Milad Minooie is a doctoral student studying mass communication at UNC. He recently started a wheat-free diet. In this blog post, he explains what motivated him.
My aunt has a condition that makes it hard for her to digest gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. She also has a hard time digesting fatty foods and milk, and is allergic to scented candles and tobacco, which I’m not going to get into here. Of course, she lives in California!
However, during a recent visit to North Carolina, I got to witness first-hand how she goes through labels one by one in grocery stores, diligently reads restaurant reviews on Yelp, and asks servers if what she is about to order has gluten. I was amazed by how much mental and physical effort she was putting into something that came to me effortlessly – eating!
Like – or unlike – many of you, I would decide what I wanted to eat at the very last minute. Most of the times I am still undecided when the server is ready to take my order. The phrase “do you need more time with the menu?” would usually elicit the untruthful “no, I’m ready to order” response. I would, then, proceed to order the very first menu item that popped into my head, not knowing if I really wanted it.
My aunt, however, could never order like me. For her, a simple task of ordering food requires a conscious and cognitive process of researching all the ingredients, weighing the nutritional value of each, and making an informed decision.
Knowing the fact that if you can’t eat gluten, you can’t eat bread – the conventional bread anyway – I asked her what she would do if she was stuck somewhere with no fancy gluten free restaurants and she had to make do with a fast food chain. She said, “ I order an open sandwich and don’t eat the bun.” “So much for a sandwich,” I thought at the time!
A few months later, through no fault of my own (the idea came from an episode of South Park), I was prompted to see if, contrary to the common belief, grains should constitute little to no portion of your daily diet. In my search for answers, I encountered a book called “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD. Ironically, Cartman was right! Here’s the proof:
Davis argues, “With few exceptions, foods made of wheat flour raise blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods. Yes, that’s true for even whole grains. More than table sugar, more than a Snickers bar. Organic, multigrain, sprouted–it makes no difference.” Thus, cutting out bread reduces the risk of diabetes.
Moreover, wheat is addictive. When exposed to stomach enzymes and acids it breaks down into polypeptides – whatever that is! “Once having gained entry into the brain, wheat polypeptides bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the very same receptor to which opiate drugs bind,” Davis writes, basing his claim on well-founded research. This process makes you crave wheat more and more. If you eat wheat you are an addict!
“There is no doubt: For some people, wheat is addictive. And, in some people, it is addictive to the point of obsession,” Davis writes. This explains why, even when you’re feeling full the smallest piece of bread makes you feel hungry – hence the breadbasket appetizer at fancy schmancy restaurants! It also explains how cutting wheat may help you lose weight.
Having read the book – which I think should be a required reading for every American – I decided to try a diet that excludes wheat. “How hard could it be?” I thought. How naïve I was!
Well, pretty hard as it turned out. Not just because I miss my two pieces of toast every morning, my pizza night, my pasta night, my New York bagels with my afternoon Pike Place Roast, my occasional visits to the Cheesecake Factory and Dunkin’ Donuts, and the breading on my fried chicken, shrimp and fish sticks, but also because it’s really hard to find something that doesn’t contain wheat! Only now I can truly sympathize with my aunt.
On the plus side, however, it has made me more aware of what I eat. Reading labels has taught me that there are some things that I don’t want in my body even though they may not contain wheat.
It has been well over a month since I started this diet and I can say with confidence that it hasn’t impacted my weight per se, but rather my body fat percentage. While I haven’t scientifically measured my body fat, I feel leaner, but not necessarily thinner. I encourage anyone reading this to check out “Wheat Belly” and decide for themselves if they want to cut out wheat, or not. I intend to continue, even if it means ordering an open sandwich and ditching the drool-inducing bun! Partly because of the health benefits, but mostly because I’m awesome!