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This is Part 3 of my 8-Part Series on Healthy, Happy Eating for the Whole Family.   Part 1 is SAD DIET: ARE YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN EATING ONE?  Part 2: THE YIN AND YANG OF SEASONAL EATING  Part 4 is HOW TO GO GLUTEN FREE AND DAIRY FREE AND HAVE YOUR PIZZA AND ICE CREAM TOO!   Part 5 is 4 TIPS ON HOW TO GET A “PICKY EATER” TO EAT  Part 6 is THE CALCIUM MYTH: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK   Part 7: WHY RAW FOODS FOR CHILDREN IS NOT THE BEST IDEA  Part 8: WHY ASIAN MEDICINE ROCKS FOR CHILDREN!

It’s time for a pop quiz!  Which of the following items causes the largest spike in blood sugar (that sugar “rush”) followed by a blood sugar crash: white rice (1 serving, instant), wheat bread (one slice), a banana, a Snickers bar, or a can of Coke?

Did you guess either the can of Coke or the Snickers bar? Well, you failed the quiz! The answer is that the slice of wheat bread actually raises blood sugar higher than each of the other foods. The second worst blood sugar offender is the instant white rice. The can of Coke is third, followed by the banana. The Snickers bar actually raises blood sugar the least because the of fat content from the peanuts and chocolate, as well as the small amount of protein from the peanuts. The other foods are mostly made of all carbohydrate, with only trace amounts of fats and proteins.

But why does the wheat bread raise blood sugar even higher than the Coke? It seems counterintuitive since we would expect it to have some fiber and protein to slow down the digestion process and produce a more even blood sugar level without the low blood sugar “crash” that can make your child irritable and unfocused. However, wheat contains a type of starch known as amylopectin A (which is present in higher amounts in modern wheat than in ancient wheat such as Einkorn), and amylopectin A raises blood sugar levels higher than even high fructose corn syrup.

There’s also another problem with wheat. It contains gluten — a protein composed of a substance known as gliadin. Gliadin is degraded in the human gastrointestinal tract into even smaller proteins known as polypeptides, and these polypeptides have a unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to morphine receptors in the brain. National Institute of Health researchers and other medical scientists often refer to these polypeptides as wheat exorphins, meaning they act similarly in the brain to morphine. This is why gluten is added to so many other processed foods by the food industry. They can sell more food products if their users are addicted!

If you’re sending your child to school with a sandwich on wheat bread for lunch, your child will literally receive a small “high” from the wheat, followed by a blood sugar crash and withdrawals. This can make it really difficult to feel well, stay focused, and learn new things. Therefore, going gluten-free and wheat-free can help your child feel better and also experience significant improvements in her ability to learn and focus.

But switching to all the gluten-free products on the store shelves is not the way to go gluten-free and wheat-free. Remember that the instant white rice spiked blood sugar higher than the Coke did. Gluten-free breads, cookies, crackers, pizza crusts, and other processed items are typically made with other high-glycemic flours such as rice flour, potato starch, cassava starch, tapioca starch, and cornstarch. Sometimes high-glycemic dried fruits and sweeteners are added for flavor and palatability. These products, too, can be worse on blood sugar than drinking a Coke. (And I don’t advocate drinking a can of Coke for lunch, either.)

When you start reading ingredient labels and finding out that gluten and gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and oats that have been cultivated or processed near wheat) are in nearly everything that comes in a box or can, it can be mind-boggling to figure out what kind of foods to serve to your kids. However, when you focus on whole, unprocessed foods that either come from the soil (root vegetables), the land (above-ground veggies, fruit, meat, and eggs), the sky (birds), or water (fish, crustaceans, and sea veggies), you’ll find that there are an abundance of food choices.

Here are just a few ideas of foods to feed your kids (and yourself!) that are gluten-free, wheat-free, and tasty, and that don’t cause a sugar high, sugar crash, and an addicted brain.