I never thought I’d have to give up wheat and gluten altogether.
Growing up in an Italian family, my diet was loaded with carbs and my favorite snacks were bread, pasta, and all things wheat and gluten. If back then someone would have told me that later on in my life I’d have to remove the best part of food from my daily diet, I’d have simply collapsed in dismay.
GLUTEN GOING, GOING, GONE…
Yet against all my wishes, over two years ago, I had to eliminate all wheat and gluten from my daily diet. I think it was one of the hardest things that I had to do; harder than giving up refined sugar, caffeine, and dairy. Wheat was my comfort food.
I still remember my mother on the phone reacting to the news: But how can you be intolerant to gluten…You are Italian! You grew up eating gluten, what happened?! No one in your family is celiac! What are you going to eat now…?!
Yes, I have asked myself those very same questions but back then I didn’t have half of the answers.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Very simple. The wheat we eat today is not the same wheat our grandmothers used for baking. The wheat as our grandparents enjoyed it has been (as you might know) genetically modified to confront a boom in global population and world hunger. In other words, far from what nature created. According to Dr. William Davis, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path Back to Health, 99% of the wheat grown worldwide is compromised or genetically modified.
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Nowadays, doctors and nutritionists recommend to avoid eating gluten and wheat even if you are not intolerant, allergic or celiac. In studies, those who removed all wheat sources from their diet lost weight, experienced relief from bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, migraine, joint pain, acid reflux, and their blood sugar got under control.
Beyond scientific results, I am a living proof of that. I was getting sicker and sicker unable to find the source of the problem, until I started a dairy and gluten-free diet.
WHY WHEAT COMPROMISES OUR HEALTH
If you think about it, wheat dominates our daily diet. It’s literally everywhere: we eat it for breakfast, we have crackers, cereal bars, and pretzels for snacks; we have a wrap, sandwich or pizza for lunch; pasta for dinner, and some late-night snack cookies with milk; and hidden in places you would have never thought of: soy sauce, sauces, and even beverages.
This high modified-wheat consumption creates an unhealthy cycle of repeated spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance damaging the liver, storing fat in the system, leading to diabetes or pre-diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.
I am a firm believer that we are what we eat. So when nothing helped me, I turned to the food I ate. I knew something was off. I was in extreme pain; sometimes even unable to eat or be still and suffering from daily excruciating migraines, my blood sugar was out of control, and to top it all off a scary skin reaction.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
To confirm my suspicions, I got a special blood test to identify what my body was reacting against or not assimilating. The results were clear: intolerant to both gluten and dairy, among other issues. The detox stage was very hard and challenging. But after 21 days I started feeling better, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and enjoying some great improvements.
Today, I don’t even eat gluten-free breads due to blood sugar issues that I need to keep on a very short leash. For very special occasions, I do feast on some homemade pasta or pastries. So it’s not all black and white. I have found a balance.
If you are considering to make the switch to a gluten free diet know that:
- Today, chefs and restaurants are responding more and more to the rapid increase of gluten-free customers’ demands. Even chain restaurants have added GF items to their menus.
- Besides information, there are plenty of gluten-free products available everywhere. Most of them are produced using rice, tapioca, or cornstarch—poor replacements for wheat. Quinoa, teff, millet, amaranth are better choices, yet eating only small portions of any of these is the key.
- Put aside the myth that gluten-free products and foods are dull and tasteless. Many are delicious. And remember, before making any changes in your food habits and diet, talk to your doctor. Remember, that what might be good for some, might not be for you.
If you want to try a gluten-free recipe, here’s one of my most favorite, delicious, ones:
GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Yields: Over 3 dozen cookies
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup sweet rice flour or potato starch
1/3 cup almond or tapioca flour
1 TSP xanthan gum (thickening and stabilizer)
1 TSP baking soda
½ TSP sea salt or Kosher salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, softened
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 TSP vanilla extract (GF)
2½ cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (GF)
½ cup toasted, chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Using your hands, and electric mixer, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add both sugars and beat for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beat until well combined and mixture looks shiny, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat until well combined, and slowly add flour mixture to it and beat until just combined. (Do not overdo it.) Add the chocolate chips and pecans (if using). Beat until well combined.
- Drop dough by rounded teaspoons or tablespoons, 1 to 2 inches apart, onto the prepared sheets.
- Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. (Do not over-bake.)
- Let them cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from sheets, enjoy warm, or let them cool completely.