If we were to believe the claims of conventional diet advice, such as those being echoed by wheat industry groups like the Grain Foods Foundation in their SixServings Blog (where, by the way, you’ve GOT to read the over 70 comments!), eliminate wheat from your diet and you will lose your job, the neighbors will make fun of you, your mother-in-law will move into your house for an indefinite stay, and you will become constipated and malnourished and suffer multiple nutritional deficiencies.
Not true. In fact, I will argue in these posts that nutrition improves with elimination of wheat due to increased absorption of multiple nutrients once the digestive disruption of wheat (gluten and lectins) are removed; pancreatic release of digestive enzymes improves due to the increased intestinal release of cholecystekinin; and improved absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats results when the dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth associated with wheat consumption reverses, among other effects.
So I thought I’d tackle each nutrient one by one. Let’s talk about vitamin B6. B6 is essential, as it is not synthesized in the body; it must come from diet. B6 deficiency leads to rashes like seborrheic dermatitis, atrophy of the tongue and mouth sores, and central nervous system impairment. I begin with B6 since it is often cited as a nutrient that has been shown to be deficient in 20% of people with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet (Hallert et al 2002).
The adult RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3-1.7 mg per day for adults, though many argue (and I agree) that higher quantities are beneficial. According to the USDA, two slices of whole wheat bread contain 0.117 mg of vitamin B6.
What other sources of B6 are there? Here’s a partial list:
Salmon, 4 oz: 0.64 mg
Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 0.44 mg
Chicken breast, 4 oz cooked, 0.68 mg
Tuna, 4 oz, cooked: 1.18 mg
Flaxseed, 2 tablespoons: 0.18 mg
Pistachios, 1/4 cup shelled: 0.408 mg
Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup hulled: 0.484 mg
Avocado, 1 cup: 0.41 mg
Herbs and spices, such as garlic, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and chile powder, are also rich sources of B6. Just two cloves of garlic, for instance, contain 0.074 mg B6, or 63% of that contained in two slices of whole wheat bread.
So 4 oz of chicken breast provides nearly 6-fold more vitamin B6 than two slices of whole wheat bread, 4 oz of tuna over 10-fold more. Even two tablespoons of flaxseed–very easy to obtain–handily exceeds the B6 content of wheat products.
So, sure, if wheat is replaced with Skittles and lemon ice, you will likely become vitamin B6-deficient. But if wheat is replaced with whole foods like fish, meat, nuts, flaxseed, and avocado no vitamin B6 deficiency develops . . . B6 intake actually increases.