During the past many years, Jeff and I have learned a lot about food and food production in America. Our newfound and constantly-evolving understanding of what has been done to our most basic foodstuffs has boggled our mind and has changed us.
Today, I want to discuss wheat – or should I say what most refer to as wheat. This has become a highly-controversial topic and my goal is to break it down into an easy-to-understand format.
My objective, always, is to educate and inform. Because, once we thoroughly understand a topic, we are in a better position to make good decisions. Though it is always easier to go along with the crowd, that is not always the best course of action.
Grains – full of life and nutrients – have been consumed for thousands of years by storing in whole kernel form and milled fresh.
So, here’s the question: if wheat has been enjoyed for thousands of years, why is gluten sensitivity and intolerance a fairly new phenomenon?
Here’s the answer: wheat is not grown, prepared, processed or eaten the way it was even 60 years ago. The first thing that went wrong was in the milling, the second in cultivation and farming. Both have had a profound and adverse effect to our wheat consumption and reactions.
It all starts with the plant. Our modern wheat – which was developed through cross-breeding and crude genetic manipulation – was introduced around 1960. The nutrient and protein composition of this plant is not the same as the grains we used to enjoy, such as Emmer, Einkorn and Kamut.
This modern mutant is less nutritious than traditional wheat. There has been a drastic decrease in minerals like zinc, copper, iron and magnesium with this new wheat. As much as 19-28%!
The fellow who pioneered this product, Norman Borlaug, also developed a range of complimenting fertilizers and pesticides. All of this increased yield hugely. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ‘saving billions of lives.’ This new farming technology was propagated around the world by companies you may or may not know about, like DuPont and Monsanto. You’ll want to stay tuned to upcoming blogs to learn all about them.
The other big problem is related to processing and began during the industrial age in the late 19th century. That’s when it became possible to refine the wheat – stripping away the parts that are good for you (the bran and germ) – so that it could be stored and shipped without going bad. This was much, much more profitable.
As Grainstorm Heritage Baking so eloquently states: We now have mutant seeds, grown in synthetic soil, bathed in chemicals. They’re deconstructed, pulverized to fine dust, bleached and chemically treated to create a barren industrial filler that no other creature on the planet will eat. And we wonder why it might be making us sick?
Wheat also used to be soaked, sprouted and fermented prior to baking. This preparation made nutrients more accessible. And, baking was done slowly using slow-rise yeast. None of this is done anymore.
Results of Farming, Processing and Cooking Alterations
Because I don’t want to get too technical here, I’m not going to discuss the specific names of the major proteins in the gluten family. There is plenty of information you can locate on the Internet if you want to know the details. Suffice it to say, there are many types of proteins found in wheat. Some are more problematic than others.
Many researchers speculate that the new form of wheat has more of the bad proteins than the older varieties and has a unique ability to trigger an auto-immune reaction in the gut. This is probably the main reason why celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are on the rise.
Celiac disease, which about 1% of people have, is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Basically, what happens is the immune system in the gut mistakenly assumes that the gluten proteins are foreign invaders and mounts an attack – on both the proteins and the gut lining. This leads to degeneration of the intestinal lining, leaky gut, tremendous inflammations and other harmful effects.
Gluten sensitivity is much more common. It is believed about 6-8% of people suffer from this.
Further: modern wheat varieties have a more adverse effect on cholesterol, blood mineral content and inflammatory markers for most everyone than do the older varieties.
Get off the Bandwagon
Unfortunately, more and more people are getting on the ‘gluten-free’ bandwagon to fix the problem of a shoddy product and bad processing practices. They claim they feel better by simply cutting out gluten. But, are they considering the following points?
- They are oftentimes eating other types of grain, such as spelt or Kamut, that also have gluten. Why can they eat those types and not feel bad?
- Most gluten-free items are junk food disguised as health food. The body gets little, if any, nutrition from white flour substitutes such as rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch and guar gum. These fillers actually spike blood sugar more than the refined flour.
- And, usually, these products are chocked full of chemicals. Do we really need to ingest more chemicals?
- Manufacturers are making an unreasonably high profit from the sales of this popular junk food.
Because, as I pointed out earlier, most people are not celiac; rather, simply sensitive to gluten, might I suggest instead of not eating wheat at all, simply cut out the modern wheat and return to the old-fashioned flour?
Now, I’m sorry to report more bad news. Old-fashioned flour is not easy to find. You cannot get it at the supermarket – no matter what the packaging says. Their healthy-looking stuff is usually just the white, refined flour with a little bran thrown in.
You need to find stone ground ‘whole meal’ flour. This flour includes the entire wheat kernel and germ. The problem here is if you do happen to find it at a farmers’ market or at a health food store, chances are it’s been sitting around too long. It goes bad very quickly. That’s the bitterness you’ve probably tasted and is why you probably think you don’t like it.
We’ve found two online stores where both fresh wheat berries (and other grains) can be found if you want to grind your own flour. They both also sell flours and other baking mixes. They are fresh, but need to be used fairly quickly. We, at Chef Jeff & Co., have actually used many items from Bluebird Grain Farms and are very happy with their quality. We’ve not used Grainstorm Heritage Baking, but they seem to be a good company, too. And, of course, there are others.
Well…I tried not to get too wordy. My hope was to give you the gluten overview. I think I ran over. But, I hope I’ve given you enough information to help you make good wheat choices. If you have any questions, please ask. We’ll do our best to answer your questions.
Here’s to your good health.