Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Debunking Myths About Gluten

This is not the first time I have posted about gluten, but nevertheless, it is a topic and interest of mine that I am very passionate about.  Had I not gone through several health issues last year and in the course of my life, I'm not sure I would have become as interested and invested in the facts.  Fortunately, I did, and I would love to spend some time to debunk some myths about gluten with you!

I recently finished reading, Gluten Freedom by Dr. Fasano.  Probably my favorite more medically-minded, research-based book on the topic so far. Every book I read about it I learn something new!  So much interesting information and research here.  But I'll start small by cracking down on just a few myths about gluten:

Myth # 1: Gluten Free is just a Fad diet.  I hear this all the time.  What this reflects to me is someone who is not very informed on gluten and its components. Not a bad thing, just an opportunity to learn.  First of all, nobody is able to completely digest gluten.  Studies show that gluten proteins are not totally metabolized by the intestines.  While all the proteins we ingest can be completely dismantled, there is an exception: the protein is gluten and more specifically its components, gliadins and glutenins.  The presence of these undigested gluten peptides in the upper small intestine is perceived by our gut immune surveillance system as a potential enemy, and its interpreted as a component of a possible dangerous bacteria.  This response is elicited by everyone, not just people with gluten-related disorders.  So wouldn't it make sense that everyone should follow or attempt as best as possible to engage in a gluten-free diet?  The evidence suggests it.

Myth #2: Our ancestors ate gluten and never had a problem, so why can't I? First of all, this ancient and complex protein developed alongside humans over throughout thousands of years.  For the majority of our human evolution, we ate gluten-free diets up until 10,000 years ago when the agricultural revolution was born.  As early as 2000 years ago, cases of celiac disease are reported.  As cultures became exposed to wheat who had previously based their diet on non-gluten ingredients like meat, milk, vegetables and fruits, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease developed.  In fact, gluten and its close relatives secalin and hordein from rye and barley are the only proteins our bodies cannot digest.  Interestingly, staple cereals and grains in other cultures, such as millet and rice, are mostly gluten-free, and the genes related to celiac diseases in those cultures are much less than in Western countries.  This explains why China, a country's diet that prior to introduction to Western foods largely consisted on rice, has a much lower incidence of celiac and gluten sensitivity.

Myth #3: If I don't have any negative symptoms, why should I stop eating gluten?  Most people assume that if they have celiac or gluten sensitivity, then they would just be experiencing abdominal pain and symptoms.  Unfortunately, gluten is not that kind.  Keep in mind as well that the small intestine is 18 to 23 feet long, and it can easily evade clinical symptoms.  While abdominal symptoms present in 70% of patients, this number is followed by eczema (40%) and/or rash, migraine/headaches (35%), "foggy mind" (34%), chronic fatigue (33%), diarrhea (33%), depression (22%), anemia (20%), tingling of fingertips (20%), and joint pain (11%).  A person can have one or a multitude of these symptoms.  Also worth mentioning is how gluten affects the reproductive systems of both women and men.  Studies have found that couples with unexplained infertility have a higher rate of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity than the general population.  This is no small percentage; it has been found that the population in America affected by gluten sensitivity is 6%; that's at least 20 million people!  The verdict is still out whether gluten sensitivity has a genetic component, though this has already been proven for those with celiac disease.

Interested in genetic testing?  Fortunately, this is a lot more accessible now than in previous years.  Testing for HLA-DQ (serotyping system that is from your immune system) is now much more affordable, and the ability to rule out celiac disease by HLA-DQ testing is impressive and the proportion of false negatives is extremely small.  So HLA testing is useful to rule out celiac disease but not to confirm diagnosis.

How complex is wheat? Well, each human has 25,000 genes, while wheat has five times as many.  Wowsers!! It's hard to know where to start, what to avoid, and what to eat when you engage in the gluten-free journey.  However, I can promise you it is a very rewarding and health-enriching journey

Things to avoid (Grains that contain gluten): wheat (this includes spelt, seitan, couscous, einkorn, emmer, kamut, and durum), barely, barley malt, rye, triticale

Things that are questionable and could vary person to person: imitation bacon, imitation seafood, marinades, soups, candy, seasonings, salad dressings, sauces and gravies, low-fat foods, packaged foods (ex. flavored potato and rice mixes), herbal supplements, vitamins, prescription/over-the-counter meds

Gluten-free grains, flours, seeds, and starches: amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, corn, flaxseed, nut flours, millet, montina, gluten-free oats, quinoa, rice, sago, sorghum, tapioca, teff and wild rice

Keep in mind that just because an item is labeled "gluten-free" does not necessarily mean it is completely gluten free.  This is extremely important for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.  The FDA allows a product to be labeled "gluten-free" as long as it contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten, as research shows that consuming products containing up to 10 mg (approximately 1/8 tsp of flour) of gluten per day is safe for most people with celiac disease.

Much more research and information is out there, but I hope this myth-debunking provides a good place to start.  Great literature resources I have found with sound and evidence-based research on gluten include:

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis
Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter
Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano
The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers
The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

Great blogs to follow include: The Paleo Mom, Against All Grain, Elana's Pantry, Gluten-Free Goddess, Gluten-Free Girl, and Gluten-Free Mommy...just to name a few!  Hope this helps in the beginning of your gluten-free journey or just to learn more about gluten and gluten-free! <3

Pictured are a couple gluten free grain/baking items from my pantry.  Bob's Red Mill is my favorite brand with the most MUST try their gluten free pizza crust ;o)



Monday, February 16, 2015

Homemade Paleo Pesto Recipe!

I am a pesto FANATIC!  I feel like I could put pesto on everything given the opportunity.  Having dairy issues for a while and now gluten, I find that I still love pesto, but I am a little bit more attune to the ingredients.

Once you start paying close attention to allergens and ingredients on food labels, you start noticing how much more fluff and unnecessary stuff is in all your favorite foods.  Condiments is one you have to watch closely, especially while following a paleo diet, Whole 30, or whatever you are needing to address your gut health.  Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

Pesto is no exception. Here are two main brands and their ingredients:

Classico Traditional Basil Pesto

Basil, Soybean Oil, Garlic, Romano Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Olive Oil, Spice, Salt, Lactic Acid, Torula Yeast, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors (Soy)

Unofortunately, as I've discussed on this blog in the past, the majority of soy and its related derivatives are largely GMO.  In addition, you will find soybean oil in processed foods is usually hydrogenated and high in omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to chronic inflammation in the body.  

Another troublesome ingredient is torula yeast.  While pleasant sounding, this is another name for yeast extract, which interestingly enough, is another name for MSG.  Yes, food companies are smart and know how to trick consumers by calling the same thing different names when really it's the same thing.  Even if a manufacturer tells you there is no MSG in a product, there may be autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed pea protein, carrageenan, sodium caseinate, enzymes, or other ingredients that contain or create processed free glutamic acid (MSG) during manufacture. Due to labeling protection by the FDA, many food companies can get away with labeling products "No MSG" and "No added MSG" when glutamic acid is a constituent of an ingredient. Symptoms of torula yeast allergy mimic MSG allergies and can be located at

Here's another one:

Trader Joe's Trader Giotto's Pesto Alla Genovese

Basil, sunflower oil, potatoes, olive oil, grana padano cheese (pasteurized cow's milk, salt, rennet (animal), egg proteins), pecorino romano cheese (pasteurized sheep's milk, salt, rennet (animal)), cashews, salt, pine nuts, lactic acid, garlic

Holy moly! Now I am a big fan of Trader Joe's but there are WAY too many ingredients in this pesto. I was actually in the store when I looked up rennet, as I noticed it in a few of their products.  Even though I'm pregnant, it totally grossed me out ;o( Rennet is a complex of enzymes produced in stomachs or ruminant mammals which is used in the production of most cheeses.  While this is a common cheese ingredient, it doesn't mean it's optimal for consumption. 80-90% of this ingredient is GMO.  Since the labeling doesn't identify animal rennet as GMO, consumers should stick with microbial rennet cheeses, traditionally produced cheeses or organic cheeses.

To avoid all the hassle and allergen/dietary hazards, here is my homemade pesto recipe that is not only nutritious and simple, but it is also dairy-free and gluten-free. I have used it on pizza, with veggies, in dips and dressings, and it's delicious.  Enjoy!

Homemade Paleo Pesto Recipe
1 cup packed basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 lemon squeezed
1/4 cup EVOO
seasonings of your choice (I used dash of pepper and Himilayan sea salt)



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sweetgrass Farms & Survival Kit Gift for Guys!

I know, I know. I'm a day late. Story of my preggo life :o)

Gosh, Valentine's Day definitely comes up fast, doesn't it?  I've never been this sappy, Valentine's Day-obsessed person, but it's funny how much more you start caring about it when you’re with "the one." I remember when my husband and I were dating...I literally found an excuse every week to surprise or "gift" something to Ray.  Not kidding.

Marriage shouldn't be much different. Yeah some things have changed, but I firmly believe in a healthy and loving relationship you are always celebrating one another, whether its by going out on a date, giving a gift, helping with chore, etc (queue "Five Love Languages" book! lol).  And it shouldn't be limited to just Valentine's Day

So though this blog post doesn't feature a recipe, food advice or a health tip, I believe love is just as important and healing for your health.  Reminds me of what the Bible says about love:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevere."  True that. What a great challenge and charge!

We started a new tradition Valentine's Day this year: going to Sweetgrass Farms in Sarasota, FL.  This is a hydroponics farm that opened up last year and is breaking new ground in non-GMO food territory.  While there is no "organic" certification yet for hydroponics, Sweetgrass uses coconut coir instead of soil to eliminate the need for harsh chemicals for pest management and keeps the produce very clean.  Rather than using harsh chemicals and pesticides, Sweetgrass applies a limited amount of safe, organic pesticides, such as orange oil and copper spray.

We wound up getting all the strawberries we could fit into a cardboard container for $5, and then got a dozen strawberries we hand-dipped in chocolate for $15.  It was well worth it!  These are some of the best strawberries we have ever had!  Not to mention Sweetgrass offers many other crops and serves many local restaurants.  They are open 7 am to 3 pm Tuesday through Friday and offer U-pick strawberries each Saturday through this upcoming May.  You can check out for more info!

I was also inspired by Pinterest to make more of a creative, symbolic gift for my husband this year.  Using inspiration, I created a "Last Trimester Survival Kit" for my husband.  You can do a "survival kit" for any occasion though!  Other ideas for a survival kit include one for the hospital, one for a new job, one for a new move, one for announcing a pregnancy.  Here are the items I included and important verbage that is meaningful to me:

Last Trimester/New Daddy Survival Kit

Beef Jerky: For when you need extra protein to endure the last trimester with me

Lifesavers:  Because you’re my lifesaver; I couldn’t do this without you

Kisses: To remind you that you are so very loved

Rubber Band: To remind you to be flexible

Erasers: To remind you everyone makes mistakes

Trail mix: For when you need extra energy to deal with me

“Hero” baby onesie: Because you are my hero, and you will be baby Jace’s hero too

My heart: Because you will always have my heart, no matter what happens, and where this journey in life takes us

Here are some pics :o)

Shhh...I know. Not organic. More about symbolism with these hershey kisses.  At least they are dark chocolate! :o)

Check out this awesome gluten free, healthy beef jerky I found at Richards!!

Appalachian trail mix from Richards: Goji berries, raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, cashews, cranberries...yum!

Don't look at the ingredients. Again, more symbolism. And who doesn't like their breath smelling fresh? Makes it easier to kiss your valentine <3 :o)

Hope you had a great Valentine's Day sharing special time with the one(s) you love!



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Goji Berry Nut Bars!,

Goji Berries are one of my favorite new snacks, and it's easy to see why! This superfood is both a fruit and herb that is a powerhouse of antioxidants!

Also known as wolf berries, these berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as natural remedies for hypertension, diabetes, malaria, and fever.  While no research study has found conclusive evidence on these uses, there's no doubt Goji berries are both nutritious and delicious!

Goji berries are loaded with beta-carotene (similar to carrots and sweet potatoes!), helping your skin health.  They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, thus helping to boost the immune system.  They have one of the highest rankings on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial naturally-occuring compounds, and are a super source of dietary fiber.  Not to mention, Goji berries have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit!

You can eat Goji berries by themselves, or soak them in warm water first.  They go perfect with granola, trail mixes, smoothies, salads, and yogurt.  I decided to use them to help rev up some protein/snack bars, also using prunes as a medjool date substitute.  Here's a yummy Goji Berry Nut Bar recipe to get you started in your experience with Goji berries.  No baking required!  All the ingredients are to taste, so alter the amounts and ingredients however you like for your snack bar!

Goji Berry Nut Bar Recipe

1 cup prunes (may substitute medjool dates)
1/3 cup organic shredded coconut
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup Goji berries
1/3 cup raw pecans
2 tablespoons organic honey
1/3 cup organic coconut oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor, staggering or you can add multiple ingredients at once.  Spread mix on parchment paper and refrigerate. Enjoy!



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Power of Nutritional Yeast!

Wouldn't think yeast could taste good right?  Well you probably haven't heard of nutritional yeast. Seriously it's my new obsession. And that's probably an understatement.

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that is produced by culturing yeast for several days in a nutrient growth medium and then deactivating it with heat.  It's unique health benefits make it a complete protein, providing all 18 amino acids.  It's also free of sugar and gluten.

Nutritional yeast is a powerhouse of nutrition. Rich in B vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, and B6, nutritional yeast also contains pantothenic acid, folic acid, potassium, selenium, and iron (good for preggos!).  What is so good about all these nutrients?

Let's talk about selenium.  This super antioxidant is required for the proper activity of a group of enzymes called glutathione peroxidases.  These enzymes play a key role in the body's detoxification system and protect against oxidative stress.  Selenium also supports normal thyroid function by transforming a less active thyroid hormone called T4 (this is what Synthroid is) into the more active T3 (also known as liothyronine by prescription).  Other foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, oysters, clams, liver and kidney.

What about pantothenic acid? This is among the most important of the B vitamins for the basic processes of life!  Without it, you would be unable to use fats, carbohydrates, or proteins as energy sources.  It also helps to make hormones and supports the immune system.  Foods rich in panthothenic acid include cauliflower, sweet potatoes, broccoli, celery, cucumber, crimini mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms.

It's helpful to know all the good stuff in nutritional yeast, but how exactly can you use nutritional yeast?  Here are a few ideas and some of my favorites:

1) Sprinkle on popcorn. Makes it extra tasty! (especially when you add a little pepper too!)

2) Sprinkle on sweet potatoes to give almost a cheesy topping taste

3) Use in soup in place of cream to help thicken it

4) Use in homemade meatballs instead of panko/breadcrumbs- this was a huge hit at my house!

5) On steamed kale or kale chips- it adds for a nice texture

Popcorn topped with some nutritional yeast, kelp granules and pepper <3  Give it a try!