In one ear we have the US Department of Agriculture recommending that we increase our daily intake of whole grains, while in the other ear we keep hearing stories about how bothersome wheat gluten is to our systems (which explains the rash of gluten-free everything). What are we to do?
First off, it’s important that we understand some terminology. Whole grains are not exclusively wheat or gluten. Here’s the definition of a whole grain: a grain with all components intact, including the germ, endosperm and bran. Due to their complex constitution, whole grains are broken down slowly in the digestive tract, lowering and distributing their effect on blood sugar. Whole grains also naturally contain protein, carbohydrates and fiber. Gluten is defined as: a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other carbohydrates.
Gluten is completely tolerated by most people, however, some have sensitivities to it and some absolutely cannot tolerate it (after ingesting, major digestive predicaments ensue). The intolerance is known as celiac disease.
According to Chinese Medicine, even if you can tolerate it, wheat gluten creates a “phlegm-like” state in the body. Too much phlegm in turn exacerbates colds and flus, disrupts the mechanisms of the spleen and causes various stagnations in the body. With that in mind, below is a list of wheat alternatives to incorporate into your diet, so your body can be phlegm-free and in tip top shape.
quinoa (red, black)
black rice (aka forbidden rice)
corn (yes, those corn tortillas are 100% wheat-free)
So overall, it’s good to get your whole grains, just don’t overdo it on the wheat. If you have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten you should avoid it altogether.