?I can?t eat wheat. How can I replace the nutrition it provides??
This month Margaret Moss looks at what you may be missing on a wheat-free diet - and how you can replace it.
Jack had a biopsy of part of his small intestine. The wall of the gut should not be smooth. It should have villi, or small fingers, that project inwards, to increase the surface area. These were missing. So he could not absorb well. In particular, he could not absorb fats well, and had become deficient in the fat- soluble vitamins A, D and E. He was told he had coeliac disease, and to avoid wheat, rye, oats and barley.
Kathleen’s biopsy was alright, but she had antibodies to gliadin that showed she also had a kind of coeliac disease. Her doctor told her not to have wheat, rye or barley, but allowed oats.
If you feel ill after eating wheat, you may be coeliac. You may be wheat allergic, sensitive to the lectins in whole foods or malnourished, through having a diet that provides little but wheat, or you may be affected by sugars that are contained in foods that also contain wheat. It is useful to find out why you improved when you stopped eating wheat.
What the rest of the world eats
Most of our evolution took place without wheat. So it cannot really be essential for us to eat it. Indeed many people in the world rarely if ever eat wheat.
In Kenya and Zimbabwe the staple food is maize, often eaten with beans, or eaten as polenta or porridge. Other grains are also eaten there, including finger millet, which makes a tasty porridge. Sweet potatoes and arrowroot provide starch.
The Masai in Kenya and Tanzania eat sour milk from a gourd, as their staple. Uganda’s delicious staple is cooked green bananas, often eaten with groundnut sauce. In the Caribbean, plantains are an easily prepared source of starch. In India, some people eat both wheat and maize chapattis, in other areas they eat rice with lentils. In northern Canada, fish is the staple food.
Wheat, oats and potatoes are staples in Britain, because they grow in a temperate climate. We eat them because they grow here, and not because they are essential. In Italy, people in some places eat pasta and bread, but elsewhere the staple is polenta, made with maize meal. Unlike pandas, human beings thrive on very varied diets. This is why we can live all over the world, in diverse climates.
Dinner at home is not a problem for most people. Meat or fish, root and green vegetables, followed by fruit are wheat free, so long as you do not thicken the gravy with wheat.
You could have corn pasta with cheese, onions and tomatoes, followed by liquid-ised banana and blueberry. How about stewing red lentils with leek and coriander leaves, and serving with rice and courgettes?
Don’t worry! A wheat-free diet is not going to do you any harm, so long as you do not overindulge in a substitute food that is bad for you.
You can find Margaret Moss at 11 Mauldeth Close, Heaton Mersey, Stockport SK4 3NP 0161 432 0964 www.nutritionandallergyclinic.co.uk
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