Ah gluten. Seems like everyone you talk to these days has sworn it off and cast it aside with the hopes and promises that they will feel better, have more energy, or at the very least drop a couple of pounds. For most the lure of a “magic pill” solution to health is too much to restrain against. They jump right in, and go full tilt on the diet trend without even questioning the why, what, or how of what they are doing.
Gluten is a protein that is produced in the endosperm of wheat and related species such as barley and rye. When it comes to dough, gluten plays a very useful role – elasticity. Without this property dough has a hard time rising, looses shape and lacks that certain chewy texture that is unbeatable in fresh baked loaf of bread. But when it comes to health however, poor gluten has been charged with everything from tummy upset, to achy joints, to irritability and even infertility .
The food that we put in our belly’s does much more than fill a hole until the next time we eat. Through a series of mechanical and chemical processes, that food is broken down and absorbed into our body through our cells, where it is used to produce everything we need to function. With a healthy diet and a healthy digestive system this process works like a charm – food goes in, it gets digested, absorbed, assimilated. We feel great, have energy, and go about with our daily lives. Trouble lies with high stress lifestyles, not taking enough time to slow down and enjoy eating (like by eating in front of a TV or computer), drinking too many fluids with meals, and a diet focused on highly processed, re-fined and/or fried foods. Our poor digestive systems become overtaxed causing our body’s to react in less than optimal ways. What’s behind the high stress, fast paced, convenience food eating, freak out that we are reacting too are the mechanics for food allergies. Food allergies are commonly linked with poor mechanical digestion (i.e. not chewing food properly), poor chemical digestion (i.e. not not enough stomach acid, or low levels of pancreatic enzymes and bile), and inflammation in the intestines, or what is known as “leaky gut syndrome”. In this state the food we eat is not broken down into small, neat little packages, but rather large undigested molecules, which are then absorbed into the body causing an immune response to what the body perceives as a “foreign” invader. Over time this immune response can present itself in a wide variety of ways – joint pain, bloating, skin reactions, low energy levels – the list goes on and on.
So before jumping on the latest diet trend du jour maybe take a look at what and how you are eating and see if you can make some small tweaks there to help improve the overall digestive process, helping any sensitivities you have now or helping to stop any you may develop in the future.
Chew your food and slow down when you eat.
Enjoy what you are eating instead of wolfing it back at lightening speed. Digestion starts with chewing and the more you can breakdown the food in your mouth the easier you are on the rest of your system.
Shift the focus of your diet
Try not to rely so much on overly processed foods and quick convenience snacks. These are full of chemicals and additives that put stress on the body, especially the liver as it is charged with metabolizing theses unnatural chemicals.
Heal your digestive system.
Work with a Registered Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor to support your digestive system through healing herbs, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
Don’t be fooled.
Just because something is listed as “gluten-free” doesn’t give it a right of passage to health. Many “gluten-free” products out there are highly processed and not really any healthier than their gluten-filled counterparts.
Lastly I will say this. Addressing dietary sensitivities and food allergies may definitely be a key to getting you healthier and making you feel wonderful, but just because removing gluten, dairy or whatever the case may be works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. You need to listen to your body. You are the only one who knows if you feel strong or tired, or irritable or happy, satisfied or starving.
Food should make you feel good.
Brown Butter & Sage Spaghetti Squash
1 x spaghetti squash
Salt & pepper
Brown Butter & Sage Sauce
4 x Tbsp butter
8 x sage leave, chopped finely
1-2 x cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 x lemon, zest & juice
1 x large bunch of kale (or green of choice), centre stems removed and chopped into rough pieces
1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and a dash of cinnamon.
3. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until squash is tender
4. Remove squash from oven and let cool (see tip below). When cool enough to handle scrape the inside of the squash revealing the little “spaghetti” noodles
5. In a large skilled heat butter over medium heat until “noisette” – fancy French term meaning hazelnut in colour.
6. Add sage/garlic and heat gently for about 1-2 minutes. (If butter starts to get too brown remove from heat)
7. Toss in kale and let wilt slightly.
8. Add in spaghetti squash, lemon zest and juice and toss until all combined.
9. Add more salt & pepper to taste
Tip: I am a lazy cook post-work day so I like to cheat. I roast my spaghetti squash the night before and let cool over night on the counter. The next day I simply shred the squash to get the noodles and continue on with the rest of the recipe. The heat of the pan, butter and kale will re-heat the squash, cutting down on actual cooking time.