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Some foods are questionable: Gluten

January 9th, 2018 | no comments

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Last week, I began the discussion on questionable foods with dairy. This week, in Universal Truth #6: Some foods are questionable, I’m continuing the conversation with gluten, an often confusing and misunderstood subject.

GLUTEN

Make no mistake, just because a product is labeled “gluten free”, does not necessarily make it healthy. Unfortunately, clever marketing tactics will have you, the well-meaning consumer, believe that the absence of gluten in a food automatically qualifies it as a healthy choice. On one hand this is true, after all, fresh herbs and spices, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fresh meat and seafood are all naturally free of gluten. But of course, you aren’t likely to see them boasting about it. They don’t have to! On the other hand, many gluten free products are heavily processed and coated in sugar and/or salt (think gluten free doughnuts!).

What exactly is gluten anyways? Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and non-gluten free oats. It’s also found in processed foods containing these ingredients, such as bread, cereal, pasta, pancakes, pizza, bakery and other sugar-loaded, nutrient-void foods. I’m sure you agree that the simple act of minimizing gluten-containing products like cake and cookies, can only mean positive things for your health. Of course this holds true only if you aren’t swapping them out for gluten free cake and cookies. Remember, these still contain just as much sugar!

Gluten causes a whole spectrum of problems for many people, ranging from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, to celiac disease, an autoimmune condition where ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine, creating symptoms such as iron deficiency anemia, joint pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue and migraines.

Hybridization of wheat grown in the United States has changed the quality and type of proteins and starches in wheat, creating a higher gluten content than ever before. The result is an overwhelming increase in the diagnosis of celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

Understand that food allergies and sensitivities create an inflammatory state in the body, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance. So if you suspect you are intolerant of gluten, it would be wise to eliminate if for a six-week trial to see if your blood glucose numbers and weight improve. This also holds true for other common food allergies and sensitivities, like dairy.

I made a personal choice a few years ago to eliminate gluten from my diet for a period of time just to see what happened. I didn’t have an allergy or anything, I was just curious. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. The result was a very subtle, yet noticeable difference in my brain health, meaning I experienced an improved mood, had more clarity and less “brain fog.” My ability to concentrate was markedly improved too! The funny part about it was, I didn’t even realize I had a problem focusing until I didn’t have a problem focusing. I also noticed less stiffness in my joints.

For all of these reasons, I still maintain a relatively gluten free diet, making the occasional exception on holidays, where I enjoy a Christmas cookie or two, and a maple-frosted doughnut from my favorite doughnut shop on my birthday.

Next week I will share my thoughts and tips on alcohol, the final questionable substance in this series.

 

Mel’s weekly food pick:
Explore Cuisine Organic Bean Pastas

A pasta that won’t spike your blood sugar? Yes, really! There are many varieties of gluten-free pasta on the market and I’ve tried almost all of them. My favorite is the Explore Cuisine line of bean pastas. With only one or two ingredients (based on the bean or combination of beans used), each variety can be prepared in under 10 minutes.

Regular pasta carries approximately 40 grams of net carbohydrates (Total carbohydrate minus dietary fiber) per serving. Because Explore Cuisine bean pasta is made from 100% pure beans, the total fiber content is off the charts, bringing the net carbohydrate down to an impressive 10-11 grams per serving. And…since beans are packed with oodles of protein, you’ll gain 22-25 grams of protein per serving—that’s as much as a 3-ounce cooked chicken breast!

There are three varieties to choose from:

  • Organic Black Bean Spaghetti
  • Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine
  • Organic Edamame Spaghetti

I just know you will enjoy my Recipe Pick this week. It uses Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Simple, delicious, and nutritious!

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Bean Pasta

I don’t know about you, but regular pasta tends to send my blood sugar shooting through the roof! How do I know? Because I get hungry an hour or so after eating it. This means it caused my blood sugar to initially spike and then plummet…triggering what I call “rebound hunger”. Other foods that can have this effect are white potatoes, white rice, sugary cereals, cake, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages (including those fancy, overpriced coffee drinks), and pretzels.

If you find yourself shying away from pasta for the same reason, or if you are simply trying to improve the overall quality of your food choices, I think you will really like this recipe! It was created by my friend Carla IaFelice, who is a Wellness Consultant for Heinen’s Grocery Store. It uses Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine, a high protein, high fiber, low glycemic solution to regular wheat-based pasta. It has only two simple ingredients: organic edamame and organic mung beans. That’s it! One serving of this pasta offers 22 grams of protein…as much as one 3-ounce chicken breast. Pretty impressive!

Print Recipe
Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Bean Pasta
This high protein, high fiber, low glycemic pasta dish uses just five simple ingredients and is bursting with savory flavor. Created by my friend Carla IaFelice, who is a Wellness Consultant for Heinen's Grocery Store, it is a perfect meal option for those evenings when you are super pressed for time. Pair it with a nice leafy green salad and you've got a real nutrition powerhouse meal on your hands. 4 Earthfoods per serving: ♥♥♥♥
Course Dinner
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 box Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 jar julienne sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Course Dinner
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 box Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 jar julienne sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta according to directions on package.
  2. In a separate pan, sauté tomatoes, garlic and onion until slightly caramelized. The oil from the jar of tomatoes should be ample, but you can add a little more per your taste.
  3. Drain pasta and toss with sautéed vegetables. Gently fold in basil ribbons and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
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