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Are you a supertaster?

What’s a Supertaster, you ask?

Well, I hate to brag, but that would be me. I’m a supertaster. It’s kind of like being Wonder Woman without the warrior princess gadgets. My super powers are in my taste buds, not in indestructible click-click bracelets or projectile tiaras.

Okay, I’ll be honest. It’s not that big of a deal—25% of us are supertasters. We’ve inherited a higher-than-normal number of taste buds and are typically more sensitive to strong, bitter foods. Think raw broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, grapefruit juice, whiskey, wine, dark chocolate, coffee. We don’t like those foods.

Although I have the supertaster genotype, I do like (have come to like) all those choices with the exception of whiskey. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, let’s take a brief look at the genetics behind food dislikes—or variations of that theme. Maybe your kid is a “picky eater” for a reason.

Supertaster’s have cell proteins on their tongues that detect intense, bitter flavors. All genes encode proteins with information from our DNA. I happen to have the gene that is the protein blueprint for an overwhelmingly bitter taste. But what makes all this interesting is the mix of our genes and our personal and environmental variations. I’ve managed to override some of my genetically predisposed, taste quirkiness by tweaking the quality of the food. That, and my willingness to experiment. Some of these bitter foods are incredibly healthy and contain cancer-protective substances, so broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts have become favorites of mine. That’s my phenotype at work. I haven’t turned the gene off, I’ve simply tweaked the stimulus (my food environment) in a positive way to pull a fast one on my supertaster gene.

Let’s take this one step further. By purchasing high quality versions of these foods (fresh, organic) and taking the time to prepare them in a way that accentuates the flavors I that I do like, I end up supplying my body with phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that promote good health. That way, I can get my foot (phytonutrient) in the door (cell) to turn certain other genes off or on. I can discourage disease-promoting genes and encourage health-warrior genes. We have the power to do that.

Back to supertaster foods. I don’t like raw broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower, but I do like all those vegetables drizzled with a small amount of olive oil, dusted with Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and lightly roasted. I don’t like most types of coffee (Starbucks is over-the-top bitter to me) or most types of wine, but I do like my mellow, organic, breakfast blend coffee mixed with a little coconut milk and I love having a glass of nice, smooth red wine. But, a lot of wine does taste bitter and acidic to me, to the point that I literally turn up my nose and shiver. There are only a few dark chocolates that I like and I much prefer them topped with a little sea salt. Grapefruit juice I can totally do without. I’m also a salt-aholic, but only with good quality sea salt. Salt masks bitterness, so it makes sense that supertasters are heavy-handed with the salt grinder.

Are you wondering how I know I’m a supertaster?

I took the test. Researchers have discovered a chemical that, when applied to a strip of paper and placed on the tongue, distinguishes between non-tasters, medium-tasters, and super-tasters. I ordered the test strips and was overwhelmed by the bitter taste. Seriously bitter. I actually thought I’d be a non- or medium-taster because I like most of the foods on the list, but after the test and some thought, I realized that I’ve simply adjusted to being a supertaster. I had a couple of other people take the test and they had absolutely no reaction. None. They didn’t taste anything. I couldn’t believe it as I could hardly stand the taste. Apparently supertasters experience flavors with about three times the intensity of others.

Why do you think some people are supertasters? Is that an evolutionary advantage or a disadvantage?

Say you’re out doing some gathering during the Paleolithic era and you grab a handful of leaves. You take a bite, find the leaves extremely unpleasant, nasty-tasting and bitter, so you spit them out. Maybe you just saved yourself from an untimely death due to ingesting toxic plant chemicals. Good one. I’m glad I’m a supertaster.

But wait, food was scarce back then. You can’t be picky. My non-taster neighbor will eat anything, therefore having more chance of survival when times are tough.

What’s your theory? Are you a supertaster? Is that good or bad?

While you think about it, here’s a recipe for roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning (I have nothing to do with this company, I just love this seasoning and use it on everything.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Place florets in a medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to cover. Sprinkle with herb seasoning, sea salt, and pepper. Toss again.
3. Place florets in a shallow baking dish and sprinkled with garlic.
4. Place baking dish on the center rack of oven and roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir occasionally to insure even browning.

Note: Broccoli stalks are wonderful roasted. All these foods are almost undetectable used raw in small amounts blended into smoothies.

Okay, what do you think? I’m curious. What’s the point of the supertaster gene? Did it evolve as a protective mechanism or was it a detriment to survival?

Peace, love and the wonderful world of genetics!
Melissa

Balanced Living Lingo (Farm Talk Glossary)

I have a theory that if you keep your intentions (or resolutions as is the case with each new year) to yourself, you have a better chance of achieving them. The more you talk about something—a goal, a resolution, a project, an intention—the more it scatters. It’s like you’re frittering away bits and pieces of your grand design each time you mention it. The more you talk about it, the less interesting it becomes. Your brain registers a premature sense of accomplishment.

So—I’ve decided not to broadcast my list of 2012 resolutions. I’m keeping them to myself, thinking they have more power to blossom if I don’t talk about them (especially that 5 pounds I need to ditch and the mountain I want to climb).

Out with the old—in with the new.

Instead of a resolution list, I’m making a list (a glossary actually) of farm-fresh words to share over at The Balanced Platter, Amy (Simply Sugar and Dairy Free) and Maggie’s (She Let Them Eat Cake) new home for all things related to healthy and balanced living. During this month’s launch of TBP, you’ll find a steady stream of up-to-date information, helpful tips, brilliant ideas, and wholesome recipes instead of resolutions. We’re all in this together, let’s share our wisdom for a brighter and more balanced 2012.

Balanced Living Lingo

Biodynamic: A form of organic farming that emphasizes the relationship between the soil, plants, and animals as a self-sustaining system. Biodynamic farmers seek to maximize diversity in their farming practices by treating their farm as a unified organism. They avoid the use of artificial chemicals and practice crop rotation, composting, and plant and harvest according to seasonal and lunar rhythms.

Cage-Free Eggs: There is no legal definition of cage-free. Often cage-free hens live in crowded conditions with no access to the outdoors. Seek out local farmers who practice human animal husbandry. Organic eggs from healthy, pastured chickens look and taste very different from the conventional version.

Certified Naturally Grown: Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) products are certified by an independent nonprofit organization (not USDA) as having been produced in approximate accordance with national organic standards, a program involving fewer paperwork requirement and lower certification fees for farmers than the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Community Garden: A community owned and/or operated plot of land that is divided up for individuals or families to grow food. Community Gardens provide an opportunity to grow low cost, nutritious food and can contribute to the local economy by allowing gardeners to sell their produce at Farmer’s Markets.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Consumers buy a share in a local farm or garden, usually paying before the beginning of the season—in return, they receive a weekly supply of fresh, local produce that is harvested throughout the growing season. By paying up-front the shareholder gives the farmer cash to start the season and also takes on some of the risks associated with farming (hail, drought, etc.). I’ve been a member of Grant Family Farms CSA here in Colorado for years and appreciate the opportunity to have locally grown, organic food, fresh from the farm. Check here to find a CSA in your area.

Conventional: Refers to standard agricultural practices that are widespread in the industry. Can (but does not necessarily) include the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, mono-cropping, antibiotics, hormones, and other chemical approaches. Conventional farming in the U.S. may also include the use of GMOs.

Farmer’s Market: Refers to an open-air market where farmer’s sell their produce directly to consumers.

Farmstead Cheese: Farmstead cheeses are made by the same people who farm the animals producing the milk.

Farm-To-Table: Signifies that the food on the table came directly from a specific farm, or a meal prepared and served at the farm where the food was grown. The use of farm-to-table also emphasizes a direct relationship between a farm and a restaurant or store.

Food Shed: The term food shed is similar to the concept of a watershed while watersheds ouline the amount and flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table, and everything in between.

Free-Range: USDA regulations apply only to poultry and indicate that the animal has been “allowed access to the outside.” The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the “outside” or the duration of time an animal has “access to the outside.” Most farmers that you meet at the farmer’s market or through your CSA raise animals that are actually free to roam naturally, but if you want to be certain, you should visit the farm.

GMO (Genetically Modified Organism): GMOs are plants and animals whose genetic make-up has been altered to exhibit traits that they would not normally have, like longer shelf-life, different color, or resistance to certain chemicals. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism. Genetic modification is currently allowed in conventional farming.

Gleaning: To gather food left behind after the harvest. Sometimes farmers invite people to their farms to glean for free food or to donate food to food banks.

Grass-Fed: Refers to livestock, especially cattle or sheep, that have been fed grass instead of corn or soy (grains). Grain is commonly fed because the cattle or sheep fatten more quickly, but grain creates abnormal acidity in their digestive system, which negatively effects their overall health. Meat and milk from 100% grass-fed animals have a healthy ratio of omega 3-6-9′s and a higher amount of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA, a fatty acid that has health-promoting properties).

Heirloom: Heirloom crop varieties, also called farmer’s varieties or traditional varieties, have been developed by farmers through generations. Generally speaking, heirlooms are varieties that have been in existence for a minimum of fifty years.

Heritage: A term applied to breeds of livestock that were bred over time to be well-adapted to local environmental conditions, withstand disease, and survive in harsh environmental conditions. Heritage breeds generally have slow growth rates and long productive lifespans outdoors, making them well-suited for grazing and pasturing.

Local Food System: When all aspects of the production, distribution, storage, consumption, and sale of food are operated, managed, and owned by the community it serves. This is part of the broader sustainable food movement.

Locavore: A person who is interested in eating food that is regionally produced as part of the collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies.

Natural: USDA guidelines state that all “natural” meat and poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. The claim “natural” is otherwise unregulated. In many cases, it means nothing.

No Anitibiotics: Antibiotics are given to animals such as cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens to  prevent or manage diseases. “No antibiotics,” implies that a farmer does not administer antibiotics to his/her animals.

No Hormones: Hormones are commonly used in the commercial farming of animals such as cattle to speed the growth rate or increase milk production. Some of these hormones are natural, some are synthetic, and some are genetically engineered. If a ranch or product professes “no hormones,” this means that they do not engage in these practices. Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.

Organically Grown: Food grown without synthetic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers or other synthetic or toxic substances. Organic food does not include foods that have been irradiated or genetically modified.

Pastured: There are no regulations as to what this defines. If a farmer states their animals are pastured, the animals should spend time living on pasture as opposed to just having “access” to pasture. Time that an animal can actually live on pasture will vary regionally based on weather and length of growing season. To know for sure, ask the farmer and visit the farm.

Raw Foodism: The practice of consuming uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet.

Seed Saving: The practice of collecting seeds in order to preserve the genetic diversity of our agricultural heritage that is now threatened by agricultural seed monopolies.

Slow Food: An international movement that began in Italy as a reaction to the fast food industry. The Slow Food movement seeks to preserve the culture of food by education consumers about the seasonality of foods and which foods grown in their region, by connecting consumers to farmers, and by celebrating high quality food with others. There are Slow Food Chapters all over the world that celebrate good, clean, fair food.

Sulphured/Unsulphured: Many dried fruits are sulfured with sulfur dioxide (SO), or meta bisulfate to keep them from oxidizing during and after the drying process. This preserves their original color and acts as a preservative. Unsulfured fruits are often dark in color.

Sustainable Agriculture: Farming that is socially just, humane, economically viable, and environmentally sound.

Transitional: Farmers must practice organic methods for three years on a given piece of land before the products harvested from that land can be sold or labeled organic. “Transitional” is an unofficial term that refers to farmland that is in a transition period towards organic certification.

Urban Agriculture: The practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in an urban, rather than rural, environment. Urban farming is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system. For example, large gardens (mini farms) are being grown on rooftops in large cities. Vacant lots are being used for agricultural purposes.

Vegan: Foods with this label contain no animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, gelatin, or honey.

Check out The Balanced Platter for more tips on bringing balance into your life! And please join me on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to my blog for post updates (see above).

Peace, love, and balanced living in 2012!

Thank you to Pitchfork Pinups and The Farmer’s Market Coalition for some of these glossary terms.

Gluten-Free Red Chile Enchiladas

 

* Update: I’m happy to hear your comments, but the contest deadline is over and the winners will be announced soon! Thanks everyone. I appreciate the massive turnout!

I’m unfurling my Home For The Holidays banner and joining the wild party over at Gluten Free Easily. Shirley (founder of GFE) has organized this amazing holiday blogging event which started November 28th and will run through December 23rd. Close to 90 prizes will be given away during the celebration—at least 3 each day. The grand prize at the end will be a VitaMix professional blender 5200 lifestyle package! Yes, you read that right. A high end VitaMix professional blender. Included with that is a 32 ounce dry grains container so you can grind your own gluten-free flours. Wouldn’t you love to win that?!

I thought so.

Please join me, Shirley, and 23 other gluten-free bloggers as we share recipes that mean both home and holidays to us. You know the kind. One whiff as you open the front door, one bite, one sip, one hug, and you know you’re home. Food is such an important part of the holiday spirit and switching to gluten-free can throw a wrench in your holiday plans. It doesn’t have to be that way. We want to share our traditions with you and how we’ve adapted them to be gluten-free. We also want to hear what your favorites are.

  

Here’s the deal. Each day, with each new blogger, you will have an opportunity to win a prize, so follow along closely. There’s a short window of time (only 48 hours) to win the prize, so act fast and comment often. Check out Shirley’s post here for all the details you need to stay on track. Each time you comment, you are entered to win the daily prize at that blog and you’re also entered to win the grand prize. If you don’t win the VitaMix, you might win the 2nd grand prize, which is a $150 spending spree from Free From Gluten, your one-stop online shopping center for all things gluten-free, or the 3rd prize, a Caveman Cookies giveaway package worth $89.

Today’s prizes are one copy of Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski, founders of the blog No Gluten No Problem and 2 copies of Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. Although Pete is a friend and colleague, Artisanal GF is hands-down one of my favorite cookbooks (GF or not). It’s filled with delicious recipes made from scratch. It’s also sprinkled with entertaining tidbits about living gluten-free. You’ll love it. Wheat Belly is a GF book of a different kind. Dr. Davis is a cardiologist who believes wheat is one of the main factors in the dramatic rise in obesity and disease. For details, check out this interview I did with Dr. Davis and my review of Wheat Belly. The book is definitely worth reading.

To be entered to win, leave a comment on this blog post. If you’d like to be entered more than once, “Like” Gluten-Free For Good on Facebook and comment separately HERE letting me know you did that. You can also Follow Me on Twitter and comment separately HERE letting me know you did that. Don’t leave one comment summarizing everything, comment each time. That way you have more chances to win one of today’s prizes and also more chances to win the grand prize. And remember, make it fast as you only have 48 hours to win. The contest on this blog will close at midnight on Wednesday, December 7th.

Sound good?

Okay, back to the food.

Red chile enchiladas are a holiday tradition at our house. Stacked, rolled, or made into a casserole, these enchiladas are an all-time favorite. During the holidays our house is brimming with family, friends, laughter, warmth, great smells, and lots of love. Back when I lived in Taos Ski Valley, NM and my days were filled with work at the Hotel St. Bernard and skiing every day, I made my red chile from local dried chile pods. Now, 4 kids and various additions to the family later, I use frozen Bueno Red Chile puree. It’s still from New Mexico, still pure and simple (no additives, preservatives, etc.), still packed with vitamin A, but WAY easier than starting from scratch. See photo above, that’s starting from scratch. This is more of a “launching pad” recipe. Adjust it to your liking by topping the final meal with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, scallions, black olives or sour cream. We like the individual stacked enchiladas topped with a poached egg. When I make it as a casserole, I skip the eggs.

Festive Red Chile Enchiladas (Casserole Style)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra for frying the corn tortillas
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons brown rice flour or another mild GF flour
2 14-ounce containers of Bueno Red Chile Puree or Bueno Special Reserve Puree, thawed *
2 14-ounce containers of water, added slowly to make sure you have the consistency you like *
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon salt
12 corn tortillas, make sure they are gluten-free
1 to 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken or turkey
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat oil in medium-sized stock pot over medium heat.
2. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 6 to 8 minutes or until onions are soft.
3. Add flour and whisk well, making a roux. Whisk for about 2 minutes until well blended.
4. Add red chile and water, whisking to eliminate lumps.
5. Add Mexican oregano and salt, bring mixture to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Heat extra oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Quickly fry one tortilla at a time in hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
7. Put a small amount of red chile in a large shallow casserole dish to lightly coat the bottom. Alternately layer fried tortillas dipped in heated red chile sauce, shredded cooked chicken or turkey, and cheese until all ingredients are used. Drizzle with more red chile and top with cheese.
8. Bake uncovered in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.

* I like using 1 hot and 1 mild container of Bueno red chile. That makes for a spicy blend, but not overwhelmingly hot.
* Mixture should have a gravy-like consistency. Adjust so it’s not too watery or too thick. If it’s too watery, let it cook longer; too thick, slowly add more water.

Check here for yesterday’s Home For The Holiday’s post by one of my favorite bloggers, Maggie at She Let Them Eat Cake. No cake this time, but she came up with some amazing candy cane ice cream, dairy-free no less! And don’t forget to check out Kim’s addition tomorrow over at Cook It Allergy Free. She’s another one of my favorite allergy friendly bloggers.

Remember, share the love and leave your comments HERE. You might win one of these books, or you might win the grand prize. Oh, I’m so envious.

Peace, love, and happy holidays!
Melissa

this just in — size does matter

Which is it? The joy of cooking, or the joy of overeating.

Probably a bit of both.

I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Americans are eating more and moving less, which adds up to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. According to results from a 2009 study, 38 states had adult obesity rates above 25 percent. Eight states had rates above 30 percent. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent.

Colorado is currently the only state with rates under 20 percent. Although that looks good comparatively, our rates are rising as well. We’re simply the caboose on a fast-moving train going the wrong direction.

During the same year (2009), adult diabetes rates increased in 19 states. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 25.6 million American adults, 20 years or older, have diabetes. That’s 11.3 percent of people in that age group.

That’s a lot of people. If this trend continues, the CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050. The risks associated with diabetes are serious, but it’s also possible to mitigate the complications through lifestyle changes. In fact, there’s evidence that type 2 diabetes can be totally reversed. It’s not easy and for some people it’s far more complicated than this, but in general, it’s a fairly straight-forward prescription. Eat less, choose whole foods, exercise more.

Which brings me back to the point of this blog post. Eat less. Over the past 70 years, we’ve slowly decided we need (want) more calories. The words super-size me seem most suited to the fast food industry, but according to two creative researchers, that’s not the case. Bigger servings have even crept into such classics as The Joy of Cooking.

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that calorie density and serving sizes have not only increased in away-from-home foods, but in home cooking as well. To determine if there was a parallel, the researchers used 70 year’s worth of recipes from 7 editions of The Joy of Cooking as a longitudinal gauge. It’s a classic cookbook and a perfect one to study as it’s been updated every 10 years since 1936.

Well, what do ya know?

To make a long and rather convoluted story short, calories increased by 63 percent per serving. Changes in ingredients and serving sizes reflect the spike in calories.

Bottom line? If a recipe says serves 4, don’t believe it. They really mean, serves 6.

Peace, love and smaller portions.
Melissa

Wheat Belly

Well, what do you think? Will this glob of dough migrate straight to your belly?

I haven’t eaten wheat in years, so I’m not worried about a “wheat” belly, but I understand my own physiology well enough to know that overloading on high-carb, baked goods (gluten-free or not) will make for wild blood sugar loop-de-loops, not to mention extra pounds.

Have you heard of the new book, Wheat Belly, by gluten-free medical doctor, William Davis? If you haven’t, you will soon. It made its way up to #5 on the New York Time’s best seller list (hardcover advice and miscellaneous category) and is generating lots of controversial chatter along the way.

I’m not sure why, but Dr. Davis’s publicist sent me a copy of the book (thanks, Olivia). I hadn’t heard of it, and to be honest, I rolled my eyes when I saw the title. I figured it was just another weight loss book, in what has become a bazillion dollar industry—this time using “gluten-free” as the hook.

After my eye-rolling subsided long enough to focus on the fact that the book was written by a preventive cardiologist, I was intrigued. Preventive being the key word when it comes to heart health. I like exercise science, which tends to revolve around cardiac function in one way or another. My thesis paper for my degree (way back when) was a long-winded question about whether exercise training promotes coronary collateralization in people with heart disease. And, if so, do these vessels enhance myocardial perfusion? I went on to do an internship in cardiac rehab, help start an out-patient program, and neurotically fuss about whether my cholesterol and/or my HDLs were too high. Yes, freakishly high HDLs, which are half my cholesterol and my cholesterol isn’t low.

So—Wheat Belly was written by a preventive cardiologist who advocates no gluten, less drug use, balancing blood sugar, and is focused on real food?

I’m in.

I read the book and spent an hour last weekend interviewing Dr. Davis for this blog post.

He’s delightful, has a good sense of humor, and is on a mission to find better solutions to the deluge of health problems we face in this country. He wants to help people. Many docs practice flow-chart medicine.

Oh, you have this symptom? Then you need this drug.

I didn’t get that feeling from Dr. Davis, and that’s unusual in cardiology. He won’t immediately hand you a prescription for a statin drug, but he might offer you a recipe for low-carb, grain-free pumpkin spice muffins. My Paleo friends will love him.

While I don’t agree with everything in the book and I find his food philosophy a bit animal-product-heavy for me, his “eat real food” approach to health makes perfect sense. He does use artificial/non-nutritive sweeteners (which I avoid), but he admits that’s a compromise. I understand his reasoning, as I do my own version of compromising when it comes to a few select, gluten-free products that I recommend to clients and that I occasionally use myself.

I also know, from a health standpoint, that trading gluten-containing products for gluten-free products isn’t the answer. Dr. Davis is on that bandwagon as well.

Excuse me while I step onto my soapbox for a moment.

I repeat. Switching from one overly-processed “food” to another is not the answer, and much of the time, the new gluten-free version has no more nutritional value than ground styrofoam.

Gluten-free baking often relies on refined starches and sugar to recreate a wheat-like texture and to improve taste. This has been a major frustration of mine for years. Many of the support organizations focus on replacing wheat with gluten-free products, rather than encouraging people to eat nourishing food that happens to be gluten-free. A major topic of discussion right now in the celiac community is the Gluten Free Labeling Law currently under consideration by the FDA. While I support a uniform labeling standard and understand the pros and cons of various ppm limits, if you eat real food, you don’t have to worry about labels, ppms, or government standards.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Nah, I’ll keep one foot on and one foot off.

As a nutritionist, one of the things I think is most important in improving health is to eat organic, whole foods (lots of vegetables) and to balance blood sugar. That’s also the premise of my version of a gluten-free diet and what Dr. Davis is advocating. The overriding theme in Wheat Belly is to resolve metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by reducing carbohydrates (especially wheat and refined starches), and in the process, most people lose weight. But, you can’t trade gluten-containing processed carbs for gluten-free processed carbs.

The basic premise makes sense. Unless you’re running a marathon, but that’s another story.

While I don’t agree with everything in Wheat Belly, I do get the idea that Dr. Davis’ motto, especially when it comes to heart health, is to “prevent” problems before they sabotage your health. I’m into that, too.

For more information, please check the following links.

Wheat Belly Blog
Track Your Plaque Blog (I love this—meditation, prayer, and deep breathing as strategies to enhance heart health. Go, Dr. Davis, go!)

Peace, love and real food.
Melissa

please stand up to read this

Are you standing up? No?

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m not either.

Disclosure: I’m sitting in my big, soft, down-filled, vintage Hemingway chair (and ottoman) with my computer on my lap and a cup of organic coffee with coconut milk by my side. I’m also munching on sliced Fuji apples and almond butter while typing and watching the final stage of the Tour de France.

Having said that, I’m off to an all-day yoga workshop, so I’m not feeling too bad about my sitting, eating, sipping, blogging and watching TV.

Whoa, when I say it like that, it sounds pretty bad.

And, that’s my point. It all adds up, no matter what our excuses are. Watching TV is watching TV, even if it’s a monumentally epic, calorie-burning event like the Tour de France. We sit far more than we realize and it translates to a higher risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes to Alzheimer’s. I did lots of research for this post and one thing I found particularly disturbing was that the increased risk of disease was found to be independent of physical activity level. That’s always been my excuse. Hey, I exercise every day. I also sit on my exercise ball a lot of the time. That’s all good, but I flat-out sit too much. Blogging, writing, research, working, social media, messing around on my computer.

My goal is to cut down on my sitting down. I’m standing as I make this declaration! Well, sort of. But, you get the idea. I’ll get moving and let this wonderful graphic speak for me. If you want a systematic review of longitudinal studies published since 1996 on the relationship between sitting on your bum and increased risk of disease, check the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 41, Issue 2 (August 2011).

Peace, love and stand up!
Melissa
P.S. Erin of Gluten Free Fitness, you were right. Cadel rocked!

 

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

can you name these greens

This post has been updated with the answer to the mystery greens question. See below.

Super greens

This is an impromptu blog post that just might morph into a contest. It started on my Gluten Free For Good Facebook page and has taken a sudden hairpin turn directly onto my blog.

I made a pizza yesterday with these mystery greens and decided to post a photo on Facebook and ask people what they were. Innocent enough, right? Well, just asking the question brought a stream of comments.

Dandelion greens?

Nope.

Lamb’s quarters?

Ummm, no. But, what are lamb’s quarters and why are they named that? Very interesting. And a bit strange.

Radish tops?

No, but good guess.

Watercress?

Not sure what watercress looks like, but this isn’t it.

If you want to see the growing list of guesses, go here and check out the thread. You might even want to click “Like” while you’re there. I post lots of good information on Facebook that you won’t find here.

Back to the greens. The photo was taken at the spur of the moment while I was washing the greens. Not exactly award-winning photography, but you get a good look at the plant. It’s pretty, isn’t it?

Now, what is it?

The first person to correctly name this plant will either win a virtual high-five, a blow-kiss or a real prize. What that prize will be (if indeed there is one) is unknown at this moment. Like I said, this post spontaneously materialized from Facebook. If you know what the greens are and you know how lamb’s quarters got their name, you just might win a high-five, plus a blow-kiss. Or, maybe two real prizes. Or, maybe two people will each win one prize. I haven’t put a lot of thought into this, but go for it anyway.

Peace, love and leave your guess in the comment section below. You might win something for real. Unless you live in another country, then you default to the virtual high-five.
Melissa
P.S. You get a blow-kiss just for participating.

UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE: After lots of good guesses, Nadya won the contest. She not only identified the greens on my Gluten Free For Good Facebook page, she also weighed in with all kinds of wonderful information about plants and health. Thank you, Nadya. For her efforts she won a copy of Elana Amsterdam’s wonderful new gluten free cupcake cookbook. Check Elana’s Pantry for more gluten-free goodness. Congratulations, Nadya!

 

sugar or fish oil, which will it be

My day usually starts with a cup of organic coffee sweetened with coconut milk, an apple with almond butter and a dose of science and culture. I haven’t read a newspaper in ages, but I do read feeds from science blogging networks and research publications. I find creative inspiration in everything from gene expression and nutrition to spider sex and evolution. It all seems connected in one way or another.

I tend to follow a rather yogic principle of parsimony.

So, sugar and fish oil? How are they connected?

While trolling research articles early this morning I ran across a collaborative effort by an interesting mix of scientists. While the subjects in the study were mice rather than people, I still found the piece enlightening.

Sucrose Counteracts the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Fish Oil in Adipose Tissue and Increases Obesity Development in Mice.

Hmmm?

Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar. It’s refined white sugar and according to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans consume 156 pounds of added sugars per capita each year.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX POUNDS.

Imagine that (if you can).

You’ve probably heard that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are protective against inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, heart disease, hormonal disorders, obesity, neuro-degenerative diseases and so on. There’s a lot of compelling research regarding the benefits of high-quality fish oil.

After reading this research article, I’m thinking it might be a waste of money to take an expensive fish oil capsule if you’re going to follow it up with a bowl of fruit loops or a donut. The researchers discovered that high levels of dietary sucrose counteracted the anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil and increased the development of obesity.

Check here for a detailed run-down on sugar, including the various forms. And for an exposé on fruity, sugary breakfast cereals, check here.

Peace, love and fish oil – without the sugar chaser!
Melissa

a slime burger with a side of sugar

One year for Mother’s Day my oldest son gave me a hand-made card with a detailed mathematical breakdown of how many school lunches I put together over the years. It made me smile. And gasp. With four kids, the total came to more than 8,600 sack lunches with hundreds of apples, carrot sticks, sandwiches, yogurt, homemade granola bars and so on.

After watching the beginning of season #2 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I’m looking back with fondness on making all those thousands of sack lunches. Maybe not so much with fondness, but definitely with relief.

Last year Jamie’s reality series took place in Huntington, WV. This year he’s taking on the LA public school system and if the looks on the faces of the school bureaucrats he tried to meet with are any indication of what’s to come, Jamie better get some linebacker bodyguards to hang out with.

If you watched last week you know that Jamie blasted two major components of the LA public school lunch program – flavored milk and pink slime.

One cup of strawberry flavored milk contains 6 teaspoons of sugar. Not to mention dyes, additives, artificial flavors and gums. In a jaw-dropping demonstration, Jamie loaded a school bus with 57 tons of sugar (it was actually sand). That’s how much sugar kids in the LA school district consume each week in flavored milk alone.

Does anyone wonder why type 2 diabetes is being reported among children at such alarming rates? And obesity? For the record, I don’t think an occasional sweet treat is evil, but I do know that refined sugar enters the bloodstream quickly and can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. That doesn’t set the stage for effective learning or healthy cognitive development. There’s also evidence that artificial flavors and dyes can cause behavior problems, allergic reactions and food sensitivities.

On to part two of Jamie’s attack on the LA school sytem – pink slime. Artificially flavored, sugar-bomb milk is bad enough, but this stuff is over-the-top disgusting on so many levels. In another gag-inducing demo (just in case we might want the recipe) Jamie shows us how pink slime is made. Take the discarded bits, pieces and trimmed fat from the processing of meat (the parts normally used in pet food) and drench them in ammonia to get rid of the nasty pathogens. Once the ammonia has done its job (it’s called the kill-step), the pink slime is made into burgers for school lunches. Ammonia gets rid of the contamination in the meat (if you can call it meat). And get this, ammonia doesn’t have to be listed as an ingredient in burgers made from pink slime. According to the USDA, ammonia is not an ingredient, it’s part of the processing.

Huh?

Sketchy logic if you ask me.

By the way, pink slime is really what this stuff is called. There are even industrial processors known for using the dregs of the meat packing industry to make pink slime for fast food burgers.

So, in addition to all the sugar and additives, kids also get a dose of ammonia and discarded meat sludge for lunch. Healthy building blocks for growing bodies? Not even close.

Jamie definitely his work cut out for him.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soap box to go throw up.

Peace, love and sack lunches.
Melissa

For a detailed post I did several years ago on sugar, check here.
For kid-friendly lunch ideas, check with Kelly at the Spunky Coconut, Ali at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, or Alexa at Lexie’s Kitchen.

beans bacteria toxins and toots

This small, dried, light-colored French bean variety is called the flageolet bean. The word also means delicate woodwind or flute instrument. Leave it to the French to come up with a fancy word that combines beans with tooting. Linguistic inflation is rampant in France. Not that that’s a bad thing. Wouldn’t you agree that flageolet beans sound far more exotic, highfalutin and gourmet-ish than kidney beans?

Look at that French country color, they even look snooty.

Now that the lowly bean has been elevated in stature, I’m going to throw in a little bioscience and share what actually happens when we eat these little gems. Fancy words or not, indiscriminate digestive rumblings can (and often do) occur after eating beans.

Here’s why.

Let’s start with the endogenous microbial block party going on inside the large colon. According to National Institutes of Health scientists at the Human Microbiome Project, we have 100 trillion bacteria in our distal gut alone.

Yikes!

Beans contain some rather large and unwieldy sugar molecules called oligosaccharides that we can’t easily digest and utilize. We didn’t come equipped with the right enzymes to break down these massive (molecularly speaking) lug-nuts, so instead of being processed in the small intestine as they should be, they bounce their way through the gut relatively untouched and arrive in the colon as an all-you-can-eat buffet for roving herds of bacteria.

Imagine a medieval barbarian banquet – a feeding frenzy of gulping, burping and farting bacteria. If you think about it, it’s really not you tooting, it’s the unruly bacteria. So quit blaming the dog (poor guy) and place blame where it belongs. On the gluttonous bugs, their innate behavior and offensive methane byproducts.

There’s another thing about beans that has been making the food blog rounds lately. Are they highly toxic if eaten raw?

Okay, you’re thinking, who in the world eats raw, dried beans?

Well, who eats coins, dead crickets, paper clips and golf tees?

Little boys.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you an x-ray of my son with a stack of coins in his gut. Kids eat weird things, just ask any ER doc.

Raw, dried or undercooked kidney beans contain a toxic compound that can cause severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. According to the FDA, most beans contain this compound, but raw kidney beans contain an enormously large amount. The hemagglutinating unit (hau) is the substance measured for toxicity, with raw kidney beans topping out at between 20,000 to 70,000 hau. Cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau. It only takes 4 or 5 raw kidney beans to make an adult sick, so imagine a little kid eating only 1 or 2. Don’t expect your GI doc to know anything about natural plant toxins, so if you call and say your kid is sick after eating one raw kidney bean, he/she will think you’re a nutbar. Or at the very least, an incredibly neurotic mom.

In this case, you could be both and still be right.

To be on the safe side and to avoid having to explain what phytohaemagglutinin means to an overly busy ER doc, make sure your curious little kiddos don’t stick raw beans in their ears, up their nose, eat them or feed them to the dog. Beans can be enough trouble when they’re cooked, avoid them raw at all costs.

If you’ve read through all this digestion turmoil, you deserve a recipe for flageolet beans. I’ve made them on several occasions and love the delicate, buttery taste. They’re delicious. You can use them in salads, soups or as a side dish. Add roasted tomatoes to the cooked beans and top with a poached egg and some shredded Parmesan cheese. Absolutely divine.

Basic Flageolet Bean Recipe
Sort and rinse before cooking. Soak beans in cold water overnight (I put them in the refrigerator). Drain and rinse well. Add 4 cups of water or chicken broth for every 1 cup of flageolet beans. Liquid should be 1-2 inches above the top of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Add more liquid as needed.

• 1 cup of dried beans yields about 2-1/2 cup cooked beans
• cooked beans can store in the fridge for about a week
• cooked beans last about 6 months in the freezer

You might also like
•  Soup au Pistou Recipe with flageolet beans from 101 Cookbooks (use gluten-free pasta)

Peace, love and well-cooked beans!
Melissa

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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