Eating Wheat-Free - Why it Works for Me
When I first decided to try a wheat-free diet, it was not because I was extremely overweight. I actually stumbled across the idea while researching alternatives to the Atkins diet, which I have also done. Now from the sounds of those first two sentences, it seems as though I am another 'diet junkie' - willing to try every diet fad going but that is not the case. I want to feel good, have energy, and not be hungry all day long.
What Is Wheat?
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Wheat is a grain that is high in carbohydrates. Modern wheat, unlike the wheat our ancestors ate, is a very efficiently digestible form of complex carbohydrates. The wheat we eat today has been genetically altered and the result is a higher gluten content. It is gluten that causes spikes in blood sugar. These spikes stimulate the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for fat storage. The spikes are followed by 'crashes' that leave us feeling hungry again. This vicious cycle is worth understanding if you wonder why you are always hungry although you eat 'normal', or even 'excessive', amounts of food (Davis, 2012).
Wheat Belly is a witty book that explains the science behind what is going on inside my brain and body when exposed to wheat. The theory is that "a wheat-free diet will diminish hunger and cravings, and lead to fewer mood swings, improved ability to concentrate and deeper sleep" 6510. What I noticed the most was a decrease in hunger and cravings which is a big deal for me since I often gave in to food cravings because I felt hungry all the time.
I have strayed from the diet on the rare occasion that temptation takes over and I just cannot resist a piece of cake or some cookies. Immediately, I can feel my body respond to the wheat and sugar in these treats because my brain fogs and I get the sensation that I've had too much wine. I actually do feel like I'm in another place. I truly believe that sugar is just as powerful a drug as any when it comes to addiction and relapse.
Of course, as soon as I wake up the next day and get back on the right track with my diet, my brain fog dissipates and I remember why I committed to a wheat-free diet in the first place.
What Can I Eat if I Can't Eat Wheat?
Mainly what I eat are whole foods that have not been processed in any way. That means staying away from anything in a bag or box for the most part. I shop for fresh fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat. Of course, no breads, bagels, wraps, cakes, pastries, cookies or pies to name a few. I read the labels of things in jars and make my own salad dressing (which is delicious). For a regular treat, I eat gluten-free dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. This takes some getting used to but it does satisfy my craving for sweeter foods. I have also purchased some cookbooks supporting a wheat- and gluten-free lifestyle. Really, you just have to be conscious of what you are eating - or ordering - and read the labels. Also be aware of hidden sources of wheat such as 'veggie' meat alternatives.
My intention when writing this article was to share my experience with a wheat-free diet and explain why it makes sense. By answering the question 'What is Wheat?' we can understand its' effects on our bodies and minds which, hopefully, leads to positive changes.