I was recently sent a copy of Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stephen Yafa by the publisher. It’s probably because I love bread, I think gluten is fascinating, I make my own sourdough, and I am skeptical about people touting gluten as being worse for you than poison (or whatever it is those Grain Brain and Wheat Belly folks are claiming).
The subtitle is a bit misleading because the book definitely trends to the “for” side of eating wheat and gluten (not that I’m against that), champions the artisan bread movement, and refutes claims made by Grain Brain and Wheat Belly.
Yafa argues a good case, but the points he makes are probably just as speculative as those books that he is refuting. So if you’re not celiac and don’t have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) then this book will make you feel better about passing on gluten-free pasta in favour of the stuff that actually tastes good.
The author clearly did extensive research visiting and talking with producers at every level from farm to milling to processing, including enormous industrial bakers and small scale artisan bakers and stone millers.
He explains that industrial bread baking has a fermentation time of about 4 hours from flour to package which, if you’ve ever made bread from scratch, you’ll know is extremely short. Nature would have dough ferment in 2 or more days and it is this natural fermentation process, better known as sourdough, that Yafa speculates is the key to better digestion of wheat.
Home bakers and artisan bread makers tend to use naturally fermented dough (sourdough) and a longer slower fermentation time compared to industrial bread bakers. Yafa argues that this long process encourages lactic fermentation, which cuts through the large gluten molecules that are difficult to digest and breaks them down into smaller parts that are more digestible. Additionally, the probiotics that are produced as a result of long fermentation are readily absorbed by and beneficial for the body.
All in all, the book was a very interesting read. I was fascinated (in a really geeky way) about the details he discussed about the growth patterns of different type of wheat and the history of the production of flour. And of course I love that he’s championing home baking, especially with sourdough.
I think the book is lacking a little on the science side but overall it was an easy and interesting read, especially for people who like their cake and want to eat it too.
Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa on Amazon