Diet 101: Wheat Belly Diet

Here’s a look at the newest popular fad diet: The Wheat Belly Diet. Is eliminating any and all wheat the healthiest way to lose weight?
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113233096

stack of bagels isolated against white

Photo by: john shepherd

john shepherd

Here’'s a look at the newest diet being promoted on the "popular diet book" table in book stores around the country. But is eliminating any and all wheat the healthiest way to lose weight?
Overview

If you're walking around with a gut—it's no longer called a "beer belly" but rather  a "wheat belly"—or so says William Davis, MD, the creator of this diet. He claims that whole-wheat grain has become unhealthy due to over-breeding and modification over time. In addition, wheat and processed foods made with wheat are like opiate drugs and eating bread is just like taking crack. The theory is that wheat promotes high blood sugar which though a series of reactions, causes the body to accumulate more visceral fat.

The Plan

Wheat isn't the only bad boy in this diet. Many other foods are either eliminated or eaten in limited quantities such as fruit, starchy veggies, whole grains, legumes, dried fruit, corn starch and corn meal. Three meals a day are encouraged without any snacks.

So what can you eat? Here’s the basic list:

In unlimited quantities:
  • Veggies (except potatoes and corn)
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Oils
  • Meats and eggs
  • Cheese
  • Non-sugary condiments (like mustard and salsa)
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Avocados, olives, coconut
  • Spices
  • Unsweetened cocoa

In limited quantities:
  • Dairy (except cheese)
  • Fruit
  • Whole corn (like on the cob)
  • Fruit juice
  • Non-wheat, non-gluten grains (like quinoa, amaranth, and rice)
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Soy products (fermented soy products preferred)

Unlike other diet plans, there is basically one phase: toss out all your wheat foods and go cold turkey. Once you go wheat free, the author claims that the pounds will come right off and you’ll immediately feel better. Fasting, defined as drinking water only, is highly recommended for several days or even weeks at a time.

The Costs

The website (with its grotesque weight loss transformation of bikini-clad women) is free and has a recipe library, success stories, blog, and links to the Wheat Belly book, which sells for about $26.00. Other costs associated with the diet include the money lost when you toss all your wheat products and the notion of completely eliminating any sweets or processed goods FOREVER. There is no going back or reintroducing these banned foods into your diet.

The Good
  • Whole foods are recommended on this plan including nuts and vegetables.
  • No calorie counting necessary.
  • Frying and fried foods are discouraged.
  • The notion that processed foods like cookies, cakes, and other such processed foods are overly consumed and contribute many unnecessary calories in our diet.
The Not-So-Good
  • Many statements made by the author can be refuted or are controversial as seen in this in-depth analysis written by Dr. Julie Jones.
  • Many healthy foods are eliminated or significantly decreased including whole grains, fruits, and legumes (beans, peas and lentils). Many nutrients and variety is also limited or eliminated from the diet.
  • It is virtually impossible to follow this plan while traveling or dining out.
  • Going cold turkey isn’t an effective way to teach someone good habits. Many folks will stop this diet just as quickly as they started it.
  • Fasting for prolonged periods of time is unhealthy and unsafe.
The Bottom Line:

Although the creator of this plan is very motivating and convincing, this diet is just plain unrealistic and unhealthy. Every food (even wheat) can have a place in your healthy eating plan.

TELL US: Have you tried the Wheat Belly Diet?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian , consultant and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition, Inc., who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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