Whether you choose to go grain free or not, a good rule of thumb for any diet is to eat real food. That includes eating fruits, veggies, animals, and more, but most importantly does not include processed foods. Sounds simple enough, right? What most people don’t realize is that processed foods include almost everything you will find in the grocery store, and especially the stuff served at fast food restaurants. Health experts say that when grocery shopping, it’s best to only shop the perimeter of the store and avoid the middle isles. I’ll give you one guess why…all those middle isles include boxed, canned, and bagged items that are…you guessed it, processed foods. The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find stuff like fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, and more. While this is not the only rule of thumb you should go by, it’s a great starting point if you are trying to ease into a healthy lifestyle. I do find that most of my shopping is consistent with this technique, with a few exceptions. To take it one step further, look at the ingredients list of your food. If there are any ingredients on the food label that you can’t pronounce, or if you don’t know what an ingredient is without Googling it, then don’t eat it! This is a simple rule, but sometimes even if you know what the ingredient is, it might be something you shouldn’t eat. In my case, this includes any grain. Again, this is just another step to take if you are trying to ease yourself into a healthy lifestyle.
I was inspired to write this post as I watched a PBS program titled The Blood Sugar Solution. It was about a book with the same title, written by Dr. Hyman as a solution “to lose weight, prevent disease, and feel better than ever.” I have not read this book and can’t recommend it or give my full opinion about his diet, but based on the TV program, a lot of points sounded valid and based on a simple diet of whole foods, avoiding processed foods and simple sugars. He does say to eat grains, which is what I am avoiding now, so I don’t think I would follow his plan completely, but if you are not ready to stop eating grains, then it sounds like a good place to start for a healthy diet. He briefly spoke about the subject of inflammation in the body from hidden food allergies and leaky gut syndrome that can result in autoimmune diseases, asthma, and other health problems, so I assume he goes into more detail about this in his book. He touched upon the subject of toxicity in our bodies as a result of chemicals in our environment from foods and products. And he mentioned deficiencies such as vitamin D, magnesium, and more. Most of what he talked about is right in line with a lot of the information I have been reading. The key points are: stop eating processed foods including sugars, remove toxic chemicals from foods and products, and make sure you get the necessary vitamins and minerals. Out of everything I have covered up to this point, and plan to cover in upcoming posts, these three main points are my essential goals. In addition to this, I want to address the importance of mental health.
Eating real food brings me to the question of what to eat, and I know that I promised recipes, so here is my first one, and it’s really simple. Crispy Kale, aka Kale Chips. Instead of writing my own recipe, I thought I would share the best one I have found. You can make this with any variation of seasonings you like, but there are a few key tips that I feel are important for you to know, based on my experience in making this dish. First, take a look at the recipe here from Elana’s Pantry → Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips. I don’t put vinegar on my crispy kale, but I like salt and vinegar chips, so maybe next time I’ll try it. When I first started making crispy kale, I was using the curly kale, usually red kale. While that was delicious, I found that it never came out quite crispy enough for me, and more often than not I would burn it in my attempt to get the perfect crunch. Though I still enjoyed it either way, I realized there were a few flaws both in my technique (or lack thereof) and my choice of kale. I tend to wash my kale just before using it, and if you have ever seen the curly kale, you can see why drying it is very difficult. This is the first and probably most important point when making a good crispy kale, it needs to be completely dry before you put it in the oven, otherwise the moisture will steam it more than crisp it! Even after spinning the kale in my salad spinner, patting it down with mounds and mounds of paper towel (wasteful), I still couldn’t get it dry enough. So if you are so inclined as to wash and dry your kale in advance, then be my guest, but when I want crispy kale, I want it NOW and don’t have the patience or time to wait for it to dry. I’ve also confirmed that the moisture is the problem by not washing my kale (as long as it looks clean enough and is not treated with pesticides) and found that it comes out so much better when it goes into the oven completely dry. My ultimate solution, use a different type of kale! In Elana’s recipe she says to use dino kale. Do you know what the heck that is? You might not. It can be found under a few different names: dinosaur kale, tuscan kale, or lacinato kale. Whatever you want to call it, it just looks like a dark green wrinkly leafed kale, almost like dinosaur skin, hence the name. The picture at the top of this post is lacinato kale that I purchased this morning at Whole Foods. It’s priced the same as the red kale that I usually buy. If you are interested in growing some in your own garden, here is a great site to buy seeds. I’ve already bought my seeds and I’ll be sure to post pictures as they grow, as long as I don’t kill them! I have found this for sale under the name lacinato kale at Whole Foods, and it’s my favorite kale to use in any recipe, especially this one. It’s much easier to dry, since the leaves are mostly flat and don’t trap all the moisture, thus avoiding the steaming problem when baking. Next tip that I found is important not to skip, toss the kale with your oil in a bowl to thoroughly and evenly coat! Something I will admit to you over and over again…I am lazy!! When I first started making crispy kale, I would avoid dirtying a bowl (so I didn’t have to wash it) by just putting the kale on the baking sheet, throwing some oil on it, and tossing it right there. My technique did not thoroughly and evenly coat the kale and this resulted in uneven browning and crispiness. At first I didn’t understand the importance of this step, that is until I tried the proper technique of using a separate, very large, bowl and tossing the kale with tongs to coat with the oil. OMG! The first time I did this, the kale was so much better and I haven’t looked back since. The last important tip is to keep the kale in a single layer and not bunch too much on the baking sheet. This is another problem for me, due to my laziness. I don’t want to cook it in batches and I don’t want to dirty more than one baking sheet (well I really only have one good baking sheet anyway.) This is one thing that I tend to not follow my own advice on, but I can tell you from experience that it makes a difference. I just usually throw as much as I can onto the baking sheet and as the kale cooks and shrinks (as you’ll see it does) I just open the oven a couple of times while it’s cooking and spread it out to maximize crispiness.
So, one reason that my first recipe is for kale is because it contains magnesium, and after being grain free for four months, I suspect that I might have low magnesium. This is one of the reasons why I suggest that you consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. If you do alter your diet, make sure to pay close attention to any changes you notice. I have noticed recently that I have developed a few tiny cavities. This concerned me because I go to the dentist regularly, and my last appointment was just before starting this diet. There was no mention of cavities at that time, so this leads me to believe that it has to do with the grain free diet. I have also noticed a decrease in my memory and ability to concentrate, and most recently I have had a lot of problems sleeping. Upon research, I suspect these problems are due to low magnesium. A lot of grains and grain containing products are fortified with magnesium, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. I am already taking calcium and D3 for osteoporosis (caused by long term use of prednisone, which I will cover in another post), but I do not take magnesium. I have read that it is important to take this along with calcium and vitamin D to help build bone strength, but my doctor did not advise me to take it, so I didn’t. But, with these new issues, I feel that it is something I should try. So, based on Wellness Mama’s recommendations, I have ordered magnesium oil and liquid drops. In the meantime, while I wait for those to arrive in the mail, I bought some cheapo pills at the local drug store to start on. I will update you on what happens! Wellness Mama, and other online resources, claim that magnesium helps to reverse tooth decay and that if you have tooth decay, it could mean you are not getting enough…so this will be probably the most significant piece of evidence if it works! I have taken some pictures of my teeth and will try to get more detailed ones, but if it works, I will be subjecting you to the before and after evidence! I’m excited to find out. The magnesium is also supposed to help me sleep and calm me down, so we’ll see. There are other symptoms listed in her blog post (my previous two links) that I have suffered from for quite some time even before starting the grain free diet, so I am hoping it will help with those too.
References and recommended links:
Kale Chips Recipe → http://www.elanaspantry.com/salt-and-vinegar-kale-chips/
Are You Low on Magnesium? → http://wellnessmama.com/3610/are-you-low-on-magnesium/
Lacinato Kale Seeds → http://www.highmowingseeds.com/organic-seeds-lacinato-dinosaur-kale.html
Photo credit: Me