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By: Esther Blum
In the 25+ years of my dietetics career, the one question I get asked most is “Is gluten really that bad for me?”
And with all the frankenfoods, misinformation and conflicting answers out there, I’m going to confuse you a little more and say both yes and no. When we as humans started introducing grains into our food chain, we carefully soaked and sprouted them, breaking down the gluten and the lectins present so they were easier to digest and absorb. The grains were grown on what we would consider to be organic soils, free of pesticides and herbicides, and the grains were not genetically modified or adulterated in any way. The farmers also rotated the crops on different plots of land so that the soil had time to replenish it’s levels of trace minerals.
Now, it’s a different story.
Commercial wheat has been genetically modified since the 1980’s. The fields are drenched in the toxic chemical RoundUp (which contains glyphosate and has been labeled in CA as cancer causing) seven days before harvest as a drying agent. And it is our body’s reaction to RoundUp which is the real culprit behind our stomach symptoms. This is probably why you can eat pasta in Italy and be fine but have wicked GI symptoms here in the good ol’ US of A.
Does this mean that you can never have a piece of bread or pizza out on the town ever again? And is gluten really that bad for you?
Well that will have to be your choice – you have to decide if it’s worth it to you. You may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have any symptoms and feel fine eating gluten every day. But the real way to find out how gluten affects you is to take 30 days off all grains and then gradually re-introduce them one at a time. You’ll quickly find out if you have a sensitivity to gluten or not. And no matter what, long-term you should make your wheat and gluten intake as clean and organic as possible, because I don’t believe anyone in their right mind should be ingesting carcinogens.
Wanna know what I do?
I source my bread from Wave Hill Breads, which is a local bakery that makes real sourdough bread on site. They source organic wheat and use a real sourdough starter which ferments and breaks down the gluten. If you can find a local bakery that does this, you’re quite lucky – many bakeries have starters that are at least 100 years old and are tolerated by people with all sorts of stomach issues. For the first time in years, my son can enjoy bread without all the additives and crap in the gluten-free versions. It doesn’t bother his stomach or flare up his immune system.
We also use grain-free tortillas by Siete which are make from cassava and almond flour. I top them with smashed boiled eggs for breakfast or use them for our taco nights. Heaven!
When you think of gluten-free eating, think whole foods first: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, lentils and beans, winter squashes like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti.
Spiralize your veggies for a pasta substitute and fill up on fruits, veggies, clean, pastured proteins and bone broth, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut, and raw nuts and seeds. If you can tolerate them, add in some steel-cut oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet or teff. Enjoy yogurts made from almonds or cashews. Then watch your body transform into the most gorgeous version of you you’ve ever seen.
People trying a gluten-free diet for the first time run out and get gluten-free breads, cookies, crackers, bars, and pancakes thinking that these are healthier choices just because they’re gluten-free or organic. These doesn’t make you healthy and in some cases can actually help you gain weight and become insulin-resistant. Check the labels for junk like cornstarch, sugars, chemicals and preservatives. If you can’t ID it, don’t eat it.
Esther Blum is the author of several books including “Why Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat.” Find her at wwwestherblum.com