Grappling with Grain. Should I go gluten-free even if I don’t have an allergy?

wheat free

Oh my gosh! This question is not easily answered! I have done more research on this topic than any other since beginning this blog. My nutrition plan for the month of January has encouraged you to go wheat/gluten-free, but WHY?

Now I’ll explain…
In a nutshell it’s about Glycemic Index. Diabetes or pre-diabetes is now our #1 healthcare cost in the United States. Why do we get diabetes? A large factor is that we eat processed foods and the wrong foods that we mistakenly think are “healthy”, in addition to leading sedentary lifestyles. GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI) is a scale which helps to rank carbohydrate- rich foods, depending on how they affect blood glucose levels, by comparing them to glucose. In simple terms, GI measures how much your blood sugar level increases in a span of 2 – 3 hours after having food. I’ve listed some popular foods below and how they rank…
Low GI: 55 or less, wheat-free grainy bread, brown rice, fish, egg, most fruits and vegetables (exclude potatoes, watermelon),
Medium GI: 56-69, whole wheat products, basmati rice, white rices, sweet potato, table sugar
High GI: 70 and above, flakes, rice krispies, baked potatoes, white bread, straight glucose
We need to choose foods that have a low to medium GI.
A picture is worth 1000 words:
corn flakes
Check out all of these ingredients with sugar being 2 of the top 3 ingredients. Now compare this with Old Fashioned Oats which have 1 ingredient: Rolled oats. Processed cereals are absolutely some of the worst food you can eat or feed your children.

So, this still doesn’t explain why I encourage wheat-free options while shopping at the grocery store. It’s due to how the U.S. has stunted our wheat growth so basically it’s not really “whole” anymore. However, going gluten-free may or may not help. If the gluten-free bread and pizza crust options are full of ingredients such as starches(potato, tapioca, corn starch) they are really no better in the GI category.

Hence, make your own! Find recipes for granola that are low in ingredients (oats, nuts, and natural sweeteners). Find recipes for dough that contain quinoa, brown rice, or almond flour and few starches and sugars.

OR, ELIMINATE bread, dough, crackers, pretzels, white pasta from your diet (you can cheat when you eat out :)) and replace with other grainy foods that you CAN buy at the grocery store. Some of my favorites are veggie chips, beanitos, blue corn chips, etc. Just opt for the foods that are low in ingredients and include only healthy oils and grains. Read food labels! You can’t go wrong!
good crunchies

beanitos ingredients

beanitos symbolsbrown rice pasta
quinoa flour

corn chips ingredients

Let’s compare White Pasta to Brown Rice Pasta. White pasta contains about 5% of its calories in fat, 78% in carbs, and 12% in protein. Brown rice pasta contains about 9% in fat, 82% in carbs, and 10% in protein. Just going by these figures, white pasta looks like a slightly better choice. Brown rice pasta is the better choice because it is considered “low” in glycemic index whereas the White/wheat flour pasta is in the high category. If you hate the taste of rice or spelt pasta (another good choice), use the whole-wheat pasta option. Whole-wheat pasta although containing gluten is better than white pasta.

Finally, let’s compare one of the snack options “Beanitos” to Pretzels. Beanitos are basically equal in carbohydrate and fat percentages to overall calories, with percent of protein being about 12%. Whereas pretzels, are only about 10% fat, 90% carbs, and protein is negligible. Pretzels look like the best option because they are so low in fat. BUT, please remember that fat doesn’t turn to fat. The pretzels are actually the worse option because their glycemic index is soooo much higher. The brand of pretzels that I compared contains enriched flour (almost straight glucose), corn syrup (2nd ingredient), corn oil, malt extract and yeast.

In both of my good choices above, dietary fiber is doubled or tripled, and dietary fiber is one of the main reasons the FDA recommends eating grains in the first place.

If you missed the January nutrition plan, here are each of the files containing instructions:
Grocery List

Week One Recap

Grocery List Week 2

Week Two Overview and Daily Instructions

Week Three Overview and Daily Instructions

Week Four Overview and Daily Instructions

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