Wheat is not satan… but look out for those sneaky little sugar devils

This sinister gilded crust was the model for Salvador Dali's famous painting Bread 1926.

This sinister gilded crust was the model for Salvador Dali’s famous painting, “Bread 1926.”

But is bread the only villain in today’s battle with obesity? How did this food, which people have enjoyed since the dawn of agriculture, get such a bad rap?

Doctor William Davis leads the attack. In his book Wheat Belly, he blames wheat and wheat alone for everything from heart disease to diabetes to arthritis and everything in between. His inflammatory accusations have some validity, of course. But overall, I think the good doctor is stirring the pot with too big a spoon.

It’s true, people with celiac disease can eat no wheat whatsoever. If they do, they suffer from inflammation of the gut caused by a wheat protein called gluten. It’s deadly. Others have a genetic condition called gluten intolerance. These people, too, lead a healthier life without wheat in their diet. But Dr. Davis thinks everyone should stop eating wheat. That’s where I think he runs out of steam.

Van Gogh's "Wheat fields after the rain." Wheat is a food staple.

Van Gogh’s “Wheat fields after the rain.” Wheat is a food staple.
Read how much wheat inspired this gifted artist.

However, Dr. Davis has had support from media icons like Oprah and Dr. Phil. Ergo, many people have read his book. The gluten-free diet fad is rising faster than well-kneaded dough in a hot room.

I think it’s a mistake, though, to shun an entire food group. Over time, people just return to all the foods they grew up loving. Our bodies also miss out on the nutrients we get from eating wheat’s bounty. Some changes, though, may help.

The problems stem from processed foods that contain refined flour, along with its friends the sugar devils! Dr. Davis is rightly and firmly against refined flour. Without wheat’s fibre. refined flour is just a breath away from sugar. Michael Pollan fingered it as humanity’s first fast food.

Davis is right when he says that people who give up wheat will likely lose weight. But to avoid wheat, you have to give up processed foods. That includes pastas, packaged foods, and most baked goodies, with all the harmful fats, sugars and salt they bring to the table.

In other words, it’s not just wheat you are avoiding. You are in fact on a low-carb meal plan. Studies show that “low carb” means successful weight loss.

Gluten-free foods

glutenfreeFood processors missed the revenues from sales of their refined food products and rose to the challenge. They’ve come up with a slew of gluten-free products that replace these foods. However, people who regularly eat these new processed foods are replacing wheat with other easily digested starches, as well as sugar, salt and fats that are unhealthy.

Eating gluten-free processed foods inflates the food budget, introduces unhealthy alternatives to wheat, and results in nutritional losses from lack of wheat.

Whole-grain flours

It’s not wheat that is the sole cause of today’s rise in obesity. It’s SUGAR… and various refined flours from processed foods, whether they are gluten-free or not.

I’m with Dr. Davis on the importance of giving up REFINED flour.  But unlike Davis, most nutritionists think healthy people can eat foods made from whole grains safely. Moderation is the key.

Check out this post on whole-grain flour for more details.

In the meantime, let’s kill two birds with one stone-ground batch of flour. Here’s a great recipe  adapted from The Paddington Foodie, using whole-grain bread crumbs and wheat flour. It might even encourage kids to eat their veggies :).

Coated sticks of savory apple, zucchini and eggplant go great with a pork curry

Oven-baked  veggie sticks crisped in whole-wheat crumbs

I tried this with zucchini, Chinese eggplant, and apples. All were delicious but my favorite was eggplant. You can also try sweet potato, whole mushrooms, or even carrots.
We baked our tray inside a hot barbecue, outdoors. It took the full 25 minutes. Be sure to add the lemon and sea salt at the end. Crunchy and delicious! Reheats well the next day. Make lots!

1 large Chinese eggplant
1/2 cup whole-grain flour
1 1/2 cups dried and crumbed whole-grain bread, the finer the crumbs the better
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil  (or cooking spray)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon wedges

  1. Trim ends off  eggplant, and slice into sticks no longer than 4 inches.
  2. Bring pot of water to a boil. Add sticks, bring back to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry. This helps the crumbs stick better. Cool before continuing.
  3. Coat cookie sheet lightly with a tablespoon of olive oil. Or use cooking spray instead.
  4. Prepare ingredients  for the coating in the order you’ll use them. Season flour with salt and pepper on a large plate. Whisk eggs with a splash of water and a pinch of salt in wide bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan on a large plate.
  5. Dip eggplant sticks in flour, shake to remove excess and then dip into the egg mixture, removing excess before rolling  in the crumbs.
  6. Arrange coated food in single layer  on the tray.
  7. Wrap tray with plastic and cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 F or heat up the barbecue. Drizzle (or spray) a tablespoon of olive oil over the chilled sticks.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the sticks over and bake for another 15 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. Season with sea salt and serve with lemon.

Next time, Vinny demystifies the terms  glycemic index and glycemic load. which Dr. Davis refers to throughout his book.

While you’re waiting, go to Vinny’s Facebook page and “Like” it for a chance to win a copy of Vinny’s own book :).

Related links

Wheat and the glycemic index… a loaded question Learn why whole-grain wheat is still a healthy option, as long as you aren’t gluten intolerant

Avast! It’s a Pita Pan Bread snack platter – Learn about various kinds of flour. Recipe: Make your own pita bread from whole-grain flour.

PS If you really want to give up something in the name of good health, make it soda drinks and other  processed foods.

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LISTED
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 11:45:54

    Reblogged this on KLISTED.

    Reply

  2. John N. Frank
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 10:44:26

    Some good thoughts here, I have been forced to give up most processed foods since my angioplasty and lost 25 pounds as a result. And I agree sugar is more demon than wheat; I would also add salt, which is in all baked goods and all processed foods as well, as a major food demon in the typical American diet. It’s more difficult today to live a low-salt life than a low-sugar or low-fat one.

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Aug 30, 2013 @ 14:13:42

      It’s difficult to have to change one’s diet, especially when it’s suddenly imposed by a health crisis. Too bad so many of us have succumbed to fast, processed, convenience foods at the expense of our good health in the first place. I find my meals taste a lot better since changing my eating habits, which is a reward in itself for healthier eating. Agreed, losing the salt can be a challenge when you buy premade sauces and packaged foods. Glad to hear that you’ve done so well :). And… thanks for the reblog!

      Reply

  3. John N. Frank
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 10:43:47

    Reblogged this on Living on a Restricted Diet and commented:
    Some good thoughts here, I have been forced to give up most processed foods since my angioplasty and lost 25 pounds as a result. And I agree sugar is more demon than wheat; I would also add salt, which is in all baked goods and all processed foods as well, as a major food demon in the typical American diet. It’s more difficult today to live a low-salt life than a low-sugar or low-fat one.

    Reply

  4. Stephane
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 16:35:28

    Wheat is not Satan indeed. Actually bread along with cheese and wine is the holy trinity of food.

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Aug 28, 2013 @ 16:59:59

      Some bread is less than saintly, of course, as is some wine. The idea is to weed out the bad and enjoy the good, I think. All cheese, however, is delicious!

      Reply

  5. thepaddingtonfoodie
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 22:11:02

    Great post. Thanks for the mention. I might just try them on the grill. I adore Japanese eggplant too.

    Reply

  6. Molly
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 18:07:52

    I get so sick (ha, ha) of the demonization of wheat. Great post. And, for those (like me!) who DO need to avoid wheat, this recipe is simple to make gluten-free…just use gluten-free whole grains! Easy.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 15:11:28

    Wow. I love your adaptation. The weather is warming up and Spring is just around the corner over here so we have just started to fire up the BBQ. Will have to try them son.

    Reply

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