A gluten-free diet is a must for anyone with celiac disease, but it can also help some individuals (including me) lose weight, improve their energy levels, and just simply feel better. Many people are going gluten free and the marketplace is starting to reflect this trend- more and more food labels are announcing their gluten free status.
Grains that contain gluten:
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a complete gluten intolerance. When those with celiac disease eat gluten, it damages their digestive tract causing nutrient deficiencies and numerous health problems.
Many healthy experts believe that celiac disease is underdiagnosed and that it is much more common than most people realize. Even if you don’t have full-fledged celiac disease, it is still possible to be sensitive to gluten- this may cause digestive discomfort, fatigue, weight gain and many other symptoms. If you suspect you may have a gluten sensitivity, try removing it from your diet and see how you feel.
Grain and grain-like foods that do not contain gluten:
- Brown rice/brown rice flour
- Coconut flour
- Quinoa/ quinoa flour
- Buckwheat/ buckwheat flour
- Corn/corn flour
- Amaranth/amaranth flour
- Teff/teff flour
- Millet/millet flour
- Flours made from ground nuts and seeds
What if you don’t think you are intolerant of or sensitive to gluten?
You still might want to experiment with eating fewer gluten-containing grains simply because they are very high in carbohydrates which can increase your insulin levels, contributing to excess hunger and possibly eventual weight gain.
If you choose to decrease your gluten intake but want to eat grains on occasion, try to eat whole grains that have been soaked and sprouted, or stick to gluten-free grains.
We’ve been graced with many gorgeous, barely chilly days over the last few weeks, but the evenings are cool and I love having warm soups to eat.
Since my pantry is full of all sorts of dried beans that I don’t use nearly enough, here is a recipe for white bean stew with pumpkin and kale.
A little warning: if you use dried beans as suggested, this is not a quick stew to make. But I prefer dried beans over canned because I believe the whole soaking business makes them much more digestible (plus cans can leach undesirable chemicals).
That being said, you may substitute canned beans if you like (you’ll need 4 cups/2 cans)- you’ll skip the part about simmering the beans at the beginning of the recipe. You will start by sautéing the veggies right in your soup pot, then add the drained canned beans, pumpkin and stock, and cook for just about 30 minutes. Finish with the shallots and wine, garnish, and serve. Quick and easy, but probably not as tasty as the longer version.
Recipe for White Bean Stew with Pumpkin and Kale
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
2 cups cannellini beans, soaked
2 bay leaves
1/2 white onion, stuck with 2 cloves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
*1 bunch kale, chopped
*2 cups sugar or cheese pumpkin or winter squash, chopped
*6 cups water or vegetable stock
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 shallot, minced
*1 cup dry red wine
*Himalayan or sea salt and black pepper to taste
*a little crème fraîche for garnish-optional
*minced fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, and thyme for garnish-optional
1. Start by placing 2 cups of dried white cannellini beans in a large bowl. Cover with water and soak overnight or for at least 4 hours. Pick out any beans that have floated to the surface and then drain.
2. Put the beans in a large soup pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. Lower the heat and add the bay leaves, 1/2 onion with cloves, and parsley. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
3. While the beans are simmering, heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute over medium heat and then add the chopped celery, carrot and kale. Add a little water to the pan and then cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
4. Back to the beans: remove the onion, cloves, and bay leaves. Pour off the cooking water and and mix 1 teaspoon of salt into the cooked beans. Add the cooked vegetables and the chopped pumpkin, along with 6 cups of water or vegetable stock (chicken stock could also be used, but then obviously, it's not vegetarian). Cook over low-medium heat for another 1/2-1 hour, until the beans are quite tender (the veggies will be very soft at this point). Add a little more stock or water as needed.
5. In your skillet, melt the butter with the shallots. Cook for several minutes over medium heat, and then add the wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced by 1/2-3/4 and then add what remains to the beans. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes.
6. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche and minced herbs, if desired, and serve alone or with a big thick slice of your favorite healthy bread. Mmmm...
Having your own organic vegetable garden is immensely satisfying- it’s a great way to ensure high quality super-local produce for your family.
It connects you to the earth and it’s good exercise, as well.
Even if you have very little space where you live, you can still grow something-try organic vegetable gardening in containers or look for a space in a community garden.
It is really important to use organic methods in your home garden- stay away from chemical products such as weed killer on your property- these are very eco-unfriendly and can be toxic to you, your family, and the environment. It is much better to make friends with the wild plants (aka weeds)- they are super sources of nutrition, and can either be eaten (like dandelion, nettles, purslane, and red clover), or pulled and added to your compost.
I personally use a lot of techniques inspired by permaculture in my garden. I purchased a Rain Barrel to harvest rainwater and I don’t do a lot of digging, opting instead to add lots of organic matter and to sheet mulch whenever possible.
Something else I started doing recently is saving my own seeds. This is a great way to preserve heirloom seed varieties; it’s also a great way to save some money.