The Nation's Health + Wheat

Wheat: Try an experiment in a wheat-free diet

Years back, I'd heard some people argue that wheat-based products were detrimental to health. At the time, I thought they were nuts. After all, wheat is the principal ingredient in a huge number of American staples like breakfast cereals and bread.

What changed my mind was the low-fat movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Proponents of low-fat diets claim that heart disease is caused by excess fat in the diet. A diet that is severely restricted in fat therefore might cure or reverse heart disease.

But low-fat diets evolve into high-carbohydrate diets. This nearly always means an over-reliance on wheat products. People will say to me "I had a healthy breakfast: shredded wheat cereal in skim milk and two slices of whole wheat toast." Yes, it is low-fat, but is it healthy?

Absolutely not. Followers of the Track Your Plaque program know that low-fat diets ignite the formation of small LDL particles (a VERY potent trigger of coronary plaque growth), drops HDL, raises triglycerides, causes resistance to insulin and thereby diabetes, raises blood pressure. They also make you fat, with preferential accumulation of abdominal visceral (intestinal lining) fat.

Look at people with gluten enteropathy, a marked intolerance to wheat products that results in violent bowel problems, arthritis, etc. if unrecognized. These people, if the diagnosis is made early, are strikingly slender and commonly unusually healthy otherwise. There's a message here.

If you need convincing, try an experiment. Eliminate--not reduce, but eliminate wheat products from your diet, whether or not the fancy label on the package says it's healthy, high in fiber, a "healthy low-fat snack", etc. This means no bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, breads, chips, breading on chicken, rolls, bagels, cakes, breakfast cereal...Whew!

You won't be hungry if you replace the lost calories with plentiful raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; more liberal use of healthy olive oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil; adding ground flaxseed and oat bran to yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.; and more lean proteins like lean beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.

I predict that, not only will you lose weight, sometimes dramatically, but you will feel better: more energy, more alertness, sleep better, less moody. Time and again, people who try this will tell me that the daytime grogginess they've suffered and lived with for years, and would treat with loads of caffeine, is suddenly gone. They cruise through their day with extra energy.

Success at this can yield great advantage for your heart scan score control and reversal efforts. It will give you greater control over small LDL and pre-diabetic patterns, in particular.

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