Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is Gluten Really Bad For You?

“So, is gluten really that bad for you?” This is probably the single question I am asked most often when people find out I am a nutritionist. So, what IS the answer? It's actually not that simple. There are a few factors that need to be taken into account.

Many people I've talked to have commented that they don't believe in non-Celiac gluten intolerance for a number of reasons. Articles and videos have popped up allover the place from varying sources talking about its non-existence. Others are skeptical because it has become such a wide-spread food sensitivity. Others think that “gluten intolerance” is a fancy term for a weight-loss diet.

This topic requires a brief overview of food sensitivities in general. It is possible to develop a food intolerance or allergy to any food. A food allergy, which is caused by a type of antibody characterized as IgE, manifests itself within two hours of being exposed to the allergen. A food intolerance, which can be caused by the antibodies IgG or IgA, tends to display symptoms 6-48 hours after exposure to the allergen. Symptoms can vary from gastrointestinal issues, headaches, skin problems, depression, and many, many others. Because of its wide variety of symptoms and its slow reaction time, an intolerance can be extremely difficult to pinpoint without testing. Celiac Disease is another kind of reaction, and will not be addressed in this article.

Intestines are naturally porous. That's how nutrients find their way from the digestive system to the bloodstream. In a healthy digestive system, these pores are small and only allow fully digested particles through. However, inflammation (from toxins in preservatives, stress, etc.) can lead to an increase in the size of the pores. This is what is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome.

Many food sensitivities develop from frequent exposure to the same ingredients. Our bodies produce enzymes to digest different foods. Eating the same foods over and over depletes the enzyme availability. When the enzyme supply is low, food is not broken down as easily.

Undigested food particles, combined with leaky gut syndrome, can lead to large food particles finding their way to the bloodstream. Our antibodies see these large food particles as intruders and begin attacking them. Every time these large particles enter the bloodstream, they are recognized as intruders, and our bodies launch an attack against these so-called intruders, causing all kinds of symptoms.

Gluten is a protein found in different grains, including wheat. Since wheat is one of the most consumed ingredients in the Standard American Diet (SAD), gluten intolerance is becoming more and more prevalent. Gluten finds its way not only to breads, cereals, crackers, and pasta, but also to many packaged soups, gravies, sauces, flavourings, and pretty well any other packaged item you can think of.

Many people have heard that a gluten free diet is healthier than the SAD. Some of these people are choosing to follow a gluten free diet for that reason, buying packaged gluten free foods that are loaded with corn, sugar, and all kinds of chemical preservatives. So, if you ask me if a gluten free diet is healthier, if this is the diet you had in mind, my answer will be a definite “no”. You may avoid developing a gluten intolerance that way, but you just may develop an intolerance to corn instead. Or rice. Or potatoes. You get the gist.

So, is gluten really bad for you? Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what's right for your body and your health. Gluten or no gluten, I like to encourage people to follow a whole foods diet that includes a lot of variety. This sort of diet naturally cuts down on gluten consumption.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mexican Spiced Chicken (paleo)

Lately, I feel like I keep eating the same meals over and over, but finding time to constantly come up with something new and palatable feels draining at times. I don't want to buy condiments or spices for something I'll be making one time because then I have to store the remainders, and I so badly want to downsize my kitchen. Every time I move, I have more boxes for all my kitchen stuff then for the rest of my apartment combined.

This mexican spiced chicken worked out well because I got to come up with something new to make using things I already had at home. It has the added bonus of not containing sugar or vinegar. While I haven't been following the candida diet, any meal I can make that respects its guidelines makes me feel better about the fact that I've been majorly slacking off with my health.

Mexican Spiced Chicken (paleo)

4 chicken legs with backs, skin on, bone in
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
To taste: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
OR use a Mexican spice blend

Preheat oven to 375F.

Rinse the raw chicken and dry with paper towels. Mix the spices together in a small bowl and spread evenly between the four pieces of chicken.

Cook the chicken for about half an hour or until fully cooked. If you like your chicken extra crispy, broil until the top is brown, but watch it closely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Curry Kale Chips (vegan, paleo)

I should just change my name to "That Curry Girl". Honestly, I've thought of curry-ing pretty much everything I eat. I mean, things that you would never think of flavouring with curry spices. You know, like kale chips. Oh, except I didn't THINK of curry-ing kale chips, I curried kale chips.

I woke up in the morning and considered going to yoga, but since I did two back to back yoga classes the night before, I opted for a calm day, free of the stress of the one hour commute to the yoga studio. So, I stayed home and made kale chips.

Curry Kale Chips (vegan, paleo)

1 small bunch kale
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cardamom
Optional: cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste
(You can just use curry powder instead if you prefer)

Preheat over to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash and dry the kale. Remove ribs, tear into bite-sized pieces, and place on the baking sheet. Add the oil and the spices and toss to coat evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, taking it out halfway through to toss around.

Monday, March 16, 2015

4 Ingredient Beet Radish Salad (vegan, paleo)

I've noticed that I have a tendency to fall off the face of the Earth in the winter. Spring is upon us now, and after some careful consideration, I've decided to bring some changes to my blog. When first starting out, the majority of my readership appreciated my vegan posts and so I felt compelled to post vegan recipes. However, I've made changes to my diet that make it difficult for me to keep this blog running on vegan posts.

I've had to increase my meat consumption over the winter. It started out when I was doing a candida cleanse. It was easier for me to cook meat without all the restricted ingredients. Of course, the cleanse itself was making me feel better, but then I started to notice that I wasn't losing weight as readily as before. As a fairly lean person, I struggle to keep on weight, and my past attempts to put on muscle hadn't been very successful. Recently, with my increased meat consumption, I'm finally seeing more muscle.

In order for me to gain muscle, it takes me an amount of protein I wouldn't normally recommend to someone else my size. I know it's possible to get high amounts of protein on vegan days, but I've also noticed that I don't digest grains and legumes as well as the average person. That's not to say I'm entirely cutting those foods out, but I haven't been coming up with new vegan meals. I spent all winter feeling a resistance to posting meat posts because of my vegan readers, but in order to keep my blog going, I will need to make changes. Of course, the odd vegan post will still come up (such as this one!), but essentially, my blog is getting an "attitude makeover".

And now, for the reason you're actually on this post today. I make this salad when I need a way to incorporate raw beets into my diet. I'm not the biggest fan of beets, but this salad is one way I'll actually somewhat enjoy them. Beets and radishes are liver cleansing, and I know that my liver can always take a bit of extra help. If you haven't worked with beets before, I will warn you that your hands will be a funky colour by the time you're done cutting everything.

4 Ingredient Beet Radish Salad (vegan, paleo)

1 large beet or 2-3 small beets, peeled
1 large watermelon radish (aka pink radish) or 2 small watermelon radishes, peeled
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2-1 tsp chili power (or to taste)

Peel and chop the beets and radishes. Zest the lime and then juice it. Add the chili powder and mix well. Will store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.