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One Year Wheat-Free! A List of 45 Things I Have Learned Along the Way!

One Year Wheat-Free! A List of 45 Things I Have Learned Along the Way!

That’s right! It’s been one full year that my entire family has been eating wheat-free! Thanks to a friend who introduced me to the concept, and thank you to Dr. Davis, author of “Wheat Belly”, my life has changed for the better! A little later on today I will post an article I am writing about some of the biggest health benefits my family has experienced, but for now I want to post a list of 45 things I have learned during the past 365 days.

Before I do that, I’d like to thank YOU, my readers, who have helped to make this year an amazing one for me. Writing and blogging was completely new to me when I posted my first blurb last March, and it’s been a journey of sharing and learning that I could not have anticipated. So whether you are subscribed to my blog, post comments and banter with me about food, have shared your personal story, or just read quietly and scan the recipes, I am thankful you have been a part of it!

As of this morning:

  • I have 305 people following my blog!
  • I’ve had 74,807 page visits!
  • This is my 96th post!
  • I’ve had visitors from 124 countries!

So to continue with the numbers… here is a list of:
45 Things I Have Learned This Year

  1. It’s not always easy to go against the grain (pun intended :)) but it IS worth it.
  2. My family is awesome, and I am very grateful that we all do this together!
  3. Wheat is a toxic, manipulated substance, and NOT a food fit for human consumption.
  4. Large corporations do NOT have your best interests in mind, so be proactive and educate yourself.
  5. Wheat Belly, Primal, and Paleo ways of eating have more in common than not.
  6. When in doubt, eat food without labels.
  7. Stay away from the Gluten-free aisle at the grocery store; it’s a Carbohydrate Hell Hole.
  8. Just because the USDA or the FDA approves something, does NOT mean it’s healthy.
  9. Men seem to lose weight more quickly on this diet (any diet?) than women.
  10. Brussels sprouts are an awesome food, and I am very sorry I hated them my whole life.
  11. The scale is a tool, not a God. Remember to use a tape measure too.
  12. It takes time for your body image to catch up with reality when you’ve lost weight.
  13. Almond flour is awesome, but for those trying to lose weight, moderation is the key.
  14. The friends I’ve made online who also eat grain-free are an invaluable source of support and information, and I am very thankful to know them!
  15. Conventional wisdom regarding nutrition is deeply flawed; many dieticians are brainwashed and many doctors care nothing at all about nutrition.
  16. I enjoy writing and blogging and think it’s one of the best things I have ever done!
  17. Weight loss doesn’t usually occur in straight line, and plateaus can be valuable for learning how to maintain.
  18. One size does not fit all; we need to tweak and experiment and be open-minded.
  19. Dark chocolate is one of the best things in the whole world. (OK I already knew that one ;))
  20. There will be people who are hungry for the message, so share freely.
  21. There will be people who need the message most who are not open to it. Move on.
  22. Learning the language of the body is an art, and it takes time to fully interpret what it has to say.
  23. Don’t be surprised if wheat isn’t the only thing that you need to eliminate to feel your best.
  24. Headaches and joint pain are NOT caused by a deficiency of Motrin.
  25. Chronic inflammation is the cause of MOST chronic complaints, and it’s mainly caused by diet.
  26. You will have good days and bad days, congratulate yourself and forgive yourself.
  27. What works for a friend may or may not work for you. We all arrive at today with different health backgrounds and genetics.
  28. There is wheat in places you would never think to look; avoiding all packages is best.
  29. There is no natural sweetener that tastes like sugar to me, but some do a decent job.
  30. My Ninja blender kicks butt and I use it nearly every day.
  31. Zucchini “noodles” are awesome.
  32. Sometimes losing weight makes wrinkles appear… smile so that they blend in!
  33. We go through more eggs now than I ever thought possible.
  34. Cholesterol is no more responsible for heart disease than a Band-Aid is responsible for the burn it covers.
  35. Coconut oil is one of the most versatile substances! For sautéing, for baking, for skin, for hair… it rocks.
  36. Avocadoes and cauliflower are able to be virtually neutral and can be used in ways I never thought of before.
  37. Having an ice cream maker is a GREAT thing.
  38. Thrift stores and consignment shops are a valuable source for clothing when you are dropping sizes and don’t want to spend a fortune.
  39. Giving up wheat didn’t cure my resistance to exercise (gasp!) I guess this year I will work on that!
  40. Enjoying dining out is possible, just be careful and ask a lot of questions. Most servers have no clue.
  41. It’s best to focus on all the great things you CAN eat, rather than what you can’t.
  42. Most recipes can be tweaked to be wheat-free and low-carb if you are creative enough.
  43. Parmesan cheese and almond flour as a “breading” is yummier than Panko ever was.
  44. Even dogs do better on a grain-free diet.
  45. There are some people who will think you are completely insane. That’s more than OK! 😀

I know I missed a bunch… so what would YOU add to this list?

 

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How to SHOP When Going Grain-Free and Sugar-Free

Fresh Produce at a Farm Market 

Going only gluten free will definitely have some health benefits, but if you want to lose weight and feel even healthier, I strongly suggest going grain-free and sugar free, not just gluten-free. (We follow The “Wheat Belly” plan by Dr. William Davis, though this is also essentially a primal diet which Mark Sisson promotes)

The reason for suggesting grain-free and sugar-free, is that the GF (gluten-free) processed foods are made of alternative grains and they are every bit as high carb and bad for you as wheat products. We avoid GF packaged foods like the plague! They are the reason that going GF gets a bad rap in the press, and why some claim that going GF causes you to miss out on key nutrients. If you replace processed wheat foods with processed wheat-free foods, the improvement to your diet is minimal. However, if you fill that gap in the diet with more healthy food (which is naturally gluten-free), the payoff is incredible. You will not lose out on nutrients from bread (which are ADDED in the first place), if you eat in a smart way. How anyone can doubt that ditching processed foods (with all of their sugars, chemicals, colorants and toxins) is a GREAT idea for anyone, is completely beyond me!

Friends often ask what we eat, and what to shop for, to get started. Remember, the best way to eat right, is to keep ONLY compliant foods in your fridge and pantry. That way, even if you are tempted to indulge, it will be with good foods. Shopping at Farmer’s Markets and Meat Markets is part of my weekly routine.

We (husband and I) eat very few beans/legumes because they are high in carbohydrates, and often cause intestinal distress. Rice is a rarity that I save for sushi maybe once a month, but it is also high in carbs and we don’t purchase it for the pantry. We have stopped eating corn (partly because it’s a high-carb grain, but also because corn now contains its own pesticide within its DNA structure!) We don’t eat sugar either. The whole point of eating this way is to avoid BSS, which are blood sugar spikes that release insulin. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. The idea is very similar to Atkins or South Beach Diets, but grains are never added back into the lifestyle. You want to get to the point where your body begins burning fats as fuel, instead of carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s important to get enough fat in your diet, and eat plenty of food, just not high-carb foods.  The goal is to keep NET carbs (carbohydrate grams minus fiber grams) between 20-50g a day during the weight loss stage.

Within the first few days you will probably notice immediate relief from bloating and may lose a few pounds of water weight right off the bat. (My brother lost 17 lbs the first WEEK! Unheard of, but it happened.) Some people experience withdrawals from wheat, because it is actually addictive. I didn’t go through that, but my husband did for about 2 weeks. Even if you do experience a tough week, stick with it, it’s worth it!

THIS IS WHAT I BUY:

~All kinds of meat, chicken, beef, pork (bacon is fine), fish, seafood. Grass-fed, free-range, organic and wild-caught are the best choices if you can afford them, but not necessary.
 
~Eggs… we eat them almost daily and try to buy free-range, organic

~Real cultured cheeses, Swiss, cheddar, blue, Parmesan, etc (just meaning real cheese, not Velveeta or processed types)

~Full fat dairy, such as sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, mayo, heavy whipping cream. We eat these in moderation. Avoid skim and low fat milk as well, as it’s loaded with sugar and carbs.

~Above ground (non-starchy) veggies, LOTS. We eat plenty of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cukes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, pea pods, etc… So everything except potatoes, corn (grain!), carrots, etc

~Greens like lettuces, cabbages, kale etc, fall in love with salads!

~Avocados, important source of fat and omega 3

~Nuts and nut butters, especially almonds and walnuts, but others are good too. Just not too many peanuts.

~Dark chocolate 70-85% is fine in moderation; I have a couple squares most days and use it in recipes.

~Healthy fats and oils. We rely most on coconut oil and butter. Refined coconut oil is less expensive and doesn’t taste like coconut; Virgin unrefined coconut oil costs more and tastes coconutty (I love it.) Olive oil is good, walnut oil too. Avoid canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and other vegetable oils, hydrogenation is VERY bad.

~Flax seed, ground. It’s good for adding omega 3’s. I use it sometimes in crackers or smoothies. It’s kind of nutty, and I think it’s an acquired taste.

~Almond flour and perhaps coconut flour if you want to bake something. I have several recipes on the blog. Avoid rice flour, sorghum, tapioca, potato… all very high carb and starchy.

~For sweeteners, I mainly use Truvia, but also some Stevia and Erythritol (which I order online, it’s a sugar alcohol) as they don’t cause BSS. Honestly, I don’t crave sweets as much as I used to, so it’s mainly Truvia in my coffee or a smoothie, but also a little in desserts sometimes.

~Fruit in moderation. All types of berries are the best choices. We eat strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Avoid the high-sugar tropical fruits like banana, mango, pineapple, papaya, or just have very rarely.

Tuscan Shrimp and VeggiesSo, that’s a basic run-down, but I am sure I have forgotten something. A typical meal for us is some type of meat with one or two veggies on the side, prepared in different ways, often with butter and cheese of some kind. We love creative salads. If you want sandwiches, we often use lettuce to wrap meat and cheese in with fixings. Stir-fries are great choices! (Try my Tuscan Shrimp.). Grilling meat and veggies is good, as is baking. You can pan fry fish, chicken breast and pork chops using coconut oil (only), and coating the meat in eggs/mayo and pressing into a mix of grated Parmesan and almond flour with seasonings. (Or try the baked Parmesan Perch as a basis for other meats.) Super easy, very low carb.
The hardest thing is just not over-thinking it, and getting used to eating REAL food, and knowing which things will spike blood sugar. Focus on what you can eat, instead of thinking about what you can’t. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂 or join many like me over on the Wheat Belly Facebook page! Seriously, it’s amazing that a best-selling author and cardiologist like Dr. William Davis has such an active FB page where he actually comments on posts from his followers. THAT is commitment!

My husband and I have been following this plan for 5 months this week… and I have lost 27 lbs; Mitch has lost 31. Most of that happened in the first 2.5-3 months. I know I would lose more if I was perfect with it, but I still enjoy  wine/cocktails which will stall weight loss 😉 Just remember that while weight loss is GREAT, the health benefits from following this plan are almost too numerous to mention!!!

I hope that this helps for those that want to get started and need to SHOP!!

 

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When a Diet isn’t a Diet (Or how my husband and I have lost 44 lbs in 12 weeks)

What if I told you that by omitting ONE food, our overall health and weight are steadily improving? Would you think that going without one ingredient is something you could do if the health benefits were not only weight loss, but also improved overall health?

Do you struggle with any of the following? (Likely more than one…)

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, of course I do! Who doesn’t?” Kind of like a disreputable psychic who makes general statements which are likely to apply to a wide range of people and situations, the list raises skepticism.  However, it is precisely BECAUSE these symptoms are so widespread that people should be more concerned about having them, not less. A widespread collection of symptoms might just point to a widespread contaminant or cause. Does that make sense?

There are countless over-the-counter drugs that one can buy to try to get a handle on these awful feelings. If you were to go to your doctor and complain about these symptoms, the likely result would be a prescription for a pharmaceutical to ease the symptom only. Maybe they would request a test or 3 first and then still write a prescription.

However, how many physicians really dig into the causes of these things, especially occurring together? How many ask what you are eating? How many ask whether you have tried to lose weight and whether any methods were successful? My bet is VERY FEW. Why? Because even the medical profession has accepted that these symptoms are normal or average in our society, and are signs of perhaps aging or the general stress of living, even though they occur in children and teens as well as adults! (Not to mention, who would purchase all the over-the-counter meds and prescription drugs if people were to fix these problems with DIET alone?)

Finding the “Key” to good health

As citizens of planet Earth, we are faced with countless health choices and challenges in our everyday living. Some rely solely on pharmaceutical solutions to manage their symptoms; some use a combination of meds and natural approaches. Many of us have been delving for years into the natural keys to our own personal health, trying to discover what makes us feel the best and what makes us hurt, deciding which foods are “golden” and which are damaging our body systems, which combination of foods and activities will help us to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. It matters to some of us, a whole lot. It seems like it can be so much work to keep up with the conflicting information and possible schools of thought, that it can be frustrating trying to make real and lasting changes for ourselves and our families.

It doesn’t help that the waters are muddied by corporate voices that speak with profit as a primary goal, rather than distributing critical health information. I have no intention of sounding extremist or alarmist when I discuss the state of human health, but I do think that many people, even those who believe they are eating “right” or “healthy” are instead eating themselves into clinics, hospitals and even graves. The worst part of it is that while some people have a casual disregard for health matters, there are many who have the very best intentions, and are unfortunately operating on misinformation, rather than apathy or ignorance.

If you are like me, you have been hoping that at some point the light would shine down, illuminating some “truth” that you missed, and things would click into place.  That there would be some key that makes so much sense that you can’t believe you didn’t figure it out sooner.

Well, I am happy to say, we have figured it out! (For us, anyway.) I’d like to think that it’s the same key that might work for you. I’m just thankful that I heard the message enough times from other people passing through my life that I actually tuned in, and investigated! People on gluten free diets were talking about the major positive health impact that one change has made…

We gave up WHEAT, and our health and weight is steadily improving!


I believe that most people have had, at the very least, an inkling that processed carbohydrates are “bad”, or that there are better choices out there than foods with “empty calories.”  Reaching for a cookie, cupcake, candy bar, or slice of pizza usually is met with delicious anticipation as well as a pang of guilt for many people.  We brush it aside and think, well, it’s just one… or we remember that we did have a salad for lunch, which was a healthy choice. Or maybe we think that it’s a whole grain bran muffin, or that it’s a whole wheat pizza crust… that has some merit, right? We are getting our daily allowance of grains (the government tells us we NEED whole grains!) along with our veggies, fruits, proteins…

Except that many common grains in the wheat family contain gluten, which wreaks havoc on our bodies! It is true that some people are more sensitive to it than others, there are a wide range of effects from gluten sensitivity to celiac disease, however, if you are suffering any of the symptoms on that list, there’s a chance that wheat could be impacting your health and your life. (Click HERE for an extensive list of diseases associated with wheat consumption) Also, carbohydrates, whether they are wheat-based or not, spike blood sugar and can cause visceral fat, insulin resistance and diabetes.

I can only speak from my own perspective and on behalf of my own research and my family’s experience when I relate our stories in my articles and on my blog. As I say that, I am always hoping that the information strikes a chord with someone who is also looking for a health solution, and that they will give wheat-free and gluten-free living a try. (Buy Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis, and the information will blow you away. And, if you are like me, it will spur you on to start reading even more, and question even more, and start following a path that seems to be more enlightening every day. Also, visit GreenMedInfo.com for a wealth of real research articles that will open your eyes!)

Back to the title, and why I say that this diet, isn’t a diet.

From what I have seen and read, I believe that our bodies have different norms in weight and shape, depending on how we eat. Our bodies adjust to a balance, and that balance can only be maintained by continuing to eat a certain way. If you change back to old eating habits, you will change back to your old weight and health status. It really is that simple. If you continue down a new food path (or “diet”), and stay there, your body will adjust to a new normal for that lifestyle, and that is where you will likely remain. To me, the term “diet” has the connotation of a temporary change to meet a weight loss or health goal. Maybe the word “program” would be better? No, programs tend to have a beginning and end as well. Hmmmm, I think “LIFESTYLE”, as it refers to a more holistic and long term approach or state of being. (Here is what Dr. Davis has to say about the diet not being a diet.)

At any rate, I am very interested to see where my own weight will stabilize, eating a gluten free diet, and very little sugar or processed carbohydrates. The things that we have deleted from our diet, we have no intention of ever eating again, because we know how bad they are for our health, not just our weight. That makes all the difference in the world!

There is a mental difference between mildly suspecting that a substance is harmful, and having evidence that it is. Between the research I have done, and the personal (anecdotal) experience, I am certain that wheat and sugar are extremely damaging to our bodily systems.

Since we are a real family, living in a real world with friends, family, co-workers and the like, and we will share meals with these people in our lives at times, it is natural that conversation about the way we choose to eat will be a recurring topic. The reactions from people vary from curiosity or support, to scorn, disbelief, or sort of shaking heads in pity that we are living our lives without the almighty grain, and even anger in some cases! At first it was a little disheartening, but now it evokes a sense of empathy in us, because we were where they are… and not so long ago. We know that it can sound alien to hear people talking about ridding their diets of wheat (specifically the gluten protein, gliadin) and people wonder if there is anything to our way of eating, or if it is merely another “fad” diet.

Well, for starters, we have never been fad dieters. We have always attempted to eat healthy as a primary goal, and have looked into information about real wellness and good foods to eat. Even though we have struggled with some excess weight over the years, and would be more than happy to lose it, our eating routines have mainly been formed with increased overall health in mind, not merely losing pounds.

At one point in the past we did engage in a low fat diet, where we ate lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and low fat snacks (carbs included), but avoided oils and fats like the plague. During that time, we did lose weight, but there was always this imminent sense that we couldn’t wait to reach our target weight, our goal, so that we could be done with this torturous process! We were often HUNGRY! (set up to FAIL)

Now, any of you who have dieted, probably understand that conflict. Even though we were trying to convince ourselves that the way we were eating was healthy, our bodies were in real need of the healthy fats that we were going without. Also, the carbohydrates that we were eating, we may have been burning off (I exercised a LOT), but they left us feeling hungry and unsatisfied… which leads to the yearning for the diet to end! The problem with waiting for a diet to end is that once it ends, eventually you will end up gaining weight back.

That is precisely what is different about eating this way. We went through a period of getting off wheat, and processed foods (a couple weeks of cravings and detox), however once we were clean, our outlook felt “clean” as well! We don’t have those awful cravings; we get full and satisfied from our meals; we enjoy choosing healthful foods, because we know that they are fueling and nourishing our systems with the components they need. The fats in our diet are good for our organs and mind, feel satisfying, and are pretty much self-regulating when combined with all the healthy veggies we eat, as well as a wide variety of meats, nuts, some fruit, hard cheeses and some (low lactose) dairy. We have cut processed sugar out of our diet by at least 90%. Our teenage son will “cheat” with sugar, but he never cheats with wheat on purpose (that teen is a good label-reader!) I do use agave nectar now and then, even though it is a sugar (and not on the Wheat Belly program), because it absorbs more slowly into the blood stream, avoiding the spikes in blood sugar. This is an exception though and why I can’t say we’re 100% without sugars.

People ask if we are tempted to cheat… umm no. If we were feeling hungry and unsatisfied, we might be tempted, but since we feel good and have an awareness now of when we are full (no false signals from our brain, caused by the exorphins in wheat) we have no compulsive desire to eat wheat-containing foods. We know very well how wheat makes us feel!  (Chronic: migraines, joint and muscle pain, IBS digestive issues, and acid reflux are the most noticeable for us on a daily basis.)

My husband and I have lost 22 pounds EACH since the end of March (12 weeks) and the weight change just slowly continues to happen. When you start getting into those numbers, people start to notice, and the people who shook their heads before, are now beginning to get curious about what is happening, and why it’s working.  It’s like certain people are hoping to uncover some conspiracy or flaw in the thinking that allows them to dismiss our process because it makes them uncomfortable to believe wheat is unhealthy. No one wants to believe that their trusted dietary staple is bad for them. No one wants to think they are addicted.

The next paragraph is important.

Some point out that the lack of breads is leaving a calorie hole in our diet, so THAT is why we lose weight. (As if that statement is all-encompassing.) Well, there may be (or may not be) fewer calories, but if it was only due to decreased calories, wouldn’t the expected result be increased hunger?
Hmmmm. Think about that for a minute. That is what happened when we dropped fats on a low fat diet (and the calories that went with fats.) We did consume fewer calories, but we were always hungry and looking for ways to cope with that hunger. It was sabotaged before we ever reached our goal, because no one can be happy and healthy if they are always battling hunger.

This is totally different. We eat less because our bodies are satisfied, and our brains aren’t playing tricks on us and telling us that we need more, and SOON. We simply don’t need as much food as those who are still eating wheat (like we used to.) The healthy fats and lack of gliadin-induced hunger pangs make for a much easier way to live healthy and lose weight.

If we need a snack, we eat one… but to be honest, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did, and the snacks we choose sit well with us, and a small amount is very satisfying. A couple bites of cheese, a few nuts and a piece of fruit, nut butter on a celery stalk, a smoothie, or maybe parmesan crackers, a piece of raspberry streusel or something else made with almond flour or coconut flour… Those are enough to give the body some fuel, and to help us stay on track. Our systems feel like they are running cleaner, and we enjoy our food even more than we did before.

Here is my hope

For those of you who not only want to lose weight, but want to feel better overall, and take a shot at addressing some chronic health problems that you may have been facing for most of your life, I urge you to give this LIFESTYLE a try. DELETE the WHEAT.

If you are curious, engage in a little web surfing. Visit the Wheat Belly Blog by Dr. Davis and friend Wheat Belly on Facebook. Explore GreenMedInfo.com… There are countless research articles which address gluten and wheat, and there are also countless success stories on blogs from people who are enjoying improved health. If you need tips and recipes, there are plenty of those too! People who are eating this way are vocal and excited, and want to share. This article is full of links to relevant information, but know that they are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is much more information available to those who choose to look.

 

What do we eat? According to Dr. Davis, the basis of the Wheat Belly diet:

Eat real, natural foods such as eggs, raw nuts, plenty of vegetables, and fish, fowl, and meats. Use healthy oils like olive, walnut, and coconut liberally. Eat occasional fruit and plenty of avocado, olives, and use herbs and spices freely. Eat raw or least cooked whenever possible and certainly do not frequent fast food, processed snacks, or junk foods.

This is a very simplified summary, taken from the FAQs on his blog (The diet also allows real cultured cheeses.) You can find more information about specifics on the Wheat Belly blog and in his book.

What’s in it for me? Why do people like me take the time to tell others about this? Why am I writing articles and posting recipes to get people to think more deeply and to make the switch to gluten free eating easier? Because when you make a personal health discovery, it is hard to stay quiet about it! Because I wish that I had known this, decades ago! Because I know you love your families as much as I love mine, and want to make healthy choices, especially ones that will have a real impact!

~Good luck to you in your health quest, and Cheers!

 

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FLOUR CHART: How Gluten Free Flours Compare for Carbs and Protein Content

Flour Comparison Chart for Carbs and Protein Content

The figures above are based on a serving size of 1/4 cup (4 Tb).   **You are welcome to borrow this chart and information for your site, please just link back here, thanks!

Are you running out of room for your gluten free flours?
Confused about which are healthiest?

This is an article that I have been intending to write for quite some time to help gluten free cooks and bakers make smart choices when it comes to navigating the wide world of flours! There is no question that there are more flours available now, commercially, than at any other time. People are not only interested in expanding home cooking and culinary adventures, but are savvier when it comes to nutrition and the benefits of food-based wellness. Many of us are learning how to cater to food intolerances in our home kitchens and taking responsibility for eating well. There are an almost overwhelming variety of flours, starches and meals which can be combined or used alone to bake, thicken and coat. You may think that flour is flour and that some are merely gluten free or grain free, but the truth runs deeper than that.

There is some confusion about flours versus starches. In some cases (such as with tapioca flour/starch) they are one and the same, perhaps because tapioca is virtually all starch to begin with. In general though, the difference between starches and flours seems to be that flours are made from dried and ground grains (or tubers or nuts) and have the protein and fiber intact, whereas the starches have the fiber and protein removed, leaving nearly pure carbohydrates. Starches are excellent for smoothly thickening sauces and gravies, and are often ingredients in gluten free baking mixtures. However, people who are aiming for a low-carb diet, either for weight loss or because they are diabetic (or want to avoid BECOMING diabetic) will find that starches and certain flours quickly topple the daily allowances and spike blood sugars.

Flours and meals are not created equally (since all foods are not created equally) and flours are merely ground up versions of the food as a whole. You will notice that the flours made from nuts and legumes are in the top of my chart, having the lowest net carbs and highest protein counts. Starches and rice flours which are often used in gluten free baking are at the bottom of my chart because they have such high carb counts and very little protein.

You can also see by the placement of traditional flours that even if you are not on a gluten free diet, wheat flours are far from the healthiest of choices! For instance, even whole wheat flour (which seems to be the darling of the grain industry), has more than SIX times the net carbs of almond flour. Pastry flour which is found in many commercial baked goods has NINE times as much. All those carbs convert to sugar, which spikes insulin… repeated insulin spikes lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to diabetes, visceral fat, inflammation and obesity.

While it is true that the healthiest alternative flours require different methods of preparation and even to some degree their very own recipes, it is well worth the effort to learn to bake with them. My personal favorite flours are almond flour, coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, flax meal and occasionally buckwheat flour. I am open to learning more, always, and that list very well may expand in the near future!

ABOUT THIS CHART:  I have created the chart above to summarize some of the common (and uncommon) flours that are frequently used in gluten free baking, as well as to compare them to the old standards (in red, not gluten free.) This chart uses Bob’s Red Mill products nutritional information as a source because it was readily available online; however, this is not a specific endorsement of their products. I do use Bob’s Red Mill occasionally, but I also use Nuts.com as well other specialty brands and bulk products.  Other manufacturers may vary somewhat, but because the flours are derived from the same sources, the numbers should be similar, and the spot checking I did to compare to other brands showed the exact same results.  The ratings are my own opinion only, based on net carbs and protein.

Serving size in the chart above is ¼ cup (4TB).  Number values represent grams (other than calories.) Note that Net Carbs is equal to Total Carbs minus Fiber, which is why flax meal can have a net carb count of zero.  Low Net Carbs and high Proteins are the best choices when looking to keep blood sugar levels balanced; even though that may mean the flour is higher in calories, it also means that it is much more filling, and it doesn’t drive cravings. While this chart may be a good starting point, obviously these numbers don’t tell the whole story, and different flours have different nutritional benefits unique to their source, and I hope to highlight some of my favorites in upcoming articles. When choosing flours, personal taste is also a major factor, as the flavors can be quite different from the wheat flours we have been conditioned to eat.

I hope that this answers some questions that you may have had about why I, or other gluten free bloggers, choose the flours that we do, and helps you to make good choices in your own kitchen! Stay tuned for a super delicious PIZZA recipe featuring garbanzo bean flour very soon 🙂  This is a socca style done in a pan or on a griddle, and met with rave reviews from the guys…

 

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The Dangers of Wheat, Don’t Let Addiction Fool You.

Life is…

When talking to interested (but skeptical) people, about my family’s experience being gluten free, a phrase that comes up a LOT in regards to giving up wheat, even for a week-long trial, is:

“Life is too short to go without the things I love!”

In other words: “I deserve to enjoy my favorite foods and beverages in whatever shape and quantity I desire because it makes me happy right now. And I deserve to be happy! I work hard, I deserve pleasure and treats. Besides, I feel fine. Wheat isn’t hurting me. If I was sick, maybe I would consider it.”

When you look around at the health of our nation and our world, it is becoming more and more clear that this feeling of entitlement in combination with addictive substances, has created a deadly trend. There is more obesity and diabetes in adults and children than there has ever been. Auto-immune diseases are telling us that our bodies are fighting hard against things in our environment that we aren’t even aware of. When our immune system resources are being taxed so much by daily living, we have fewer resources left to fight off other threats to our health. While it is true that there are many potential hazards in our environments, there isn’t one that enters your system as directly and consistently as food, nor is there one over which we can exercise more control than our individual diets.

Hmmmm. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be 43 next month, and I have plans to be around until I’m between 85 and 105 😀  If something out of my control happens in the meantime, so be it, but I plan to do my part to be in good health for those remaining 42-62 years!!! I say:

“Life is too LONG to go without the things I love!”

The things I love happen to be health, peace of mind, wellness, love itself, creativity, freedom, energy, and to be a positive example to my son as well as other people in my life and world. I think that being deprived of these things is much worse than skipping pizza or making the vast majority of my meals at home. Looking at the big picture, those things are much more important to me than having convenient fast food, toxic carbs and sugars which create a temporary high, followed by regret and ill feelings. I want to control my food, not be controlled BY it.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the mindset that forgoing a certain food (or even material possession) equals deprivation. I mean, that is what our society is trained to believe since birth. Brainwashing us (err… I mean, Marketing) towards unhealthy foods as being “popular”, “exciting” and “hip”, starts when we are small children and continues… well, forever. Do you see cartoon characters advertising fresh produce? Did you ever dig to the bottom of a bag of carrots to find a toy? Or see a commercial where a bunch of trendy 20-somethings are sitting around discussing the benefits of eating greens every day, juicing or going without sugar? I haven’t. The Jolly Green Giant was probably the closest thing to a veggie mascot, and I miss him!

Back to the deprivation mindset… mindset and education is where we first need to make our changes. Having facts to build on, and then adjusting our perspective, is key to making lasting changes. So is imagination. It can be only a few small steps from imagining yourself in a healthy lifestyle and enjoying being free from pain (or fatigue, or excess weight, or…) and actually being there! It takes a dedication to your vision, because it might not be a one-step fix. There is much empowerment to be had by taking those first mental steps and then seeing the results. There is a quote I liked from a movie called The Edge with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin… “What one man can do, another can do.” Meaning that the difference is in determination and drive, not in ability in most cases. It’s down to wanting and needing to do something. Making up your mind.

Argument for Deleting the Wheat

Even if you don’t suspect you are gluten intolerant, or haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, understanding the toxicity of wheat can be enlightening. Don’t believe the hype from some that gluten is a trendy new allergen. It is a toxin, and it is not digestible whether or not you have celiac disease!

A large part of the problem is that wheat products are so deeply ingrained (haha, punny) into the fabric of our society that it seems incomprehensible that they could be literally toxic. I had a hard time coming to terms with that concept at first too, but reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis really made a difference to my understanding. According to Davis (and supported by facts and research), the wheat of today is not the wheat of our ancestors; it has been changed a multitude of times through hybridization.

While hybridizing is not the same as genetic modification (GMOs, think Monsanto), it still changes the properties and composition of a plant from what it was before. A certain amount of this happens in nature on its own from cross-pollination, so on the surface it seems harmless. Scientists approach hybridizing with certain goals; in the case of wheat it was to enlarge the seed head to increase yield. When that was accomplished, further changes needed to be made to keep the wheat stalk from buckling over under the weight of the heavy tops, which ruined harvests. So now, instead of the “amber waves of grain” of our forebears, and 4 foot tall wheat plants, today’s wheat is about 2 feet tall on a stocky, sturdy plant.

This all sounds good so far… and it is good from a standpoint of increased production and being able to feed more people with less land (a noble goal, indeed.) However, not all the changes in wheat are ones that can be seen with the naked eye. The changes on the outside also changed the nutritive makeup on the inside, causing the gluten content to skyrocket. In fact, NEW glutens are present in modern wheat that were not present in the “parents” that it came from.

So what? Well, humans have evolved at a much slower pace in the sense that our digestive systems have not changed to keep pace with the new wheat. In fact, when wheat underwent all this modification, no studies were done to check that the end product was even fit for human consumption! I suppose it was just assumed that it would break down in the same ways as the old wheat, and that all was good. Unfortunately, that is not the case, which leads us to the current state of recognizing gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

The changes in wheat are one aspect, but the effects are compounded by the fact that wheat is no longer just eaten as a grain or in a piece of bread like our ancestors did… this ubiquitous grain is used everywhere in a myriad of products, in places you might not even think to look. This push of wheat (which is now plentiful and cheap thanks to the hybridization to increase yield) into so many processed foods has dangerously increased our exposure to gluten. Our bodies treat gluten as a toxic substance which triggers an immune system response, and leads to a host of health issues. On top of that, add in the addictive properties of wheat which cause us to crave more wheat-containing products and calories.

Addictive, I say? YES. Not just because we are in the habit of having bread and cereal and sweets, but because wheat is literally addictive in the sense that when it is digested, it results in certain polypeptides that cross into the brain and bind to opiate receptors. OPIATE RECEPTORS? Yep. As in drugs. Grains without gluten do not have the same effect… so this is an issue specific to wheat (also rye, spelt, triticale.) The fact that wheat acts like an opiate in the brain would explain why people are so defensive about going without it! Whether we know it or not, even the most health-conscious among us is getting a “fix” from that morning slice of 9-grain toast (ok, that was my vice!) To take this WHEAT as OPIATE stance one step further, there have been studies done that prove that the opiate-blocking drugs naloxone and naltrexone can be used to block the brain response to the wheat-derived polypeptides which create addiction and out of control appetite. This makes it easier to understand why we go through withdrawal symptoms when we drop the wheat in favor of a gluten free diet! And you can bet that those drugs are being researched as potential diet medications! The problem is that even if we manage to block the opiate response in the brain, continuing to eat wheat will continue to wreak havoc inside the body.

The other major argument against wheat is in regards to the insulin effect, and it applies to other high carbohydrate foods as well. This includes sugary foods in addition to alternate flours like rice, tapioca, potato, sorghum, etc. That is why I have chosen to not only go gluten free, but low carb. Many people who realize that they are intolerant to gluten first mourn the loss of bread, pasta, crackers, doughnuts etc… but then rapidly turn to alternate flours or ready-made processed gluten free foods on the market as a substitute. (I did that for the first week or so myself, until I read Wheat Belly.) While it’s true that a gluten intolerant person can eat these and bypass the symptoms such as headache, joint pain and digestive issues, the substitutions are every bit as bad for blood sugar as wheat products are.

This leads to weight gain (or at least prevents weight loss) and continues the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Also, the type of weight (visceral fat) that is gained because of insulin spikes is the kind that one carries around their midsection, which not only shows on the outside, but also wraps and permeates the organs on the inside (liver, kidneys, pancreas), causing inflammation and preventing the release of protective molecules which normally aid the body in preventing heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. There is a lot of science behind this, and I strongly recommend Dr. Davis’ book for a thorough and understandable explanation.

This is the reason you will see that the few baked goods that I include in my blog are based on using almond or coconut flours which are very low carb and a good source of protein. I have no interest to go to the lengths I have to improve my health just to sabotage myself with insulin-spiking foods. I am not judging anyone else for sharing their delicious solutions to gluten free baking that include other types of flours and starches, but personally those do not match the goals I have set for myself. (I realize that not everyone wants to lose weight, but even those who aren’t overweight can develop insulin resistance through repeated spikes in blood sugar.)

Let me help, let the community help… You are NOT alone!

So why did I bother to write this article if I am already off the wheat? To help you. To make a difference. To spread the word. To start/continue a movement. To educate. To start a dialog. To reinforce my own commitment and share. To get to know you. Really.

While it’s true that I am busy helping myself and my family, I know that in the world community we can also help each other through some of the rough spots. It is my sincere belief that if even one person decides to try going gluten free to help relieve their migraines, or joint pain, or any other symptom, because of something I wrote, it is well worth every hour spent crafting these words. But I would be ecstatic to influence as many as possible!

My personal family testimony may or may not be convincing to you, as I know it amounts to anecdotal evidence, but I share an update here anyway:

  • I haven’t had a migraine in the 7 weeks since I went gluten free. (3-4x week prior.)
  • My IBS symptoms are slowly improving all the time.
  • My joint pain (shoulders, hips, knees) is gone.
  • I have lost 14 lbs so far.
  • I never feel deprived of food, and eat when I’m hungry. No cravings.
  • I am sleeping well.
  • My skin and hair looks and feels healthier.
  • I have more patience and less anxiety.
  • I have more energy and focus, less frequent brain fog.
  • My husband has lost 18 lbs so far.
  • He hasn’t had an incidence of acid reflux in 7 weeks. (suffered often after meals prior.)
  • He has much increased energy and confidence.
  • His chronic shoulder pain has eased tremendously.
  • My son has increased focus.
  • He has gained about 5 lbs so far. (He needs to gain, not lose.)
  • He eats more often, finishes his lunch instead of leaving it.
  • He sleeps better.
  • His skin is clearer.
  • His frequent “growing pains” have subsided.
  • He has a sense of control knowing he can make his own health decisions.

Hopefully your discovery or diagnosis of gluten intolerance or celiac disease will open up a world of health benefits and wonderful foods that far outweigh the perceived restrictions and limitations. Just think, it just might be the best you’ve ever felt!!

FOR FURTHER READING:

Wheat Belly, a book by Dr. William Davis, and his Wheat Belly Blog.
Gluten:Bad for us All, and article by Dr. Rodney Ford
The Dark Side of Wheat, Part I and Part II, by Sayer Ji

 

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Why Gluten Free for Me? Reasons I Deleted the Wheat!

It’s been just over a month since I cut out wheat and gluten in my diet, and went low carb. If you read the veryyyy first post on my blog, you will have some idea of the health issues that made me decide to try going gluten-free. I will say up front, that I have not been formally diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease (and I have noticed in the food intolerance/health community, that some people really frown on self-diagnosis. To this I say, OH WELL!) I made a simple experiment with my diet to eliminate something I felt might be toxic, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. I am not about to start eating wheat again so that I can be diagnosed formally, when I already know that the treatment IS abstaining from wheat. Even if there was a drug to take instead, I would still choose to be gluten-free.

Here are some results I have experienced during the past month:

  • Immediate relief (within 2 days) of abdominal bloating that made me feel much more comfortable, and clothes fit better (same with husband).
  • Joint pain and inflammation 90% gone, within 3 or 4 days. I had been experiencing shoulder, hip and knee pain that had been worsening for a couple years, and often interfered with sleep and exercise (my son also experienced disappearance of joint pain).
  • Decreased appetite and craving for sweets and carbohydrates (same with husband) after the first couple weeks.
  • Haven’t had a headache bad enough to take Motrin in a MONTH, when I used to take it up to several times a week for headaches that could last 3-4 days
  • IBS symptoms lessened, but not gone. (Currently researching other possible causes for issues, such as low stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, or other food intolerances.)
  • Lost 10 lbs over the course of the month (and my husband did as well.) I didn’t start with the goal of losing weight, but I am thrilled that I have! 

In my mind, there isn’t much that’s more personal than the choice of what we put into our bodies. To make any thoughtful decision to eat a thing or not to eat a thing, is taking responsibility and accountability for our own health. As a society, we have given over a large part of these critical choices to a fast food and processed food mentality, which has speed and profit in mind, not health and wellness (which is the point of eating in the first place.) Nutrition is sacrificed for convenience, and at a price so high, that our health as a nation is likely worse than it has ever been. Good thing the pharmaceutical industry has our back with all those handy-dandy (side-effect laden) medications!

Obviously, I have a lot of misgivings about the current state of our food industry, and that is for reasons too numerous to detail. As a family, there are some changes we were able to make immediately, and there are others that we are working on sourcing out in an affordable way, such as locally farmed beef and poultry. (I have no plans to become vegan or vegetarian, however, I do strongly believe in humane treatment of animals during their lifetime in addition to skipping all the chemicals.)

In the past weeks, I have done endless research about the effects of gluten, and how to eat healthfully without grains, and I will continue to do so, and occasionally share my findings here. I will say though, that the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, is an EXCELLENT starting point to regaining health and wellness through properly feeding the systems of the body. His book is a compelling combination of personal experiences and scientific data that went a long ways towards explaining to me WHY I felt the way I did, both before and after. The reason I say that his book is brilliant as a starting point, is that for many people, wheat is likely to be the largest, quiet toxin in their diet, and once it is eliminated, it makes room to pinpoint further issues without wheat muddying the waters, so to speak. The results vary from person to person, as we are all unique in our make-up and history, but I believe strongly that the majority of people could find benefits from going wheat free. I have seen that many people discover other intolerances and sensitivities as well as deficiencies in certain bodily systems as they begin to get clean, and I am in the process of investigating these things for my own situation.

When I read opinions and consider factual studies, I also take into consideration whether the person or agency has any benefit to be gained by convincing people that what they are saying (selling) is valid. Critical thinking plays a large part in my personal research, and it pays to question things and seek out a variety of resources, especially those that are contrary to each other. In doing this, I have found that those who are opposing the health benefits of whole grains, aren’t out to make a profit from this point of view, they are trying to give people the power to make informed decisions and break addictions! If the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis, was only out to make money by selling copies of his book, he wouldn’t have such an informative blog where he takes a personal interest in the people who post and query him about this topic. Instead, it is obvious that he has in mind helping to open peoples’ eyes so that they are able to regain their health.

While I am doing my best to live up to the dietary recommendations in Wheat Belly, I know that I am not the gold standard with the recipes and foods that I post, but I am sharing what types of things we are eating in my home, in the hopes of helping people who need a few new ideas, or are even possibly overwhelmed by the task of eating differently. I consider recipes from many sources, some gluten-free, some traditional, some Paleo… while other postings are just a peek into the way I cook at home, and some of the methods I use in my kitchen. I urge readers to play with the recipes and adjust them to your tastes and dietary needs, as there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for health and wellness. I am thankful for comments and “likes” from the blogworld, and enjoy the sharing and positivity that is happening here!

 

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Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa (keen-wa)… no msg or gluten in sight

Use any mixture of veggies and meat that you prefer!

Tonight was one of those nights that I didn’t really feel like cooking (yes, it happens), but wanted more than just a salad. I decided to gather up a bunch of veggies and do a GF version of my typical stir fry. The changes that I’ve made are mostly to use gluten-free Tamari instead of soy sauce, and to substitute for the higher carb rice with healthy quinoa.

I will admit that quinoa is a grain that I knew virtually nothing about until deleting the wheat from my diet a few weeks ago. I knew it existed (although in my head I was pronouncing it wrong!), but that was about the extent of it. It was a sacred seed in the ancient Inca civilization, and it turns out that quinoa is a gem in any diet, not just for those going without gluten. It is a complete protein, and a good source of Magnesium, Manganese and Phosphorus. It has a glycemic load of only 18, and is not inflammatory. Low in cholesterol, it is an important source of plant-derived calcium, and it has a pleasing nutty flavor to boot!

Kept in the freezer, fresh ginger root is easy to grate as needed for recipes.

Kitchen Tip: In this recipe, I also use fresh grated ginger. I have a trick for ginger that I learned from my Mom; I keep the whole root in the freezer in a ziploc, and just pull it out and grate it when I want to add it to a dish. If you are like me, even though you use ginger, you may not get through the whole root before it molds, and keeping it in the freezer is a great way to store it, and it is even easier to grate when it’s frozen.

Here you see my handy zesting tool, but you can also use a sharp knife.

 

The orange zest adds a little extra flavor boost as well, and I use a zesting tool that I picked up in a kitchen shop to do this task. In general I am not a gadgety person, mostly preferring sharp knives, but this is a nice inexpensive tool that I bought back when I was doing lots of zesting for holiday biscottis and baked goods. I will definitely be changing my holiday routine this season, and exploring new treats!

 

Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa:

  •  2 C cooked Quinoa 
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ chunks (beef, pork or shrimp works too)
  • 2-3 Tb Olive oil

Veggies: (feel free to use my mix, or whatever you happen to have on hand)Veggies for stir fry

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • 1 C chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1 C chopped Broccoli rabe (or regular broccoli)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, slivered
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 C Crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 of an orange Bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C slivered Almonds
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 1/4 C frozen or fresh peas, thawed

Sauce:

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • Juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 C Tamari GF Soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • dash of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tb fresh grated ginger
  • dash of Red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tb Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C coconut milk mixed with 1 Tb arrowroot powder (for thickening)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, except coconut milk and arrowroot. Set aside. Using a large heavy skillet (or wok if you prefer), heat 2-3 Tb olive oil and stir fry the chicken until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining olive oil and add all “Veggies” except peas. Stir fry about 5-8 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add cooked chicken, peas and sauce ingredients, heat through. Add the coconut milk and arrowroot, stir to thicken. Dish over warm quinoa and serve.  Makes about 4 servings.

 

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