Everybody hates wheat now. It’s maligned as a cause of several health problems. We’re told it makes us fat. It’s bad for your gut. It slows your mental processing down. The list goes on, much of it rooted in quasi-science and Dr. Oz-level speculation.
But slow that noise. Because wheat is also the base of pasta. Bread. Cookies. It’s intoxicating (in a fun way). As such, it’s worth fighting for and learning about. Especially because — more than perhaps any food product on the market today — modern wheat is deeply misunderstood.
More often than not, nutritionists and doctors talk about bread and wheat and gluten as though they’re all one monolith product without variance or nuance. The train of thought often goes: Bread has gluten. Bread is made of wheat. So, remove all wheat from your diet. It’s a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater fallacy.
Truth is, there are a lot of different kinds of wheat from different eras of history on the shelf today. So generally saying ‘wheat’ when you mean a specific type (bleached white flour) is like positing that all apples are Granny Smiths. That’s before you even get into how baking bread has changed through the abandonment of sourdough starters, how processing wheat to flour changed, and how growing common wheat (drastically) changed between the 1950s and 1970s.
Let’s take a step back and look at what wheat actually is, how different kinds of wheat have evolved, and what to expect from the many varieties.
A FEW WORDS ON GLUTEN
Let’s get this out of the way: All wheat has gluten. But not all wheat is created equal when it comes to what it is, how it’s grown, and its processing — which effects each particular wheat’s gluten content.
A hard and fast rule for the gluten sensitive is that if a wheat or flour has a lower protein content, it’ll have a lower gluten content. High protein flours have more gluten and make better bread. Lower protein means lower gluten which makes better cakes. But even that litmus is very broad and really only applies to common wheat that’s grown at industrial levels.
There’s also a lot of debate over whether “gluten sensitivity” or even Celiac is being caused by gluten. Part of that is due to the relative newness of cases and the limited research being done to figure it out. Another part of the problem is due to huge corporations like Monsanto lobbying against major studies being conducted (or ghostwriting others) on their weedkiller: Roundup, or glyphosate.
Gluten sensitivity and Celiac’s rise is tied to the industrialization of our food commodities over the last 50 years (more on that later). And that shift has largely gone unstudied. This is changing — albeit very slowly. We’ve yet to look at whether or not Roundup has an effect, much less negative one, on our gut florae for instance. We do know glyphosate does transfer from the plant into the body because of urine studies conducted in Germany. So, we know that that agro-chemical is inside of us. We just don’t know what it’s doing to our microbiome. Still, it’s not too crazy a stretch to conclude that a chemical meant to kill florae could be having an ill effect on our own florae, which manage our body’s health.
A way to avoid this is to buy organic wheat and flour which is banned from using agro-chemicals like glyphosate on their products. Another way to avoid the scourge of industrialized farming and to focus on older wheat strains which are grown in much smaller quantities and have varying advantages nutritionally.
All that said, if you’re genuinely sensitive to all wheat, we aren’t here to fight you. You know your body, we’re just sharing info.