Tag Archives: Michael Pollan

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

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Are you nuts???? the good news about them(and us!)

Holiday parties are in full swing and with that comes the risk of adding on extra pounds. I mentioned in one of my recent posts that the average American gains 14 pounds(yikes!) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That is just not acceptable.

So what can YOU do to  avoid this? Nuts have been getting quite a lot of attention these past few years:  they are full of fiber, unsaturated fats, nutrients that help your brain and immune system work better, loaded with flavor and best of all, when eaten in moderation, they may help you actually lose weight.

What??? How can that be? Nuts are fattening, right? Well, they are nutrient and calorie dense foods but recent studies have shown that they may in fact stave off your appetite when eaten early in the day and help you eat less as the day goes on.

Here is a recent article in the NY Times. Do click on the video in the article as well. It is a fascinating subject.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/dining/are-nuts-a-weight-loss-aid.html?ref=health

Throughout the years we have all been bombarded with a barrage of weight loss programs: low fat/ high carb, high fat/low carb, Atkins, Skillman, Paleo, vegan, South Beach: it gets very confusing. How does someone know which diet is right for them and which foods are best to eat? Michael Pollan has seven simple words that he uses to distill it all down: Eat food(whole), not too much, mostly plants.

Nuts grow on trees, as do avocados and fruits. It just makes sense that they are good for us, doesn’t it? Candace and I will continue to tackle this complex topic in the coming months but for now, grab a handful of nuts in the morning and perhaps for a mid-afternoon snack and know that you are doing something wonderful for your body and your brain.

Happy holidays to you and your families.

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Thank you for asking: ‘the recipes’ and more

Day 7 of this cleanse, feeling pretty darned great, finish line just around the corner. As always, I have learned a lot from taking the time to evaluate my food and beverage choices, what Mark Bittman, author and writer for the NY TIMES, calls ones “personal food policy”. I heard him speak a few weeks ago here in Portland at the inception of a local event known as ‘Portland Feast’ and I was inspired by some of the things he had to say.

Being a cookbook junkie, I of course purchased his cookbook, “The Food Matters Cookbook” and have spent some time reading the introduction and the first few chapters before jumping into the recipes.  He, like Michael Pollan(“In Defense of Food”, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and so on) emphasize the plant-based diet. Pollan’s famous seven word summation of how to eat: ‘eat food(whole food), not too much,  mostly plants’ makes it very simple.  Bittman in his cookbook goes on to give us some basic pointers to guide us each day:

1. Strive to eat fewer animal products than the average American(which is , gulp, 1/2#/day!).

2. Eat as many plants as you can. There is an endless variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds: focus on these.

3.  Be sure to include legumes and grains into your diet every day. Don’t overdo but these will serve as terrific substitutes for animal-based foods.

4. Stay away from processed foods. This is huge. Read your labels. Try to avoid products that have more than 5 ingredients and especially ones with preservatives and things you don’t recognize.

5. All other things should be considered to be a treat. That goes for chocolate(choose the best you can find), wine, beer, occasional desserts and other items not listed above. Consume these in smaller amounts.

Bittman willingly admits that perfection is not an option nor is it a goal but by making small changes(remember how we started this cleanse!), these will add up to larger ones for ourselves and globally.  So this really has been a consciousness cleanse: awareness of how important it is to be aware of what we are feeding our bodies, as well as how our choices affect the planet.

Our precious and beautiful planet

As our bodies age, it is critical that we nourish them with the cleanest diet we can manage. This will help to maintain strong body systems: cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal, sensory, digestion and endocrine. We really are what we eat after all.

We have had several requests for the recipes that I mentioned using this past week and as promised, here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as my son Conor and I did. He gave me a big thumbs up, especially on the pumpkin soup and whole grain bread. I would like to give credit to the sources of these recipes. The pumpkin soup one comes from Parade Magazine, Oct 14, 2012 issue.  The bread recipe is from Mark Bittman’s “Food Matters Cookbook”. The fruit jam was inspired by a recipe in Kim Boyle’s “Good to the Grain” cookbook, a lovely whole grain cookbook. As always when I cook , I made a few changes and noted them below.
BON APPETIT!

Final rose of 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Soup(serves 6: hmmm maybe….)

1 Tblsp canola oil(I used olive oil)      1 tsp minced garlic     1 tsp curry powder   1 tsp cumin

1 small onion, chopped fine  1/4 tsp cardamon     1/4 tsp salt      1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cups chicken broth( I usually make my own but you buy organic broth)

1-15 oz can pumpkin(or make your own if desired)     1-12 oz can evaporated fat free milk(or regular milk)

6 Tblsp Greek yogurt and parsley leaves for garnish(I didn’t find these to be necessary) 

Directions: In large pot, heat oil over medium , add onion cook for 3 minutes until soft, add garlic , cook another minute, add spices , salt and pepper. Cook additional minute, stirring. Next whisk in broth and pumpkin: bring to boil, reduce heat  to low, simmer for approx 15 minutes. Add milk, simmer for several minutes. Last step: using an immersion blender(I used regular one in small batches), puree the soup until smooth. Taste: adjust your spices, salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and if desired, garnish with the yogurt and parsley.

Whole Grain Bread(this is soooo easy)

In large mixing bowl, measure 3 cups of whole wheat flour(I used ww pastry flour but you could use regular WW flour), 2 tsp salt and 1 and 1/2 tsp of yeast. Pour 1 and 1/2 cups of warm, not hot, water into the bowl: lightly stir the ingredients together(I also used my hands to mix everything together into a loose mound) and place in draft-free place. Cover with a towel. Let this rise for approx 2 hours.

NOTE: I love salt yet I found that 2 tsp was a bit much so I cut this down to 1 tsp. You may substitute up to 1 cup of the whole wheat flour with another type: I had excellent results with barley and kamut flour. I plan to try rye next. Another time I add 3 Tblsp of coconut sugar to give it a faint taste of sweetness. I think honey would be great as well, but then you might need to adjust the amount of flour: maybe an additional 1/4 cup. 

Once the dough has risen to approx doubled in size, you may punch it down and place in well-oiled loaf pan. Let this rise until over the top of the pan. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven, lightly brushing the top with olive oil and sprinkling with corn meal, if desired.

Option: once the dough as risen in the bowl, you can add up to one cup of cooked grains(millet, oats, quinoa, etc) and mix this in. I tried 1/2 cup cooked millet and 1/2 cup uncooked oats and this was a great choice. You can also mix in nuts, seeds, raisins, olives. Add fresh herbs if desired, approx 1 tsp or to taste. This is a wonderful recipe, very forgiving and easy  to personalize. I made 3 different loaves last week and it has been fun to experiment and see which combinations work best. This is the easiest whole grain recipe I have ever tried.  The cost of making a loaf is minimal and it takes just a few minutes to mix the ingredients together.

Serve fresh hot bread with organic butter/honey/peanut butter/olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Plus here is a quick and easy recipe for sugar-free jam.

Dried fruit jam

Place 1 and 1/2 cup dried fruit into small saucepan. Add 1 cup fruit juice. Bring to boil, cover, turn off flame. Let sit for approx 30 min or until the dried fruit has plumped up. Using immersion blender, puree until fairly smooth. Store in closed container in the fridge.

Note: in Kim Boyle’s cookbook she recommends pitted prunes with orange juice. I have also tried prunes and mango juice. I think it would be fun to try dried cherries and apple or orange juice; dried apricots and mango or orange juice. Experiment and find what flavor combinations that you like best.

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