Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that wheat has become dietary enemy number one — even more so than sugar. It’s this widespread fear of all things wheaty that has caused gluten-free products to hit the mainstream in recent times.
While these products were once designed for people with celiac disease, you’re now just as likely to find non gluten-sensitive people ordering a GF pizza or burger. But should people who haven’t actually been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity be avoiding wheat? Cardiologist William Davis, the creator of The Wheat Belly Diet, believes so.
The diet has actually been around since 2011 and is based on Davis’ bestselling book The Wheat Belly. However, it hasn’t attracted the same level of attention as other gluten-eschewing diets like ketoand paleo. Possibly, this comes down to the fact that it’s simply not as extreme. Here’s what you need to know about it.
The Wheat Belly Diet is actually more of a lifestyle than a diet. It’s not a quick fix and doesn’t involve counting calories or macros. Rather, it involves eliminating all forms of grain-based carbohydrates from your diet. But rather than replacing these with heavily processed gluten-free products, the idea is to supplement with real foods.
Contrary to popular wisdom, there is no deficiency that develops from the elimination of wheat—provided the lost calories are replaced with the right foods. If the gap left by wheat is filled with vegetables, nuts, meats, eggs, avocados, olives, cheese—i.e., real food—then not only won’t you develop a dietary deficiency, you will enjoy better health, more energy, better sleep, weight loss.
-Cardiologist William Davis via The Wheat Belly Diet
Many people argue that as our ancestors had been eating wheat for centuries without negative consequences, gluten can’t be all that harmful. But in Wheat Belly, Davis claims that the wheat in the Western diet bears little resemblance to the wheat our ancestors would have consumed, due to hybridisation over the years.
What our nutritionist thinks
As much as we hate the thought of parting with our daily morning toastie if we don’t absolutely have to, we have to admit that Davis’ points are rather convincing. But what does a nutrition expert make of all this? Here’s what Amodrn’s in-house nutritionist Emma Cronin had to say.
I wouldn’t advocate dropping wheat or all grains entirely without good reason. That seems a little extreme. The lack of fibre makes me feel quite uneasy. I think for certain groups of people, such as those with diabetes, a low carbohydrate diet can certainly assist with their symptoms or disease. Likewise, a gluten-free diet can be useful in reducing certain symptoms. However this is under the strict direction of a medical professional.
Instead of going this extreme, I’d recommend following a diet complete with whole grains and unprocessed carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit, dairy without sugar added), alongside protein and healthy fats. By simply avoiding processed and simple carbohydrates such as baked goods and white rice, pasta etc. you’ll feel pretty healthy without the need to eliminate the all-important whole grains, which are an essential source of fibre, B vitamins and antioxidants (selenium included).
The trick is to always read the label and look for products with wholegrain listed as the first ingredient — these are the true ‘wholegrain’ products. If something has a wholegrain claim but wholegrain isn’t the first ingredient, it’s not wholegrain and more processed than you think!