Is being "gluten-free" the new fad diet that will slowly disappear like the Atkins or South Beach Diets or is there really something to this? If you still don't know what gluten really is, read this.
Some people don't have a choice but to eat food without grains such as wheat, barley, or rye because the proteins found in these grains wreak havoc on their digestive system...and some people do have a choice. If you are one of the latter, it may not be a terrible idea to see what life is like without gluten. I eat from a strictly gluten-free menu, but it's because I learned a little too late that my gut was destroyed by eating foods that I thought were "healthy," and it eventually landed me in the hospital at the age of 26.
Honestly, most people have no idea if gluten is really having a negative effect on their body or mind until they cut it out for 1-2 months and let their gut heal. That is when you can expect to truly start seeing the (drastic) changes in your body and know if it's worth it to you to continue on the gluten-free journey. I'd like to share a few facts to encourage you to lessen or avoid gluten altogether as I truly believe it benefits everyone!
Let's start with the "why" to go gluten free by sharing some common symptoms from consuming gluten:
- abdominal discomfort/pain
- mouth sores
- low energy
- joint pain
- inflammation (biggest problem that affects everyone!)
I chose to point out these particular symptoms because I have seen a family member or friend who had one or more of these issues, cut out gluten completely or almost completely from their diets, and their symptoms ceased to exist. It's a huge testimony to one gigantic truth about our bodies: it all starts in the gut. If we have a poisoned gut, it affects every other system in the body. If we have a healthy gut, our bodies function and look completely differently. I have witnessed it time and time again that people don't even know they are experiencing discomfort because that's their "normal," and when they cut out gluten, they feel like a new (lighter, less bloated, and better functioning) person!
Wheat being grown in the U.S. is not the same grain it was 50 years ago, and it's not the same wheat being grown in other parts of the world, like Europe. From the type of wheat grown to the soil in which it is grown, wheat in the U.S. is harsher on the digestive system and, in turn, creates a hefty dose of inflammation in our bodies. You can read more about this craziness here.
Now let's address the "how" to avoid gluten because this is obviously the more difficult task for many people.
Tip #1: Let's agree to focus on what you CAN eat, rather than obsessing over the fact that you can't have the heavenly textures of gluten anymore?
After you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you can start to get really excited about this new opportunity to incorporate foods that are really legit. Here are some popular ingredients I use in my GF recipes:
- Quinoa or brown rice (grains)
- Rice crackers or pasta
- Spaghetti squash or veggie noodles
- All potatoes, especially sweet potatoes which make great sauces too
- Tapioca flour (used as a thickener...or to make pao de queijo)
- Coconut and almond flours (baking)
- Brown rice, garbanzo bean, buckwheat, and millet flours (baking)
- Gluten free flour mix (already done for you!)
Tip #2: The hardest part about grocery shopping is knowing when and how to read the ingredients label on products. As for the "when" to read the ingredients label, my answer is always! Even pre-packaged chili seasoning has wheat flour in it. Luckily for you, many labels now have the "Contains: wheat" warning below the ingredients, but not all of them do, so keep your eyes peeled when reading that list. If the ingredients list is so long you start to feel overwhelmed, just put the product back because you shouldn't be eating that anyway. Less is more when it comes to ingredients.
Here's the deal: I want you to keep it simple. There's a lot of crap out there. A lot! It's too overwhelming, so you need to start by going back to the basics. Shop the perimeter of the store, and for the love of everything gluten-free, please do not go down the "Gluten Free aisle" and think that's your new home. It's not. It's just a lot of insanely over-priced products that are usually full of sugar or salt to hide the fact that it's too dense or dry and has a funny after taste. Confessions of a gluten-free enthusiast.
Sticking to foods in the produce department is the easiest! You know there is literally nothing in there you can't have (unless it's a pre-packaged salad with wontons or a dressing with flour in it).
Tip #3: In addition to being conscious of ingredients and shopping the perimeter, I want you to look up simple recipes. Nothing fancy. Until this becomes your new normal, you just accept and enjoy the carb detox you'll be on as you slowly familiarize yourself with what is on the "yep" and "nope" lists. You'll get your carbs back, TRUST ME, so don't freak out so soon. Worst thing that happens... you lose weight and feel great. I know, it's such a rough consequence. ;)
There are a plethora of simple recipes to incorporate every week into your routine that will keep you feeling nourished. If you need ideas, you can check out my Pinterest page for entree/dinner inspiration. I also have great pins for snacks, holiday delish, and sweet treats, so feel free to explore while you're there. Remember...keep it simple!! Do not get overwhelmed, life is too short, and cutting out or lessening gluten will definitely make you feel 100 times better in the end. Good luck, and feel free to email me anytime with questions!
Here's to a new whole food lifestyle!