Posts Tagged ‘gluten’

Diet Riot

November 2, 2015

 

1039100045_compDietary issues have become the norm these days. Whether food aversions, part of a health plan, fads or actual allergies, it seems everyone has something they want to avoid. In order to ensure compliance to their various and sundry food schticks, people are telling restaurant servers that they are highly allergic to whatever they don’t wish to eat. While that seems like a worthy plan, it turns the kitchen upside down.

When someone says they have a food allergy, the kitchen must stop everything and create an area that is 100% contaminent free. This means clearing and cleaning a special work area to prepare that single meal, sterilizing all of the cutting boards, knives, tongs pans and other equipment that might be used to prepare the food. Once the food has been prepared in this special environment, it is often brought to the patron by a hostess or manager, who has not touched any other dishes. They use a clean towel, or disinfectant wipe to touch the plate. This is mandatory practice to ensure that the food is free of anything that might make it’s recipient sick.
When we say we have an allergy when in reality we simply are trying to avoid a certain ingredient, we are causing the kitchen to undergo extreme and unnecessary measures.

When I was in the throes of my highly restrictive Whole 3o diet plan, I had the occassion to eat out a few times. I selected the menu item that was closest to being compliant, and asked for a few simple modifications. I remember distinctly telling the server that I was on a restricted diet and could not eat certain foods, but was not allergic and did not require them to clean the kitchen or make special provisions for me. I am sure it was appreciated, and my meal seemed to come out in perfect compliance to my requests, even if it may have been cooked in a pan that formerly held butter, or was touched by someone who had cooked a legume for someone else.

I recently read an article about a young women who never considered asking if the chili had nuts, and died before discovering that the secret ingredient to the famous chili she ate was in fact, peanut butter.
If you have a food allergy, it is important to let your server know so that they can be sure that there are no suprise ingredients in your food that might make you ill. If you are simply trying to avoid a certain food, it is prudent to tell them that as well. They can steer you to dishes that are closer to meeting your dietary needs, and can request that the chef alters your order to suit you, without wrecking havoc in the kitchen. And please, don’t be the boy who cried wolf. Servers report frustration in seeing the person who had just inflicted turmoil in the kitchen eating a bite of someone else’s food riddled with the ingredient they worked so hard to eliminate. If you can’t have gluten in your entree, please don’t order cake for dessert.
When dining out, be aware of your food issues, and choose a place that can easily accommodate them. Don’t go to a seafood shack with a shellfish allergy, a pizza place with a gluten sensitivity, or a fondue shop with lactose intolerence. If you have an allergy, make it known, but don’t abuse that option if in fact you just don’t like something. Everyone will benefit in the long run.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Whole 30! (or Whole 33 +Counting )

July 31, 2015

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Tuesday marked the last day of my Whole 30 healthy eating challenge. I am glad that I pushed through the difficult moments and kept on track. The end results far outweigh the struggle. Most of the time, I found it pretty easy to stick with the plan, and I learned that there is almost always a way around poor eating if you are diligent.

Speaking of weight, I probably lost about 5-6 pounds in the course of a month, all of it in the first week or two. Although I didn’t have lots of weight to lose, I did want to get rid of the extra couple of pounds that were gathering around my midsection. With all of the gym time I log, I needed to clean up my diet to see some results. While quick and significant weight loss early on in a diet is generally water weight, there was a difference here. It may have been water, but this came off, and stayed off throughout the entire month. I think it was a result of all the bloat and inflammation from foods that were aggravating my system leaving my body, and not being reintroduced in the subsequent days. While the lack of further weight loss was puzzling, I started waking up with a flatter stomach and leaner look all around. The scale may have stopped measuring change, but my body composition has shifted for the better.

I didn’t embark on this to lose weight. The Whole 30 premise is to change your relationship with food, eliminate the foods that are causing inflammation in your body, and set the foundation for a healthier lifestyle. For many, weight loss is a part of that equation.

Prior to doing the Whole 30, I had been feeling sluggish, fuzzy headed and achy. Most nights were spent awake with a terrible burning in my stomach that antacids weren’t always helping. The real trigger was a day trip to Toronto where I didn’t eat for prolonged periods of time and then scarfed up whatever I could get my hands on, in this case, pizza and a muffin. I ended that marathon day with popcorn and red wine at midnight. The next morning, I felt like I had been run over by a bus. I honestly wondered if I had the flu. My normal eating habits were great, but these bouts of bad eating, which often stretched over a period of days, were taking a toll. I knew food was the culprit, but I didn’t know which ones. Whole 30 confirmed this belief, as I have not had an antacid for 27 days.

My general energy level is high, although I have yet to see my performance in the gym change dramatically. I may be lifting slightly heavier weights, but my endurance is not stronger.After two weeks of random gym going, I am back on my regular kind of hard core program, so I hope to see gains more quickly. During my stressful weeks of balancing fashion deadlines with baking deadlines and having a big presentation date moved up without notice, I found myself feeling calmer amid the storm than usual. I was stressed and I knew it. But that pit of the stomach, feeling like you’re going to combust, out of your mind sensation wasn’t there.

What now, you may be asking? My answer is that I don’t know. I am going to stay the course for a few more days while I figure it out. The next steps are supposed to be a re-entry plan. Each of our bodies are different, and food that bothers one person may be fine for another. The concept is to select an eliminated food group, such as dairy, and try to eat some at each meal for one day, return to the Whole 30 way of eating for two days, and assess how those food made you feel. Did you have any digestive issues, bloating, headaches or any other reactions that were unpleasant? If not, you are free to add back those foods into our diets. Grains, such as quinoa and oats are added back separately from those grains containing gluten, to see if there are issues with some and not others.

Truth be told, I am a little hesitant to try the re-entry. I know I will hit on some foods that bother me. I know that I may think certain things don’t bother me, but I will see the bloat come back slowly, and the scale start to rise again as I the effects start to pile up. I think that whatever my personal poison is, it has a cummulative effect in my body. It isn’t one bowl of pasta that does me in, or one cookie that makes me feel unwell. It is the fact that it triggers cravings that makes me want more sugar, more refined carbs and then, I start to feel ill. The re-entry program is critical, and if I can figure out the foods that are my downfall, I can generally avoid them, and know that if I want to indulge occassionally, I should be prepared to counter attack with a super clean diet to get me back on track again, and purge the inflammation from my body. Just reverting back to eating less mindfully is not an option. Living an active lifestyle requires eating for fuel, and high quality fuel at that. We wouldn’t fill race car up with cheap gas, or worse, the wrong amount of gas and expect it to run properly. We shouldn’t fill our bodies with improper fuel and expect it perform at it’s optimum level.

I will probably start my re-entry in a few days. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if the weekend brings a glass of wine or a bowl of organic pop corn, I will embrace it.

Did any of you try a Whole 30 or another clean eating program? Any take aways to share? Let us know in the comments.

Photo gif: Glasshouse Images

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The Wheat We Hate to Eat

September 16, 2013

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Hating on wheat is the trendy thing to do these days. Everyone, it seems, has issues with the grain, and gluten free is the fashionable way to be.

After reading an article in Harper’s Bazaar about the perils of today’s wheat, it sparked a lively discussion.

In the book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Way Back to Health, by William Davis, it blames gliadin, a component of gluten, for causing our distress. Dr. Davis contends that wheat causes diabetes, heart disease and acne. He states that the gliadin found in wheat, and its interaction with the opioid receptors in the brain over stimulates the appetite and ultimately causes obesity. Later in the article, several other doctors disputed his theories as bunk, and states that other foods have this effect, including milk, soy and spinach.

It’s difficult to know who to believe.

I have heard people (myself among them,) discuss bloating, stomach distress, acne and “brain fog” as after effects of eating foods containing gluten. I have heard it blamed on the evils of American wheat vs. European wheat, and genetically engineered wheat vs. non-GMO types. Yes, the wheat we eat today is not the same wheat our fore folks ate hundreds of years ago, nor is it the same exact wheat we ate 50 years ago. It is not, however, the genetically modified Frankenwheat it is often accused of being.

I set out to gather the cold, hard facts on wheat production:

It is not legal to produce genetically modified wheat for commercial consumption in North America. Europe also does not permit their wheat crops to be genetically modified. There is no need to brag about flour or baked goods being non-GMO by labeling them as such, since all the wheat products in the United States and Europe fall into that category. Both countries are testing genetically modified wheat, but it is not available for consumption at this time.

Wheat has undergone hybridization over the years, caused both by nature and from man helping the breeding process and therefore creating new species of the plants. While hybridization is naturally occurring, the low-tech process of assisting compatible species to merge has been going on since the beginning of agriculture. This process does not alter the plant’s genetic structure through use of chemicals or technology, and does not introduce genes from other kingdoms into the mix, as does genetic modification.

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein that gives elasticity to dough. It is what helps it rise, and gives shape to the dough. Some grades of flour have a lower gluten content than others due to the milling process, but it is intrinsic in the natural makeup of wheat, as well as that of rye and barley.

Gluten-free flours and baked goods come from the use of alternative flours, not from removing the gluten from wheat. That in fact, would require genetic modification.

There is nothing going on in other countries that would make their wheat more palatable, or digestible than ours. Some common alternative flours are almond meal, garbanzo flour and coconut flour, among others. They often alter the consistency of the food, and can rarely be substituted in a recipe without adapting it accordingly.

While only 1 out of 100 people have Celiac disease, which makes it impossible for their body to process the gluten in wheat and other products, the rest of us are fully able to digest it. While that number is indeed higher than it was 50 years ago, it is still quite low. Many attribute the increase in Celiac disease to the fact that more and more people are being tested for it. Gluten is also being used in many medications, cosmetics and processed foods, which exposes us to much higher quantities of it than ever before.

Going gluten free, or even just opting to go wheat free does have its benefits for the mass population. Most people experience weight loss from cutting these products from their diet. Eliminating bread, pasta, cookies, cakes and other flour-based foods eliminates substantial calories. As people reach a healthy weight, they tend to experience less health symptoms.

Wheat or not to wheat, that is the question. If you suspect you have a problem with wheat, even though your doctor has ruled out a real allergy or Celiac disease,try eliminating wheat based foods, or gluten based products from your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. If you feel more energetic, and your skin or digestive issues improve, then go for it. If it doesn’t seem to have much effect, keep whole grains in your diet for the fiber, vitamins and minerals they offer, as well as the joy we often get from eating them.

Then sit back, relax and wait for the next food villain to emerge.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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