Anyone who’s seen Jennifer Lawrence or Charlize Theron on screen knows that both of the Oscar winners for Best Actress are the real thing. It’s not surprising, at least to me, that they have no patience for phony celebs or “pretend” foods. Theron won’t go near anything gluten-free: “It tastes like cardboard!” she exclaimed in a talk-show appearance. Lawrence told Vanity Fair that gluten-free diets are “the new, cool eating disorder.”
Real foods, to both women, do not perform bait-and-switch tricks like substituting tapioca for whole wheat flour in baked goods. Real foods contain whole grains that may or may not be fashionable at the moment, but still deliver proven value. I’m reminded that our palate and digestive system subscribe to no dietary trends, and never have. Our bodies dwell in a microbial universe where nutritive usefulness trumps the latest fad; muscles and ligaments along with the liver and every other internal organ thrive on minerals and vitamins, healthful bacteria, fiber and phytochemicals. They’re sublimely oblivious to pop culture’s demands for the newest, coolest, latest diet.
As the author of Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten— I set out to discover for myself, as an investigative journalist, just how seriously I should take the campaign against gluten. Was this protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye, as William Davis claims in Wheat Belly, so injurious to our well-being that it has killed more people than all wars combined? Or were we yet again being subjected to unsubstantiated hyperbole—this time delivered by medical professionals, among others?
The gluten-free craze arrived in a thundercloud of hyperbole, like Moses delivering the Ten Commandments and warning if you fail to honor them, well, we’ll see you in hell. That’s the emotional foundation of screeds like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Like scripture, they are unconditional—they don’t deal with shades of gray, so we don’t have to, either. It’s all fire and brimstone. Eat wheat and grow fat, while you rot your brain. Other diet fads—Zone, South Beach, Atkins, generally call for more protein and fewer carbs, and more thought. Gluten-free is a one-stop one-shop silver bullet.
Reliable clinical studies indicate that only .63 to 6 percent of us suffer from definable symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and 1 in 133 from celiac disease. The vast majority of men and women who think they’re reacting to gluten— about 30 percent of the general population—fall into neither category.
A recent study at the University of Florida set out to probe people’s misconceptions about gluten. It followed 97 participants who tasted two food choices, one labeled “gluten-free” and one labeled “gluten.” The majority decided the non-gluten food was healthier, even though neither food actually contained gluten. As many as 32 percent of the study subjects thought eating gluten-free would bring about weight loss. Not true. It’s the elimination of junk food, the researchers point out, that makes all the difference.
I discovered too that long fermentation, as in sourdough, is nature’s way of reducing the toxicity of gluten molecules while increasing its nutritive value and edible enjoyment. A surprise to me, and proof again that the best part of authoring a book is to learn what you didn’t know when you began.
Read more about Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stepehn Yafa!