Just because we have always eaten something, it doesn’t mean it’s good for us. The Paleo lifestyle suggests we avoid wheat and sugar to improve our health.
Modern day wheat is nothing like the ancient grain. Wheat has been genetically altered to provide processed food manufacturers with the greatest yield at the lowest price (food manufacturers are in the business of making money). Consequently, wheat has been transformed into a food that is void of nutrition. It causes our blood sugar to spike rapidly like eating table sugar, it also has addictive properties that cause us to overeat, keep us hungry and fatigued.
Refined sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern world as it contains no essential nutrients. There is no protein, fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar, just empty calories void of any nutrition.
Wheat and other grains cause problems because they contain compounds meant to protect them.
They have defence mechanisms called lectins and phytic acid. Lectins are like natural pesticides – toxic compounds meant to deter predators like bugs, birds or small animals that would like to have a meal. Phytic acid is found within the seeds of a plant and it protects the nutrients the seed needs to reproduce. Phytic acid binds to minerals in our body like zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium and affects how we absorb nutrients. Lectins and phytic acid are also found in other foods besides crops of grain – legumes, soy, beans, oats, seeds and even nuts in smaller amounts, this is because they contain seeds which are the plants reproductive part. Plants can’t run away from their predators so they have to use these compounds – lectins and phytic acid to survive.
Another big problem with wheat: it contains gluten.
When flour is mixed with water gluten forms a sticky mix of proteins that give elastic properties to the dough (holds it together) and allows bread to rise when baked. The name gluten is actually derived from the word glue. When gluten reaches the digestive tract our immune system can react and mistake it for something foreign, like a bacteria. In certain people who are sensitive to gluten, it can cause the immune system to mount an attack against it. The immune system attacks the gluten proteins but it also attacks an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract and in many people this causes an autoimmune response (our body starts to attack itself).
Wheat and sugar are high in carbohydrates and are the most addictive foods, you might like to call them trigger foods. They trigger overeating and loss of control. They set off chemical changes in the body such as high insulin levels, unstable blood sugar levels and low dopamine levels in the brain. All of these will increase your hunger and reduce the feeling of being satisfied, so then there’s a need for more high carb foods.
Of all the foods consumed today, refined sugar is considered to be one of the most harmful. Sugar contains no fibre, no protein, no healthy fats, no enzymes, it reduces your energy levels, it’s bad for your teeth because it feeds the bacteria in the mouth. It also makes the blood very thick and sticky, which can reduce blood flow. Sugar is just empty, quickly digested calories that actually pull minerals from the body during digestion. It’s addictive and stimulates your appetite. In times when food was scarce, there was a need to consume sweeter foods in the summer (which was usually berries) to add body fat to survive the winter months. In today’s world we have access to processed foods full of sugar all year round and in many cases at each meal.
Recent research states that added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods found in supermarkets.
There are at least 61 different names for sugar and it comes in different forms. Which is why it’s so hard to find on the ingredients labels. These include common names such as fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, agave, maple syrup flavouring, brown sugar, cane juice, dextrin, treacle. Sweeteners such as unprocessed honey, 100% maple syrup, organic molasses, coconut sugar and coconut nectar are healthier options as they are natural foods that contain vitamins and minerals but they will still affect us like refined sugars if eaten in large amounts regularly. Eat them in small amounts for an occasional treat.
So what healthy improvements will you see by avoiding these 2 high carbohydrate foods:
- Your energy levels will increase. When you fuel your body with real food you will gain strength and stamina, no afternoon slumps.
- Stop those sore joints – inflammation in the body will be reduced.
- Your concentration will improve – no foggy brain.
- No mood swings or cranky moments – you might become a nicer person to live with.
- Your complexion will improve – you will see a difference in your skin condition, reduce inflammation and reduce ageing.
- You might lose weight – you will be more satisfied and avoid your blood glucose dropping.
- Your willpower will improve – removing high carb foods will help reduce cravings.
- You reduce the chances of serious illnesses manifesting – sugar feeds many illnesses like cancer.
Our government has been improving the transparency of food and drink labelling. As regulations get stricter on what must be revealed, it’s helping consumers to make better choices but the best choice you can make is to eat real food that doesn’t come packaged in boxes or cans. Real fresh food doesn’t come with labels, it only has one ingredient.
By Susan Joy