What is Wheat Belly?
Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health is the book by the renowned cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, which explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can result in numerous health benefits, including weight loss. The book serves as an indictment of wheat, and provides many recommendations for optimizing health.
While not exactly a “diet” in the traditional sense – meaning do this or do that, drink this shake, do that workout – Wheat Belly has become a phenomenon that countless thousands of people are following. Wheat Belly is more of a lifestyle choice or manner of eating. It is a passive diet, meaning the focus is about eliminating certain foods as opposed to doing specific things. It is NOT about calorie restriction and exercise. Wheat Belly can actually be quite indulgent in the sense that food can be delicious and plentiful and this way of eating is very sustainable. There are alternative ways of preparing the foods we have come to love, without the guilt! In fact, there is a very active community of people engaged in creating recipes for “Wheat Belly friendly” foods and Dr. Davis has even authored two cookbooks.
In its simplest form, Wheat Belly is really about two things: 1) eliminating wheat (and other gluten-containing grains such as barley and rye), and 2) managing carbohydrates/sugars to individual tolerance levels to manage blood sugar and promote weight-loss if desired. Don’t let point #1 confuse you though. Wheat Belly isn’t really about being “gluten-free” the way most people understand that to be. There is much wrong with wheat of which gluten is only a part. We strongly recommend that people avoid gluten-free foods made with other high-carbohydrate grains, because that is inconsistent with achieving point #2!
Most people begin the way described above and for the first time in their lives see the stark causality between what they eat and the status of their health. It can be quite an epiphany for people to eliminate a seemingly innocuous food and in a matter of a few days experience significant health benefits or begin rapid weight loss. This initial experience changes people, and changes their attitude about and perception of food. Thus the journey begins!
After engaging in Wheat Belly in its simplest form, participating in the Wheat Belly discussions and following Dr. Davis’ blog, many people want to further optimize their health. Typically they will eliminate ALL grains as per Dr. Davis’ recommendation or, for instance, they might eliminate all processed foods or pay attention to cooking temperatures when using certain oils. Some people find that dairy can be an issue or stumbling block to their health. The point is, Wheat Belly is a beginning, a journey, not an end. You can take it as far as you like. It is, as the book title suggests, a path to health.
The Wheat Belly Conclusion
It’s important to get the gist of Dr. Davis’ message:
- Today’s wheat is largely responsible for what we call the obesity epidemic and several other degenerative diseases related to visceral fat, such as high blood sugar, heart disease, and dementia.
- Signs of aging, skin disorders like acne and rashes, arthritis, bouts of depression and anxiety, seizures, and gut disorders, including celiac disease, can all be attributed to modern day wheat.
- A serving of whole wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.
Newsflash: Whole wheat has a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar.
The fact that wheat has such an incredibly high glycemic index pretty much turns the whole USDA Food Pyramid upside down. It means that you won’t get complex carbs that slowly release sugar from pasta or a slice of bread.
Let’s break this down:
- Table sugar is made of simple sugars, and these are easily absorbed.
- Wheat, on the other hand, even whole grain wheat, is modern day wheat — which means it has been engineered over the last 50 years.
- All modern day wheat may indeed be classified as a complex carb.
- But the complex carbohydrates in wheat are mostly amylopectin A.
- Amylopectin A is highly digestible.
- In fact, digestion of amylopectin A begins in the mouth with the enzyme amylase, which accounts for the incredibly high glycemic index of wheat.
You can eat:
- Some fruit (namely berries, apples, oranges), but much less of “sugary fruit” (pineapple, papaya, mango, banana)
- Unlimited raw nuts, plant-based oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, and cocoa butter
- Grass-fed, humanely raised meat and eggs
- Full-fat cheese
- Ground flaxseed
You can also eat limited quantities of:
- Full-fat, unsweetened cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter
- Soy in its fermented forms: tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto
- Olives, avocados, pickled vegetables, and raw seeds
After you’ve transitioned off wheat, you may eat limited quantities of other whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, and chia, as well as beans.