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Balance, Not Belly


There’s a poem called “Silos,” by former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove. It ends: “They were masculine toys. They were tall wishes. They were the ribs of the modern world.”

When talking about silos in agriculture, we are generally thinking of grain storage.

But silos of the mind can separate us from our colleagues in agriculture, as well as from other industries, the general public—and sometimes our own friends and families.

In agriculture, we can be proponents of an individual crop, or proponents of a cropping, marketing or organizational system, and this can sometimes be polarizing. Yet, when we unite, when we come together with one voice, we are much stronger—and much more able to affect change.

The gluten-free movement is one area the cereals industry has the ability to come together and make a difference. It seems that every time we turn around—every time we’re in a restaurant or at an event or listening to the radio or watching a talk show—someone’s talking about the importance of “going gluten-free.”

As a culture,

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we are being told to limit gluten because self-styled experts continue to opine that gluten is bad for us. And when they’re taking on gluten, they’re really targeting wheat.

Consumers—including our friends, neighbours and family members—are consciously choosing to eat foods that are often more expensive and come from further away in order to fit a self-imposed dietary restriction that is not necessarily nutrition-focused, but is fast becoming a middle-class norm.

The gluten-free movement is one area the cereals industry has the ability to come together and make a difference.

Yet we are doing a disservice to ourselves by not redefining the argument and pushing back. Let’s not be intimidated by the slogan-centric “gluten-free” language. Instead, let’s start talking about balance.

We have a unique opportunity to start redefining and refining our own message around cereals crops: whole grains, including wheat, are good for us. Wheat is an excellent source of fibre, and it has a place in a healthy, balanced diet. Like barley, it’s a local grain with a strong nutrient profile.

So let’s redefine the debate. Let’s not let the language cloud the issue, because it is not about “wheat belly,” it’s about wheat balance. In order to be healthier, we need to talk about wheat balance and carb balance to ensure we are eating fewer processed foods overall, because whole grains are part of a nutritious and healthy diet.

Granted, we all know (or know of) people who have true health issues related to Celiac disease and allergies. These people deserve our concern. But for the other people in our lives—the ones who are self-limiting their diets because someone on TV told them to—let’s push back a little and suggest they get tested by a doctor if they have health concerns. They need to do some research, and find out what’s really going on.

Let’s move out of our silos, work together and encourage balance and real wellness—and let’s find the language to inspire this new movement.

Lisa Skierka is the general manager of Alberta Barley.


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