Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Too Much Gluten

A few nights ago, my husband and I were watching a nature show where Florida alligators were dying at alarming rates.  When looked into further, it was discovered that they were eating too much of a particular fish;  gizzard shad.  This particular fish contained enzymes that when consumed in high amounts killed the mineral thiamine in the alligator's gut.  This only happened when the fish was consumed by the alligators in large amounts.  The alligators started thriving again once thiamine was added back to the Eco-system.  You can read the details of the entire story here.

There was a scientific study conducted that looked at this occurrence and determined that the thiamine deficiency in alligators can be induced by a diet of gizzard shad. After watching and reading the details of this story, it dawned on me how simple the gluten issue really is.  We simply eat too much of it.   

Looking at the food pyramid, one would think that grains should be consumed in high amounts.  This leads most of us to believe that products like pasta and bread are good for our body.  The flaw with that way of thinking is that store bought versions of pasta and bread are highly processed, including the whole wheat versions.  In addition, wheat is in just about every snack and convenience item which many have come to rely on given our fast paced lives.  I believe our shift in eating patterns is partly why gluten has been linked to a host of health issues, such as diseases and ailments that involve the digestive, immune, and neurological systems.  Wheat has also been recognized as a appetite stimulant by some doctors.  Which may explain why so many people in our country struggle with their weight.

The wheat we consume today is different from what our ancestors consumed.  The grain has been scientifically engineered over the past 50 years in reaction to fears involving food supply. The Wall Street Journal shared a break through concerning celiac disease where researchers found that people today really do react differently to the grain than in the past.  So it's not an issue of simply being more aware of the disease.  This was done by conducting tests comparing old blood samples to recent ones.  The results showed that the rate of celiac disease has increased four-fold in the last 50 years, to at least 1 in 133 Americans.  This has led some researchers to believe that the problem may lie in the changes we have done to gluten. 

Although I think that even with our modern changes, the reactions would not be nearly as bad if people consumed less wheat.  Ideally a balanced diet with more whole, nutrient dense foods.  From what I have learned, eating too much gluten can be irritating to the gut, which in turn affects how the digestive system absorbs nutrients.  When this happens, any number of the ailments from above can happen.  It all depends on the person too, and what's going on in their body;  particularly their gut health and the balance of gut flora (bacteria).

To find a healthy balance, one has to really be aware of all the sources gluten is found.  If you are interested in watching how much gluten you eat, simply start by checking the ingredients of the products you buy.  Products with wheat as a main ingredient are ones to be mindful of.  Beyond that, you might be surprised to learn that gluten is contained in other items you would least expect like salad dressings, sauces, condiments, and lunch meats.  While I don't believe it is necessary to cut everything out, I believe being aware of how much we eat will help to put this issue into perspective better. 

Other items that can be problematic are sugar, corn, and soy.   All are typically ingredients and fillers for convenience items, snacks, and sweetened drinks.  When consumed in excess, the body has a hard time processing it all.  When the body is pushed to the max of what it has evolved to handle, it stops working like it should.  Which in turn, makes it more difficult for it to heal and filter out toxins.  This, I believe, is when disease starts to set in.

Now I'm not a doctor, so please do not go making drastic decisions concerning your health as a result of what I'm sharing.  I'm simply a concerned wife and mother who was prompted to take matters into my own hands after getting no where with traditional medicine. 

Do you have first hand experience with health issues that have been minimized or brushed off all together?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Raw Coconut Milk

In the past, I've purchased coconut milk to add to my son's almond banana smoothies.  While this option is more convenient, the better quality versions are expensive and not as nutritious as when consumed raw.  I've since learned that coconut milk is very easy to make at home.  All that's required is a coconut, a blender, and time. 

Coconuts have gotten a bad rap in the past given their fat content.  They've since been making a come back now that people are learning more about the health benefits associated with the fats they contain.  Coconuts are rich in medium-chain triglycerides.  MCT's are really easy to digest making coconut milk a great replacement for dairy.  Coconuts also contain lauric acid which is also found in breastmilk

There are a number of ways to make coconut milk.  I use a regular coconut to make mine, but it can also be made using shredded coconut.  If using the type that is dry then follow the instructions outlined in this video:

If you are wanting a more raw version then go with freshly shredded coconut or frozen coconut (found in specialty supermarkets).  This video outlines how to make milk with the raw ingredients:

Getting the contents from the coconut can be tricky.  If going that route then first drain the coconut.  Do this by poking holes with a clean screw driver on the existing soft spots of the coconut.  Place over a glass, and shake every now and then to make sure all of the milk is making its way out.  

Then find a clean, durable plastic bag.  I prefer to use Target bags :-)  Put the coconut in it, and find a concrete surface to throw it against.  I keep throwing it against the ground until the coconut is broken into small pieces.  The meat is easier to shred this way.  Then shred the meat (while still attached to the husk) with a grater and you are ready to proceed with the instructions given in the first video!

A batch I made

Have you ever made raw coconut milk before?

Homemade Granola Bars

I got the idea to make my own granola from Pinterest. You can check out my food board to see the original recipes.

I had to try a couple different variations to find a version my son liked.  He turned his nose up at the ones with pumpkin seeds and dried fruit.  Still, I didn't give up.  The winning ingredient was semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Once I agreed to add those he was game to try a batch.  Which I'm totally fine with given the other ingredients I was able to add to it.

Here's the recipe that keeps him begging for more...

1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/4 cup of raw honey
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of rolled oats
1 measuring cup full of the following:  sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, & ground flax (not pictured)
1/4 cup (or so) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

The ingredients

1. Line a shallow pan with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick oil.
2. Warm the peanut butter, honey, and coconut in a saucepan over the stove.  Stir mixture until it blends together nicely.
3. Remove from heat and add in the rolled oats and then the nut/seed mixture.
4.  Allow to cool a bit, then add the chocolate chips
5. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
7. Cut as you wish and serve! 

The final product

Of course, this recipe can totally be adapted to your family's needs.  Have fun figuring out what works best!  Enjoy :-)