“Give us this day our daily bread . . .” I still pray the familiar prayer, even though I no longer eat the bread. Six years ago, blood tests revealed that my body doesn’t process gluten in a way that is healthy for my body. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and some other grains.
“I could never give up bread!” I hear that a lot. Gluten-free is not just giving up the sandwich bread, dinner rolls, and breakfast toast. It’s the pizza, the fried chicken, the (breaded) hot wings, the pasta. It’s also the gumbo (flour in the roux), Campbell’s Tomato Soup (yep, wheat in there), and Asian food (soy sauce is made from wheat).
Going gluten free was my first real exercise in intentional food choosing. I have learned to examine just about every multi-ingredient thing I buy. A front label that says “enchilada sauce” might very well have a product ingredient list revealing surprising wheat ingredients. Wheat may also be hidden in “caramel color,” “maltodextrin,” “artificial flavors,” and “natural flavors.”
On Feb. 4, I embarked upon the 30-day food choosing adventure called Whole30
Whole30 claims to be a “short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”
The Whole30 rules:
- No sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no honey, maple syrup, agave nectar
- No alcohol
- No grains — no wheat, corn, oats, rye, rice, quinoa
- No legumes — no beans, peanuts, soy
- No dairy
- No white potatoes
- No MSG, sulfites, carrageenan
- No “paleo-fying” baked goods and treats
What is left? Veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, herbs, spices. With just those one-ingredient foods, imagine the combinations!
I finished the 30 days on Ash Wednesday, March 5. My results and future plans:
- I did eliminate my Coca-Cola craving.
- I developed some good habits around food planning and preparation.
- With so many foods “off the table,” I enjoyed trying new foods and food combinations.
- I got the flu toward the end of the 30 days, so apparently I didn’t receive any immune system miracles.
- I didn’t weigh, before or after, so I don’t know if that changed.
- I do plan to add back in some single-ingredient foods, like oats, beans, and quinoa.
- There may be wine and spirits on occasion.
The biggest change: I can’t look at a grocery store the same way. What I see now are aisles and aisles of highly processed, multi-ingredient “food” products. Eliminate the corn, wheat, and soy — and their derivatives — from the store, and there would be little left. These three are the top agricultural crops in the United States. Most of the corn and soy are genetically modified. Fruits and vegetables are considered “specialty crops” and do not receive the same federal subsidies and promotion.
I have opened a whole new can of tuna that is called “food justice,” and I want to know so much more. My first questions:
- Who benefits from this system?
- Who is hurt by this system?
- What can I do?
My Lenten journey will include a continuation of intentional food choices. I am seeking out more locally-based food venues, like a near-by farm co-op, farmer’s markets and a Latin-American tienda (store) in my neighborhood. I am also walking through “40 Days for Food Justice” by Margaret Anne Overstreet, which can be found through Facebook.
Meanwhile, Subway, the “eat healthy” sub sandwich chain, was in the news. Subway’s signature aromatic bread was found to contain azodicarbonimide, a chemical which is used to put the spongy comfort in yoga mats. The chemical is found in over 500 food products, including Little Debbie products, Wonder Bread, and Pillsbury Dinner Rolls.
Where did those Communion bread cubes come from, anyway? Is there an ingredient list on those wafers?
Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.” In naming himself bread, and in offering us life, he called us to the highest standard for whatever we claim is bread and life for us.