“Wheat can make you sick in more ways than you can imagine” – for many people this statement can be a tough pill to swallow.
The above statement invokes a natural question – How can it be bad? Our ancestors have been cultivating and eating wheat for centuries.
True. Our society is heavily dependent on wheat. India is the leading producer and consumer of wheat.
But today, as a society, can we boast to be as healthy and robust as our ancestors were?
Nowadays, diseases like diabetes, hypertension, thyroidism, different types of cancers, ulcers, gout are a common occurrence which was rare a few generations ago. All these diseases are not happening because of some new kind of infections or viruses. They are completely related to our eating habits and our lifestyle.
The points that I’ll be sharing in this article are not my opinion but hard scientific facts.
You may not like it but this information is important for you to know if you care about your health.
Take this information like bitter medicine – hard to swallow but necessary for healing.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. It’s for information purpose only.
Here are 7 side effects of wheat that make you fat and sick :
Table of Contents
1. Wheat is not natural
India has a 5000-year-old history of growing wheat. But today’s wheat is a far cry from the original wheat that our ancestors used to grow.
After India’s independence in 1947, our country didn’t have enough grains to feed its population and had to import from other countries.
The green revolution of 1960 pulled India out of hunger. It introduced new and ‘improved’ seeds to increase our agricultural production. This was a necessity at the time. But the wheat that came during the green revolution was not the same as the original wheat.
The plant scientist, Norman Borlaug, created this new strain of wheat known as ‘Mexican Dwarf Wheat’. Presently, 87% of the wheat grown in India is a variation of this wheat.
“Modern wheat was created through repetitive hybridizations, mating wheat with non-wheat grasses to introduce new genes and through mutagenesis, the use of high-dose x-rays, gamma rays, and chemicals to induce mutation.” – William Davis (Wheat Belly Total Health)
Does this modern wheat sound natural to you?
2. Wheat can increase your belly fat
The modern wheat contains a super starch called ‘Amylopectin A’. It makes the glycemic index of wheat higher than sugar.
Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale to measure how rapidly any food will increase your blood glucose levels within 2 hours of eating it. High GI foods can increase blood glucose levels very quickly. – Not Good
Glycemic Index –
- Table Sugar – 65
- Wheat – 72
This means that 2 slices of whole wheat bread will raise your blood glucose levels by more than 6 tablespoons of sugar.
This surge in blood glucose causes a rapid increase in insulin levels. Insulin is a powerful fat-storing hormone. The high levels of insulin will transport and store excess glucose into the fat cells. This is known as the glucose-insulin cycle.
If you eat wheat every day, you will keep this glucose-insulin cycle going.
Over time, this can lead to a significant increase in body fat, especially belly fat in males and hip and thigh fat in females.
3. Wheat makes you hungry
As discussed above, wheat causes a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. To clean up the excess blood sugar, the body releases a large flux of insulin. The high insulin level does not just take the extra sugar but a whole lot more.
Within 90 – 120 minutes of eating, you will experience a sharp drop in blood sugar. This low blood sugar signals the body that it is low on energy and needs to replenish the lost sugar.
To increase your blood sugar, you will start craving high carb food.
Thus, within just 2-3 hours of eating wheat, you will start feeling hungry again and start looking for some snacks.
4. Wheat causes overeating
You start eating when you feel hungry and you stop eating when you feel full. Nothing complicated about that. But how do you know that you are full?
The answer is ‘Leptin’ hormone – also known as the satiety hormone.
When we have eaten sufficient calories, our body releases the ‘leptin’ hormone. This hormone signals the brain to stop eating as the body has got enough calories.
The wheat tricks your body into eating a lot more calories by blocking this satiety hormone from signalling the brain to stop eating.
A wheat protein called ‘lectin’ binds with this hormone thus hindering its signal pathway. Thus, it becomes very easy to overeat as the body does not give the signal to stop.
Think about this…
Which one will you tend to overeat –
A bowl of salad or a bowl of atta noodles?
A bowl of salad contains a lot fewer calories than a bowl of noodles.
5. 80% of the protein in wheat is harmful
You must have heard that protein is good for you, but not the one present in modern wheat. 80% of the protein present in wheat is ‘Gluten’, and it can cause serious health issues.
Many people are allergic to gluten. They may be suffering from gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, and sadly they don’t even realize it.
Do you feel recharged and energetic after eating lunch with 4-5 Rotis (Indian bread) or do you feel sleepy and bloated?
Gluten allergy can manifest in different forms.
People suffering from gluten sensitivity and intolerance can experience the following symptoms – bloating, constipation, unexplained weight gain, skin problem, feeling tired all the time and, joint and muscle pain.
Gluten can be detrimental for people suffering from celiac disease. It’s an autoimmune disease where eating gluten damages the small intestine of the person.
The scary thing is that only 5% of celiac diseases are reported. That means out of 100 people, 95 are unaware that they are suffering from this condition.
Here are some stats –
- 60 to 80 lakh Indians are suffering from celiac disease. It still largely goes undiagnosed or under-reported. That means that the above number is just the tip of the iceberg. Way more people are unknowingly suffering from it.
- Another fact is that North Indians suffer from celiac disease way more than the South Indian population. Do you know what is the main difference between these two regions? South is a rice-eating population and North is dominantly dependent on wheat.
6. Wheat can worsen your thyroid problem
Anyone suffering from hypothyroid knows what struggle and frustration it is to lose weight. Even with a dedicated workout and diet, you see little to no results.
On top of that, the doctor suggests you lose some weight to keep your thyroid problem under control. It’s like adding insult to the injury.
But you are not alone, 4.2 crore Indians are suffering from it. In 90% of cases, it’s an autoimmune disease. It means that your immune cells are attacking your own thyroid gland.
The thyroid hormone has a very similar structure to the gluten present in wheat. When you eat wheat, gluten can enter your bloodstream. Your immune cells detect these harmful foreign objects and attack them. As your thyroid hormone has a similar structure as gluten, it suffers the wrath of this immune attack.
There is a powerful association between hypothyroidism and celiac disease. People suffering from hypothyroidism are more vulnerable to celiac disease, and people who have celiac disease have an increased chance of getting hypothyroidism.
Avoid wheat if you have hypothyroid or you are sensitive to gluten. Wheat for hypothyroid is only going to make a bad situation worse.
7. Wheat can make your diabetes worse
Diabetes is a disease where your blood sugar is not under control and you have to take medication to keep it in check. Common sense says, if high blood sugar is the problem, then it’s wise to avoid food that will increase your blood sugar level.
What do you think is more sensible?
Eating wheat and spiking your blood sugar. And then increasing the dosage of medication to get it under control.
Keeping the medication low by cutting back on the food that raises your blood sugar.
If you are fine with the first approach, then as the years go by your diabetes will get worse and worse. It’s always best to depend on yourself to control your diabetes than depending on the medication.
Why suffer the side effects of wheat
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates.
The above quote by the father of modern medicine – Hippocrates, explains the importance of food to prevent and cure diseases. Food creates a great impact on our health. Good food choices give us health and vitality while poor choices destroy it. Treat food as your medicine; otherwise, you will end up taking medicine as your food.
Now ask yourself, what will happen if you stop eating wheat?
Will your health suffer because of it?
Is there any particular nutrient (vitamins/minerals) that no other food can provide?
The answer to both the questions is No. In fact, the only thing that’s going to happen is an improvement in your health.
So, why do you want to continue eating it and suffer the side effects of wheat if it doesn’t have any particular benefit and so many potential ill effects?
Now, knowing all the above side effects of wheat, if we decide to eliminate wheat from our diet, then what should we eat instead.
Without wheat, there will be no wheat flour. And without wheat flour, there will be no roti. And we can all agree, the Indian thali (plate) feels incomplete without roti.
That brings up a question – If wheat atta is bad, is multigrain atta good?
Multigrain atta side effects
Multigrain atta that you get in the market consists of wheat flour with two to three different flours mixed along with it. So the multigrain atta will also carry the side effects of wheat – but to a lesser extent. So, if you have to choose between wheat atta and multigrain atta, multigrain atta will be a better choice.
If you prepare multigrain atta by yourself, then choose gluten-free healthy grains to make healthy multigrain atta. Make a weight loss-friendly multigrain atta by combining jowar, bajra and ragi in equal proportion.
Now let us see what gluten-free food options we have to fill the gaping hole created by removing wheat flour.
Here are 5 healthy gluten-free alternatives to wheat flour
All these gluten-free flours will not just save you from the damaging effects of wheat but also benefit your health. One significant property common in all these flours is that they are all weight loss-friendly.
1. Jowar flour (Sorghum)
Jowar was the staple of the Indian diet (particularly in southern and western parts of India) before the dominance of wheat cultivation. It has gained recognition for its gluten-free health goodness.
They are rich in fibre, which increases the feeling of fullness after eating jowar roti. Also, it is good to improve gut flora and prevent digestive issues like bloating and constipation.
Jowar has an impressive nutrient profile that surpasses wheat in many departments.
Since jowar flour is gluten-free, it lacks the binding ability like that of wheat flour. So, to make a soft dough, you have to use hot water. Hot water will increase its elasticity and help in rolling out the dough without breaking it.
Start by boiling one cup of water in a pan and add some salt to it. After the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
Now add one cup of jowar flour to the pan and mix it well with a wooden spoon. Once mixed, set aside the dough for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, transfer the dough to a plate and knead it again with wet hands. Sprinkle in some water if the dough feels dry.
There are different ways to flatten it out to make the roti. You can either use a rolling pin or press the dough in your palm in a circular manner. Check the video to see three methods of making jowar roti.
2. Bajra flour (Pearl millet)
Bajra makes greyish coloured flour with a nutty taste. It is popular in the northern and western regions of India. According to Ayurveda, eating bajra is especially beneficial in winter since bajra has a dry and hot nature.
Bajra, with its rich fibre and protein content, provides the body with slow-digesting starch that will not spike your blood glucose levels.
If you want to keep your blood sugar in check, bajra should become a part of your diet. Also, bajra is an alkaline food that can help combat acidity.
On a plate, take one cup of bajra flour and add some salt.
Now add one-fourth cup of water, little by little, as you knead the dough. You have to knead it well to make a soft dough.
To make the roti, sprinkle in some bajra flour on another plate and place an onion sized dough over the flour.
Coat the dough overall with bajra flour so that it won’t stick while making the roti. Now gently tap the dough while rotating the plate to spread out the dough in a circular shape.
3. Ragi flour
Ragi is a highly nutritious food. In south India, ragi porridge is the first solid food given to toddlers.
Ragi has the highest calcium content in all the grains, with 344mg calcium in 100gm. It is also a rich source of iron, making it a good blood tonic to maintain healthy haemoglobin levels.
Ragi is easy to digest and light on the stomach. That is why they are given as the first meal to babies.
Ragi is also heart-friendly with its high potassium content of 408mg in 100gm. Potassium is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the heart.
To make ragi roti, start by boiling one cup of water. Then, add half a teaspoon of Himalayan salt to the water.
When the water comes to a boil, turn off the flame. Now add one cup of ragi flour and give it a good mix with a wooden spoon.
After mixing it well, cover it with a lid and let the dough sit for five minutes. After that, shift the dough onto a plate and knead it with your hands. Sprinkle in some water to make a soft ragi dough. Roll it out gently with a rolling pin to make a round roti.
4. Buckwheat flour
In India, buckwheat flour is called kuttu ka atta. It is mainly used during vrat and upvaas (holy occasions) to make ‘vrat ki roti’.
Despite the name, buckwheat does not belong to the wheat family. Buckwheat is a type of pseudocereal. Pseudocereals have grain-like properties, but they do not belong to the grass family.
It makes brownish flour with an earthy flavour. Buckwheat can lower bad cholesterol and improve heart health.
Also, buckwheat contains polyphenolic compounds that act as antioxidants to control the free radical damage in our bodies.
Take one cup of buckwheat flour and add some salt.
Then add one-third cup of warm water and knead it well to make a soft dough.
Since buckwheat is gluten-free, it can break apart while rolling it. Before rolling it out, coat the dough with buckwheat flour.
While rolling it out, do not put too much pressure on the dough.
5. Chickpea flour (Besan)
Think of besan, and foods like dhokla and bhajiya come to mind. But besan can also make excellent roti.
It has a significant amount of protein for vegetarian food. Being high in protein, it takes longer to digest and keep you feeling full for longer. It can also control cravings.
It has a low glycemic value, which makes it an ideal food for a diabetes diet. Also, besan is high in soluble fibre, which makes it a heart-healthy food.
To make the besan dough, start by boiling some water. For one cup besan boil one cup of water.
Once the water boils, add some salt and later add one cup besan in the water and mix it with a spatula.
The dough will be hot, so let it sit for ten minutes. Past ten minutes, knead the dough with wet hands.
Add some more water if the dough feels dry. Now your dough is ready. Use a rolling pin to make the roti.
It is unwise to put all your eggs in one basket. We are heavily dependent on wheat and facing the adverse effects without even realising it.
A typical Indian diet may look like this:
- Breakfast – Rava upma or Aloo ka paratha
- Lunch – 2-3 Roti with vegetable
- Evening snack -Tea with biscuit, samosa or any other fried food (made from maida – refined wheat)
- Dinner – 2-3 Roti with vegetables
If your diet more or less resembles this, you are setting yourself up for a future health disaster.
Do not let wheat dominate your diet. You must start by cutting back on it and switch to healthier wheat flour alternatives.
Also, you do not have to make a rapid transition. You can start by removing wheat from one meal at a time. Over time, you can achieve a wheat-free life.
Moreover, ensure not to stick to a particular grain. Diverse food sources will give you a grander array of nutrients.