THE BENEFITS OF GOING GLUTEN FREE
Chef Robert Irvine has made a deal with gluten. He isn’t banning it from his kitchen (or his plate), but he does give it a time limit.
“Wheat doesn’t agree with a lot of people” He says. “One great strategy is to avoid gluten from noon to the next morning”.
Here comes the good news: “You can make mostly anything gluten free these days and it still tastes delicious,” says the top TV chef and best-selling author.
There is also a serious push these days by many to avoid gluten entirely. And this goes beyond a dieting fad.
Gluten is known to cause gut inflammation in at least 80 percent of the population because the human body can easily develop antibodies against gluten proteins in the gut. Certain bodies react with a basic allergic reaction due to gluten sensitivity culminating in a swollen stomach or a general feeling of discomfort. In more severe cases, a diet with gluten in it can even lead to autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, cancer, and leaky gut syndrome, which means your nutrients are not fully absorbed. It can also cause Celiac Disease, which affects over 2 million people in the United States or one in every 133 people. Celiacs can’t eat foods with gluten because their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, gas, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Even if your body isn’t experiencing any of the above, limiting or cutting out gluten is a way to eat healthier and lose weight if you watch your calories.
First things first: What is gluten? It’s a mix of two proteins, present in grains (especially wheat) and is responsible for the elastic texture of dough that helps it rise and keep its shape. Gluten is a combination of gliadin and glutenin, which is joined with starch in various grains. Gliadin helps bread rise while the glutenin is the protein in wheat flour.
Could you give up (or seriously restrict) gluten in your diet? The key is to eat healthy proteins, veggies and fruits while giving up the breads, pastas, and other hidden glutens.
Here’s how to do it:
START WITH A “I CAN EAT (ALMOST) EVERYTHING MINDSET
Chef Irvine is not about denying himself. To that end, he has found ways to make food gluten free and delicious including his famous gluten free chocolate chip cookies make with gluten free flour. “There are so many gluten free recipes online,” he says. Some of his personal favorites on his own website (chefirvine.com) include that above-mentioned cookie nirvana plus gluten free chicken, root veggies and even scalloped potatoes without the bread crumbs on top. “You just have to figure out what you like and take the gluten out of it,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a simple switch like using rice flour or just omitting a topping.” And, yes, you can even eat pizza. There are many gluten free options in the freezer section and even Domino’s Pizza has a gluten-free crust.
FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS
Even if you don’t have a medical condition where gluten free is key, you can still reap the benefits of this kind of diet. By skipping out on grains, you will be avoiding processed foods. In turn, you’ will be eating whole foods full of antioxidants thanks to your new focus on fresh fruits and veggies. Your immune system will thank you by dropping weight and restoring that feeling of maximum energy due to the vitamins and minerals that is lost when you couple healthy foods with gluten. You can use that energy to do physical things like go to the gym, start a walking, or running program or biking. It’s a win-win. Other benefits of your new diet will include vibrant skin and silky hair. You can also say goodbye to many stomach issues including cramping, gas, bloating and diarrhea by leaving gluten behind.
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
There are many grocery store products that aren’t necessarily gluten free, but seem to be if you give them a quick glance. Watch for products that are labeled “gluten free” instead of wheat free. Remember that wheat free isn’t gluten free. As a rule, products such as regular breads and pastas along with crackers and baked goods are generally not gluten free although healthier stores do stock a wide variety of true gluten free options. You can combine them with your gluten products to start. For example, use half gluten free spaghetti and half regular to get started and wean yourself off the gluten variety. If you need bread, then check the freezer section of your store where most of the gluten-free breads are found. You can also purchase gluten-free flours and bake your own. Just remember that you will gain weight if you pig out on gluten free products because they’re not calorie free.
FOCUS ON WHOLE FOODS
Instead of trying to navigate what constitutes gluten in processed foods, a gluten-free diet should begin with a focus on whole foods that are in season. Focus on buying proteins that are naturally gluten free including whole eggs, wild fish (salmon, Mahi Mahi, tuna, trout, grouper, sardines), shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, clams, oysters), grass fed meat, poultry, pork, and wild game. Vegetables are naturally gluten free including leafy greens and lettuces, collards, spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, sauerkraut, artichokes, sprouts, green beans, celery, bok choy, radishes, watercress, turnip, asparagus, garlic, leek, fennel, shallots, scallions, ginger, jicama, parsley, and water chestnuts. You can replace your flour foods with quinoa, rice, and ancient grains.
COOK WITH HEALTHY FATS AND THEN SEASON IT UP.
Your proteins and veggies don’t have to be boring. You can easily bake, grilled or sautéed them in healthy fats to make them delicious. Use extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, grass-fed tallow and organic or pasture-fed butter, ghee, almond milk, avocados, coconuts, olives, nuts, and nut butters. When it comes to seasoning, your dishes won’t have that bread plus garlic crumble on top or a glop of ketchup for dipping. Try mustard, horseradish, tapenade, and salsa if it’s gluten free. Use as many herbs as you want, but take a second glance at packaged herbs that might contain wheat.
TRY GLUTEN FREE GRAINS IN MODERATION
Most people on gluten free diets do eat grains. Consume the following grains in moderation, which means only a couple of times a week. Grains minus the gluten include: amaranth, buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. Oats are also allowed, but make sure they’re not processed at wheat meals because they’re frequently contaminated with gluten.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SKIP DESSERT
You don’t have to give up dessert just because you’re going gluten free. Besides Chef Irvine’s chocolate chip cookies, there are amazing desserts that are easy to make, delicious and keep you on your gluten free track. Try berries with shredded coconut or crushed almonds. Or buy gluten free flour and make your own cookies and cakes covered with fresh berries or other seasonal fruits. Try homemade rice pudding, flourless chocolate cake, poached pears, or apples baked in maple syrup and sprinkled with walnuts and raisins. A little chocolate espresso mousse also keeps it gluten free. And if you’re on the go, FITCRUNCH bars and brownies are the perfect anytime glutten free snack.
WATCH WHAT YOU DRINK
The good news is most drinks are gluten-free including fresh juice, flavored waters, and sports drinks. Wine and most alcoholic drinks are also game. However, beers, ales, lagers, and malt beverages do contain gluten because they’re made from gluten-containing grains. If you love beer, it’s quite easy these days to find a variety of gluten-free options. Enjoy!