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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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The main focus of the wheat belly diet is eliminating wheat. But it also restricts other foods, such as:
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.
The Wheat Belly can help you lose weight—but 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.