Gluten Thoughts

I can’t lie that I might get excited about food-related hypes and jump on the bandwagon a little too soon.  Lately, I’ve been looking for vegetarian/vegan and gluten free (gf) options when going out to eat; I don’t expect it, but it’s a nice plus.  Why?  If I eat vegan, then I don’t have to worry about where the animal or animal products I’m eating came from, and for some reason, gluten free just feels better or cleaner.  I can’t find any information linking gluten to glycemic index or lower carb intake, but I think in general a number of the foods that are gluten free tend to make me feel “lighter” than those with.  And the digestion is easier on my stomach. 

I found this from an article in Newsweek:
“It [Gluten Free] can be a very healthy diet,” says registered dietitian Dee Sandquist. After all, substitute grains such as quinoa are filled with more nutrients than white, refined flour. For some people without celiac disease, a gluten-free diet may make them feel better through the placebo effect, says Sandquist, and of course simply eating fewer cookies and pies can contribute to feeling healthier overall.”

I’d agree that I’m eating more nutritious foods when I focus on eating things other than bread!  And I really do believe I feel less bloated after eating gluten free. The carbs I often cook with that are gluten free are:

  • Grains like millet, quinoa and rice (basmati, brown, etc.): these are all easy to make on the stove or in a rice cooker
  • Corn products: corn tortillas & polenta
  • Potatoes: sweet, regular or asian variety
  • Oats: steel cut, rolled, quick-cooking, bran.  There are many oat-based granolas that are gf (Love Grown comes to mind, or just make your own;  I like this recipe  for granola bars).
  • Buckwheat: groats are a good add in for crunch or you can grind them into flour and use for baking
  • Garbanzo Bean Flour: can make gf bread-like creations with this
  • Processed Foods like rice pasta, gluten free pizza crust, and gluten free waffles: these can be chewy; make sure not to overcook the pasta!  For snacking brown rice cakes (Lundburg tamari flavor or plain with nut butter) and Larabars (mini ones are good for pre-work out).

My favorite vegan/gf dinner is “a grain, a green a bean”.  Just get all the green goodies you can, and top with millet or quinoa and a bean burger or just straight beans to make a delicious salad mix (make sure to add some yummie vinegarette).  If you need gf recipes, I am a HUGE fan of Terry Walter’s cookbooks.  Her newest one Clean Food is gluten free and vegan, though not labeled as such.  I recently listened to this radio interview that has some good gluten free discussion.  The gluten and digestion-related key points I picked up are:

  • There are 3 separate gluten issues: Celiac Disease – gluten intolerance; Gluten Sensitivity – weak gut/digestive problems; Wheat Allergy – histamine response to wheat.
  • If you soak grain for 1 hour, it washes away phytic acid.  Phytic acid bonds to calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, therefore reduces their absorption.  Soaking and also helps grain germinate (sprouts) which allows for easier digestion.  Another digestion aid is fermenting food (i.e. tempeh is fermented soy, pickled foods, kimchi, etc.).

And she had a couple other interesting points:

  • You need only 15-20% protein in your diet (if not an athlete, etc.). I found sources that say 10-35%, or maybe around 50g for a 2,000 calorie diet. I didn’t know, but protein negates the body’s ability to absorb calcium. I confirmed this with a couple different online sources, and also found out that calcium can’t function in the body without Vitamin D since Vitamin D regulates the calcium we ingest. Interesting to know, since I have low levels of Vitamin D.
  • Dark leafy greens have high levels of calcium (I knew this, but like to remind myself of it)
  • The cost of production of animal protein compared to plant protein is 20 to 1. I don’t know if I completely believe this; I would guess it’s lower. But still interesting when you think about the value chain. Growing grass to feed a meat source vs. growing a little more costly veggie.  I’m guessing the animals require more operational/labor costs than plants as well.  Transport might is similar, though meat may weigh more and require more refrigeration.  Thinking about this definitely reinforces my Farmers Market & CSA purchases!

In addition, the Edible Perspective is a great blog with gf recipes/tips.  I’m traveling over Memorial Day, so I’ll see how much food I can pre-pack and what clean food choices might be available to me over the weekend and report back!

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