Diet


gluten free cooking by Dara Thompson N.D.

Not long ago whole wheat was the symbol of healthy food.  Now an increasing number of products bear the proud label “wheat-free”.  For health conscious consumers, it can be confusing.  But many people are discovering that they feel better when they eliminate wheat from their diets.

Wheat is a major world food crop.  Most bread, cereal, pasta is made from wheat flour.  In addition, it is a common food additive as food starch and as an ingredient in soy sauce.  Whole wheat flour is ground from the whole grain without any of the bran or fiber removed.  White flour, has had all of the bran removed for a lighter, less coarse product.  Heirloom varieties of wheat such as spelt, kamut, farro are now widely available.

There are several theories to explain why so many people are reactive to wheat.  Modern wheat has been hybridized to have very high levels of the protein gluten.  This gives bread elasticity and increases shelf life, but gluten is difficult to digest and allergenic.  It is also the cause of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects ~1 in 100 people.  Perhaps this increase in gluten is the cause.  This theory is supported by the fact that many people who can’t eat modern hybridized wheat are able to eat one of the heirloom varieties such as spelt.  Others believe that the amount of wheat being eaten is the problem.  Some people consume wheat at every meal overwhelming their digestive and immune systems.

Regardless of the reason, many people’s find that their health improves when they avoid wheat and other gluten grains.  Common symptoms of a wheat allergy or intolerance are fatigue, digestive trouble, weight gain, edema, congestion and rashes.  If these symptoms resolve when wheat is removed from the diet for 4-6 weeks, it is likely the cause.

yummy yams by dara thompson naturopathic doctor

Luckily there are lots of alternatives to wheat.  Gluten-free breads and pastas are available in grocery stores and are easily ordered on the Internet.  Whole grains such as rice or quinoa can be used in place of bread or noodles in many recipes.  Starchy vegetables like yams or potatoes are another good option.  Don’t forget, most people eat too many carbohydrates already.  Its O.K. to skip the bread altogether and substitute a vegetable side dish in its place.  Don’t miss next week’s blog post for some delicious, easy to follow wheat free recipes!

Joy

In naturopathic medicine leafy greens are vital to good health

 For some reason that I have either forgotten or never actually knew, my children named this simple dish Joy.  It certainly is a joy to me as a parent when they eat kale.  I think the richness of the onions caramelized in coconut oil is the key to the recipe.  It is also vital, at least for toddlers, to chop the kale into fairly small pieces.  Long strips of cooked greens are too stringy for little ones.  If you have leftovers, you can make a shepherd’s pie casserole the next day.  Just spread the meat and vegetables in the bottom of a baking dish, top it with mashed potatoes (see the cauliflower mashed potato recipe below) and bake it for ~ 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

–       2 tablespoons of organic unrefined coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

–       1 medium onion, minced

–       1 bunch of kale or collard greens washed, stems removed and finely chopped

–       2 lb. of ground meat – grass-fed beef, lamb, or buffalo

–       1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat the oil in a large cast iron, or other heavy bottomed skillet.  Add the onions to the hot oil and cook them over medium heat, stirring frequently until they are brown and soft.  Stir in the kale and ¼ cup of water, cover the pan and let the vegetables simmer for ~5 minutes.  Add the ground meat and sprinkle the salt over the top.  Stir the mixture while it cooks until all of the meat is broken into small pieces. Cover the pan again and let the entire mixture cook it for ~ 10 more minutes.  When it is done most of the fluid in the pan should have cooked off and the kale should be very tender.

Serve the Joy with Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (see below), rice, quinoa, or spaghetti squash.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Healthy food doesn't have to be boring.  Cauliflower mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) are packed with nutrients that prevent cancer and promote the cleansing.  Adding pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes, soups and sauces boosts nutrition without compromising taste.  Pureed cauliflower is has a satisfying creamy texture that belies its fat-free vegetable status.

–       4 medium potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks 

–       ½ medium head of cauliflower separated into florets

–       1 peeled clove of garlic (optional)

–       1 cup of water

–       2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil

–       sea salt

Place the water, potatoes and garlic on the bottom of a large saucepan.  Put the cauliflower florets on top.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook the vegetables until they are tender  ~ 20 minutes.  Check the water level periodically to make sure it doesn’t run out.  Remove the cauliflower and garlic from the pot and puree them in a blender adding just enough cooking water to process.  Remove the potatoes from the pot and place them in a large bowl.  Add the butter and cauliflower puree and mash the mixture until it is smooth.  You may add some more cooking liquid if the mixture is dry.  Salt the mash to taste and serve it warm.

Note: If you don’t mind a coarse texture it is not necessary to puree the cauliflower.  You can simply mash all of the vegetables together.


What is in a lowly cabbage?  The answer is – more than you might think.  The cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are one of the most important plant families.  They owe their star status to two important compounds – isothiocyanates including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol.  Together these compounds provide health benefits that are virtually unmatched, preventing cancer, supporting detox pathways and improving metabolism.

Cruciferous vegetables - cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale.  Powerful natural healing agents.

Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to improve estrogen metabolism in women.  When estrogen is broken down properly the risk of developing hormone sensitive breast cancer is reduced.  Consumption of cruciferous vegetable also reduces the incidence of bladder, lung and prostate cancers.  Animal studies have shown that indole-3-carbinol has an anti-obesity effect, reducing weight gain and helping to resolve fatty liver disease.

The isothiocyanates have mainly been studied for their ability to improve the function of liver pathways and detox enzymes.  They reduce the accumulation of various toxins including methyl mercury.  They are potent anti-oxidants preventing damage to our tissues by free radicals.  In today’s toxic world provide essential support.

Cruciferous vegetables can be eaten in a variety of ways.  The highest concentrations of indole-3-carbiol have been found in broccoli sprouts.  However most of the studies on disease prevention show that moderate dietary consumption, 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables 3-7 times per week, is protective.  Because these compounds are heat sensitive it is best to eat the vegetables lightly cooked.  They can also be finely chopped in salad such as coleslaw or cultured into sauerkraut or kim chee.  Add the sprouts to your meals for a spicy boost.  However you prepare them rest assured, by eating these delicious vegetables you are giving yourself the cruciferous advantage.

Note: People with thyroid disorders should avoid raw cruciferous vegetables.  They can worsen thyroid dysfunction.

antioxidant rosemary

The omega 3 fatty acids in salmon are well studied for their anti-inflammatory properties.  Eating just one 6 oz. piece of wild sockeye salmon provides over 2000 mg. of omega 3s.  This recipe combines savory fish with aromatic fresh rosemary.  Antioxidant, neuroprotective and delicious, rosemary is one of my favorite spices.  Who knew that being healthy could taste so good?

–       4 wild Alaskan salmon fillets, 4-6 oz. each

–       1 tablespoon of olive oil or melted coconut oil

–       1 teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary

–       1 teaspoon of fine sea salt

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix the minced rosemary and sea salt together in a bowl.  Rinse the salmon fillets, pat them dry and place them skin side down on a baking dish.  Brush each fillet with oil and sprinkle it with the rosemary-salt mixture.  Place the fillets in the hot oven and bake for ~ 10 minutes.  Baking time will vary depending on the thickness of you fillets and how well done you like your fish.  Serve the salmon with a green salad or steamed vegetables and Creamy Cranberry Dressing (recipe below).  For an attractive presentation, garnish each fillet with fresh rosemary before serving.  Serves 4.

Note: You can use this recipe for a large whole salmon fillet.  If you are using a larger piece of fish your cooking time will increase accordingly.

anti-inflammatory salmon recipe

Creamy Cranberry Dressing

Cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse.  Their dark pigments have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  They are high in fiber, low in carbohydrates and contain beneficial compounds that support a healthy bladder.  This creamy dressing combines cranberry juice with nuts and flax for additional benefits.  This is also a great dressing for anyone who is sensitive to vinegar or citrus.

–       ¼ cup of nuts (macadamia, brazil or cashew nuts work best)

–       ½ cup of unsweetened cranberry juice

–       ½ teaspoon sea salt

–       ¼ cup of cold pressed flax oil

–       ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

Place the nuts and cranberry juice in a blender.  Secure the lid and start blending on the lowest setting, gradually increasing to the highest.  Blend until the nuts are pureed to a smooth cream.  Turn the blender down to medium speed and add the salt.  Then slowly add the oil in a thin stream.  The dressing should be smooth and creamy after all of the oil is added.  Store the dressing in a glass jar; it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Makes 1 ¼ cups.

Inflammation is a natural process.  It is one of the primary ways the immune system fights off infection and protects the body.  However, excess inflammation causes a host of health problems.  Allergies, arthritis, chronic pain and heart disease are only a few of the diseases associated with an inappropriate immune response.  Making the right dietary choices can help regulate the immune system and prevent illness.  Below are some general guidelines for optimizing your diet and decreasing inflammation.  By following these instructions you can take the first important step in preventing pain and promoting health.

1) Relax and enjoy your food.  Your state of mind affects your health at least as much as what you eat.

2) Avoid all of your known food allergens, sensitivities and intolerances.  These will trigger an inflammatory reaction in your body.

3) Try to eat whole, unrefined foods whenever possible.  These provide a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and phytochemicals that balance immune functions.  Choose whole grains over refined grains, freshly prepared foods over packaged foods, etc.

fresh fruit

4) The type of fat you eat has a profound effect on your immune function.  Emphasize foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as wild salmon, flax seed, hemp seeds and raw walnuts.  Minimize foods high in omega 6 fatty acids such as corn oil, soy oil, peanut oil.  Minimize foods high in arachidonic acid such as commercially raised, grain-fed meat.  Strictly avoid all hydrogenated oils; they promote inflammation.

5) Balance your blood sugar.  Blood sugar imbalances such as hypoglycemia are very stressful for the body.  They exhaust your adrenal glands and inhibit the production of natural anti-inflammatory hormones like cortisol.  Eat smaller, more frequent meals.  Avoid simple sugars and highly refined carbohydrates.  Always eat some protein or fat with complex carbohydrates so they will be absorbed slowly.

6) Avoid nightshade vegetables.  In sensitive people the nightshade vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can trigger musculoskeletal inflammation and pain.  The only way to find out if you are one of these people is to avoid the nightshades for six weeks and see if your symptoms improve.  Then re-introduce them for a week and see if your symptoms come back.  Remember to read ingredients; potato starch, tomato sauce and chili pepper are hidden ingredients in many foods.  Incidentally, tobacco is also in the nightshade family.

7) Eat high enzyme foods such as pineapple, green papaya, kiwi and sprouted seeds.  These enzymes will promote digestion and reduce food allergies. They can also be absorbed into the blood stream where they break down immune complexes and reduce inflammation.

8) Eat darkly colored fruits and vegetables.  The pigments in fruits, vegetables and spices are often potent anti-inflammatories.   Fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and cherries and vegetables such as carrots, kale and turmeric should be consumed every day.

9) Balance your gut flora.  Our gastrointestinal tract is not sterile; it is a balanced ecosystem of bacteria and yeasts.  Unfortunately the modern diet and use of antibiotics tends to throw this ecosystem off.  This has a profound effect on the immune system because 50% of your immune cells are concentrated in and around the gastrointestinal tract.  Consuming plenty of fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso can help to restore beneficial flora and balance your immune response.  Probiotic supplements, especially those high in bifido bacteria* have been shown to decrease allergies and inflammation.

*Oral Bifidobacterium modulates intestinal immune inflammation in mice with food allergy. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 May;25(5):928-34. Zhang LL, Chen X, Zheng PY, Luo Y, Lu GF, Liu ZQ, Huang H, Yang PC.

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