What’s all this about Wheat?

A reader asked about natural sugar substitutes. Most often listed are honey, organic maple syrup, molasses, date sugar, brown rice syrup, stevia and truvia. That said, we have to ask: what is driving our craving for sweets? We can abuse any of the above as much as the chemical concoctions that lace our prepared food and beverages do.

 During WWII, sugar was rationed and we simply ate less of it. We ate smaller portions of dessert and icing on cakes was minimal. Studies both here and in Europe showed less tooth decay and increased physical health amongst the general population. After the war, we gradually resumed and surpassed our previous sugar consumption. The one inch frostings on cakes never returned but sugar was gradually added to everything we bought in cans, bottles, and boxes. No surprise, tooth decay returned, general health declined, and sickness insurance became a hot item. Insurance continues to be on center stage in everyday news and governmental debates.

 Also, during WWII, when there was a bread shortage in Europe, Willem-Karel Dicke, a Dutch physician, noticed that celiac (abdominal) disorders lessened, only to recur when Sweden dropped bread into the Netherlands from relief planes. Today one in 133 people have celiac disease (or 2 million people in the US.)

 So, what is it about wheat that louses us up? Physician William Davis, in his book, Wheat Belly, traces the development of wheat from Paleolithic times to today. It seems the original wheat had 14 chromosomes in its genetic structure. Today’s wheat, after centuries of hybridization, has 42 chromosomes, and a much higher gluten and carbohydrate content.

 In early times, wheat represented a small part of the diet. Today, wheat is present at every meal, and in most snacks, and, like sugar, we’ve gone overboard devouring it.  The average American eats 133 lbs. of wheat per year and most of us shudder at the thought of limiting our bread, crackers, muffins, cakes, cereals, pies, pizza, waffles, and much more.

So we have sugar and wheat riding in tandem and making health a challenge for us mainly because we’ve gone overboard in our consumption. Sugar and wheat might be termed national allergies that are eroding our health. Usually, when we find we are allergic to something, we eliminate the offender.

 Whether we choose to eliminate one or both of the culprits, it’s helpful to think about adding more whole foods that are both sweet and satisfying, like yams, winter squash, apples, nuts, leafy greens, carrots, and guacamole. We can try out almond or coconut flour, quinoa, and ginger root. We may end up concocting creative potlucks on the sweetest adventure ever!

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