The food pyramid of your childhood, where grains make up the supporting base and the fats are eaten sparingly at the top, is now being challenged by new scientific evidence. As scientists and nutritionists begin to understand more about how certain foods are used for energy in our bodies, how they affect our microbiome, and cause inflammation, the old food pyramid is being turned on its head.
Dr. Bomi Joseph, the Director of Peak Health headquartered in Los Gatos, California, has been bio-hacking humans and phyto-hacking plants since 1984. Dr. Bomi Joseph has pivoted his focus to promote the concept of endohealth which is a movement advocating for health from within, which is heavily influenced by diet. Dr. Joseph explains the recent changes in wheat and discusses the intricacies of wheat.
The History of Wheat
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, wheat proteins have a low quality for human nutrition. They are deficient in the essential amino acid, lysine, as wheat proteins have to be fortified with proteins from legumes to make up the lysine deficiency. Wheat was cultivated in the Mesopotamian delta about 9,500 years ago. It is grown in more land area than any other crop, and is traded greater than all other crops combined, for a total of 749 million tonnes in 2016. So, what has changed? The way we grow it, the way we process it and the way we eat. Since industrialization, everything has changed, and it has happened in two distinct “technology revolutions”. The first was in milling, the second in cultivation and farming.
The Components of Wheat
Husked wheat has three main components: the outer layer (bran), the germ (which grows into a new plant), and the endosperm (the inner section). Most of the nutrients in wheat are in the outer bran and inner germ region, whereas the endosperm is mainly junk starchy material. This is part of the reason why wheat is the world’s earliest junk food, because the nutrient rich bran and germ are discarded, and the non-nutritional endosperm is consumed. Wild wheat that grew 10,000 years ago had a thick bran layer, about 14–20 percent of the wheat. Its germ region was about 8 percent and the endosperm was about 72–78 percent. Compare that to today’s wheat, where the bran layer is only 6–9 percent, the germ layer is down to 3%, and the junky endosperm has increased to 80–85 percent of wheat.
In 1960, wheat had only about 1.5% gluten. Food manufacturers now praise gluten for its viscoelastic quality and wheat has now been modified to contain roughly 13% gluten. Likewise, gluten allergies, or celiac disease, were virtually unknown 50 years ago. Now, approximately 13% of the world’s population suffers from some form of gluten intolerance. Gluten is a chitinous protein that is very hard to digest. Dr. Bomi Joseph explains that studies have shown that gluten intolerance only manifests itself when people consume wheat with greater than 8% gluten but have no traces of gluten intolerance when eating wheat with 1.5% gluten.
Dr. Bomi Joseph’s Final Thoughts
So, what can you do? Dr. Bomi Joseph suggests dramatically reducing the amount of wheat and gluten you eat, and to become informed about your options. Unfortunately, buying “whole wheat” flour just doesn’t cut it, as in Canada, whole wheat is considered nothing more than white flour with some bran added back in. You would want to fine stone-ground “whole meal” flour, where the entire wheat kernel is ground, and the germ is crushed into the flour.