Q How did you become interested in a gluten free diet?
A. I started eating gluten-free several years ago when I realized a lot of my digestive issues went away when I avoided gluten. I used to suffer from a lot of bloating, gas and stomach pain, and it prompted me to start researching the effects of inflammatory foods on our ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
Gluten, the protein found in wheat can be extremely irritating to the villi of the small intestine when eaten daily, even in people who don’t have a gluten allergy – causing inflammation and bloating and interfering with a smooth digestive process.
However, this is not the whole story. Grains, nuts, seeds and other plants contain a phosphorous-bound compound called phytic acid, (found on their external coating) which binds to important minerals in our digestive system – prohibiting their absorption.
Should you suddenly stop eating these foods? No! Healthy indigenous people have been including them for centuries. The difference that we miss is that people prepared their food differently than we do now in our rush to get food ready as fast as possible.
Traditional methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting are still practiced around the world. All of these processes allow the phytic acid to break down and effectively begin pre-digestion of the gluten protein. American pioneers were famous for their sourdough starters. Ever heard of miso? It’s fermented bean curd, common in Asia. Overnight oatmeal allows the oat groats to absorb all of the liquid and become easily digestible. Sprouted grains and sprouted grain products are becoming more available and mainstream as the health movement and more access to this kind of information has begun to drive consumer spending.
If you think you have a gluten allergy (Celiac’s), which is something quite serious you should definitely get a blood test. But “gluten intolerance” is a symptom of a much bigger problem which is how our food is prepared and a sign that we need to return to simpler times and more traditional wisdom.
Q. Based on your experience, what are some considerations people should think about before committing to a gluten free diet?
A. For health, longevity and an optimal state in the body, eliminating processed foods will rid your diet of most of the gluten you’re eating. There are plenty of healthy, wholesome complex carbohydrate sources like brown rice, oats, quinoa, amaranth and fibrous vegetables like sweet potatoes and yams that will deliver the slow-digesting carbohydrates you need for lasting energy without the blood sugar spike.
Be sure you are preparing your grains by soaking, sprouting or fermenting processes to get the full benefit of their nutrients and allow your body to absorb and properly digest them. You may find that going completely gluten-free is unnecessary once you start applying these principles to your food, and keep processed cereals, crackers and bread to a bare minimum.
Q. What are the biggest misconceptions people have about a gluten free diet?
The biggest misconception about this way of eating is that it is one of deprivation. Most people are concerned that they won’t be able to eat bread and pasta. That’s fair because most bread and pasta do contain wheat flour. I would recommend re-thinking wheat products from bread and pasta in the first place because they’re made with wheat that’s been refined. The refining process strips out many of the minerals and fiber that promote a slow release of energy and sugar into your bloodstream, causing your blood sugar levels to spike.
It’s also a common misconception that going gluten free means that it’s suddenly okay to start eating “gluten free crackers” “gluten free cookies” and “gluten free cereals.” These processed gluten free products are NOT necessarily healthier for you. Often loaded with sweeteners or preservatives, processed gluten free products can cause as much irritation to your body as the gluten-containing products. Stick to whole food sources whenever possible, and always read your food labels to avoid food additives and processed sugar.
People may also believe that the gluten free diet will solve all of their stomach troubles. While eliminating gluten from the diet may initially cause some relief from symptoms like bloating, gas, etc, the most important thing to remember is that gluten itself is not the culprit. It is the way we are commercially preparing food that isn’t doing us any favors.
Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookie Pancakes
Q. What kind of mindset should a person have when committing to eating the way you describe?
A. An open mind! There are so many wonderful, simple recipes that you would never expect once you start opening up to a different way of eating.
I enjoy sweet potato pancakes made with almond meal flour, sprouted grain bread (easy to find – look for Ezekial brand), wholesome gluten-free products (seek out those that do not have added sugar for best results), and so many more delicious options.
Q. What is the toughest time of the year to maintain this type of program?
A. In my program, I talk about “NSA days” – which means “no strings attached.” I dislike calling meals “cheat” meals because that implies you’re doing something wrong. I think it’s really important to have balance – and choosing to enjoy occasional treats or special meals is not wrong or bad. Holidays are always perceived as this horribly tempting time of the year where no healthy eating plan is going to work. But that’s ridiculous. Thanksgiving is one day. Christmas is one, or two days. Let yourself enjoy the moment and the time with family and then get back to your clean eating afterward.
For myself, I would have to say that traveling is the hardest time. Because I prepare a lot of my own food, I take for granted how challenging it can be when your only options are the restaurant, bar or local grocery store. And long days at conferences in hotels with hotel food can be really tough. My strategy is to always bring protein shakes with me, look over the menu for ingredients I can order rather than a specific meal – lean protein, vegetables, and greens as much as possible, look for some good fats like nuts, avocados, or olive oil, and get rice, oats and fruit when possible to meet my carb needs.
Q. What kind of results can people expect when following your program?
A. Many of the people who have used my clean eating program, The Body Fuel System, have written to tell me how surprised they were to see their belly fat melting away so quickly. The ones who considered themselves clean eaters before the plan are always really impressed because it makes it so apparent just how inflammatory certain foods can be.
Having great recipes and a clear and simple plan to follow that balances the nutrients makes it a lot easier to feel satisfied and full without relying on typical processed foods.
Q. What will people find most attractive about owning your ebook?
A. The Body Fuel System is about creating a sustainable lifestyle of healthy habits around food. It simplifies your life and will allow you to drop unwanted pounds. In addition to all of the health information, the book contains practical guides to dining in restaurants, traveling, substitutions in cooking, strategies for success – and a 30-day user guide that gives you grocery lists, recipes, weekly food prep and daily menus.