Are you eating wheat products? Lately, the news has included many stories on how wheat is bad for you causing abdominal fat, triggering diseases, and being linked with Alzheimer’s, headaches, depression and others.
If all that is true why is wheat recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, by nutrition experts and American Heart Association? Isn’t it a part of the Mediterranean Diet which is highly recommended by nutrition professionals.
Does wheat contribute to abdominal fat or belly fat? High consumption of refined grains has been associated with greater belly fat in studies. However, lower belly fat has been associated with the consumption of eating whole grains including whole wheat. Thus, whole grains including whole wheat do not seem to be the problem. The problem is our consumption of refined grains. Cutting out processed foods made with refined wheat (wheat flour, white flour, enriched wheat flour, all-purpose flour) and loaded with sugar and saturated fat will help us all avoid or limit the “wheat belly.” Limit your consumption of cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, and white bread.
So what about the other charges on mental effects? Research has shown that both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet lower the risk of dementia. Both diets include consumption of whole grains including whole wheat. Following those diets showed better cognitive ability in adults ages 65 and up over a period of 11 years. It is true higher glucose levels from too many carbohydrates is a risk factor for dementia, but cutting out all carbohydrates is not the answer either. Our brain needs glucose (Carbohydrates break down to glucose in our body.) for energy as it does not store glucose. Thus, diets low in carbohydrates can hurt our thinking and memory.
Again, it is important to eat whole grains. Whole grains including whole wheat can provide the glucose needed for our brain. Whole grains including whole wheat breaks down more slowly than simple carbohydrates like refined grains and sugar.
Whole grains also provide fiber. Consuming the recommended amount of dietary fiber without whole grains would be very difficult. Gluten-free diets usually only contain six gram of dietary fiber a day, a lot less than the 25-38 grams recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
Do choose a variety of whole grains but including whole wheat, unless you need a gluten-free diet. When shopping be sure to choose products made with “whole wheat” or “whole-grain wheat.” You can also look for the 100% Stamp from the Whole Grains Council on foods made with all whole grains.
Note: If your doctor recommends you follow a gluten-free diet, please continue to follow your doctor’s advice.
Author: Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences
Reviewed by: Liz Smith, M.S, RDN., L.D. NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension
Tufts University, . The truth about the war on wheat, Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Health & Nutrition Letter, March 2014 Special Supplement, p. 1-4.