There's a lot of confusion over the gluten free "movement". Why is everyone all of a sudden sensitive to it? Even if I'm not, should I avoid gluten? Is gluten as gross as it sounds? I'd love to clear some of that up for you today.
Firstly, there are a few theories as to why gluten allergies are popping up more frequently these days, but the one I find most compelling is that the quality of processed food in our country has gotten so poor that for those who eat too much of it, their bodies have a harder time handling proteins like gluten because they are working harder to cleanse out other toxins. This is not the case for everyone (especially not those who have celiac disease-an autoimmune disorder), though it explains a lot! Secondly, the reality is that if you are not sensitive to gluten and you eat an otherwise healthy diet, then there is no reason to avoid the naturally occurring protein because here's where things can get complicated.
There is a common misconception that any gluten free bread is healthier than any wheat bread. This is sometimes the case when comparing a whole grain gluten free bread to, say, Wonderbread. However, as with most food comparisons, the proof is in the ingredients list. Let's compare an all purpose gluten free bread with a high quality whole wheat bread.
The white gluten free bread will contain a long list of refined ingredients like rice flour, modified tapioca starch, potato starch, and a number of preservatives. A good quality wheat bread, on the other hand should contain only whole wheat flour, water, honey, sea salt, and yeast. I'm not saying that gluten free bread is unhealthy across the board. In fact, I love a well-made gluten free pizza crust. I'm simply wanting to show you how just like choosing between conventional breads at the grocery store, the label must be considered!
So my suggestion? If you're sensitive to gluten, clean up your diet and do some gut healing work. See if this clears up the sensitivity for you. If not (or if you truly have a gluten intolerance...or truly love gluten free bread), then look for whole grain gluten free alternatives containing ingredients like brown rice flour, oat flour, and quinoa flour as your go-tos. Your gluten intolerance is valid and you deserve the best quality grains you can get your hands on! Reading labels can take some getting used to, but I know your body will thank you and I hope you'll feel empowered by the new awareness it gives you in making nutrition choices.
I've been making various renditions of this dish for families lately and find it be a total crowd-pleaser. It's flexible: a naturally gluten free dish that can be altered to be heavier on the veggies and lighter on the rice for those maintaining a lower carb diet. Plus, there is just something about a good peanut sauce that is ultra yummy and comforting. Enjoy!
Thai-Style Peanut Chicken and Rice
2 c brown rice
1 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
2 large organic bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
1 lb organic chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 recipe peanut sauce
¼ c unsalted, roasted peanuts
½ c raw, julienned carrots
8 fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped
Cook brown rice in 4 c water (bring salted water to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to low and cover, allow to simmer for about 45 min, 'til fully cooked and fluffy).
In a large skillet over medium heat, caramelize onions and peppers in ½ T olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
While onions and peppers cook, prepare the sauce and set aside for later.
Remove caramelized veggies from pan, add remaining 1/2 T olive oil, and cook chicken. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Once cooked, add veggies and cooked brown rice, along with half the peanut sauce. Combine thoroughly and serve warm. Top with peanuts, carrots, and basil, and serve extra peanut sauce on the side.
During my time of studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®, a concept that was impressed upon us over and over was that of primary foods. In my own words, here's what primary foods are--all those big picture priorities in life that we must monitor regularly (like food intake), including relationships, spirituality, work, physical activity, and hobbies. In contrast with secondary foods (the literal food we put into our bodies), primary foods are more abstract, but equally important to holistic health.
This summer, I'm focusing in on the primary foods of work, home environment, relationships, and spirituality. I've found new ways to practice Health Coaching in Los Angeles, which means I'll be moving there very soon! And to be honest, life has felt really full (even busy) in the past month. I'm grateful for that however, because a few months ago, my schedule was slower and the ebbs and flows of activity are good for the soul. With that said, a few months ago, I was on my game with secondary foods. And as much as I'm enjoying the opportunity to press into primary foods in this new season, I want to be sure that my secondary food choices don't suffer.
So I'll go now, to rest and to eat a nourishing lunch...because my body needs the food in both forms.
How are you experiencing the balance between primary and secondary foods this week?