This post appeared here for Paleo on the Go
GRAINS AND GUT HEALTH
You’ve probably heard that elimination of grains is a major step in reclaiming the health of your gut. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity diagnoses have risen at least four-fold since the 1950’s, and there is a growing body of research that suspects that gluten (and other grains) can cause harm even in individuals who don’t show signs of sensitivity. The truth is that all those “heart-healthy” grains are the hardest food for a human to digest. Grains can deplete nutrients, cause weight gain and infertility, and they do not have the nutritional profile they’ve promised. It makes much more sense to get your nutrients from foods like veggies, fruits, proteins and healthy fats, which offer nutrients without the drawbacks.
Since there is a potential for harm when eating gluten and grains, keeping grains out of our cooking makes food suitable not just for celiac patients but (of course) for everybody else. Food suitable for everyone has to be a winner right? However, eating the basics may seem a little boring if you’re not mixing it up. This is where dietary restrictions can become culinary opportunities. Add the necessary variety that may be missing using the following five guidelines.
5 GUIDELINES TO MAKING DIETARY RESTRICTIONS BECOME CULINARY OPPORTUNITIES
BASICS BEFORE THE SUPER FOODS
There are three macronutrients that should make up our diet; fats, proteins, and carbs, in that order. We should be sure to include each in every meal. Each macronutrient helps the other digest and assimilate the nutrients your body needs. Each one also has a role to play in building your body. Try planning your meals starting with the veggies you’ll have. Plan out the fats you’ll use to cook them in, like pastured butter (ghee) or coconut oil. Finally choose the protein you’ll add at the end. Choosing from the very best source (pastured, organic, hormone and GMO free) and process (not ultra heated, pressurized or shelf stable) for each of these goes without saying.
MIX IT UP WITH GRAIN-FREE FLOURS
View dietary requirements as an opportunity to get new ingredients in old favorites. As soon as we eliminate grains in our cooking, we tend to overdo things like almonds in flour (remember when nuts were bad). Everything in moderation sounds like trying to stop the good stuff, but the truth is, variety is key. Eliminating grains from your pantry could instead mean adding variety through the use of other flours like cassava, arrowroot, chestnut, coconut, lucuma powder, plantain flour, or sweet potato flour. So even your grain-free flours are free-able! Baking this way also means everything is sugar free, unless you add a natural sweetener. When you cook from scratch every ingredient matters.
TRANSFORMING YOUR VEGGIES
Of the hundreds of veggies available, the average person eats just 5-7 different vegetables, per week! How many do you eat a week? Keep a list going on the fridge and challenge yourself. Are your veggies boring? Transform them: grated carrots, zucchini ribbons, and radish swirls all add flavor-packed oomph to meals. Spiralizers or slicers are great tools for transforming your vegetables. However, if you’re not interested in purchasing new kitchen utensils, use a cheese grater on all kinds of root vegetables or turn your vegetable peeler into a “ribbon-izer.” Serve zucchini ribbons or shredded carrots under meatballs or toss them in pesto like pasta. It’s delicious and adds flare to your dishes.
Gluten and grains add a lot of soft, chewy and crunchy textures to our food and in eliminating them we often eliminate textures that make our food more satisfying from a texture standpoint. Add texture, crunch and color using flowers, pickles, baby lettuces, lacto-ferment cucumber pickles made with lemon juice, dehydrate vegetables like fennel, cabbage, and lotus root as crunchy toppings.
There are lots of great resources for grain-free eating out there on the web and in bookstores. Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean cooking without a recipe: good ingredients to make great food doesn’t come cheap and waste is out of the question. Practice makes perfect so go with someone else’s tried and tested experiments. You can as also start by grain-freeing your favorite side, like cauliflower ‘rice’ or zucchini ‘pasta’.
CREATIVITY IS KEY WITH RESTRICTIVE FOOD GUIDELINES
The good news is that all your favorites are grain-free-able. And remember you’re doing more than replacing that indigestible stuff; you’re getting something far more nutrient-dense. There’s no need to feed your body something it can’t really use nor starve it of the nutrients it needs to grow, heal and let’s face it, age as gracefully as it can. The fridge is your oyster!