Gluten Free For Good


 

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Posts Tagged ‘gluten-free’



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

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!

 

raw power greens

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art. – Duc Fransois de La Rochefoucauld

Duc Fransois de La Rochedfoucauld, aka Prince de Marcillac, was a writer of mildly cynical and somewhat pithy maxims. He was born in Paris in 1613, hung around the royal court and spent most of his time making snippy comments about what he saw as the disturbing state of human affairs. Considered an intellectual harbinger of the Enlightenment – I imagine him as a 17th century Dennis Miller with an over-the-top, hoity-toity name. Much more uppity and not as funny as Dennis, but concise, satirical and witty nonetheless.

While I don’t always eat intelligently, I like this general maxim. It’s a good reminder and is there a better way to eat intelligently than to choose nutrient-dense, vibrant, unprocessed, living plants? Like the ones featured above. Look at the colors. You can literally see the phytonutrients, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll.

Okay, maybe seeing vitamins and enzymes is a stretch, but you can guess by looking at these greens that they’re full of nourishing goodness. Plus, they’re low in calories and alkalizing to the body. This is perfect food.

Now compare that to a donut or a plastic-wrapped sweet-roll from a gas station vending machine.

Which one is the artfully intelligent choice?

This photo is of the 3 cups of mixed greens I used to make power smoothies this morning, wonder woman and super man food. It’s a smart way to start the day, even if it doesn’t match up with the new USDA MyPlate thing the government designed to help us figure out how to feed ourselves?

Really?

We’ve “evolved” to the point that we need a plate icon with food on it to show us what to eat?

I’ll bite my tongue, keep my snippy, food irony comments to myself and offer you a power greens guide to ease your transition into the world of nutrient-dense green food.

Power Greens Flavor & Nutrition Guide
This is the abridged version. If I included every green I could think of and all the nutrient goodness, this post would be a mile long. What’s your favorite power green and how do you like to serve it? Add it to the list in the comment section.

Swiss chard
Chard has a slightly bitter taste, so when I use it raw in smoothies I add something sweet like a Fuji apple to counterbalance the bitterness. It also has a very salty taste to me when pulverized in my VitaMix, so I like cinnamon mixed in. One cup of chard is off-the-charts high in vitamin K, A and C, along with a host of other botanical wonders. All for a measly 35 calories.

Spinach
Spinach is mild, slightly bitter and versatile. It’s a good power green to add to kid-friendly smoothies as it’s fairly easy to hide if you add a pear or ripe banana and a little goat yogurt into the mix. Speaking of vitamins K and A, one cup of spinach has 1110% (K) and 377% (A) of the recommended daily values. Add in the high concentration of folate, iron, vitamin C, potassium, etc. and there’s a lot of bang for your 41-calorie-buck in a cup of spinach.

Kale
Kale is a little confusing. It has a mildly bitter taste, but it can also taste slightly sweet. It’s hearty (and hardy) and full of volume, if that makes sense. The power green nutrition profiles just keep getting better. One 36-calorie cup of kale gives you almost 200% of the daily value of vitamin A, close to 100% of vitamin C and a whopping 1328% of vitamin K. It even contains a jolt of omega 3 fatty acids.

Mustard Greens
Swiss chard tastes salty and mustard greens have a strong, peppery taste. If you use these in a smoothie, mix a small amount in with some lighter greens like romaine lettuce or spinach. Warning: don’t use raw arugula and mustard greens together! Whoa, that makes for an intense smoothie with a peppery kick. You get the idea on the nutrition part. Most leafy greens are ridiculously high in all kinds of powerful nutrients and mustard greens are no exception.

Turnip Greens
I’ll admit, not my favorite. Especially raw, turnip greens have a intense and bitter taste. They’re very high in plant-based calcium, which may account for the bitter bite. Only 26 calories per cup, they’re worth adding to your arsenal of power greens, but go easy on them and mix them in with some milder vegetables and sweeter fruits to mask the bitterness. Turnip greens are great sautéed lightly in a little broth.

Collard Greens
Aside from the “rubber glove” texture of collard greens, I like these greens for their mild and somewhat smoky flavor. They’re absolutely wonderful blanched quickly, cooled, dried and used as a wrap for chicken salad. You can also add some chopped collard greens to smoothies, but do it in small doses to see how you like them.

Romaine Lettuce
Mild, crisp and somewhat sweet. I love Romaine. This is a perfect “beginner” green and blends in well with other veggies and fruit for a nice mellow smoothie. It’s perfect raw, but I’ve also lightly sautéed lettuce before and it tastes great. Romaine is the low calorie winner at 15 calories for 2 cups and while it’s not the power-house that kale or Swiss chard is, it’s a rich source of plant nutrients.

Arugula
Arugula, also called rocket or Italian cress, is a touch spicy with a hint of mustard. It’s best mixed in with some milder greens for a salad as it tastes bitter by itself. It can also be used in small doses in smoothies and is wonderful sautéed or thrown into a soup at the last minute. I like it on pizza with olives and sliced tomatoes. Like the rest of these greens, arugula is very low in calories, high in antioxidants, is low glycemic, anti-inflammatory and even has a little protein, calcium and iron.

Tatsoi
Tatsoi is part of the bok choy family and although it’s slightly bitter (not bad), it’s excellent in a tossed salad, lightly sautéed or as part of a green smoothie mix. Because of it’s dark green leaves, like the rest of these, it’s rich in antioxidants and is even a good source of calcium and iron. Sauté it with some onions and garlic and serve it with brown rice. It makes for a wonderful “Buddha bowl.”

Frisée
Frisée is that curly, lighter green lettuce that is often added to mixed salad greens. It’s not as hardy as kale, spinach and the other more intense greens. It will even wilt if you put vinegar on it, so wait until the last minute to dress your salads if frisée is part of the mix. It has a mild, very slight peppery taste with a nutty hint to it. It pairs well with bananas and berries in a smoothie (I’m sounding like a leaf sommelier). For a delicious summer salad, try a bed of frisée topped with roasted and sliced beets, pecans, crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of vinaigrette. Divine.

Here’s a great resource for greens and herbs, complete with pictures so you’ll know which green is which.

You might also like
Green Lemonade from Elana’s Pantry
Spicy Kale Salad with tomatoes and chiles from Tasty Eats At Home
Raw Super Green Salad from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Peace, love and power greens!
Melissa

(for girls only) nutrition for women

Last month I did a blog post on super foods for men. I also threw in some basic (and not so basic) differences in male and female brain function. This time I’ll focus on us girls.

Is there a better place to start than hormones and chocolate? Maybe fashion, hats, and shiny things. I’ll see if I can weave them all together, but the launching pad has to be hormones. A brain sloshing around in a pool of estrogen looks and behaves quite different from a brain infused with testosterone. I touched on a few cognitive gender differences in my last post, but since I find this so fascinating, I think I’ll keep this neuro-thread going.

I’m a research nerd and guess what I’ve discovered after logging zillions of hours reading scientific papers (plus, years of field study)?

Men really are from Mars.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I might be gender-biased in my observations, I’ve also discovered that women are from BabbleOn. See – if I was going to fudge my findings, I’d pick something far more flattering.

Here’s the deal. Women do better than men on tasks that require verbal communication and memory of personal experiences. Men excel in the manipulation of complex spatial information.

What does that mean?

Women talk a lot and remember everything. Men can park 2 cars, 1 motorcycle, 3 mountain bikes, a fishing boat, a side-winder circular saw, 6 pairs of skis and 300 pounds of camping gear in a 2 car garage.

Like I said before, we’re different.

Back to the hormone part. Scientifically speaking, aside from all the other stuff estrogen does, it also provides females with the ability to outperform males in associating stimuli across time. It even shows up in more adult-generated neurons in our hippocampus.

What’s a hippocampus, you ask?

It’s a little doo-hickey in the brain that just so happens to be a long-term memory consolidation station and an emotional storage bin. It’s like a jewelry box for stuff you can dig up and throw into a heated conversation years later.

So think about that one for a minute.

Estrogen, emotions, new neurons, and memory storage? It’s no wonder we never forget things men do (or, don’t do). Sorry, but I have to take this one step further (female trait, babbling on). Gender differences in memory and learning are facilitated by differences in hormones and brain anatomy. But it doesn’t stop there. That also gives us the ability to further change our brain anatomy by forming new neurons. The actual structure of the brain changes allowing us to remember more stuff you guys did for longer periods of time.

Like f o r e v e r.

Oh my gosh, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Although I took a rather convoluted, gender-driven journey to get here, I want to stress the importance of balancing blood sugar (glucose) and hormones when it comes to women’s health. Those two things form the foundation for radiant energy, stable emotions, and better stuff in your jewelry box – both pleasant memories and shiny things.

To function optimally, the body must maintain blood sugar levels within the proper ranges. Extreme fluctuations cause roller-coaster hormones, which can lead to hissy fits, dish tossing, and crying jags. It also leads to all kinds of health problems down the road. We can avoid the drama by keeping glucose and hormones in balance. That starts with nutrition and exercise. Yoga is my preferred form of movement-induced, hormone balancing (pun intended). Here are my food favorites.

Melissa’s top 10 super-foods for women (in no particular order)

1. Cinnamon
Cinnamon has a long history as a functional food. Not only does this sweet spice smell and taste wonderful, it also helps control blood sugar and makes you feel full longer. It’s anti-microbial, helps fight candida and is a good source of fiber, calcium and iron. I add about a teaspoon of cinnamon to all my smoothies. I also sprinkle it over yogurt, add it to homemade granola, power bars and whatever else I can think of. I try to eat at least a teaspoon of cinnamon a day.

2. Broccoli
According to cancer researchers at the University of Michigan, a natural compound in broccoli inhibits breast cancer stem cells and helps block their self-renewal pathway. There are all kinds of studies regarding cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy and similar green leafy vegetables) and their positive role in cancer prevention. Good stuff!

3. Fiber
Although not a food per se, fiber is so important for blood sugar balance, weight loss, and overall health. I’m a huge fan and eat way more than the recommended amount. For a detailed post I did on fiber several years ago, check here. You’ll find all the information you need to boost your fiber intake. Make sure you do it slowly and drink lots of water.

4. Avocados
Avocados are high in fat, but it’s a healthy fat and worth adding to your arsenal of super foods. Plus, if you add avocado to a big green salad or a fresh salsa mix, you greatly increase the absorption of the other nutrients. Carotenoids (in tomatoes, peppers, carrots, greens, etc.) are fat-soluble nutrients that need to tag along with high-grade fat to be adequately absorbed and assimilated. Avocados are also a low-carb, high-fiber food source, which is great for balancing blood sugar and hormones (once again, so important).

5. Coconut
Another high fat food, but again, this is good stuff, so don’t be fat-aphobic. The key is to be very picky about your fats. Please check here for a detailed post I wrote a couple of years ago on the health benefits of coconut. I love the stuff! Eat it, cook with it, put it on your skin, slather it on your hair.

6. Dark chocolate and red wine
Hey, what can I say? Girls are programmed to lust after chocolate. Resveratrol, a substance in cacao and red wine, is the “it” supplement right now. But, in most cases, I believe we’re better off eating the whole food rather than taking supplements. Treat yourself on occasion (moderation, moderation) and eat a small chunk of high-grade dark chocolate. You might even pair it with 4 ounces of a nice Pinot Noir.
Past resveratrol posts: dark chocolate as health food, enlightened hot chocolate, carnival of love (red wine)

7. Beets and berries
Those of you who have following this blog for the past 4 years know I’m passionate about beets. Ridiculously so. I’ve been a beet girl my entire life. My mom says I ate them as a baby and grew up thinking they were dessert. I was lucky. I had a mom who fed me beets, spinach, and broccoli during the explosion of processed foods. I can’t remember ever having a Twinkie, sugary cereal, or Hamburger Helper. We ate real food, made from scratch. There are so many studies linking the nutrients in beets to good health that I won’t even try to list them all. Just trust me, they’re amazing. I have a lot of beet blog posts in my archives, but since summer is around the corner, here’s an ice cream recipe.

8. Apples
Apples are high in fiber, help balance blood sugar in several different ways (they’re magic), are anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, support healthy gut bacteria and are packed with goodness. Studies show positive results with age-related health problems as well (macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, etc.). I’m taking this “apple a day” thing seriously. Apples are sprayed with some seriously nasty stuff, so choose organic.

9. Swiss chard and leafy greens
Greens are true super foods. All greens are great sources of beneficial plant nutrients, but I’ll focus on Swiss chard since I’m on my “balance your blood sugar” rant. There’s a substance in chard (syringic acid if you must know) that has warrior princess power when it comes to blood sugar regulation. Chard (like beets) also contains a group of phytochemicals called betalains, which are high in antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory and promote detoxification.

10. Chick peas
How could I not include chick peas?  Lucky for us, these little nutrient-dense namesakes help regulate blood sugar and are packed with fiber. I know, this blood sugar/fiber thing is getting tiresome, but it’s so important for long-term health, artful aging and hormone balance. Chick peas are also super high in the mineral manganese, which is an antioxidant involved with energy production. Who doesn’t want more energy? Check here for one of my favorite roasted chick pea recipes from Shirley at GFE.

Just as important is what you don’t eat. Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, soda pop, too much caffeine or alcohol, and junk food. Stick to whole foods with an emphasis on veggies and fruit.

Peace, love, and real food!
Melissa
Image of Robert Lewis Reid painting courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

gluten-free food rules (recipe included)

Last week (or was it last month – yikes, what happened to April) I had some fun with a post featuring my top 10 super foods for men. My intention was to follow up with a top 10 super foods for women post, but I got behind and now I need to make a programming change. Women’s nutrition and more fun with the differences between males and females will air next week. Stay tuned because (gasp!) we really are different!

Here’s why I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled program. I have a good reason.

May is Celiac Awareness Month and Diane from The W.H.O.L.E. Gang has cooked up a blogging event called 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living. You’ve probably heard people (even some top celiac docs) talk about the difficulties of life without gluten. And how awful it is. And woe is me. And blah, blah, blah. Like gluten was chocolate or something.

Well, 30 different food bloggers are here to say otherwise. Check out this wonderful list of daily contributions. While there’s definitely a learning curve to living gluten-free and it’s not always easy, with knowledge and support, it can be the gateway to a whole new healthy and radiant lifestyle.

Here we sit at the top of the food chain and many of us (gluten-free or not) have no idea what to eat. Factor in conflicting health advice and a diagnosis of gluten intolerance and suddenly eating becomes very complicated. It doesn’t have to be. In 2009 food guru Michael Pollan came out with a handbook of simple and straightforward food rules. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual became an instant best seller. I’m going to borrow his easy-to-follow format and tweak it a bit to focus on gluten-free eating. Some of these “rules” are my own creations and some are adapted from Michael’s book.

The point is to heal, renew, rev your engine, turn on your brights and thrive. But first, you need high grade, gluten-free fuel. Adopting these food rules will help you do that. Plus, you’ll lessen your chances of being zapped by gluten cooties.

Gluten-Free Food Rules (in no particular order)

1. Choose fresh, organic, whole foods. They’re gluten-free by default. No labels to read.

2. Make plant sources, especially vegetables, your foundation.

3. If it’s made in a plant, don’t eat it – if it is a plant, do eat it.

4. For the most part, choose foods you can hold in your hands and wash. Can you wash a box of Kraft mac and cheese, oreo cookies or a Hostess ding dong? You can wash cabbage, apples, tomatoes and you can rinse brown rice and quinoa.

5. If animals, insects and bacteria won’t eat it, we shouldn’t either. Food that has been sprayed with chemicals to repel critters isn’t a good choice for people either.

6. Don’t eat food that never spoils. If it doesn’t rot, it’s not food.

7. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, not when you’re full. No longer hungry is different from full.

8. Choose products (gluten-free flours, grains, etc.) that have been tested and are certified gluten-free. The Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) and the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) currently have certification programs. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is in the process of creating a similar certification program.

9. Ingredients are listed by weight on labels. Any product that has more sugar than other ingredients has too much sugar. Avoid HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

10. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t eat them.

11. Avoid impostors (foods pretending to be something else). Think, “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Eat real butter, not fake butter.

12. Eat a good portion of your veggies raw. Organic is best. Click here for a pocket version of the Environmental Working Group’s guide to organic produce (the dirty dozen and the clean 15).

13. Buy oils packaged in dark bottles and store away from heat. This prevents the oil from going rancid (very unhealthy).

14. Use the water you’ve steamed or cooked veggies in. Save it for smoothies or soups. It’s packed with good plant nutrients.

15. Pay more, eat less (see photo above).

16. “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” I don’t know who originally said that, but it’s true.

17. Don’t eat food that has been tossed to you through your car window. Don’t eat and drive.

18. Prepare your own food, don’t get it from a vending machine or a gas station.

19. Eat all your meals at a table.

20. Be wary of supplement claims. If you want to increase your antioxidant amounts, eat beets, asparagus, blueberries, chard and cherries. Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Choose real food in its natural form. Don’t count on supplements unless you REALLY need them (verifiable deficiencies).

Roasted salmon and asparagus
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a piece of tin foil on a cookie sheet and lightly grease with olive oil.
2. Carefully rinse and pat dry the salmon filet (any size). Pour a little olive oil in your hands and rub it on the entire fish.
3. Place fish skin side down on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
4. Wash and trim asparagus. Pat dry and place in baking dish. Toss in a small amount of olive oil and place on prepared cookie sheet (see photo above) next to the salmon. Sprinkle with diced fresh garlic, sea salt and ground pepper.
5. Bake fish and asparagus together in oven for 10 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Remove when the fish flakes easily with a fork.
6. Serve with lemon slices and a fresh green salad.

For more information on salmon, a detailed breakdown of EFAs (essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6) and a tamari salmon recipe, check here.

Peace, love and easy gluten-free living!
Melissa

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.

For more fun with digestion, you might also like
• Erin’s well-written poop post love to eat : hate to digest from Mysteries Internal
• Heidi’s incredibly detailed and informative post Hello Flora, How You Doin‘ from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom

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 (courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill with my adaptations)
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

Buddha bowls and hippie chicks

I’m a product of the sixties, a hippie-girl at heart.

This whole chard-eating, brown rice-making, kefir-drinking way of life is nothing new to me. In fact, the first two cookbooks I bought when I launched out on my own were the Vegetarian Epicure (circa 1972, cover pictured above) and the Tassajara Vegetarian Cookbook from the San Francisco Zen Center (circa 1973). No Joy of Cooking or Julie & Julia stuff for me. I wanted cookbooks that focused on beets, burdock root and buckwheat groats. I made my own bread, wandered the wilderness, belonged to a food co-op, wore flowers in my hair and advocated peace, love and tie-dyes.

I also voted for Nixon, but that’s another story.

Anna Thomas, a 60s soul sister, wrote the Vegetarian Epicure while she was in college. Considered the whole foods bible of the vegetarian fringe in the 1970s, it’s now a classic and still in print. I treasure my original, well-worn, food-stained copy. I don’t know which parts of the book I like more. The recipes, the earth-brown pages, the marijuana references, or the far-out hippie drawings scattered through-out the book.

Marijuana references, you ask?

Read the last paragraph from the “Entertainment” section of my tattered cookbook. Actually, read the whole page. It’s absolutely wonderful and she’s so right-on when it comes to food, friends and entertaining. Anna’s new book, Love Soup, has quickly become one of my current favorites.

Just so you know, I’m not a pot-smoking nutritionist, but I do have fond memories of my first introductions to ghee (clarified butter), curry and veggie rice bowls. I can thank Anna Thomas for that.

And yes, I probably dated this guy.

Buddha Bowls consist of brown rice or another grain (quinoa works well), sautéed veggies and some kind of sauce. They’re meant to be a launching pad for whatever your heart (and stomach) desires. Options include adding meat or tofu, although mine are usually veggie bowls. Sit in lotus position, oomm in gratitude, and eat all your food out of one bowl.

brown rice Buddha bowl (a common dinner at our house)
what you need

2 – 4 cups of cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
1 – 2 tablespoons coconut oil

assorted veggie options (be creative, there are no rules)
1 small onion, chopped or sliced in strips
2 stalks celery, chopped or sliced in strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced in strips
2 portobella mushrooms, sliced in strips
2 carrots, sliced in thin strips
shredded beets
spinach, chard, beet greens, or kale, washed and thinly chopped

sauce options
wheat-free tamari
vegetable or chicken broth
sesame oil
curry

garnish options
fresh cilantro
roasted sunflower seeds
chopped green onions
currants

what you do
1. heat coconut oil on medium heat in a large skillet
2. add onions, garlic and other veggies and sauté lightly (enough so the veggies are cooked, but still slightly crisp)
3. add cooked brown rice, freshly ground pepper, sea salt and a splash of broth to moisten the mix; turn heat down and warm thoroughly
4. if you want to add a specific sauce, do it now and continue to cook until all ingredients are well heated
5. top with garnishes (optional) or gamasio

Other “bowl” recipes you might like
• Elana from Elana’s pantry posted a Mexican chicken and “rice” recipe a couple of years ago with a quirky grain-free twist to the Buddha bowl.
• Ali of  Whole Life Nutrition has a recipe for Summer Vegetable Kitcheree that is akin to a Buddha Bowl and is as tasty as it is healthy.
• Fellow nutritionist, Cheryl Harris of Gluten Free Goodness, has a great recipe for a basic quinoa bowl laced with mint and lemon. You might have to save this one for mint season, but it’s a nice addition to the Buddha bowl list.
• Sautéed lettuce and brown rice bowl (from my blog)

Peace, love, Buddha bowls and hippie chicks!
Melissa
• I took the above photos of the cover and two pages from my 1972 vintage book, The Vegetarian Epicure. I hope I don’t get in trouble.

neuron nutrition (my top 8 brain foods)

I think the highly intelligent plant world is trying to tell us something with this chunk of cauliflower.

Doesn’t it look like a mid-sagittal section right out of a frontal lobe, complete with cerebral white matter?

Or, maybe networks of giant axons and dendrites. This head (whoa, it’s even called a head) of cauliflower appears to be a bit left-brain-heavy. What do you think? More neural pathways on the left side? Aaah, must be a linear thinker.

I’ll put aside my vivid imagination and interest in plant autopsies for a moment and talk about the healing power of whole foods. Most of us have enough bizarro stuff going on inside our heads that can sabotage our good intentions, let’s at least give our thoughts some powerful building blocks and mighty antioxidants to work with.

Food for thought

I can’t start this “brain food” list without commenting on gluten as a neuro-cootie. This is official – research has shown gluten to be a neuro-toxin (for some susceptible people). It can cause ataxia, epilepsy-like symptoms, peripheral neuropathy, depression, migraines, brain fog and a host of other neurological problems. In some rare instances, the neurological impact of gluten can even mimic ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), MS and Parkinson’s Disease. Get tested for celiac disease if you have unusual neurological symptoms. A gluten-free, whole foods diet may (will) be beneficial. Check here for Dr. Rodney Ford’s take on this years ago. Scientific research is finally catching up to his diagnostic skills as a physician.

Nutrition for neurons (the basics)

• EFAs (essential fatty acids) are important for brain function. Wild-caught salmon and other cold-water fish, flax seeds, nuts, and pastured eggs are examples of foods rich in EFAs.
• Proper hydration is important for brain function. Dehydration causes the release of stress hormones, which impact neurons.
• Organic, whole foods rich in antioxidants should be the focus of a “healthy brain” diet. Antioxidants help prevent and repair cell damage.
• Sunshine stimulates the production of vitamin D, which is thought to aid in the protection of neurons. Plus, a little sunshine can boost your mood.

My top 8 food picks for brain health

This list is just a random assortment of nutrient-dense foods that I like and are high in antioxidant power. I’ve chosen foods that are easy to find and that people might actually eat. No need to scour the Amazon rainforest floor for some exotic plant or climb the Himalayas for a power-packed berry. Seriously, let’s make this easy. Organic is always best and I prefer eating the whole food rather than counting on supplements. That way you get a diverse combination of beneficial phytonutrients.

1. Cauliflower (I had no choice, this one looks like a brain)
Cauliflower is packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Research is mounting that oxidative damage to brain cells may precede diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. One cup of raw cauliflower contains 94% of the daily value for vitamin C. It’s also anti-inflammatory and is a good source of protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and other plant goodies.

2. Wild-caught salmon (as mentioned above)
Please check out this past post I did on EFAs and why they are important for brain health. The post also includes a detailed break-down of omega-3s and omega-6s and a wonderful salmon recipe. Lots of good brain-building information in that post.

3. Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries.
All of these fruits are packed with antioxidants. Don’t stick with one choice – mix and match them for a variety of protective compounds.

4. Mustard greens
You’re probably thinking this is an unlikely choice for the top 8 brain foods, but I’ve decided it’s a good representative for leafy greens in general (kale, collard greens, spinach, chard). One cup of mustard greens, which I’ve recently become quite fond of, has 118% of the daily value of vitamin A and 65% of the daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and it’s anti-inflammatory. A, C and E are all antioxidants, so this green is a good one to make friends with. I throw it in smoothies.

5. Coffee
Surprise, surprise! As those of you following this blog know, even though I’m a nutritionist, I don’t think coffee is evil. In fact, I like the stuff in small doses and guess what? It’s not only high in antioxidants, research indicates the caffeine in coffee has a neuroprotective effect. Choose organic coffee, use in moderation (1-2 cups per day) and don’t drink it later in the day.

6. Beans
Beans are a good source of easily-absorbed amino acids, which are important in the production of enzymes and neurotransmitters.

7. Organic, pasture-raised chicken eggs
Eggs are one of the best sources of high-quality protein. Pastured eggs are also high in omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin E and B vitamins, all of which are important for healthy brain function.

8. Dark chocolate
Good, high-quality dark chocolate in moderation is a good source of antioxidants. Plus, a chunk of dark chocolate now and then puts you in a good mood and makes you a nicer person. I’m nicer when people give me chocolate. Aren’t you?

Peace, love and brain power!
Melissa

valentines, chocolate and ski racks

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and although I love chocolate, jewelry and other girlie things, I’d prefer a new ski rack for my car, an Isis hoodie down jacket (in arctic blue), or a year’s worth of SPOT tracking. I’m way too picky about my jewelry and chocolate to hint around for anything from those categories.

Very picky. Neurotically so.

In fact, it’s best that I just whip up my own chocolate Valentine treats and pick out my own jewelry. That way I get exactly what I want. Which is the point of gift-getting. Right? I’m not spoiled or anything – at least not from my perspective.

But did I mention picky?

I need jewelry suited to the backcountry (sparkly, silver and indestructible) and high-end, organic, gluten-free, papaya-infused, almond-laced, dark chocolate with a sprinkling of freshly-ground, pink Himalayan sea salt. Freshly-ground sea salt. Like, that minute.

See what I mean? Uber-picky.

Hopefully I’ll get a new ski rack instead. I’m not as picky about that.

Okay, I’m picky about that, too. I want the Yakima FatCat 6 so I can put my skis on top of my car without taking off my “ice station zebra” mittens. If anyone is listening.

We’ll see how things turn out. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for delightful and decadent Valentine chocolate squares. Make them for your sweetheart or for yourself. This is so easy, it’s practically cheating. Actually, is cheating, but that’s okay. It’s for a good cause.

Super-easy, gluten-free, chocolate Valentine treats
what you need

6.5 ounces organic dark chocolate, coarsely chopped *
2-3 tablespoons dried papaya, diced
2-3 tablespoons almonds, chopped
freshly-ground sea salt

what you do
1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Continually stir until the chocolate is fully melted. Add papaya and almond pieces, blend well.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. You can also use tin foil.
3. Using a spatula, evenly spread the melted chocolate, papaya and almond mixture onto parchment paper.
4. Sprinkle with very small and rustic sea salt chunks. OMG, this makes it wonderful.
5. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into 2 inch squares and dazzle your Valentine (or yourself).
6. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

* I used 2 organic Chocolove dark chocolate (61% cocoa content) bars. Chocolove also makes a 55% cocoa content bar if you prefer less intense flavor and 73% and 77% versions if you like the high-octane stuff. The higher the cocoa content, the stronger and more bitter the taste. If you don’t have access to Chocolove, use another version of dark chocolate.

* You can also use dried cherries, dried apricots, peppermint chunks, or whatever your heart desires. Be creative.

For more of my gluten-free chocolate treats, check the following recipes
Enlightened hot chocolate
Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
Babycakes Chocolate Brownies

More gluten-free chocolate love from around the blogosphere
Gluten-free sunflower chocolate squares from Carol at Simply Gluten Free
Raw chocolate and raspberry candy from Kelly at The Spunky Coconut
Valentine’s Day dark and white chocolate cake pops from Elana at Elana’s Pantry
Chocolate layer cake from Ali at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
Flourless chocolate cake from Shirley at Gluten Free Easily
Chocolate coconut pudding from Karen at Cooks 4 Seasons
Twisted chocolate bark from Diane at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang
Kids in the kitchen dairy free fudge from Alta at Tasty Eats at Home

Peace, love and chocolate! Or a ski rack. Or both.
Melissa

the secret of the gluten-free sugar cereal

Nancy Drew here.

You might recall that I’m pretty famous for solving mysteries. I’ve got a baffling, whodunit on my hands and have been doing some investigating. Now I need your help in solving the case.

Would you consider the following ingredients to be wholesome?

So there’s no confusion, here’s a good description of what the word wholesome means, straight from The New Oxford American Dictionary. Word for word.

Wholesome – conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being: the food is plentiful and very wholesome. (New Oxford American Dictionary.)

Here’s the list.

INGREDIENTS: RICE, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COCONUT AND PALM KERNEL OIL), SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 5% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, RED 40, YELLOW 6, TURMERIC OLEORESIN (COLOR), BLUE 1, YELLOW 5, BLUE 2, BHA (TO HELP PROTECT FLAVOR).

By the way, I’m not trying to make a point with that capital-letter-yelling-thing. It was capitalized on the box, so I figured I better honor the formatting of the document. I want to be objective (okay, that’s probably impossible) and fair (hopefully). The “fair” part is important in getting honest answers, especially when you’re a famous detective. Not to mention a cute, cultural icon.

Does that list represent wholesome? I’m wondering because right next to the list of ingredients on the website’s nutrition information is the declaration that this is a “wholesome, sweetened, rice cereal.” They even advertise it as wholesome in CAPITAL letters on the front of the cereal box. Right next to (you guessed it, in all caps) “excellent source of vitamin D.” I’m not going to go into depth about the vitamins added because I don’t know enough about vitamin A palmitate or the vitamin D they added. Vitamin A palmitate is the synthetic form of vitamin A and although I did find some potentially negative side effects associated with it, I don’t have enough information to comment on it. Having said that, I’ve always felt that it’s much better to get your nutrients from fresh, whole (preferably organic) foods, which are honestly WHOLESOME.

Back to that word as it relates to the advertising of this cereal.

Wholesome?

Really?

Are you SERIOUS? (that was yelling.)

By what standards? This is a giant leap if I’ve ever seen one. It doesn’t take a detective to figure this one out.

I took these photos, but didn’t paste those styrofoam-ish, neon-colored, perfume-smelling, creepy-crawly things onto the side of the bowl. They struck out on their own. Wonder if they were trying to escape the organic milk?

Okay, bottom line?

This is awful. It breaks my heart to think little kids are being fed this stuff then sent off to school and forced to sit still and attempt to learn. Kids with food intolerances are more likely to suffer from ADD-like symptoms. Factor in dyes, additives, chemicals and sugar and they are at such a disadvantage. It’s sad. The ingredients in this box are not nourishing building blocks for growing children. I’ve often thought the gluten-free community was lucky NOT to have all these low-grade, processed food choices. It took some time, but the Standard American Diet (SAD) is making its way into the gluten-free community. In my mind, that’s not something to celebrate.

Okay, enough ranting. Looking on the bright side, this gives us more reason to learn, become aware and equip ourselves with the knowledge we need to make smart choices.

My conclusion? This cereal is about as far from WHOLESOME as you can get. Marketing this stuff to kids with brightly colored boxes, cartoon characters, games and toys is beyond icky. But we do have free choice. We can think for ourselves.

Don’t buy it. Don’t eat food that looks like dried out crayon shavings. You’re the boss of your food. Period.

Oh, I almost forgot about my original question. So, what do you think? Wholesome or not?

Peace, love and well-nourished kids!
P.S. Don’t eat cereal that dyes your milk lavender and lime green.

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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(co-written with Pete Bronski)



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