According to market researcher NPD Group, as many as 30 percent of Americans are looking to cut down on gluten based on health concerns. However, an answer to the growing wheat aversion may be found in heirlooms.
Such grains include einkorn, spelt, emmer, farro and heirloom wheat. Some say they can be used as a way to cut back on gluten, while still having bread and other products typically made from grain.
"If someone has celiac disease, they should not eat einkorn because it has gluten. But for some people like myself that have a gluten allergy, I enjoy einkorn every day and don't have any allergic symptoms," Eli Rogosa, head of the Heritage Grain Conservancy and a baker herself, said.
Rogosa cites a study by Dr. Hetty van den Broeck, a Dutch researcher who works with gluten, as a scientific reason behind her lauding of the grains.
According to van den Broeck's work, modern wheat can be linked to a fourfold rise of celiac disease in the past 30 years, largely because the type of gluten it carries stimulates celiac disease. Einkorn, and other modern grains, contain less of a certain aggravating property in their gluten content, and is therefore easier on the stomach, according to the study.
For her part, Rogosa has been working with Cornell University and the University of Vermont on developing heirloom grains. Their work has been supported by $3 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is yielding results.
"After four years of work, I've developed heritage wheat varieties that yield higher than modern wheat in organic fields," Rogosa said.