Gluten-free eating may seem to be just the latest diet trend…

I‘ve noticed the words “gluten-free” on (really crappy, unhealthy) candy, and I can just imagine the corporate board room discussions behind these marketing decisions (“Check into this gluten thing people, see how many of our candies are technically gluten-free…after all, most of the ingredients aren’t actually from food anyway…”). Gluten free labeled foods used to be found only in a small section of the local health food store. Now “gluten-free” is starting to sound a lot like “low carb” or “fat-free” – something that doesn’t necessarily indicate healthful food.

Yet, I seriously doubt that the many people buying gluten-free products are doing it for insincere reasons. I don’t usually buy or look for gluten-free labels when doing my grocery shopping even though I am conducting my own private gluten-free eating experiment. After noticing that every time I eat bread, pasta or pizza I would feel uncomfortable, tired, simply not as good, I have been keeping my meals wheat free, and have been feeling consistently better. However, I’ve also noticed that one particular brand of pasta, made from an ancient wheat called Einkorn, has no ill effects on me when I eat it.

I’ve been wondering about this, wondering why so many people are becoming gluten intolerant (they are, it’s not just better detection), and why this other form of wheat would be any different. Today I came across an intriguing article on this very subject. I was immediately drawn in by the story of a baker in CA whose white wheat sourdough bread is very popular with the gluten sensitive. It turns out that the wheat used in most of the products we consume today is very different from the wheat we consumed in the past (thus the rising incidence of sensitivities). The wheat used in the USA is even different from the wheat used in France. If you are gluten intolerant, celiac, suspect that wheat is troubling you, or are interested in all things food related, Our Daily Bread will be an enlightening read.

Perhaps more importantly, this is the familiar story of how tweaking nature for reasons of convenience resulted in unwanted health consequences. This can and should be a reminder to include our long-term health needs among the goals of innovation.

Now gimme some of that long-fermented sourdough!