Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall food choices

Buy from Amazon here
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote on my other blog about a book that was recommended by my friend TechnoBabe, called Wheat Belly, written by a cardiologist who felt compelled to expose what he calls the reason for the massive increases in obesity and overweight in Americans over the past few decades. Nobody who pays attention to these kinds of things could fail to notice the growing numbers of really really fat people. I sure see it here in Bellingham, whereas in Boulder I rarely saw people on the street as fat as those I see around here. Of course, part of the reason for that might be linked to the winters in the Pacific Northwest: long stretches of rainy days with little to no sun.

Whatever the true reason for the increase in our waistlines, I decided to buy the book. I actually downloaded it onto my iPad2 so that I could support our local independent bookstore. (This was my first and possibly last electronic book; I really like to peruse and flip through pages that I've read without a lot of bother. Plus this book had notes in each chapter and I could not easily look them up.) I read it avidly and agreed with many things he had to say about wheat. Basically, the idea that wheat has become ubiquitous in our diets, in so many different products, is indisputable. His real premise, with which I agree, is that the wheat we ingest does not bear much resemblance to the "amber waves of grain" that we think of as wheat. It's been genetically modified in order to make it produce more at a lower cost, and all without any research on whether it is harmful to those of us who eat it. Here's a quote from p. 6, called "Wheat, the Unhealthy Whole Grain":
Of all the grains in the human diet, why only pick on wheat? Because wheat, by a considerable margin, is the dominant source of gluten protein in the human diet. Unless they're Euell Gibbons, most people don't eat much rye, barley, spelt, triticale, bulgur, kamut, or other less common gluten sources; wheat consumption overshadows consumption of other gluten-containing grains by more than a hundred to one. ... I focus on wheat because, in the vast majority of American diets, gluten exposure can be used interchangeably with wheat exposure. For that reason, I often use wheat to signify all gluten-containing grains.
Dr. Davis makes a great case for stopping the consumption of wheat. I tend to go along with what he says about it, as well as the observations he has made about all kinds of fructose sources (often hidden with esoteric sounding names) and their terrible consequences on the body when consumed in even small doses. And here I had started eating agave nectar, thinking I was doing good things for myself (not!).

Anyway, I did some research on other gluten-containing grains, such as rye, and I found out some very interesting information. For one thing, since rye has a much lower gluten content than wheat it is usually combined with wheat when used for making bread. I looked for straight rye breads and found that my local health food store does indeed carry some, but there's not much. It needs a sourdough starter if it doesn't contain any added sugars. A variety of pumpernickel is imported from Bavaria, although there is actually a 100% rye bread made locally that is hard as a rock. It's good, though, and I'm using rye as a replacement for the spelt bread I have grown so fond of at the Great Harvest Bread Company. Their spelt has lots of honey to make it rise, and I noticed that I would often crave the bread for its sweet content. One place that has lots of interesting facts about rye is Grindstone Bakery. I will continue to keep rye and brown rice in my diet, since I have no gluten issues. I asked the owner of the GHBC if they make spelt without added sugar, and he said they experimented with it, but it wasn't successful. It needs a fair amount of honey.

The reason for my endeavor into a wheat-free diet is to find out if cutting out wheat and all added sugars (other than from fresh fruit) will improve my cholesterol numbers. I was so convinced that I would be looking at great numbers after losing fifteen pounds and eating lots of healthy foods. I ate my spelt bread and sourdough wheat breads, occasional excursions into pizza when eating out with my friends, but otherwise not much wheat. I don't eat processed foods very often, but I am now thinking that I need to make an effort to keep my glycemic load to a minimum. I now check on this website (Diet and Fitness Today) to find the glycemic index and glycemic load of the various foods that I eat. In January I will again have my blood drawn to see if the numbers have improved. Oh yes, one more thing that I added: I started taking fish oil daily at my doctor's suggestion. Although I'm not going to be able to tell what might have changed my numbers, I'll know I'm on the right track if they go down. (My total cholesterol was 259, up 15 points from January of this year.)

Whew! This post got a lot longer than I wanted, but I'll stop here and release my readers to other endeavors. I do hope to hear from you about any ideas you might have about these steps I've taken.


  1. Very interesting. Keep us posted on your progress. I have friends - a couple - who went completely gluten-free this past summer; he lost over 20 pounds and she lost about 10 (she was not much overweight to begin with). We have cut down on total wheat consumption, but I am not fanatical about checking labels. Good luck!

  2. It is indeed very interesting. I know that carb consumption is a problem for me and I've tried to reduce it from my diet considerably. Early days, though. Thanks for the information re the differences between the wheat gluten and other grains. Good luck with your cholesterol.. please keep us posted.

  3. defintiely will be interested in your response...i have read technos as well and am looking to get the book myself...

  4. Well, I don't know what to think. I eat cookies, cakes, pies or bread every day, but my total cholesterol was 193 in October. David does the same and last week his score was 124. So, I really doubt that wheat is a problem. David and I are fat, yes, but our cholesterol scores are within normal range.

  5. It is an issue here as well. Obesity and too much dependence on wheat products (and prepared foods) I mean. Thank you, this is very interesting and I hope you will keep us posted.

  6. I don't have a specific problem that requires me to alter my current diet of everything in moderation. If I did, I guess I would study food products more, but so much of the information out there is a fad, the latest scare, or whatever. Here today, gone tomorrow.

  7. This was interesting. I can't disagree with much of it, but I know it would never work for me and there is no need for it. I just went through extensive test to see if I had a gluten intolerance, and I don't. Reading labels is a necessary part of life for all of these days though. Best wishes to you on the changes.

    On the electronic book part: I like to read novels on the Kindle, but I do not like to read most non-fiction on it. Like you, I find it difficult to look up references and notes. I also find it hard to annotate on a Kindle, and I do love to annotate! I would want to refer back to book such as the one you have reviewed it I had read it, and I would find it hard to refer back to an electronic book.

    I actually called Amazon to complain about why the electronic version of "The Greater Journey" was not working for me, and they gave me my money back.

  8. Congratulations for staying healthy! Okay diet...I just make sure that my rice intake since rice is our staple food and a very rich source of carb, would only be 3 cups a day and more protein intake. I stay away from fastfoods, processed foods and the eat-all-you-can restaurants.At 5'4" I have to maintain my 115 lbs body weight and if exceeds with that...I'm overeating again hahaha.

  9. Djan, wheat has not only been changed so that it matures in a shorter growing season but for better milling qualities, disease resistance and god knows what else. It would be interesting to compare today's wheat to wheat varieties of 100 years ago.

  10. If we were eating the same wheat as was around 50-75 years ago it would probably be just fine for us. The food industry continues to alter genetically and dose with chemicals. Anything that is most popular alone should probably send up red flags because then we know they will have messed with it more to have more product to sell.

    Keep us posted! This is very interesting and I hope it works for you with your cholesterol. :)

  11. I can't wait to hear your upcoming January results. Severely limiting my glycemic load is the ONLY dietary change that has ever had a significant positive impact on my cholesterol numbers. Except for some uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal some mornings (and occasional barley in soups), I'm just not doing grains. Consumption of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and other sugars is very infrequent and relegated to tiny (condiment-size) portions. Virtually all of my carbs are coming from veggies, and to that I add lean protein and good fats. I'll probably get blood work during the next month, and I'll let you know the results.

  12. Did you cut out the coffee? Just asking..that seemed to work for me. Oh I would hate to give up all bread..I do like bread. My Dad has Celiac Disease so My Mom bakes gluten free for him. Glutens are hidden in lots of foods:(

  13. I have seen this book and have even read a lengthy excerpt. His premise is sound and makes a lot of sense. Not only has the wheat (and I live in the center of thousands of acres of wheat) been genetically modified it is also over processed.

    We don't eat a lot of bread or cereal products. I do like amaranth and rye. Fructose is in so many products. I read labels on everything I buy to avoid it when possible.

    I will be curious to hear your results in January.

  14. Once upon a time in a land far, far away, people ate three square meals a day - then came the businessmen, who opened pre packaged food, fast food restaurants n stalls with great tasting crap. That was not enough - "SUPER SIZING" became the second most used word in the American language. Hence, UNHEATHLY FAT ran quickly throughout the human bodies, however, many humans just loved SUPER SIZING. That is not the case with you DJAN - you are you - just unique and your body is the same. I do hope this works for you, for you are following such unique paths to bring down not only your weight but also your cholesterol scores. You are a shining example to the overweight public of America. Good for YOU !

  15. Great reading and I need to read your post several times while I have my green salad for lunch with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It is just all the chopping that takes so much time. I get hungry and impatient and before I know it, I have chips in my hand. I'm trying to eat a banana before I start chopping veggies so I won't get too hungry. Fruits, veggies, and salmon--can I eat anything else?

  16. Interesting info here, thanks. Another book for my must read list.

  17. Thanks for the info - I have the book, but haven't started it yet.

  18. I learned a bit about all of this when I did the detox. I noticed that cutting out the wheat products and the sugars made a HUGE difference for me. My stomach got nearly flat, I felt lighter, I slept better and didn't have the mood swings. I have a serious sweet tooth but noticed if I take my powdered magnesium on a daily basis it seems to alleviate that.
    Of course, I don't know how much can be attributed to the lack of wheat since I cut out so many other items that are over processed or are known allergens. I will say to watch out for corn which is in everything. Corn is another majorly genetically modified food as well as being a common allergen that is often undetected. I discovered that brown rice makes a great substitute for white rice and pastas. I don't know about brown rice bread as I haven't tried it. I also love quinoa.
    With your family history I wonder how much you will be able to lower your cholesterol. Is it possible that the numbers aren't as tied to diet and exercise as they are to genetics? Though I do know diet and exercise play a part!
    I'll agree with Retired English Teacher about the eReaders-they are great for novels but not so hot for non fiction.

  19. It is interesting to me to read different peoples responses to what you share here in your post. I had no idea I was addicted to wheat and that is exactly what it was. Obesity and diabetes are just two of the major problems related to wheat. I understand why some people choose to stay in what they think of their comfort zone. For some reason, I had just had enough of the feeling yucky, tired, out of it, and the other symptoms. My hubby wrote a post about some of the changes in each of us since we went totally no wheat.

    I encouraged him to document the very real changes that we have experienced so far. I can't stress enough that I feel alive, with an interest in doing things that was not there previously, and my pains are gone as well as my eyesight better. Why would I ever ever put any wheat product in my mouth again.

    Very good post, DJan. Sometime I will tell you another huge reason why I know without a doubt that wheat dangerous.

  20. Hi DJan,
    I've been struggling with this for a while. When I get off wheat I feel better, but I keep going back on. What an addiction!
    The longest I went without was 3 weeks - so didn't notice a significant weight loss, but I keep trying. I feel sick about how we've ruined many of the good foods our parents and grandparents used to eat - and no one has bothered to see what the long term effects are. Greed is ruining this planet! You've motivated me to try again, though, so thank-you.

  21. Sigh... I have to watch my glycemic idex. No fun. I have been gaining some weight lately and I've got to work on bringing my numbers down. My cholesterol went up too. It's at 229. The problem is the LDL. Sigh...

    Wheat, hunh? Sigh...

  22. A very interesting post, Djan. I have said for many years that I believe all the disease (cancer) and obesity we see nowadays is due to all the things the industry has done to our foods over the years. It's scary!

    I can see where a gluten free diet would be a huge benefit as, from what I've read, a lot of people are gluten intolerant and don't even know it.

    I too will be interested to hear your next blood results. My cholesterol has been mildly high for a while and in recent months I started taking daily flaxseed oil (packed with Omega 3s) and my last blood result showed that my cholesterol had lowered. I might try cutting down my wheat intake to see if that helps even more.

    Keep us posted please ~


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