By the time I was nine, I was regularly sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to steal a bite or two of leftover chocolate birthday cake. The trick was: use a knife and keep the edge clean. Wash and return the knife to the drawer. As I wasn’t allowed cake for breakfast, this covert rebellion stoked that wild corner of my heart that needed tending. Not to mention I Love chocolate cake.
I’m currently undergoing a dietary experiment. Remove the wheat. Cut back on the carbohydrates. Jump-started by my need to pay better attention to my body (I’ve struggled with various weakened immune system ailments for a couple of months now), what began as a necessity is turning into a choice. I think. The trouble? I love to bake. Big, flaky scones. Fluffy multigrain pancakes. Stretchy, crispy-chewy pizza crust. Homemade, whole wheat loaves. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Gluten is a kind of miracle. The sticky protein found in wheat (and some grains) acts as glue and elastic. And did I mention it’s delicious? Addictively delicious some would say. I stumbled onto a healthy living website/blog awhile back and read a provocative post titled “How Grains Are Killing You Slowly.” I was curious, and yes, I thought the author was a little kooky (she also advises giving up All grains and beans—right), but a lot of what she wrote made sense. Then I checked out Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly. A cardiologist who noticed significant reversals in heart related problems (high blood pressure and cholesterol, pre-diabetic or diabetic issues) in patients to whom he prescribed a wheat free diet—even patients with no known gluten sensitivity, Dr. Davis’ narrative and science made a lot of sense. He talked about the genetic transformations/mutations wheat has undergone over the years. He talked about the body’s chemical processes in terms of wheat digestion. Still, my inner skeptic was…skeptical.
I have never been one for diets and avoid fads on principle. There’s definitely a fad side to the promotion of Dr. Davis’ book (think Atkin’s or South Beach). Frankly, I was a little embarrassed carrying the book around in public. But. But. I decided to give it a go all the same. I’ve struggled for years with IBS symptoms that come and go in varying waves and degrees. I’ve tried removing almost all fat and milk products from my diet. Didn’t work. I even gave up coffee, but there wasn’t enough of a change to keep me at that for long.
Going wheat free doesn’t mean buying gluten-free products. I’m eating more protein—and finding that a couple of eggs with diced peppers and onions in the morning sustains me far better than my regular bowl of oats or porridge (and sustained energy is the name of the game around here). I’m eating more vegetables, something I’ve never done with any regularity. I eat lots of dairy. I drink water. I drink my coffee with cream.
And dang it, I feel pretty darn good. I don’t feel like I can say with certainty that it’s all about the wheat, but I sleep better and wake up feeling like I’ve actually slept. I don’t crash in the afternoon like I used to. My IBS symptoms have even decreased. This sounds like a testimonial, which isn’t what I set out to do at all. But there’s something here making a difference.
Still, what about the cookies? And the cake? The pasta? The scones?! I can’t tell you if I can keep this up, or if the benefits outweigh the obvious pleasures. But I did try out a new “cookie” recipe this weekend. Those apostrophes are meant to convey—“this ain’t the kind of cookie you imagine a cookie to be.” But wow, are they good. I’m not sure I’ve won John over (he’s a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur), but the boys love them, and there’s no sugar except what’s found in a couple of bananas. They don’t flatten out like a normal cookie. They’re more like granola infused banana bread bites. But there’s chocolate and there’s coconut (coconut oil actually holds them together, along with the banana) and there’s oats. And they’re darn tasty. Here’s the link: Nikki’s Healthy Cookies Recipe (her picture of them is more lovely than mine).
I love the blog they’re posted on, by the way. Full of deliciousness. The cookies are still a treat, but I’d serve a few up to the boys with their breakfast. I might even sneak down in the middle of the night. O wait. Leaving my bed isn’t worth the trouble. They’re also vegan, which makes them worth a try if you keep the Lenten fast.