Lately I’ve noticed when I tell people I’m vegan, they ask me if I can eat wheat (they also tend to ask me other, equally amusing questions…translation: I know you’re vegan but do you eat fish, are you from Brooklyn, is your dog vegan, are you buddhist, do you just eat salads all the time, do you eat bread, are you one of those people that forages for their own mushrooms, do you ride a bicycle, do you eat raw, do all vegans have unicorn friends.) <– last question’s reply is a resounding no, I am unique in that regard.
Brief side note for the confused: A fish is any member of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) to the abyssal and evenhadal depths of the deepest oceans (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish).
Sorry, but fish are sentient beings too. And no, I do not eat them. Now back to wheat…
In the last year, I haven’t been able to get through a conversation without the word “gluten-free” sneaking its way in. Everyone from vegans to electricians to soccer moms have read or heard about Celiac Disease, and the resulting demonization of those innocent looking waves of grain. So what’s the deal? Is all wheat bad?
In a kernel (pun intended), it’s more complicated than “good” versus “bad”. Wheat is a grain made up of three parts: the starchy insides (endosperm), the nutrient-rich embryo (germ), and the hard fiber-rich outer shell (bran). Together they make up the wheat kernel. When you consume foods made with white flour, you’re eating the endosperm, which is a highly processed starch that spikes your blood sugar, causes weight gain, inflammation, and tempers your hunger for a hot minute. Processed wheat should be avoided entirely, period. This is not a new concept, and most people already know that whole grains are nutritionally superior to processed flours. But are whole grains much better for you? It depends. If you are part of the 1% of Americans who have an autoimmune response to the protein found in wheat called gluten, then avoidance of all wheat containing foods is essential. But for the rest of us, some studies are suggesting that wheat consumption is damaging to everyone’s health. Wheat is inflammatory, causes weight gain, spikes blood sugar levels, and may become addictive due to the opiate effects of the protein Gliadin on brain receptors. Some medical professionals, like Dr. William Davis, author of the bestseller Wheat Belly, believes that wheat is the culprit behind a myriad of illnesses including autoimmune diseases, diabetes, migraine headaches, and more, and should be universally avoided.
Solution? Eliminate wheat from your diet for 3 weeks and see how you feel. There is also a blood test for Celiac Disease, but even if that comes back negative, you may still have a sensitivity to wheat. Now before you go buy every packaged good that says “gluten-free” on it, remember that gluten free products are usually made with highly processed starches like potato, tapioca and cornstarch. Yeah, they don’t have gluten in them, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you! It’s the same thing as going vegetarian and gorging on veggie dogs! Instead, stick to a diet that’s rich in vegetables, beans, quinoa, millet, and other plant-based proteins. While you’re at it, make your diet completely anti-inflammatory and cut out that sweet devilish pair: dairy and sugar. See my post on why sugar is evil here.
So to answer the original question, yes, I do eat wheat, but I’m very picky. I only eat sprouted whole grain breads because the sprouting process breaks down the phytic acid (which blocks absorption of certain nutrients), and increases the digestibility of the grain. If you have a slight sensitivity to wheat you may find, as I have, that sprouted whole grains are much easier to digest and don’t leave you feeling like a giant fog monster blew over your face.
Now that you’ve decided to cut out wheat, why not treat yourself to an indulgent spring brunch of crepes? Yup, that’s right, you can still eat crepes without ingesting a single kernel of wheat, dairy or sugar. Hooray for the happy coupling of health and deliciousness!
For the crepes:
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt + fresh black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 T dried italian seasoning or 2 T chopped fresh herbs
For the filling:
1 block extra firm, preferably locally made, tofu, crumbled by hand
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups diced button or cremini mushrooms
1/2 bunch of collard greens, kale or leafy green of choice, stems removed and shredded into small pieces
1/2 red pepper, diced
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Dash of the following: garlic powder, turmeric, paprika & cumin
1-2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T tamari
Small handful of nutritional yeast
Fresh pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine crepe ingredients and whisk until emulsified. The mixture should be slightly thinner in consistency than pancake batter. Set aside. In a large cast iron pan or saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame. Add onions and tofu and allow to cook, untouched, for 4 minutes. Flip and add collards, peppers, and mushrooms. Add a few shakes of turmeric, paprika, cumin and garlic powder. Deglaze with apple cider vinegar and tamari. Stir and incorporate scramble, then top with cilantro and nutritional yeast. In a crepe pan, heat a little refined coconut oil over a medium flame. Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter into the center of the pan and tilt to spread into a thin circle. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes or so, then flip and brown on the other side. Set aside on a plate and cover while you finish with the rest of the batter, adding coconut oil as needed. To serve, cover half of each crepe with filling and fold it closed. Top with hot sauce if desired. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with wheat bellies.