Should you go gluten-free?

I often hear people speaking about going gluten-free or eating gluten-free foods. It’s a hot topic these days. We here about it everywhere, whether it’s a celebrity that just went gluten free, the latest gluten-free diet plan or cookbook, or a new gluten-free food product. So should you do it? To answer this question, I think there are two more important questions to consider first:

  • Do you NEED to go gluten-free?
  • What healthy foods should you be eating or are you eating that are naturally gluten-free?

When you walk into any store or market, you are sure to see a slew of packaged products with the words “gluten-free” on them. Although going gluten-free can be beneficial — and for some people absolutely detrimental for their health and survival — unfortunately it is also used as a marketing tactic to sell product. Be wary of that.

Why is this the case? Well, people associate gluten-free with being healthy or losing weight, and as a result feel less guilty when they consume a product that is gluten-free. If a packaged product, healthy or unhealthy, has the words, gluten-free slapped across it, more often than not a consumer will purchase that item. Herein lies the problem. People are making purchasing decisions based on words, rather than the true meaning and implications of those words.

In some cases gluten-free is healthy, but often it’s because those foods were naturally gluten-free to begin with. Vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, beans, fish, poultry, meat, herbs, etc. did not suddenly transform and become gluten-free, they always have been! These naturally gluten-free foods are very good for you, but many of the packaged products are not. There has been an explosion of gluten-free junk foods. Junk food, with or without gluten, should always be eaten in moderation. In fact, the gluten-free junk food may actually have fewer nutrients than the gluten-full kind.

There continues to be new research and learning around gluten, and I am no expert, but here are a few things worth your while to know.

Know what gluten is. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and most oats. Pure oatmeal does not contain oatmeal, however most oatmeal brands on the market today are cross-contaminated with gluten proteins in processing facilities. For example, Quaker Oats states on its website that it cannot guarantee its oatmeal is gluten-free.

Know the difference between celiac and gluten sensitivity. Gluten is problematic for people with celiac disease or with a gluten sensitivity. Celiac is when the person is completely intolerant of gluten. Gluten sensitivity is when someone tests negative for celiac disease, but shows some improvement when gluten is taken out of the diet.

Know how common gluten allergies are. Before you panic about the long list of diseases connected to gluten sensitivity, know a few important stats and facts. Celiac is estimated to affect 1% people in the U.S., while gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect 6-10% of the U.S. population. This means that gluten is safe for 90% of the population! Remember that number please. Gluten gets a bad rap, and for many it is a sensitivity that should be monitored, BUT 90% of people are good to go.

Alright, now that we’ve got that squared away, here are some of the diseases linked to gluten sensitivity: osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy, and autism.

Determine whether you have a gluten allergy. Before you jump on the gluten-free bandwagon determine whether you truly need to. Why? Although it can be worth it, it isn’t an easy diet to follow, and requires lifelong commitment. You must be strict and regimented with what you eat, as the health effects can be quite damaging if you consume the wrong food. Also, you have to be extra careful about balancing nutrients that are lost from gluten-free foods. This is especially important for growing children and young adults, as they need a balanced diet and certain nutrients that adults do not (e.g., dairy). Studies have shown that some children are producing weaker and thinner bones as result of minimizing or removing gluten from the diet.

To add to the difficulty, gluten isn’t necessarily called out on the label. Wheat has labeling laws that require the words “wheat” to be written on the label, but barley does not. You have to look for barley as an ingredient as well as malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar, beer, or brewers yeast. Oh and you know how some packages have the words “This was produced in a factory that produces wheat”? Turns out this is not regulated; it is up to the manufacturer to decide whether or not to include this information. That means you don’t truly know if traces of gluten (or the amount) are present.

So how do you actually test for this? You can determine whether you have celiac disease through a blood test (it is about 95% accurate), and then a biopsy to confirm. However, remember that you MUST BE EATING GLUTEN for the test to be accurate! Once you’ve tested for celiac and received a negative result, THEN test for gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, this is not so easy, and at the moment the diagnostic tests aren’t the greatest. Trying out a gluten-free diet for 2-3 months, and journaling about your foods and reactions to them, is probably the best bet.

I leave you with this…

The benefit of all this gluten-free talk. On the plus side, this whole gluten-craze has resulted in people paying greater attention to what and how they eat. Even if people have no gluten issues, this topic has inspired individuals to think about their eating, choose healthier options, and read nutrition labels. These are favorable behaviors that help get people moving in a positive direction when it comes to healthier eating habits.

And I’m out,
Peace sign


Do You Chew Your Food?

Is there a point to chewing our food? Is it important? Yes and yes. There’s a reason we have teeth people.

What happens when you chew?

Let’s talk about what happens when you don’t chew. First, it puts a lot of stress on your digestive system and decreases your energy. This is because your body is overwhelmed with the process of breaking down the large food particles that you didn’t breakdown in your mouth. When you don’t chew, your intestines cannot properly absorb nutrients form the food particles as they pass through. I like how Purdue University Professor of food and nutrition Dr. Richard Mattes explains it (based on a his recent study):

Particle size [affects the] bioaccessibility of the energy of the food that is being consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and more is retained in the body.”

Second, it prevents your saliva from doing its job. What do I mean by that? Well, believe it or not saliva isn’t simply there to increase your chances of drooling when you sleep. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that are only released when you chew! No chew = no release of digestive enzymes. One of these enzymes is called pytalin, and it is the enyzme that helps us digest grains and carbohydrates. Another is called lingual lipase, and this enzyme helps break down fats.

Lastly, when we don’t chew, we can forget to appreciate and taste the food we are eating. Chewing forces us to slow down. Many of us live busy, active, on-the-go lifestyles, and scarf down our food without thinking. Often we take down the food so we can rush off to the next thing in our day. There’s hardly any time to eat, and now we have to chew?! But, it shouldn’t be that way, and we should take time to enjoy and taste our food. When we bite and swallow we stop our body from thinking. When we chew there is a connection between the stomach and head, creating a more mindful, slow, and satiating food eating experience.

How many times should you chew?

So there isn’t an exact formula or number of times. It is really about making sure the food is paste-like or pureed. If you can still feel pieces of food, you should chew a little more. It also depends on the food itself. For example, you would chew chicken more than lettuce, and lettuce more than yogurt. If I am counting I usually start with 20, and go from there. Sometimes I need up to 50 chews! It is also not uncommon for one to require up to 60 + chews to properly breakdown the food. Once you start to think more about chewing and slowing down when you eat, you will find the process becomes more natural and intuitive. And you get the added bonus of better digestion, feeling full sooner, and more easily managing your portions.

Let’s recap…Why is chewing important and how can one benefit from the act of chewing?

  1. You can absorb more nutrients and retain energy levels
  2. Your saliva can do its job and help you breakdown the food properly so you can digest more easily
  3. You take longer to eat, which can help some to control their portion sizes, and maintain a healthy weight
  4. You strengthen your teeth and prevent plaque build up and tooth decay
  5. You minimize the amount of bacteria lingering in your intestines, which helps prevent gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive problem

Think about chewing at your next meal. Why not reap the benefits? It’s free. The only cost is slowing down and taking/making more time to enjoy your meal…and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

12 Complete Vegetarian Proteins

Buckwheat for your health

12 Complete Proteins Vegetarians Need to Know About

Other than meat, there are other ways to get complete proteins in your meals and buckwheat is one of them!

The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein, and 9 that the body can’t produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids—we need to eat them because we can’t make them ourselves. In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of these essential amino acids.

You can view the full article here, at

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Cooking with Kasha: Move Over Quinoa, You’ve Got a Competitor

Quinoa often gets all the attention for being gluten-free, high in protein and vegetarian friendly; but, there are many other grains out there that provide no gluten, high plant-based protein, and optimal health benefits. Kasha is one of them. I learned about Kasha recently, and decided to try it for dinner the other night. Basically, I LOVED it – form the texture and taste to the way it set in my body. I couldn’t stop eating it! What was even better is that I didn’t feel heavy, stuffed, or tired. I felt light, satiated, and energetic.

So what is Kasha? Kasha is the name for buckwheat that has been roasted to a deep amber color. In fact, you can chew and eat Kasha without cooking it. It actually taste really good! It has a nutty, smoky, burnt flavor. The cooked version is fluffier, but has the same nutty, smoky, burnt taste to it. Both versions are good. I think it depends on the type of meal you want, your texture preference, and perhaps the mood you are in.

Kasha is one of the oldest traditional foods of Russia. Despite its name, buckwheat is not actually a member of the wheat family, but rather a relative of rhubarb. Of all the grains, buckwheat has the longest transit time in the digestive tract and is the most filling. It can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal, a side dish, or a grain entrée mixed with vegetables.

A few characteristics and health benefits of Kasha include:

  • Stabilizes blood sugar, minimizing stress-related cravings due to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, while improving energy, mood, memory and overall hormone balance
  • Gluten-free
  • Builds blood; neutralizes toxic acidic waste
  • Benefits circulation
  • Contains the flavonoid rutin, which protects against disease by strengthening capillaries and preventing blood clotting.
  • Contains high levels of magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure
  • Strengthens the kidneys
  • High proportion of all eight amino acids, especially lysine
  • Rich in vitamin E and B-complex vitamins

How do you cook Kasha?

It is super easy and fast. First, you must boil the water. This is very important! No Kasha can enter that pot until the water has already come to a boil. Got it? Good. Then bring the water down to a simmer, slowly pour the Kasha in to the hot water, and let it cook for about 20 minutes. That’s it! Then, serve, eat and enjoy.

Do not add Kasha to cold water, as it will not cook properly. The Kasha to water ration is 1 cup Kasha to 2 cups boiling water. You can make more of course, but 1 cup is a good amount for 4 people. See below for a basic Kasha recipe. You can definitely do more with Kasha, like create a pilaf, or just get creative and add veggies and spices you like. I may try adding diced onion, parsley, kale, and tomatoes and create what I will call a Kasha Salsa Salad.

Basic Kasha Recipe:

Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. Yield: 4 servings. Ingredients: 1 cup kasha, 2 cups water, pinch of sea salt. Directions: (1) Bring water to a boil first (2) Slowly add kasha and punch of sea salt (3) Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes (4) Fluff with fork and serve.

Now get out there, try some Kasha, and create your own unique Kasha cuisine.

And I’m out,
Peace sign