Here’s an excerpt from the new Wheat Belly Total Health book to be released September 16, 2014.
What’s there left to say after the original Wheat Belly knocked the socks off the dietary community with its upsetting revelations? Plenty! Remove this dietary poison, made worse by the shenanigans of agribusiness, and full health does not return right away–more needs to be done. The conversations in Wheat Belly Total Health show you how to take the reins and regain health as fully as possible, even if your health struggles include conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, or failed weight loss.
Eliminate grains from your diet and you can achieve optimal health—but overhauling your eating style doesn’t mean emptying your wallet.
There’s really nothing intrinsically wrong with grasses. They’re beautiful, swaying in the wind, covering large swaths of the earth. Like other plants, they process carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Animals eat them. The problem is that our species of primate, Homo sapiens, simply lacks the means to digest them as food. When we try, acute and chronic health pandemonium ensues. When we stop, our health begins to revert back to its natural state.
As you set out to remove all grains from your life, examining labels for anything that might contain the seeds of grasses, you will quickly throw your hands up in the air and declare, “This is impossible! Grains are in everything!”
Of the 60,000 or so processed food products that fill the shelves of the average supermarket, your options will be reduced to more like 1,000—an upheaval, to be sure. The only foods without traces of grains are the foods that are naturally grain-free, such as cabbage, eggs, and meats. That observation points us in the direction of a solution: a return to unprocessed, naturally grain-free foods.
Cutting Calories Cuts Costs
Some people balk at the prospect of following this lifestyle because they’re concerned that the increased reliance on pasture-fed and organic vegetables and meats will end up costing them an arm and a leg. They worry that this shift in diet will blow the lid off their grocery budget, and they worry about a life without quick, inexpensive convenience foods.
These concerns are entirely unwarranted. Sure, you will be purchasing more costly foods, but the net cost is typically unchanged or less. Many people who budget their monthly grocery bill actually report a modest cost savings with this lifestyle. Do the math: Banished from your life are the foods that stimulate appetite, and so you no longer have to purchase 400 additional calories per person, per day. In a family of five, that’s 2,000 or more calories per day that you no longer have to buy—60,000 calories over the course of a month. It is not uncommon to witness family-wide reductions of 3,000 to 4,000 calories every day with grain elimination: no more corn chips, rye crackers, frozen dinners, breakfast cereals, endless snacking, and bingeing. It’s like no longer having to feed an extra invisible person with a large appetite. Over a month’s time, that’s about 90 meals you no longer have to purchase or prepare.
“Grain-Free” Can Even Be Free
Nonetheless, there are a number of strategies that you can use to keep a lid on costs as you make your new food choices. Not everybody can or wants to follow each and every strategy, but incorporating just a few of these can further trim costs. Remember: We evolved in a world in which the foods we consumed were without cost because we gathered and hunted them from our surroundings. Bearing that in mind, the more we revert to such practices, the closer we get to consuming foods that are not only free but also healthier. Consider these cost-saving strategies.
Grow your own. Grow your own green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fruit every spring. You don’t need a big, fancy garden (though that would be wonderful), just a simple 5- by 5-foot or similar plot, fertilized with coffee grounds and composted organic materials. If you have never gardened before, choose the vegetables that are easiest to grow, such as cucumbers, zucchini, and squash, and save your seeds for the next year.
Preserve your harvest. If you grow your own, you may be left with more than you can consume. Freeze, can, or ferment the excess whenever you have more than you and your family require.
Cultivate herbs. Grow your own fresh basil, oregano, mint, and other herbs in a windowsill planter indoors. You will no longer have to pay $3.99 for a few fresh leaves of basil but will simply pull a few off your own plant, which will regrow in just a few days.
Grow berries. Berry vines, such as raspberries, are wonderfully easy to grow and allow you to pick your own delicious fruit year after year. Plants typically cost just a few dollars, or you can obtain cuttings from someone else eager to cut back their endlessly propagating berry vines. Within a year or two of planting, you will be fighting your vines as they try to overtake your entire backyard. Grapes are another prolific fruit to grow.
Plant fruit trees. Nothing beats picking your own apples, pears, and cherries. Obviously, this is a long-term strategy, as these trees require a few years to mature. But once they do, you will have more than you will ever need. Those of us living a grain-free lifestyle limit fruit consumption because of the sugar content of most modern strains, so a little will go a long way.
Pick excess fruit in your neighborhood. It is shocking to see the number of apples, pears, and cherries in colder climates, and oranges, lemons, and grapefruit in warmer climates, that just fall to the ground or rot on the tree. If local laws or neighbors allow, why not gather them? And, if you are so inclined, join the growing number of people foraging. Just be sure to learn from a knowledgeable expert which leaves, flowers, and mushrooms are safely edible before you take this path.
Eat fatty or less costly cuts of meat. We embrace fat: It is essential for life and is good for health. It is also satiating. Buy fatty cuts of meat, such as chuck, rib eye, tongue, and fatty ground meat. Or just eyeball the cuts with the fat left on—and don’t cut it off before eating. Round, brisket, and shank, while not rich in fat, tend to be less costly cuts. If the cuts you choose are tough, pound them with a meat mallet before cooking or use a slow cooker.
Save fats from meats. Save fats in a nonplastic container (such as a clean jar) and set them aside to cool. Use the saved fats as your cooking oil, which is healthier and cheaper than buying bottles of polyunsaturated oils.
Save bones. Or purchase them from the butcher or meat section at the grocery store. (Sometimes they will just give them to you without charge.) Boil them for soup with added inexpensive cuts of meat. Three pounds of bones and a pound of inexpensive meat (with chopped onions, carrots, celery, etc., and some tomato paste) will yield a rich and delicious soup that lasts for days. If you use the bones to make stock, add it to vegetables and other dishes to enhance their flavor at virtually no cost.
Eat more eggs. Eggs, combined with vegetables, oils, olives, herbs, and other ingredients, make wonderful frittatas or quiches (with nut meal crusts; there are recipes for these in the Wheat Belly cookbooks) that can be used for exceptionally low-cost breakfasts or even dinners. Buy large quantities of eggs from family farms and they will also be healthier, with delicious orange or red yolks, if the chickens were allowed to range and forage freely.
Dehydrate foods. This is one of my favorite strategies, as it allows you to dehydrate leftover meats, vegetables, and fruits to convert them into delicious snacks. Spice them up with turmeric, ground red pepper, sea salt, and other spices prior to dehydrating. A dehydrating device can be purchased for as little $30 to $40 and will pay for itself after just a few uses.
Shop as close to the source as possible. By eliminating the middleman and avoiding high-end stores, you shave off substantial added costs. Purchase vegetables from a farm or farmers’ market. Subscribe to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) group (though you may want to split the subscription with another family, given the high volume typically provided) for vegetables, eggs, and meats. Increasingly, a market style of CSA is emerging in which you pick and choose each week what you desire, rather than receiving a predetermined variety or quantity.
Practice intermittent fasting. While I don’t view the practice of intermittent fasting as a money-saving maneuver, it is so easy in this grain-free lifestyle and it packs so many benefits that it can indeed result in diminished food costs. If, for instance, you fast for 36 hours every 10 days, that means you do not have to shop, cook, or eat for 41 ⁄2 days per month—all while feeling terrific, reducing blood pressure, restoring insulin responses, and reducing risk of heart disease. Plus, you’ll have a greater appreciation for the flavors and textures of foods when you resume eating. Fasting means eating no food but maintaining vigorous hydration, or else light-headedness and nausea can result.
Hunting, Gathering—And Saving
The ultimate way to save money would be, of course, to have a full-size garden and scavenge for edible leaves, tubers, and mushrooms while hunting wild game, fishing, and gathering shellfish. Wild turkey and deer are plentiful, and just a few hunting excursions can yield a freezer full of meat. Unfortunately, most people simply have neither the time nor the inclination to return to their scavenging, hunting, and gathering origins to this degree. But I believe that human health is enhanced by always remembering that you and your family are really just a small clan of hungry primates making your way through the world.
Beyond the money saved by choosing just one or more of the above cost-saving methods, you and your family will need fewer (or no) antacids, prescription drugs for acid reflux, antihypertensive drugs, cholesterol drugs, pain medications, and antidepressants. You’ll also make fewer visits to the doctor, emergency room, or hospital. So does grain elimination cost you money? Heck, no. In many, if not most, instances, the net effect of grain elimination is that it saves or makes you money.