Walking into any grocery store these days, it is difficult to miss the nagging, florescent “gluten-free” tags that line the shelves and appear with splashes of color on boxes and bagged food items. You hear people talking about it as they pump their gas, in the gym, and gluten-free books are flying off the shelves in libraries. Gem-decorated pop stars like teen-singer Miley Cyrus are even endorsing the trend as a “life changer” on twitter, eliciting curiosity in thousands off anxiously malleable followers. So you have to ask, what is this "glamorous gluten?" Unlike other trends, gluten-free is not going away. In this week's Recipe Tuesday, learn why gluten-free is here to stay and indulge in the smart way to change your diet with a delicious gluten-free Pesto Vegetable Linguini Recipe.
What is Gluten?
Simply put, gluten is a protein contained in some grains including wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Gluten is actually produced by the grain plant as a protective measure to prevent consumption before the kernels have had a chance to sprout. Thus by natural law, gluten is actually very difficult to digest. Animals that live on a basic grain and plant-rich diet can have up to four stomachs and significantly longer intestines to properly metabolize this ingredient!
Some Facts about Gluten Intolerance
Many of us have followed a nutritionist-prescribed diet for years, chowing down on all items at the base of that faulty food pyramid: munching on “health breads”, slurping up oatmeal and twirling whole wheat pasta on a fork. Furthermore, grainy breads have been considered “the staff of life” for thousands of years, with an ancient tradition dating back 8,000 years as a domesticated food across global cultures. So I know what you are thinking: this is silly, I must be gluten sensitivity free! But think again! Gluten is more harmful than you might think, and this is why:
1. Cake-like, plastic-wrapped Wonderbread (and its faux “whole grain” alternatives) that come sliding off the conveyor belt are not the type of nourishing, nutrient-dense sustenance that our ancestors were gobbling down. Cruelly mass-produced breads contain genetically-modified grains that have not been allowed to germinate in their natural pattern. Traditionally, humans first “pre-digested” grains by the practices of gently soaking, fermenting and sprouting. These processes have a gentle neutralizing effect on the gluten, making it far more easily digested. However these practices take up a significant amount of dedication, research and time, which are most certainly unappealing to efficiency-seeking industries, and also difficult to balance in our stylistically “busy” modern lives.
2. 1 in 133 Americans are estimated to have Celiac Disease. 95% of these people don't know! Celiac Disease is a condition in which certain predisposed individuals experience a destructive, inflammatory autoimmune response in their small intestines upon gluten ingestion. The condition is sometimes difficult to diagnose- it is not easily detected by blood tests and many people don't even get acute gastric symptoms.
3. Additionally, it is estimated that 18 million people have gluten intolerance or sensitivity in the USA. While Celiac disease causes significant damage to the intestine, gluten intolerance causes wide-range inflammation according Joseph Murray, MD, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. This is often manifested more subtly in chronic conditions such as heart disease, migraines, infertility, depression/anxiety, ADHD and autism to mention a few.
But Wait! Processed Gluten-Free does not mean GOOD for you.
Before you go slathering butter on your gluten-free toast and crunching on those ranch-flavored gluten-free crackers, stop and think. According to a report by Packaged Facts, the gluten-free industry has reached over 3.4 billion dollars in sales this year and is on the incline. Many production companies have jumped on the niche “gluten-free” market, pushing their high-cost specialty product onto under-educated buyers. But that isn’t you. You are an empowered, independent consumer.
Many of these processed gluten-free items are pumped-full of “bulking” and flavoring agents including: soy, vegetable shortening, canola oil, high fructose corn syrup, agave, aspartame, MSG, GMOs.
It is impossible to heal the gut from the trauma of gluten-responses with the amount of irritants and barren lack of nutrients in these foods!
It's okay, you may let out a loud frustrated sigh if you need to. Nothing “good” comes easily. The positive news is that you have options, and Radiant Life is here to support you. For starters, all Radiant Life products are GMO, Gluten, and Soy Free. Here you will also find an interested community and many fabulous, carefully selected resources to help you on this journey.
Go Gluten-Free at Home: Pesto Vegetable Linguini
One of the most difficult elements about going gluten-free is letting go of the engrained (pun intended) notion that you need to have a wheat-based carbohydrate in your diet as a vehicle for eating other foods. Think about it: rarely do you crave a dried out slice of toast or plain bowl of pasta-instead you are usually looking for the delectable oozing butter on your bread and the rich marinara sauce with meatballs poured over the spaghetti. Dare to try out this theory with this delicious Pesto Vegetable Linguini from The Naked Foods Cookbook.
Makes 4 servings
2 to 3 heads broccoli, chopped, long stems reserved
2 medium zucchini
1 butternut squash, peeled
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly cut on the diagonal
4 cloves garlic minced
2 cups stemmed and finely chopped kale
1/2-2/3 cups pesto (preferably homemade)*
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1 tablespoon chili flakes
Using a mandoline, slice the long broccoli stems, zucchini, and butternut squash into long thin strips to resemble linguini, until you have approximately 2 1/2 cups of each vegetable. In large skillet heat a teaspoon of ghee over medium heat. Add the linguini-like vegetables and lightly saute for 2 minutes, then add sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli florets, and garlic, and cover in pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove when broccoli is bright green and other vegetables are still al dente. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add kale to bowl with vegetables while they are still hot and mix well. The residual heat will cook the kale without overcooking it. Add pesto to vegetables in bowl and mix to coat. Plate and garnish with pumpkin seeds, basil and chili flakes. *Find a phenomenal Pumpkin Seed Pesto recipe in The Naked Foods Cookbook, or use your own favorite.
When we tried out this recipe, it was at a vacation house and we didn't have a mandoline readily available, thus we chopped the vegetables by hand. While labor intensive, the manual method it is quite doable. For a high-protein variation, add your favorite meat, fish or fowl to the meal. Cook protein source separately and add to the large bowl with the vegetables before adding pesto. In a hurry? Add anchovies, or mackerel, sardines or tuna!
Enjoy! Be sure to share your favorite recipes and subscribe to our blog to have Radiant Life wellness articles delivered right to your inbox!
Braly, James. Dangerous Grains. Penguin, 2001
Daniel, Kaayla. The Little Known Soy-Gluten Connection http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/the-little-known-soy-gluten-connection
Packaged Facts. Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in The U.S., 3rd Edition, 2011. http://www.packagedfacts.com/catalog/search.asp?query=gluten
University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. http://www.celiaccenter.org/