Eat less wheat for a healthier, skinnier you
Like most foods these days, depending on the reviewer, it can be labeled as life-saving or life-crushing. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration but there certainly are two sides to this story. For what is safe to assume for commercial reasons, wheat is not the same as it used to be, chemistry plays a bigger part in our food than it ever has done before and the cultivation of wheat is certainly no stranger to the intervention of men (or women) in white coats. Wheat growing today, involves chemicals and preservatives, and more importantly wheat-based foods are now highly processed, which removes most of the nutrients.
Wheat is increasingly being linked to allergies, sensitivities, hyperactivity, weight gain - and the list goes on - so should we really eat it or not?
What is wheat?
Wikipedia's definition of wheat is '...a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East and Ethiopian Highlands, but now cultivated worldwide...' With it being the third most produced cereal crop after maize and rice you will find it in lots of the foods you eat today - flour, bread, breakfast cereal, biscuits, cakes, pastry, and pasta.
Is Wheat good for us?
Quick answer - Yes and No. As with most foods, there are some nutritional benefit if eaten in the right form. The whole grain is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, while the refined grain that we commonly eat is mostly starch. So wheat can have huge health benefits but the way in which we regularly consume wheat there is little nutritional benefit.
Why is it bad for us?
I'm a personal trainer not a scientist, so I should tread carefully here with what I say. Many health or food related professionals believe too much wheat causes bloating, headaches, ill health, constipation, lethargy and in severe cases some believe it can even be a cause of depression. There's little scientific evidence to support this, but it certainly hasn't stopped health professionals advising their clients and patients to cut down on wheat or use alternatives like spelt, rye, barley, rice and soy.
1 in 300 people in the UK have a severe allergic reaction to gluten, known as coeliac disease, although a simple intolerance to wheat is a lot more prevalent. Sufferers of an allergy or intolerance can expect anything from irritable bowel syndrome to thyroid disorders, arthritis, diabetes, asthma and even eczema.
Wheat and weight loss
Wheat can play a massive part in your weight loss efforts, we wi il use the most commonly eaten wheat based product, bread, as an example.
Your blood sugar levels can spike higher after eating a lone piece of bread than having chocolate or a can of fizzy drink. This is because of the high GI (Glycaemic Index) rating.
A quick bit of science for those interested. If your food contains glucose, then say hello to insulin, the hormone that facilitates the entry of glucose into your cells, where it’s converted to fat. To move sugars from the wheat into your cells so they can be used for energy, or stored as fat, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin. The higher your blood sugar levels are after eating, the more insulin your body releases - and the more fat that is deposited, often in your belly.
What to do next?
As with all foods (without exception) we should eat it in moderation. My strong belief is that we should try to eat as many un-processed foods as possible and try to eat fresh wherever we can, this is nothing new and I'm certainly not preaching to be the found of a new movement. Most health or fitness professionals will be fully aware of the benefits of eating less processed foods and I'm sure you've all heard it before.
In a nutshell, avoid too much food that has gone through a factory and been stripped of 'supposed' impurities or unnecessary elements. Choose foods that look like they did before man got involved - you want:
- Fresh meat and poultry - not ready made burgers or sausages
- Fresh fish - not fish fingers or breadcrumbed fish out of the freezer
- Fresh vegetables - not 'ready chopped', 'ready prepared', not 'ready anything' just plain old simple whole vegetables from your grocer
- Fresh potatoes - not ready made mashed potato or frozen roast potatoes,
- Unrefined rice, pasta or bread - avoid the plain white varieties and go for wholemeal, brown or granary
I'm not saying you cant eat any of these foods above, just think 'moderation'. You will often see me devouring a burger at the weekend or chomping on a pizza midweek but the majority of the time I cook fresh for myself and my family and I strongly believe it keeps us in good health.