IS ALL THE FUSS GROUNDED IN FACT?
STORY and photography BY Jennifer Cohen-Katz
Maybe you avoid gluten. Chances are you know someone who does. The number of people who follow gluten-free diets has tripled since 2009, to more than 3 million, most of them without celiac disease (an autoimmune condition managed by eliminating even a whiff of wheat). The controversy surrounding certain grains involves gluten sensitivity, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and a weed killer called Roundup® whose active ingredient is glyphosate.
Gluten sensitivity, not to be confused with celiac disease, is estimated to affect millions of Americans. The amount of wheat flours in the American diet is increasing and therefore reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye flours, are becoming increasingly common.
Some believe the use of glyphosate on wheat crops has been the source of crippling migraines, overwhelming fatigue, leaky gut, joint pain and more. Glyphosate also acts as an antibiotic that can reduce the good bugs in the gut allowing harmful strains to take over.
In addition, extra gluten is being added to commercially prepared breads in increasing amounts. There is debate whether this additional gluten has an effect on the immune system. Is there a limit to how much gluten our bodies can digest without causing a reaction?
Defying the historical method of bread making, today, preparing wheat involves discarding the germ and bran leaving only the white, starchy endosperm from the whole wheat kernel. Doing so eliminates nutritious fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that our body is designed to digest intact.
Another possible trigger may be GMOs in our food supply. According to researchers at Brown University, genetic modification may mix up or add proteins not in the original plant, potentially introducing new allergic reactions. In Europe, scientists are working with gene-editing technology to develop a gluten-free wheat flour. Which brings up the question will the gluten-free breads made from this GMO flour expose our system to a new danger?
Some believe the fear of gluten is a dietary fad that will soon be reversed, just as the low fat trend has been debunked. Fad or not, the gluten-free food industry is going strong as entire aisles are converted to alternatives free of gluten.
In my own practice I’ve had clients report relief from an assortment of symptoms after giving up foods containing gluten. I have to wonder, could this be due to the absence of gluten in their diet or something else? Replacement with more nutritious anti-inflammatory plant foods? A reduction in unhealthy refined grains and overall calories, resulting in weight loss?
At the very least, taking a break from digesting wheat every day will do no harm. Just look at how prevalent wheat is in conventional food products. How often do foods containing hybridized wheat show up in your diet day after day? If you have a concern substitute all or most of the wheat-containing foods in your diet with alternative whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, millet, amaranth or teff. Check out pasta made from beans or lentils, crackers made from nuts and rice, breads made from sprouted grains and seeds. And make a rule of walking by those bright white, pillowy loaves wrapped in plastic with an extended shelf life—products hardly worthy of being called real food.
Jennifer Cohen-Katz RD LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Fresh Balance Nutrition, helps clients identify their personal nutrition style to become their healthiest self. In addition to nutrition for hormonal balance, she offers cooking sessions and VIP personal nutrition services. Find out more at FreshBalanceNutrition.com.
Teff Banana Loaf
1 cup teff flour
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus extra for pan
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/3 cup pistachios , chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400˚. Lightly grease a loaf pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix teff and almond flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
3. In a small bowl, combine bananas, almond milk, apple sauce, coconut oil, lemon juice and maple syrup.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and blend thoroughly. Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle pistachios over top and gently press them into surface.
5. Bake 40 minutes until lightly browned. Let rest 10 minutes. Remove from pan and completely cool on a rack.
Yield: 1 loaf
Buckwheat Crêpes with Strawberries and Honey Yogurt
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup gluten-free flour blend
3 tablespoons dairy-free spread or butter, plus additional for cooking
¼ teaspoons salt
1 cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons honey
3 cups strawberries, sliced
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
1. Combine eggs, almond milk, flours, spread or butter, and salt in a blender or food processor. Place the crêpe batter in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat a 12-inch nonstick pan. Add spread or butter to coat the surface of the pan. Pour 1/3 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to a large plate. Lay out flat to cool. Continue with remaining batter.
3. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and honey. Spread a few tablespoons of honey-yogurt in the center of each crêpe. Add sliced strawberries and a sprinkle of almonds and mint. Repeat with remaining crêpes.
Amaranth Pizza with Asparagus and Mushrooms
¾ cups amaranth flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
¼ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
½ pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
½ pound asparagus, sliced
2 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups arugula
1. Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flours, ground flax seeds, water, olive oil and salt. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and flatten each into a circle. Transfer to a lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan. Add leeks and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes until softened.
3. When crusts are finished baking, remove from oven and top with leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, cheese and arugula.
Yield: 4 mini pizzas