has been around for at least as long as recorded history, and has played an important part in the nutritional welfare of humans in many cultures. So, why is wheat suddenly getting a bad rap? With the rise in popularity of gluten-free diets and books such as, "Wheat Belly
" by William Davis, wheat and gluten-containing products are being scorned by as many as 25% of Americans. I have definitely always thought of wheat as a healthy choice, so scoffed the growing fad, until recently, when I realized my daughter is intolerant of wheat (or gluten). Since then, I have done a ton of research and have been surprised by what I have found regarding wheat.
*There used to be dozens of wheat varieties cultivated around the world, but because only a handful are useful for commercial farming, most other varieties have become extinct
*Wheat itself has actually changed
. The wheat most commonly used in commercial products is what is referred to as 'dwarf wheat' or 'semi-dwarf wheat', which was genetically altered in the 1960s to grow short stalks with much higher yields of crop. Unfortunately, the nutrition content of this wheat is much lower than in traditional wheat.
has also changed the soil that wheat is grown in. Rather than growing crops in well-nourished, fertile soil, commercial farmers drench nutrient-depleted soils in chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, other chemicals and growing agents (i.e. hormones) are used to help crops thrive in areas of the country that may not be the natural growing environment for such crops. Even traditional wheat has less nutritional value when grown in these conditions.
* Often in commercial farming, seeds are treated to various mixtures of chemicals
to help the seeds and emerging seedlings remain free of diseases and insect damage. Grain is treated to additional chemicals for "safe" storage. These chemicals are labeled as safe for humans, but regular exposure contributes to toxicity levels. Even grains grown on organic farms may still be subjected to poor drying processes, which cook many of the nutrients out.
* Processing grains
destroy vitamin E
and other nutrients, with high-speed mills reaching 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When dough is made into various products, additional heating and processing occurs, which further destroys nutrients, often including any synthetic vitamins that were added. This is especially true when dough is turned into certain types of products such as cold cereal.
*Given all of the above, commercial production of bread and other wheat-based products
adds further insult to injury by adding numerous toxic ingredients. Chlorine
(the same agent used to bleach clothes) is added to make the flour
more aesthetically appealing. Bromine, highly toxic for human beings, is added to help bread rise. Iron
is added to enrich certain products, but the form of iron that is used is difficult for the body to absorb and may build up to toxic levels. Other risky or toxic ingredients, such as dough conditioners
, chemical preservatives, artificial colors and flavors
, hydrogenated vegetable oil
, soy flour
, and sugar
s, may also be added.
This is just a brief summary of what is done in the commercial production of wheat, but it is enough to help me understand that what was once a healthy choice may no longer be very nutritious, and may in fact be harmful. This research shows why so many people are having problems with wheat and wheat products these days.