Thursday, 26 June 2014

Oh She Glows and Slimming Meals that Heal: A Double Coobook Review

First off, I want to give a shout out to all my wonderful family and friends for their lovely birthday wishes last weekend. I was so fortunate to have my entire family be in Toronto with me, where we shared many laughs, love and way too much good food (if you've never had brunch at Le Select Bistro on Wellington, run there now!) To top it all off, we had the most perfect weather on Saturday. The only downside to my birthday? Realizing I am now 25 and halfway to 50!

To celebrate this milestone, I thought I would try something new on my blog and provide my personal reviews on two new cookbooks, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon and Slimming Meals that Health by Julie Daniluk. DISCLAIMER: I was not sent a free copy or asked to provide these reviews, and this post is based solely on my own opinion.

Let’s start with Oh She Glows.
I attended one of my best friend’s birthday parties at the beginning of June and was extremely jealous when I saw her unwrap a copy of Canadian Food Blogger Angela Liddon’s new vegan cookbook, Oh She Glows. Being the frugal student I am, I began taking pictures of some of the recipes using my iPhone. Luckily, my amazing friends took note of this and bought me my own copy for my birthday last weekend!

Don’t let the vegan word fool you into thinking this is some weird hippie, tasteless cookbook full of strange ingredients you will have to search every health food store in Toronto to find all the ingredients. Instead, the recipes are simply, easy to follow and chockfull of healthy ingredients. Plus you can always sub the vegan substitutions for non-vegan substitutions (i.e. real eggs for flax eggs) if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.

The thing I like the most about this cookbook is the layout. The pictures are beautiful, the text easy to read and she takes you on a journey through her kitchen from start to finish. I’ve already made several of her dessert recipes, granola bars and vinaigrettes, and everything was easy to prepare, cook, and turned out exactly like the photos, something that doesn’t always happen! N.B. this book is not 100% gluten-free, but Angela offers lots of gluten-free substitutions, and I have already used organic unsweetened, sunflower seed butter in place of almond butter in several of her recipes as I manage a fantastic kid’s bike camp called Pedalheads during the summer and we have a strict nut-free policy. I definitely recommend picking up a copy in store or online as this will be a great go-to cookbook for years to come. Next up, I plan to buy some green lentils and make some of her lentil-walnut meatloaf and taco meat for some delicious Meatless Monday meals! Below is a picture of her beat the heat dessert pizza, I made this for Father's day and it was a big hit.

Slimming Meals that Heal
I had the opportunity to meet holistic nutritionist Julie Daniluk earlier this year at a food show. She is truly an amazing woman, extremely successful and passionate about sharing her knowledge of food and healing with those around her. I bought her new cookbook, Slimming Meals that Heal online after reading several outstanding reviews on amazon. This cookbook is touted for those looking to lose weight, but I was personally interested in adopting an anti-inflammatory diet to help heal my gut and continue on my journey towards better health. The thing I like most aobut this book is the amount of sound, scientific nutritional advice and information she provides in the first half. This is really more of a textbook on how to heal inflammation, with recipes that support this process and aid in weightloss along the way. I’ve made several of her salads dressing, which all turned out delicious and were easy to make in my mini food processor. I plan of making more of her recipes in the Fall, as many focus on nourishing soups and stews that look delicious, but don’t currently sound appetizing as it’s supposed to be 38 degrees with the humidity next week! If you’re looking to eat better, reduce inflammation or lose weight, this is a great resource to have on hand. If you’re more interested in cooking great food, I would recommend Angela’s cookbook as it focuses more on the recipes than the science. OR if you’re like me, buy both and enjoy the benefits of both worlds.

If you have any more questions about either cookbooks or the recipes I’ve tried, send me a PM and I’d be happy to assist.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Is Gluten Sensitivity All In Your Head? Think Again.

After a recent study by Dr. Peter Gibson at Monash University in Australia was published claiming that non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist, I received several requests from friends to comment on the findings and the validity of the study. I am by no means trying to de-bunk the study with this post, and only wish to better educate people about this health issue and what the results mean.

I will begin with a disclosure that I am someone who suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. All gluten containing grains were extremely high on my IGG testing, and any ingestion of gluten causes severe stomach pain and bloating after eating, headaches, brain fog, and inevitable trips to the bathroom the next morning. Since I tested negative for celiac, trace amounts (a bit of soy sauce, a small bite etc.) don't bother me, but a full sandwich or slice of pizza means I’m out of commission for several days. It was my naturopathic doctor who recommended removing several commons allergens, including gluten, and food additives from my diet, allowing me to finally regain control of my life.
Hence, you can see my frustration, anger and embarrassment when people assume I am gluten-free because ‘I’m on a diet’, or ‘I’m a picky eater’, or ‘I’m high maintenance’ or 'I’m only gluten-free because my best friend is'.  These are all lines people have said to my face in the past, and the strange looks and judgmental stares when I asked for a gluten-free menu can make ordering out or dinner parties excruciating to sit though.  Nonetheless, there are many  people who are gluten-free for no real reason, and don’t even know that gluten is! Check out the Jimmy Kimmel Video for a good laugh

If you want more information on what gluten is, the Wikipedia page, like any good researcher, is a good place to start.

Let’s breakdown the findings of this study using this article posted on the Huffington Post

37 subjects, a relatively small sample, with self-declared gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome were placed on different diets including a high-gluten, low-gluten and control diet, consisting of 16 grams of whey protein isolate per day.
No matter which diet they ate, all reported feeling worse, even when consuming the gluten-free diet. BUT I personally don’t like how they used whey protein isolate as a control. Cow’s dairy is highly inflammatory and even isolate (which contains very little lactose) can cause bloating and stomach pain in people who are sensitive.  The scientists explained these results by a “nocebo” effect, “where people basically convince themselves that they feel worse and thus, they begin to experience real symptoms, but it’s all in their heads.” I slightly agree with researcher because if I’m eating out and skeptical of whether or not the server got my order right (i.e. the pizza crust or bun is in fact gluten-free), I do feel somewhat nauseous in anticipation of the pain and GI upset to come.

Thus, the researchers concluded that FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a far more likely cause of the gastrointestinal problems attributed to gluten intolerance. When participated consumed a low-FODMAP diet, almost all reported that their symptoms improved!
However, it should be noted that major dietary sources of FODMAPs include glutinous grains such as rye and wheat. Other potential triggers that are part of the FODMAPS family include HFCS, lactose, and certain fruits and veggies. In case you’re wondering, I do try to avoid large portions of foods high in FODMAPS as they are a trigger for my IBS. 

So what does this all mean? I will admit that gluten-free is extremely trendy these days and a great marketing tool, and I’m sure there are a good percentage of people on a gluten-free diet who don’t need to be and only feel better because they’re eating more whole, fresh food. On the other hand, I do greatly enjoy this current trend because it makes grocery shopping and dining out a much easier and less stressful experience for celiacs and those who are gluten intolerant alike and need to avoid gluten for medical reasons.

If you think going gluten-free will lead to weight loss, think again. Maybe in the past because going gluten-free meant cutting out cake, cookies, breads, pasta, pizza and other starchy, high calorie items from your diet. These days, there is gluten-free everything, including donuts, but this does not make them healthy or calorie free. In fact many gluten-free breads are FAR WORSE nutritionally, contain much more sugar, and are WAY MORE expensive than their gluten containing counterparts.

If going gluten-free makes you feel better mentally and physically, then I don’t think it’s truly all in your head. I do not recommend buying store bought gluten-free breads, pastas or cookies however, because they are often highly processed and full of white rice, potato starch and white sugar, which will cause a huge spike in blood sugar and a crash later on leaving you hungry and irritable. Instead try substituting with healthier ingredients; think zucchini or carrot noodles, cauliflower pizza crusts, Swiss chard wraps, and almond or coconut flour for homemade bread and desserts. If you have more questions about going gluten-free or think you may have other food sensitivities feel free to send me a private message or better yet, book an appointment with an accredited naturopathic doctor who can help you create an optimal diet for your gut.

Happy Eating