Category Archives: grains


wheat gluten field

Glyphosate And Gluten

Glyphosate myths, facts and a reality check
by Sara Russell, Ph.D., NTP

I’m really glad that more and more people are learning of the dangers of glyphosate. 
Please remember that, no matter how awful glyphosate may be (and that’s a whole lot of awful), it doesn’t make everything else harmless. In this age of memes and click-bait titles, it’s easy to come to the wrong conclusion through reductive thinking processes. But for those with severe health problems, misconceptions about glyphosate may cause very grave harm.

Myth # 1: “It’s the glyphosate, not the gluten”

One common refrain that has been repeated over the past few years in various permutations is some variation on the theme of “It’s not the wheat, it’s the glyphosate” or “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate” and that because glyphosate is evil, people with celiac disease and other serious medical conditions who avoid gluten for health reasons can safely consume gluten-containing grains as long as they are organic and heirloom.

Myth #2 “Wheat in Italy and France is safe for everyone”

Another common myth is that if you’re celiac or otherwise severely gluten-sensitive, eating a croissant or baguette while on vacation in Italy or France is fine because “their gluten is different” and “they don’t use glyphosate in Europe…”

Did you know that 40% of the wheat consumed in Italy is imported from North America? And you may be surprised that glyphosate is actually pretty common in European agriculture, including Italian and French, although less widespread than in the US and of course not permitted in organic agriculture. If you digest your food better while on vacation, that’s because you’re more relaxed. Italy has an incredibly high rate of celiac disease, and while there are a few very sick celiac patients in Italy who still sneak wheat products here and there, most of them are smart enough to stick to their doctor’s orders to consume a strictly gluten-free diet. The Italian government considers this such an important issue that each diagnosed celiac in Italy is given vouchers of 100 euro per month that are valid on specific gluten-free foods.

Myth #3: “If it’s bad for me, I’ll know right away”

A lot of celiac disease is “silent” – that means that many celiac people feel no immediate stereotypical gastrointestinal reaction in many cases and a significant number of people with celiac disease struggle with mysterious fatigue, nutritional deficiencies and neurological and/or psychological symptoms for decades before getting a diagnosis. Sometimes parents or even grandparents only get a diagnosis after a child in the family gets diagnosed.

Harmful rhetoric

While it’s true that glyphosate is a poison for all of us, a lot of people are sensitive to gluten and/or allergic to gluten-containing foods, and I do think the line of thought that exaggerates the glyphosate piece is putting a lot of truly gluten-sensitive people at risk (including some celiac people who are being advised against all reason to consume gluten-containing organic and heirloom varieties of wheat). 
Yes, glyphosate (or stress, for that matter) can definitely accentuate the effect of gluten on weakened body barriers, but a body that has mounted an autoimmune or allergic response to gluten is a gluten-sensitive body in its own right.

Exceptions?

I think that only those people with a sub-clinical gluten sensitivity (not an allergy and not an autoimmune response to gluten or its components) may fit with the picture of a possible wheat intolerance being correctable by taking care to reduce glyphosate exposure. This doesn’t mean just switching to organic, heirloom wheat. It means avoiding environmental exposure from yard chemicals in your neighborhood. It means not living in an area where glyphosate is sprayed on crops. It means avoiding crops that are sprayed with glyphosate, including – sorry, everyone – wine. It means doing the long, hard, deep work of foundational healing before re-introducing possible trigger foods into your diet.

Toxicities are synergistic, not mutually exclusive

I feel that the line of saying “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate!” is a bit like saying, “It’s not the mercury, it’s the aluminum!” or “It’s not the lead poisoning, it’s the EMFs” – these are false dichotomies, which acknowledge one danger by denying another. Yet the effects of toxic exposures, allergies, autoimmunity are compounded and synergistic, not mutually exclusive.

 

Sara Russell is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who works remotely with clients worldwide, specializing in complex health conditions. Sara’s approach is client-centered, approaching each clients’ health goals from a foundationally from a root-cause-oriented, bio-individual perspective. She resides in the Tuscan countryside with her husband and seven-year-old son. You can learn more about Sara’s work and read her blog at Build, Nurture, Restore

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

My friend Erin recently shared this delicious recipe for a great on-the-go-snack bar. With pumpkins in season, it’s easy enough to make your own puree. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, the canned stuff works just fine. A couple of words of caution, however, when choosing canned pumpkin:

  • It’s best to use a brand that has a BPA free lining
  • Organic pumpkin is preferred
  • I highly recommend that you read the label and make sure that you are getting only 100% pumpkin. You don’t need all those other ingredients.

These breakfast bars are fabulous for a quick breakfast, perfectly portable if you need to have breakfast on-the-go. And so tasty that they also make a great snack. If you’d like, add a serving of protein powder to make your bars even more nutritious. If you do add the protein powder you may find that you need just a Tablespoon or two of water so the mix isn’t too dry.

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic butter or ghee at room temperature
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook variety)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (you can also use walnuts or sunflower seeds)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
pinch of Celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries

Measure out the 2 cups of oats and pour just enough warm water over them to cover them
Soak for about 5 minutes while you’re mixing up the wet ingredients
In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs, butter or ghee, honey, and banana
You may want to mash the banana before adding to the bowl if it’s not really soft
Before adding the oats, drain them well

Add the oats, nuts, coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, salt, orange rind, currants, and blueberries, and stir until ingredients are well combined (this step is where you would also add the protein powder, if using)
Spread mixture into a lightly greased (butter, ghee or coconut oil) pan so the batter is no more than an inch or two deep. An 8” x 10” baking dish works well
Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown
For very crisp bars, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack
Cut the bars when cool
 

Gluten-free — Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Will eating a gluten free diet make you healthier? Not necessarily. While eating gluten free is necessary for those suffering from celiac disease, for the majority of people who don’t suffer from gluten intolerance it’s not necessary to go out of your way to avoid it. However doing a gluten elimination diet can help to determine if gluten sensitivity is an issue for you.

For the 1% of Americans who do suffer from celiac disease, it is critical to remove gluten from the diet completely. Otherwise it can cause damage to their small intestines as it is an autoimmune disease. A larger, growing percentage of the population are experiencing non-celiac gluten sensitivity. While they don’t have damage to their small intestines, they can experience some symptoms similar to those with celiac disease.  These symptoms may include brain fog, bloating, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and more, all of which can be helped by removing gluten from the diet. Unfortunately however, a gluten free diet may be harmful to your health if you’re not careful as many gluten free items lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Not only that, but they often contain processed and or refined additives that can cause digestive upset.

According to a Consumers Report 2014 survey, approximately 25% of people questioned believed that gluten free foods have MORE vitamins and minerals than other foods. Many people simply think that eating gluten free is healthier. Because gluten free foods are usually highly processed, have less nutrition, and still contain unhealthy ingredients such as artificial colors , artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives, that may not be the case.

HIGHLY PROCESSED

Gluten is found in many whole grain products made from wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.  These grains are commonly found in many foods that we eat.  The gluten free alternatives for breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, and other processed foods are often made from highly processed alternatives such as starches, or flours from non-glutenous grains. They also usually contain fillers, extra fat, sugar, and/or sodium to replace the taste or texture of gluten. Whole grain products naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, highly processed food products however, do not have the same beneficial levels of these nutrients. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet, aim for real, whole foods that are naturally gluten free such as quinoa, brown rice, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.

LESS NUTRITION

Gluten free baked goods typically use flour replacements that provide less nutrition than whole grain flours. These replacements are usually low in nutrients and high in carbohydrates. Tapioca starch, cornstarch, and potato starch are three ingredients commonly used to replace wheat (or other glutenous grain) flour(s) in gluten free food items.

  • Tapioca starch – often used as a thickener, however it contains no nutritional benefits and is over 88% carbohydrates by weight.
  • Cornstarch – very low in dietary fiber and contains negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals. An added challenge with cornstarch is that the corn may be genetically modified which present additional health challenges.
  • Potato starch – frequently used as a thickener, contains little nutritional value while having a very high starch content. Another issue with potato starch is that potatoes are increasingly being genetically modified.  Currently there are five different varieties that have been modified.

DIGESTIVE UPSET

Gluten is a very important part of many food products, especially for bread. Gluten is like a “glue” that helps food products stick together so they aren’t crumbly and fall apart. The gluten in grains such as wheat allows it to rise and have a fluffy consistency rather than being dense and flat.  In order to compensate for the lack of “glue” in gluten-free products manufacturers use gums  to give the dough a sticky consistency. The most commonly used gums are xanthan gum (used as a thickener, emulsifier, and food stabilizer), guar gum (a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent), and locust bean gum (used for thickening and gelling).  While these gums are generally safe for consumption, because they are mostly indigestible fiber they often cause side effects such as intestinal gas and bloating. Some of these additive gums, such as xanthan gum, can be sourced from corn or soy (two highly GMO crops) which would be another reason to avoid them.

LESS VITAMINS MORE SUGAR

Just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice, low in calories, or low in carbohydrates. Actually many processed gluten free foods are less healthy in that they have more calories and sugar than regular foods. Many gluten replacement foods are actually not only low in nutrients, they’re very high in carbohydrates.  Because these carbohydrates are highly processed they are foods that can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.  This is a significant difference from gluten-free whole grain products such as quinoa or amaranth which, because they are whole grains, do not have the same effect on blood sugars.

As an example, a Consumer Reports comparison of a regular blueberry muffin with a gluten free blueberry muffin found that the gluten free muffin contained 30 more calories and 7 more grams of sugar.  

Regular muffin: 340 calories, 17 g fat, 24 g sugar
GF muffin:          370 calories, 13 g fat, 31 g sugar

Whole grains are a good source of many nutrients especially the B vitamins, iron, and fiber. It’s important to understand that even gluten free grains when consumed in their whole grain form provide a high level of nutrients.  It is the processing that damages, or reduces, the micronutrient levels while increasing carbohydrates.  Gluten-free grains include:  quinoa, teff, amaranth, rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, and oats.

Check out this slideshow of popular gluten-free food products

ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS

Just because a food item is gluten free doesn’t mean that it is free from artificial colors, artificial ingredients, or preservatives. If you’re trying to eat gluten free, make sure you read the label. Rather than relying on gluten-free versions of cakes, cookies, crackers, cereals, and other starchy crutch foods, it is best to find whole foods that are naturally gluten free. Whole foods which aren’t processed are more likely be free from artificial additives.  It’s important to remember that gluten-free isn’t the magic pill to a clean and healthy diet.  Choosing vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, fish, and lean meats will provide the healthiest options.

Nordic Diet

There’s a new diet trend that appears set to take the world by storm, the Nordic Diet. It appears to be a Scandinavian take on the concepts of the Mediterranean Diet. According to a study published in The Journal of Internal Medicine it lowered cholesterol and inflammation among study participants who followed the plan for 18 weeks.  Without a doubt there will shortly be a book, a cookbook, several websites with recipes, and a new crowd of enthusiasts.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it may not be the right thing for everyone.

The diet does allow for whole grains, primarily rye, barley, and oats, as well as low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, game meats (like moose), fruits, berries, vegetables, and canola oil. While new diet plans always garner a lot of excitement it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all diet. We are bio-individual creatures and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. If someone is gluten intolerant they need to avoid the rye and barley (and source gluten free oats) allowed in this nutritional plan. Just because it’s part of the diet doesn’t mean it’s the right choice if your body can’t handle it.

I do have a couple of thoughts about this diet and about food trends in general:

  • The Nordic Diet calls for canola oil. In the United States this is not a good choice as the vast majority of it is contaminated by GMO. Some estimates of contamination and cross-contamination are so high that there are those who believe there is no unmodified canola to be found in the U.S.
  • The diet calls for low-fat dairy. This is not a healthy option. Starting with the fact that dairy is one of our few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be consumed with fat in order for the body to properly utilize it). Vitamin D is also important to help the body properly make use of calcium. When it comes to the old notion that high fat diets cause obesity, recent studies have shown that the opposite is true. In measured studies, those who consumed whole-milk dairy products had reduced risk for obesity.
  • The diet does not, as far as I’ve been able to find, specifically talk about sourcing of food.  While game meat is unlikely to be adulterated with added hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, poultry and fish need to be sustainably sourced.   It’s interesting to note that game meat in general may be gaining some prominence as people seek to avoid meat from animals raised in confined operations.
  • Vegetables and fruits still need to be sourced without pesticide residue and GMO contamination.
  • I imagine that there will be more of a call for root vegetables.  This is a good thing as root vegetables are high vitamins, beta-carotene, and fiber.  [side thought: I’m always surprised when I buy parsnips at the grocery store and the checkout clerk wants to know  what the “white carrots” are.]

With food trends in general I expect we’ll face a year ahead with more, New, BETTER (read tongue in cheek) superfoods that convey all sorts of health benefits.  I’m not a huge fan of seeking those out and quite frankly we have superfoods that are local and easily accessible, there’s no need to keep chasing the latest super ones.

I imagine there will still be some sort of push to get bugs onto the menu and into the grocery stores.  They’re cheap and easy to raise, a quick, convenient source of protein.  I’m not a fan but that’s a personal preference.  I also don’t eat things like squid or eels that doesn’t mean I think they’re dangerous or bad for you.  With anything that we eat we have to look at how it’s raised.  Remember, you are what you eat includes whatever the animal you’re eating ate.

I still believe there’s not enough focus on fermented foods.  These are in a category referred to as functional foods, they have a specific health benefit.  In the case of fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and lacto-fermented vegetables they add beneficial probiotics to our intestinal tract, helping us to break down our food, boost our immune system and stay healthy.  While I see more and more evidence of some fermented foods I believe we would all benefit from eating more of them.  Ideally we’d learn how to make them at home.

I’d like to believe we’ll continue to see a growing influence of tip-to-tail consumption that will encourage us to eat more fully from the whole animal.  Learning to eat organ meats again, consuming more bone broths, getting away from the white-meat-only-chicken-breast diet that so many of us have become accustomed to.

Whatever nutrition plan lies ahead let’s remember that we need to eat according to the needs of our bio-individual bodies.  Our dietary needs change over time.  We don’t eat the same in our 40’s as we did when we were a toddler or an adolescent.  But however we choose to eat, whatever we’re eating, let’s focus on clean, healthy, sustainably sourced foods rather than jumping from one popular diet plan to another.

photo: PL Przemek

Health Benefits Of Whole Grain

homemade whole grain bread

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA recommends that at least one half of all grain products consumed be from whole grain sources. Many people mistakenly believe that if the label states the presence of wheat that indicates whole grain. For the purposes of this article we will focus on bread.

(more…)

Sprouted Flours

sprouted spelt and chia bread | photo:  wattle12

I recently received a question from Hope who wanted to know about sprouted flours (specifically spelt) and how to use them.

Sprouted flours are a very healthy way to go.  Sprouting essentially deactivates some of the enzymes that can interfere with nutrient absorption.  The grains are sprouted, dried at very low heat, and then ground into flour.  If you do not own a mill (I like both the Blendtec and WonderMill) you can purchase sprouted flours from a number of different sources.

Sprouted flours can be easily interchanged with traditional flours one for one.  There is a difference between the fiber content so if you are switching it for all-purpose flour you’ll need to make some adjustments to the moisture content as well as to how long it may take to rise.

Regarding her question about spelt specifically, it is a grain similar to wheat but lower in gluten content.  Some people who do not digest wheat well find spelt to be an acceptable alternative.  For those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, spelt still needs to be avoided as it does contain gluten.

To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company has some delicious looking recipes on their website which specifically call for sprouted flours.

What Is It?

The birds are very messy and tend to throw seeds everywhere when picking through the large feeder.  I assume they do this because they are looking for their favorite bits.  Having been lazy not weeded very well I found a few large plants growing under the feeder.  At first I thought it was corn which was pretty cool.  So we left them.

Obviously from these pictures, this is most definitely not corn.  I’m not really sure what it is.  It doesn’t look like my pictures of either amaranth or millet so I’m stumped.

Unfortunately I don’t have the label from the birdseed so I can’t even pick it out from there.  Wondering if I should harvest it for the birds for winter or if it’s edible by humans.  Anyone able to identify it?

Forbidden Rice Salad

forbidden rice salad

For tonight’s dinner I’ve made an assortment of salads to serve with burgers for a refreshing, tasty, quick dinner.  I love salads because they’re a great way to get variety into your diet and can go with almost anything.  Of course I don’t mean the typical green tossed salad.  I’m talking salads with a little oomph and lot of tasty ingredients.

This picture on the left is the forbidden rice salad we’ll be having, along with a fruit salad and a savoy slaw, with dinner tonight.  I love forbidden rice.

A black rice with a rich delicious flavor this is a whole grain and provides an antioxidant punch.  It provides a particular antioxidant called anthocyanin (which is also found in blueberries and blackberries) believed to help prevent inflammation, diabetes, and reduce or limit cancer-caused DNA damage.  Regardless of the health effects of the antioxidant properties there is no disputing the fact that this is a tasty way to add more whole grains to your diet.

Forbidden Rice Salad

1 cup black rice
1 3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large carrot
1 rib celery leaves included
1 red bell pepper
3 spring onions
1 cup edamame
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
sea salt and pepper

put rice, water and salt into a pot and bring to just under a boil on the stovetop
cover, reduce heat and cook until rice is done 20-25 minutes

while the rice is cooking toast pine nuts in a dry pan until just starting to turn brown
remove from heat and let sit

dice the vegetables except the edamame
note:  I use the large shred on my box shredded to get large slivers of carrot rather than a dice
combine the vegetables together in a bowl
note 2:  unfortunately I discovered I am out of edamame, the recipe really is better with them in there

in a separate container whisk together the oils, vinegar, water, mustard, salt and pepper
note:  I like to use walnut oil because it compliments the nutty taste of the rice and the flavor of the pine nuts

when the rice is done uncover it, remove from heat and let it sit 10-15 minutes to cool off and to stop steaming
combine all ingredients together, toss well and refrigerate for 2-4 hours before serving

Reinventing Comfort

When I was a little girl my mother used to make something called rice cereal.  My brother and I loved it.  Leftover white rice in a bowl of hot milk with a huge dollop of butter and a spoonful of sugar on top.  It brings back memories of the small kitchen we had when we were young.  Sitting at the table with my brother, legs swinging, enjoying this dish which we viewed as a treat.

When my children were growing up I would make the same dish for them.  And they loved it just as much.  Even now my 16 year old will assemble a bowl if we have the ingredients at hand (which we often do).  It was a great way to use up extra rice — filling, tasty, and warming to the tummy.  I even served it on occasion to overnight guests.   One such guest, a dear friend from my high-school days, exclaimed about this wonderful breakfast, wanting to know where the recipe came from.  My answer?  My mom.  And probably from her mom.  I think it was simply a frugal way to use leftovers.  But it sure was, and still is, tasty.

Sometimes you have a day where you want comfort food.  This morning was one of those days.  As I was assembling, and then happily eating, my bowl of comfort I realized that I have changed the recipe.  Modified it to be more in line with my healthier eating habits.  But it was still just as comforting, warming and satisfying as it ever was.  Reflecting on this I realized that the concept of comfort food is a state of mind.  Yes it’s a comfort to the tummy and makes us feel good; but part of what makes us feel good is the memories associated with that food.  Changing the food doesn’t change the comfort level as long as the basic concepts are the same.

So I’m making an offer, what are your comfort foods?  What do you eat when you feel the need for that emotional lift?  Share the recipe and the concept below.  If you’d like (and please ask below) I’m happy to make suggestions to help boost the nutrition or health factor while still helping you get that bowl or plate of comfort you are after.  Eating well to be well doesn’t mean we can’t still have comfort.

Reinventing Comfort

When I was a little girl my mother used to make something called rice cereal.  My brother and I loved it.  Leftover white rice in a bowl of hot milk with a huge dollop of butter and a spoonful of sugar on top.  When I had children I would make the same dish for them.  It was a great way to use up extra rice — filling, tasty, and warming to the tummy.  I would even serve it to guests sometimes.   One time a friend exclaimed about this wonderful dish, wanting to know where the recipe came from.  My answer?  My mom.  And probably from her mom.  I think it was simply a frugal way to use leftovers.  But it sure was tasty.

Sometimes you have a day where you want comfort food.  This morning was one of those days.  As I was assembling, and then happily eating, my bowl of comfort I realized that I have changed the recipe.  Modified it to be more in line with my healthier eating habits.  But it was still just as comforting, warming and satisfying as it ever was.  Reflecting on this I realized that the concept of comfort food is a state of mind.  Yes it’s a comfort to the tummy and makes us feel good; but part of what makes us feel good is the memories associated with that food.  Changing the food doesn’t change the comfort level as long as the basic concepts are the same.

So I’m making an offer, what are your comfort foods?  What do you eat when you feel the need for that emotional lift?  Share the recipe and the concept below.  If you’d like (and please ask below) I’m happy to make suggestions to help boost the nutrition or health factor while still helping you get that bowl or plate of comfort you are after.  Eating well to be well doesn’t mean we can’t still have comfort.