recent phenomenon? Many theories abound, but one of them is related to the extent to which we’ve genetically modified wheat in recent history. Another theory is set forth by proponents of the paleo diet.
This popular diet advocates eating foods which our Paleolithic ancestors did over a million years ago. It claims that we are genetically programmed to eat few grains, as humans didn’t start farming them until 10,000 years ago. The diet places heavy emphasis on grass fed meats, eggs, and vegetables. There is some scientific evidence that supports the use of this diet, especially for conditions like diabetes, obesity, and some auto-immune conditions.
So should you eat wheat or not, and what types of grains are beneficial, if any? My motto is: moderation in all things. We are genetically unique creatures that don’t fit a one-size fits all mold. If you have a specific health condition then maybe avoiding or decreasing your grain consumption can be beneficial. In this case I would suggest seeing a professional who has experience in this area. If you are overall healthy and have no specific health concerns, then I believe a moderate consumption of whole grains such as brown rice, oats, barley, millet, and quinoa is advisable. The problem is that in our society we tend to overdo things, and we’ve overdone wheat. It is found in all sorts of processed foods and is ubiquitous in many kitchen staples, like soy sauce. People are developing intolerance to wheat like never before. Reducing our consumption of wheat and maybe gluten is something that can likely benefit our health, especially when we replace it with more vegetables in our diet.
This article originally appeared on page 20 of the beijingkids February 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Debbie_Long (flickr)