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What Is The Wheat Belly Diet And Does It Work?
Updated on February 27, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
What Is The Wheat Belly Diet And Does It Work?
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Key Takeaways

The wheat belly diet has similar food guidelines with other popular diet plans like the paleo diet and low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet. 

For example, both the wheat belly and keto diets limit your carb intake, while the wheat belly and paleo diets exclude wheat and promote gluten-free foods.

However, the main goal of the wheat belly diet is to have a wheat-free lifestyle. The diet plan emphasizes wheat as the primary cause of weight gain.

Although many are skeptical about the benefits of removing wheat from your diet, the wheat-free diet has convinced some people that it helped lower their risk of health conditions like: 

  • Fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Heart diseases 

What Is “Wheat Belly”?

The term “wheat belly” refers to the weight around your middle. It’s also more commonly known as “beer belly” or “belly fat.” This is where visceral fat is stored.

Visceral fat is a unique fat tissue wrapping the organs in your abdominal cavity, like the kidney, liver, intestines, etc. It is a hidden fat stored in your belly and composes about one-tenth of your total body fat. 

Doctors link wheat belly (or an unfavorable waist-to-hip ratio) to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.1

What Is The Wheat Belly Diet?

The wheat belly diet is a diet plan created by cardiologist William Davis, MD. He coined the term and wrote about it in his best-selling diet book. 

Davis observed that high-carb foods like waffles, toast, or bagels for breakfast made him feel sluggish even after a full night’s sleep. This led him to avoid eating wheat products. 

His blood work results also contributed to his commitment to making a lifestyle change. His blood tests revealed high cholesterol and diabetic blood sugar levels. 

Davis mentioned in his book that wheat is the leading cause of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. He said that today’s wheat is genetically altered and added with a new compound called gliadin. 

According to Davis, gliadin is a unique protein that stimulates your appetite. So, it follows that eliminating wheat can diminish your appetite.

Davis switched to a wheat-free diet and convinced his overweight and diabetes-prone patients to do the same. He gave them a list of foods low on the glycemic index. 

The glycemic index (GI) rates foods from a scale of 0 to 100, depending on how they affect your blood sugar levels. The low end of the GI scale is the least likely to affect your blood sugar levels.2

He asked his patients to eat foods with low GI instead of wheat-rich foods. He also requested they return to him after three months for a check-up.

On the follow-up check-up, Davis reports that most of his patients who tried the wheat-free diet lost weight. Their blood sugar levels also changed from diabetic to the normal range.

The wheat belly diet recommends avoiding all foods with wheat, such as bread. This diet plan also suggests excluding other types of foods like the following:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Starchy vegetables, like potatoes and other root crops
  • Unhealthy refined grains
  • Legumes
  • Corn starch
  • Fruits, even dried ones
  • Fried foods

Many people claim that the wheat belly diet improved their health. However, several researchers and healthcare professionals haven’t acknowledged the diet plan as legitimate since its practices lack scientific basis.

4 Potential Health Benefits Of The Wheat Belly Diet

Helps With Weight Loss 

Research shows that grain-based desserts and yeast bread are the top calorie sources in the U.S. diet, contributing to the high-calorie intake of Americans. 

Among the other foods from the list are pasta dishes and pizza—both have wheat flour in their ingredients.

If you strictly follow the wheat belly diet, you will avoid these foods and replace them with whole foods instead. Whole foods are naturally lower in calories but are more nutrient-dense. 

They can help you feel full with fewer calories. Eating fewer calories than you normally consume can help with weight loss.

Encourages Healthier Food Intake

What Is The Wheat Belly Diet And Does It Work? 1

The food choices in the wheat belly diet encourage you to choose healthier foods and eat a well-balanced diet.

The wheat belly diet approves a list of foods, as shown in the wheat belly food pyramid. The foundation of this diet is meat, poultry, and fish. 

It also includes various foods, such as non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and so on. Additionally, it restricts foods high in salt, unhealthy fats, and sugar.

Lessens Risk For Serious Health Conditions

Since the wheat belly diet focuses on foods low on GI, it can lessen your risk of diabetes or high blood sugar levels

The diet plan can also lower chronic inflammation by reducing your visceral fats. Davis mentions that visceral fats can trigger abnormal inflammatory responses. 

The unusual inflammatory triggers can be the underlying cause of hypertension and other heart diseases. 

If you’re suffering from acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), avoiding food with wheat can help improve your symptoms. 

Promotes More Thoughtful Eating

The wheat belly diet encourages you to be more mindful of your eating. It teaches you to listen to your body’s hunger cues.

Instead of focusing on portion sizes or calorie counting, it encourages you to eat when you’re hungry and to stop when you're full.

Foods To Eat On The Wheat Belly Diet

The wheat belly diet includes a variety of whole, unprocessed foods. The allowed foods shouldn’t contain artificial flavors and ingredients like sodium nitrate.

Although non-wheat grains like amaranth, quinoa, and rice are allowed in the diet, Davis recommends totally removing grains from your diet for the best results.

1. Non-starchy vegetables 

  • Green, leafy veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers 
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

2. Fruits

  • Apples
  • Avocadoes
  • Apricots
  • Berries — blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lemons
  • Limes

3. Meat, poultry, and fish

  • Meat — grass-fed meats like beef, elk, lamb, pork, wild game
  • Poultry — chicken, duck, turkey, and eggs
  • Fish and shellfish — catfish, clams, cod, crab, halibut, lobster, mussels, salmon, trout, tuna

4. Dairy

  • Full-fat cheese like cheddar, cottage, feat, goat-milk cheese, parmesan, ricotta, stilton, swiss
  • Small amounts of milk and yogurt

5. Fermented soy products 

  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu

6. Healthy fats and oils

  • Plant-based oils like avocado, coconut, and olive oils

7. Raw nuts

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Nut butter made from these nuts

8. Raw seeds

  • Chia
  • Flaxseeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower seeds

9. Non-grain flours made of:

  • Almond
  • Chickpea
  • Coconut
  • Peanut
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower seeds

10. Herbs and Spices

11. Natural and artificial sweeteners

  • Monk fruit extract
  • Maltodextrin-free stevia
  • Erythritol
  • Xylitol

12. Unsweetened coffee and tea

13. Unsweetened milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk

14. Dark chocolate made from 70% to 85% cocoa (no more than two squares)

What To Avoid On The Wheat Belly Diet

The main focus of the wheat belly diet is eliminating wheat. But it also restricts other foods, such as:

1. All grains, including non-wheat grains

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

2. Bread and pastries made from wheat and grain

  • Bagels
  • Baguettes
  • Biscuits
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Crackers
  • Doughnuts
  • Pancake
  • Pizza
  • Pita
  • Sandwiches

3. Pasta or any noodles made from wheat and grain

4. Flours from grains

  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat

5. Starches from starchy vegetables

  • Corn starch
  • Potato starch
  • Rice starch
  • Tapioca starch

6. Beans

  • Black
  • Butter
  • Kidney
  • Lima
  • Pinto
  • Red
  • Spanish
  • Garbanzo

7. All varieties of lentils and peas

8. Raw peanuts 

9. Processed and packaged foods

  • Processed and cured meats
  • Fast foods
  • Frozen foods
  • Processed snacks like chips and other junk foods

10. Fats and oils 

  • Hydrogenated oils like 
  • Margarine
  • Foods with trans-fat
  • Polyunsaturated oils like corn, grapeseed, or sunflower oils

11. Soups

  • Canned soup
  • Court bouillon
  • Premade broths and stocks

12. Desserts

  • Chocolate bars
  • Ice cream and ice cream bars
  • Icing
  • Most candies (except Starburst and Jelly Belly)

13. Sugary fruits or fruits with higher sugar content

  • Bananas
  • Dried fruit
  • Grapes
  • Mango 
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Applesauce

14. Alcoholic drinks and sugary beverages 

  • Cocktails
  • Energy drinks
  • Fruit juices 
  • Soda
  • Store-bought coffees and teas
  • Sweetened alcoholic beverages
  • Wheat beers

15. Sweeteners

  • Agave syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Nectar
  • Sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol

People interested in following the wheat belly diet should adhere to specific eating rules to achieve optimal results. For example, they should totally avoid added sugar. 

According to Davis' book, overcoming sweet cravings can help you achieve a detoxed state.

Does The Wheat Belly Diet Work?


The Wheat Belly can help you lose weightbut not likely only because of eliminating gluten. There is insufficient evidence that wheat-containing foods cause more weight gain than other food types. 

Besides, gluten is not the only food the wheat belly diet restricts. It also prohibits other foods that contribute to weight gain, like sugary foods, carbs, or processed foods.

Losing weight from the wheat belly diet is more likely due to a well-balanced diet made up of healthier, nutrient-dense foods like whole foods. 

You're likely to lose weight when you replace ultra-processed foods with whole foods. Whole foods typically have fewer calories and fewer sugars and fat content.

Whole foods like whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables are also fiber-rich. Foods rich in fiber help you feel full for periods, which contributes to controlling your food intake. 

Davis also mentions that cutting wheat from your diet can help take off about 400 calories from your usual calorie intake. The calorie deficit alone is enough to help you lose weight.

People who practice the wheat belly diet can attribute their weight loss to many other factors, including healthier food choices and mindful eating.

Updated on February 27, 2023
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2 sources cited
Updated on February 27, 2023
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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