Gluten is a highly acid-forming protein found in wheat products. It is difficult to digest, void of nutrients, creates inflammation in the body, and can lead to an assortment of bodily discomforts, both emotionally and physically debilitating.
As we have begun to recognize our “intolerance” as individuals, and then hopefully as a society, “Gluten-Free” has become quite a catchy phrase in the food world today. Over the past year alone, more and more people are going “gluten-free” to combat everything from skin disorders, to digestion, arthritis, and weight gain. My concern is: But what are we replacing gluten with?
Going Gluten-Free is smart, but when studies point a finger at gluten, and food companies decide to capitalize on these “trendy” findings, the original healthy efforts become clouded.
In other words, we start replacing our cookies and cake with gluten-free muffins and doughnuts.
The real problem is that our diets are comprised of more processed, refined flours, and sugars than they are nutrient dense, alkaline foods, like fruits and vegetables. It is for this reason that I am apprehensive about a “gluten-free” packaged-anything… including cookbooks.
Despite my apprehension, I optimistically said, “yes!” to reviewing “The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook: The Delicious Way to Strengthen Your Immune System and Neutralize Inflammation.” Written by two sisters: Annalise Roberts (of bestselling “Gluten-free Baking Classics“), and her sister, Claudia Pillow, PhD. I expected a cookbook. What I received was beyond my expectations. “The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook” is, without a doubt, a great tool and source for educating people on the truth about “gluten.”
I was the most surprised and impressed by the introduction to the Cookbook. As far as gluten’s history is concerned, the book recognizes staggering statistics, and brings to light just how out of control our wheat consumption has become.
“Almost half of our calories come from refined wheat and sugars. We consume 34 percent more wheat than we did just 40 years ago, and we eat wheat all day: cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, cookies and crackers for snacks, and pizza and pasta for dinner.”
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself nodding through a good portion of the introductory chapters. Authors built an impressive, but simplified case for reasons to avoid gluten. I especially liked how the book not only explains and contrasts our ancestral consumption with present day, but also how the gluten protein chisels away at our resistance to fight disease.
“The body continually strives to balance pH. When the body chemistry is not balanced, many problems can occur, much like a swimming pool when the pipes corrode… because the pool’s pH has become too acidic or too alkaline.
They go on to explain that the human intestines can also become pitted and corroded like this piping, “allowing bacteria, viruses, yeast, and large food proteins—foods that would normally not be allowed to enter—to pass into the blood.”
As a society, we don’t acknowledge the way our bodies react to each and every food item we consume. ”The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook” covers the bases of inflammation, and how acidity not only lends a hand, but also corrupts and deteriorates the body.
The book highlights many important and often overlooked points:
“50% of the immune system surrounds the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore what we eat and digest directly affects us!” (And by “immune system” they mean the specialized cells and processes within that are responsible for managing invaders and healthy nutrients).
I too emphasize to my clients that the main function of the gastrointestinal tract is to digest, extract nutrients, and then eliminate waste. Like a sponge, the digestive tract (which, unraveled, is about the size of a football field) absorbs nutrients. When this piping system is inflamed however, we allow invaders into the bloodstream causing: diarrhea, constipation, headaches, infertility, allergies, muscle pain, and joint pain and arthritis– authors of the book reiterate my feelings, these things are not normal.
As I mentioned, it is not too often I come across a health book that I can nod my head along with in agreement. That being said, I did not agree with the book in its position on meat. Although authors do not deny that animal products are highly acid-forming, and clearly suggest that we “neutralize” our meals with whole plant foods (like vegetables), animal products seemed… excused.
While society clearly over consumes wheat and gluten, we also choose to consume meat for every meal also: eggs and bacon for breakfast, a grilled chicken sandwich, or salad for lunch, protein bar for snack, and shrimp scampi for dinner. This definitely causes inflammation and deterioration also.
I found it odd that there could be so much valuable information concerning the breakdown and digestion of foods and the elimination gluten, but not the significant reduction of animal proteins as well.
Additionally, with such a focus on the how the digestive system functions, I thought that the book could be further enhanced by adding in suggestions for improved digestion and also ways to remove existing inflammation through a more naturally detoxifying diet. For instance, highly inflammatory and slow to digest, I would not suggest eating an omelet for breakfast. Depending on the individual, I would suggest a green smoothie, fresh fruit, a gluten-free quinoa dish, or something with avocado!
But! That being said, Roberts and Pillow never claim that this book is going to solve all your health problems, nor do they claim this as an all-encompassing “diet” book, or a book on digestion. With that in mind, I found the beginning chapters to be an excellent introduction for those that are looking to improve their health one step at a time. There is no question that anyone with a mainstream diet will highly benefit from reading ”The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook.” Which is why I asked the publishing company if I could offer one reader a copy! Scroll down!
My initial thought was, WOW! If people could absorb this information and then start adjusting other areas of their diet, we will all be better off!
But oh wait! I almost forgot…
This is actually a cookbook!
I always enjoy a good cookbook and although this one was not short of meat, I did love collecting ideas for my family. One recipe I particlarly could not wait to enjoy was the Spicy Ratatouille Spread.
Rich and Creamy. It is like a marriage of simple, traditional Italian and Greek cuisine. In love!!!
I adjusted a few components to my liking but the outcome was divine! I look forward to picking out more recipes to try. There are a great assortment of vegetable dishes, which reminds me to always keep expanding my palate.
Here is what the authors had to say about their exquisite dish:
Spicy Roasted Ratatouille Spread
Our Spicy Roasted Ratatouille Spread serves as the basis for a variety of dishes:
as a zesty spread for crackers; mixed with goat cheese for a quick and tasty pasta;
served as a condiment alongside roasted meat, fish, or poultry; as a spread in a
delicious sandwich; and even as a flavorful addition to a colorful salad topped with
fresh, creamy cheese. You can make up a large batch to use as a party hors d’oeuvre,
and then use the extra for a quick and easy weekday meal. It’s a fresh, nutritious
alternative to any store-bought, ready-made spread.
Reprinted with permission from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook, by Annalise G. Roberts and Claudia Pillow, PhD, Agate Surrey, 2010.
Yields 2–3 cups
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼–½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (1-pound) eggplant, peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 medium-sized red bell peppers, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large red onion, peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the rack in the center of the oven. Grease a large
baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red
3. Add the eggplant, bell peppers, and onion. Toss to coat. Spread the mixture on the
4. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes and then turn. Continue to roast for another
10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Cool for 10
minutes on the baking sheet.
5. Transfer the vegetables to the food processor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes,
parsley, and basil. Pulse to process the vegetables until a coarse purée forms.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and adjust the seasonings to taste.
6. Allow the spread to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Serve
with crispy crackers.
What I did differently?
- To eliminate any cooked oils, I did not grease a pan, but rather used (recycled) cooking foil.
- I used sun-dried tomatoes and rehydrated them in warm water for 10 minutes.
- I used a little less olive oil.
- I forgot the onion.
I cannot wait to make this recipe again. It is fantastic for entertaining. I used the extra on an arugula salad for my husband the next day!
Win your own copy!
Because I thought that this book would make such a great source for learning about “gluten”, I am passing on a copy to a family member, and I want to offer one lucky reader the chance to win their own! Please comment and spread the word. Do you know anyone that suffers from a gluten-intolerance? Why are you interested in learning about gluten? Do you love exploring new cookbooks?
Winners to be announced next week from Hawaii (my honeymoon).
Read Full Post »