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Wheat Belly

The Promise

Could giving up wheat help you to lose weight, feel better, and have more energy? What if a doctor told you it could?

Wheat Belly comes from cardiologist William Davis, MD. In his best-selling diet book, Davis recalls seeing a picture of himself from a family vacation that made him realize he was carrying about 30 extra pounds around his middle.

At the same time, he noticed that he often felt sluggish after a breakfast of toast, waffles, or bagels, even after a great night’s sleep; but he felt energetic if he had eggs for breakfast. His blood work revealed high cholesterol and diabetic blood sugar levels, further convincing him that he needed to make a change.

Davis started his own wheat-free experiment and asked his overweight, diabetes-prone patients to do the same. He gave them a list of foods low on the glycemic index. He asked them to eat those instead of foods made with wheat, and to come back 3 months later for a checkup. 

Davis reports that most of the patients lost a significant amount of weight, and their blood sugar levels dropped from the diabetic range to normal range. His patients also said they had improved energy; better focus; deeper sleep; better lung, joint, and bowel health; and more.

That informal experiment doesn’t prove that wheat alone made the difference, but it inspired Davis to write the book. In fact, a review published in the Journal of Cereal Science found that there isn't enough evidence to support many of Davis's claims about wheat, including the link to the obesity epidemic.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

You eliminate all wheat, including bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels, doughnuts, etc. You may not eat anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or certain oats.

This may sound like a typical gluten-free diet, but Davis cautions against simply replacing these items with “gluten-free” versions, which often contain cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, or tapioca starch and will not aid in weight loss. Davis says they trigger the same blood sugar response as gluten from wheat.

Davis also suggests cutting out high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, salt, sugary foods, rice, potatoes, soda, fruit juice, dried fruit, legumes, and more. You should also avoid trans fats, fried foods, and cured meats on this plan.

You can eat:

  • Vegetables
  • Some fruit (namely berries, apples, oranges), but much less of "sugary fruit" (pineapple, papaya, mango, banana)
  • Unlimited raw nuts, plant-based oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, and cocoa butter
  • Grass-fed, humanely raised meat and eggs
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Ground flaxseed

You can also eat limited quantities of:

  • Full-fat, unsweetened cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter
  • Soy in its fermented forms: tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto
  • Olives, avocados, pickled vegetables, and raw seeds

After you've transitioned off wheat, you may eat limited quantities of other whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, and chia, as well as beans.

As far as alcohol goes, wheat-brewed beers are definitely off the list, but Davis does support red wine for its heart-healthy benefits.

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