Sam Bauman: Gluten and arsenic in our diets



I was surprised to receive no comments about gluten after last week’s discussion of it. I thought it was the hot food-button of our times, but no one seemed to care.

Then someone at the Senior Center lunch table said to me, “I’m 76 years old and I never knew there was something called gluten. So what did I miss?”

I had no answer to that but meanwhile came across another article about gluten in The New Yorker. This was a very long piece and after wading through it, I sort of came to the conclusion that nobody really knows if gluten is good or bad for you (except for those who suffer from celiac disease to whom gluten can be fatal; that’s about 1 percent of the world population, not 6 percent as I wrote last week).

Seems that gluten is with us in almost all forms of wheat and wheat is another subject since what we get today in wheat is a far cry from the wheat of 30 or 40 years ago. But that’s another subject.

The new article added another something to the discussion, vital wheat germ. Adding this to flour, water, and salt gives the mixture more stick togetherness and is important to modem baking.

Of course, modern factory baking itself is hardly the best way to use GMO wheat from which most of the vital elements have been removed — and nobody told us. I also learned that the brown rice I have adopted despite years of enjoying short white rice, dealing back to my Japan days, is high in arsenic that disappears when rice is ground up to get arid of the brown outer coating. Win a few, lose a few.

The New Yorker piece almost noted that all kinds of non-experts are busily suggesting a gluten-free diet, gym teachers, golf coaches, stock brokers. And what does the article say about gluten-free folk who defiantly say they feel better when avoiding gluten? Hard to disagree with subjective comment in the face of scientific studies. I have a lady friend who insists that she feels better when avoiding gluten. Can’t really argue with that. So it’s much like food fads of the past, such as prescribing oleo instead of butter, ignoring oleo’s questionable benefits (I never use anything but butter — as the French chefs of yore said, “Butter, more butter.”)

Me, I’m not going to worry about gluten-free stuff. It costs more, is of questionable help and requires planning.

Meanwhile, there’s arsenic

As mentioned above, I’ve also discovered how the potentially fatal arsenic has crept into our diets. Most of the arsenic in our foods is inorganic arsenic (IA), a carcinogen. Those who eat rice to avoid gluten need to be careful and those who eat rice need to know that many glitter-free food contain rice with arsenic and can be harmful.

Here’s a quick rundown on several grains for arsenic content:

Basmati from California is the lowest in arsenic. Quinoa is also low on arsenic and is a good source of protein.

Buckwheat is related to wheat and it’s gluten free. Rices from Texas contain the highest in arsenic. Brown rices tend to have more arsenic than white rice of the same type. And millet cooks up fluffy like white rice but has far less arsenic.

Computer help when needed

Like most of us using computers these days for work, when something goes wrong that I can’t figure out I turn to the professionals. I sometimes call my son, who is a software engineer, for help, but he’s in the upper levels of computers and usually can’t help me.

So then I turn local.

The one closest to me is De Bug at 591 South Saliman where assistance is quick and inexpensive. Chris Hunter there has often walked me through my problems (the latest was how to adjust a box for forwarding replies; he did it in a minute free).

He also offered me a tip that I had never thought of. With my 32-bit laptop getting ready to be junked, I asked him about rebuilt computers.

“I always go to rebuilt because I know a technician has rebuilt it and always tests and usually you get a one-year warranty.”

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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