These days, anything can be made into a pasta. Zucchini, spaghetti squash, sweet potato, chickpea, kelp–anything. The wheat-free pasta choices are definitely on the rise, likely due to the health problems caused by modern-day wheat. Oddly enough, wheat itself was consumed by our ancestors for years without concern. What happened?
The Problem With Wheat
It seems that modern-day wheat can cause significant problems. This can include a wide range of symptoms like brain fog, stuffy or runny nose, bloating, and indigestion. Interestingly enough though, wheat itself has been consumed for thousands of years symptom-free. Our ancestors stored it in whole kernel form, as it should be, and soaked, sprouted, and fermented their grains, which made nutrients more accessible. Wheat was consumed as fresh bread and porridge, providing energy and necessary nutrients.
The Industrial Revolution happened. Back in the late 1800’s, the modern steam roller mill came into play. This changed the wheat game. The slower, old stone-ground method that kept wheat’s nutrients in tact was replaced by a faster, cheaper method that could separate wheat’s components. This stripped the wheat kernel of all its vitamins, nutrients, and vital proteins, and resulted in a “pure” white flour that could be shipped and stored better (essentially because there was nothing alive in it that could go bad). Within 10 years almost all stone mills in the Western world were replaced.
From Stone-Ground to GMO: Modern-Day Wheat
At one point, you could find many varieties of wheat. Einkorn, durum, and emmer, to name a few. This changed in the 1960’s with genetic manipulation. Wheat was cross-bred and genetically modified to produce a single strain of mass-produced, high-yielding dwarf wheat. While dwarf wheat certainly helped many find livelihoods in the wheat industry, we now realize the problems with it. Most notably is the lack of minerals. Once dwarf wheat stepped on the scene, the zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron, and copper concentrations in wheat significantly decreased.
Is Gluten The Problem?
In short, gluten isn’t the problem. Wheat like kamut and spelt contain gluten, yet they often don’t cause symptoms like modern-day wheat does (unless you’re celiac or have a gluten sensitivity). Instead, it’s a combination of the modern steam roller mill and our wheat itself that strips and removes minerals and nutrients, and for a reason we’re not entirely sure of, gives us health problems.
What To Do?
Look for whole kernel wheat. Although wheat like kamut or spelt contain gluten, they likely won’t cause the same symptoms as modern-day wheat tends to do (again, unless you’re celiac). They’re rich in protein, fibre, and manganese and are a healthy alternative to modern-day wheat.
Choose alternatives. Try new pasta alternatives like zucchini and sweet potato, spaghetti squash, or chickpea pasta! These options are nutrient-dense and, when it comes to taste, can easily replace the pasta we’re used to. Simply use them in place of pasta, coat them in a healthy sauce, and you likely won’t know the difference.
There are tons of options out there. The food industry changes with us, and healthier modern-wheat free alternatives are becoming more readily available. Give them a go!