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Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free
Image by Zerbor

Over the past few years the word gluten has become a common household world. Gluten-free foods have become a big business for the food manufacturers, and celiac disease is well-known, although not well-understood.

When it comes to the use of gluten-free foods, there are two camps regarding who should or should not eat them. One group says it is unhealthy to maintain a gluten-free diet if you are not suffering from celiac disease. The other group says that a gluten-free diet is good for everyone.

My goal is not to convince you one way or the other. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then avoiding gluten in your diet is absolutely necessary. If your body handles gluten with no problem, you can make the choice whether you want to go gluten-free, or not.

It is a fact that some people cannot tolerate gluten and when they indulge, they suffer with upset stomachs, sinusitis, headaches, leaky gut syndrome, and other health issues.

If you are struggling with undefined health issues, you could eliminate gluten from your diet for two to three months to see if you feel better. If you do, you will have narrowed down your problem and can continue with a gluten-free diet for better health.

Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten Free

One thing I love about the Mediterranean Diet is its flexibility. It can be gluten-free if you choose. It is very different from other diets like the Atkins Diet or Paleo Diet, which are very rigid in what you can and cannot eat.

As I have said in previous posts, the Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating plan with a variety of choices than a “diet.”  Also, the majority of foods recommended are natural and do not contain gluten.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center,

Fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, dairy products meat/meat alternatives are gluten-free. Other gluten-free components of the Mediterranean diet include nuts, wine without preservatives or added dye and fresh, frozen, dried or canned vegetables and fruits without thickening agents. Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Edam and Parmesan are gluten-free. Yogurt, olive and canola oil are also gluten-free.

There are other foods such as pasta, bread, couscous, barley, etc. that contain gluten and should be avoided if you are on a gluten-free diet.

The Celiac Sprue Association recommends a number of grains and starches to replace those derived from wheat, rye or barley.

People on the Mediterranean Diet who are gluten-sensitive can safely eat white or brown rice flour, potato, tapioca, arrowroot, corn meal, corn flour, soy flour, flax, wild rice, quinoa, millet, hominy and flours that are labeled 100 percent gluten-free. When purchasing a new product, it’s important to read the label carefully to make sure gluten was not added during the manufacturing process.

No Hard, Fast Rules

There are no hard and fast rules with the Mediterranean diet even for gluten-free diets. The process is fairly simple. Avoid all processed foods and purchase gluten-free Mediterranean foods by educating yourself and carefully reading labels.

If you are prone to food allergies of any kind, consult your doctor to ensure that the foods you are consuming are suitable for you. For example, some people may be allergic to shell fish or seafood which is a part of the Mediterranean diet.

If that is the case, it is a simple fix – use poultry instead. If you buy certified organic chickens without hormones and antibiotics, you are still consuming a natural, healthy food.

Chicken nuggets are NOT good for you! They are artificial and detrimental to your health. REMEMBER – always stay as close to nature as possible.

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free

Important note: Gluten-free and grain-free are not the same thing. You can consume grains and still be on a gluten-free diet.

Cynthia Harriman, Oldways’ Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies and Manager of the Whole Grains Council, understands that the whole grain aspect of this healthy diet can be difficult for those with Celiac and gluten sensitivity. She explains, “Grains such as brown rice, millet and corn are gluten free and are whole grain. They’re at their healthiest if not overly processed.”

To Summarize

The Mediterranean diet can be gluten-free if you choose. Do your research so you fully understand what you can and cannot eat in order to be gluten-free. After that, it is easy. Purchase the right foods and begin cooking all the wonderfully tasty Mediterranean dishes that you can make using natural, delicious ingredients. Enjoy!

Enjoy Quinoa Hot or Cold

Quinoa can be used in many dishes and in many different ways. It can also be eaten hot or cold – both are delicious and nutritious.

Because of its versatility and health benefits, it should become a staple in your kitchen. Always have this nutrient-filled seed available in your pantry.

For the fun of it, let’s look at a few hot and cold ways to prepare this delicious ancient food.

Let’s Make It Hot

Image by charlotteLake

There is nothing quite like a satisfying, hot meal to fill the tummy and warm the heart. As we have discussed in previous posts, quinoa is an excellent substitute for almost any rice dish. But, don’t forget that it also stands on its own merits as the main ingredient for main-course meals.

A wonderful way to start the day is with creamy hot quinoa. You cook it much the same way as you would oatmeal. Add a little honey or brown sugar, milk or cream, and serve with or without dried or fresh fruit.

Dinner meals with quinoa are very easy – just use your imagination. Create a jambalaya dish with tomatoes, sausage, shrimp and spices. Cooked this way, it is a rice replacement that becomes the main focus of the dish with the other ingredients added for flavor.

Finally – quinoa is outstanding for baking. You can use fluffy cooked quinoa, quinoa flour, or quinoa meal.

  • Gluten-free quinoa flour is an excellent substitute for regular wheat flour.
  • Quinoa meal is a good choice if you want a grainier, heartier product.
  • Fluffy, cooked quinoa can be added to muffins and breads – it adds protein and a nice, light texture.

Let’s Make It Cold

Image by ildi
Image by ildi

Cold quinoa recipes are equally as delicious as the hot ones. The versatility and qualities that quinoa brings to cold dishes is almost unmatched in the culinary world.

With chilled quinoa dishes, you can have a world-class dining experience without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Using chilled, cooked quinoa, you can enjoy dishes ranging from stuffed grape leaves to a sweet cucumber Thai salad. The possibilities are endless.

For your next buffet or potluck dinner, have fun with your guests. Let them create their own unique culinary experience by serving a large bowl of chilled quinoa with a variety of spices and additional ingredients in small side dishes.

Cold quinoa desserts range from Creamy Quinoa Pudding (similar to rice pudding, but with quinoa, of course) to Dark Chocolate Quinoa Truffles to Quinoa Pumpkin Muffins Recipe with Cream Cheese Filling and Streusel Topping.

You will be blown away at the variety of taste delights that can be made to please friends, family, and guests.

You may even run into some chefs who are experimenting quinoa in their sushi and other traditional Asian dishes.

Try adding a few tablespoons of chilled, cooked quinoa in your smoothies or blend with your favorite fresh juice.

Yummy Food Adventures

Regardless of whether you choose to enjoy quinoa hot or cold, you have many options. Have and explore and experiment with new ways to prepare and use quinoa. Now that I have given you some ideas of ways to use quinoa, start with some of your favorite recipes and add or substitute quinoa into the mix.

Not only will your family favorites get a new kick, you may actually stumble onto the next great food discovery and become famous!

Because there is so much protein packed into each tiny seed, it is no wonder people are substituting quinoa in so many of their favorite dishes and drinks.

But, the bottom line is that quinoa is just plain yummy. Grab a package today and start experimenting NOW!

Choose Gluten-free Quinoa

Gluten intolerance can be a serious problem and requires a change in diet for stricken individuals in order to live healthy lives.

To make this health issue easier to understand – gluten is a protein ‘glue’ composite found in most grains. Gluten gives dough elasticity and creates problems in the digestive tract of some people.

Image by TLFurrer
Image by TLFurrer

The official name for gluten intolerance is Celiac Disease. If you have this condition and eat foods that contain gluten, the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed and eventually damaged. The inflamation makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, which leads to malnutrition and weight loss.

Because of the seriousness of this condition, it is important to transition to a gluten-free diet, which can be challenging since grains of all kinds are used in many, many products found at the supermarket. Fortunately, today, there are many gluten-free products available and among those is one very shiny star – gluten-free quinoa.

When you understand the composition of quinoa, it is easy to understand why it is a good alternative for wheat and other grains.

Quinoa is a seed, which makes its structure completely different than grain and it contains no gluten.

There is also no reason to be concerned about cross-contamination from air-borne wheat or other grains. The world’s quinoa supply is primarily grown in Bolivia at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, where gluten-bearing grains cannot be grown. There is absolutely no danger of cross-contamination.

Why Quinoa Is a Good Gluten-free Choice

  • Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
  • It seems to be easier for the body to digest than most other plant-based proteins. It has a similar protein structure to milk, which the bodies utilizes well. Milk intolerance is typically from the lactose content – not from the protein structure.
  • Quinoa protein is excellent fuel for the body to keep it going strong.
  • It is a good source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, the essential fatty acids our bodies and brains needs to function correctly.
  • It is also a rich source of Vitamin E, antioxidants, folate, and B vitamins.
  • It is high in manganese and magnesium – two minerals that are important for a healthy immune system and used to synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol.
  • It has increased levels of iron and copper, which are critical for a healthy blood supply.
  • Finally, quinoa contains phosphorus, zinc, and a little calcium.

Challenges of a Gluten-free Diet

A big challenge is limiting the intake of carbohydrates because of the heavy use of rice as a replacement for wheat products. This is where quinoa can be of value.

A cup of cooked white rice has 44 net grams of carbs (carbs minus dietary fiber.) A cup of cooked brown rice has 41 net grams of carbs. When you compare this to a cup of cooked quinoa at about 34 net grams of carbs, eating quinoa makes good sense; plus, you are getting the benefit of the additional nutrients (especially the protein) found in quinoa that rice does not contain.

In Summary

There are many reasons to make quinoa your “go-to” food on your gluten-free diet beginning with boosting your nutrition by increasing the protein, healthy fats, and maintaining a healthy blood supply – plus reducing your carbohydrate intake

Making the transition to a gluten-free diet can be easy when you choose quinoa as a staple in your diet.

Quinoa for Healthy Weight Loss

Quinoa – often mistaken for a grain – is actually a seed from the Goosefoot Family. If you were to allow the seed to spout, it would produce dark leafy greens very similar in appearance to spinach (which comes from the same family).

This ancient Incans in South America were aware of the phenomenal health benefits the seed provides; and fortunately, for us, its nutrient value has once again been discovered and is being marketed throughout the U.S.

Quinoa is not only tasty, it is a nutrient goldmine – rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Any meal that contains a quinoa dish will leave you feeling happily satisfied rather than deprived, which makes it an ideal diet food. Because of this characteristic, it has gained popularity as a grain alternative in many weight-loss programs.

Why use quinoa for healthy weight loss?

Weight Loss Highway Sign
Image by Kbuntu

Adds Nutritional Value

We all know that Popeye’s strength came from spinach, which was not a far stretch of the imagination since the nutrient value of spinach is well-known. Quinoa seeds are from the same family and contain all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

It is also a good source of magnesium and calcium, iron, and vitamin B 12 (which is essential for energy production and weight loss). The family of B vitamins control the body’s ability to synthesize nutrients efficiently. When you are lacking in Vitamin B, it works against your body’s natural ability to control weight.

Diminishes the Empty Feeling

My guess is that at some point you have tried to lose weight and understand the feeling of deprivation that typically accompanies most weight loss regimens. That empty feeling stays with you during most of your waking hours and dealing with it is one of the biggest challenges of any diet.

Quinoa can be the answer. Dietary fiber and protein help the body feel full and satisfied. Since quinoa is rich in both, it is a great food for any weight-loss program because it helps the dieter feel full without eating a lot of calories – and makes it easier to reach dieting goals.

Has a Low Glycemic Index

Quinoa is low on the glycemic index, which helps control cravings.

High-glycemic Index foods create havoc with your blood sugar. As soon as you eat the food, your blood sugar spikes – then crashes, which causes the body to send a message to your brain that it needs more sugar and carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar back to normal (hence the cravings).

When you eat foods like quinoa that have a low-glycemic index, you help your body sustain slow and steady blood sugar levels and eliminate the cravings for sweets and carbohydrates. You do not tire as easily and you tend to eat healthier foods at regular meal times rather than snacking on empty calories.

Eliminates Worry About Calorie Intake

Great news! When compared to pasta, quinoa is lower in calories. One serving is only 170 calories. Three servings of quinoa has considerably fewer calories than one serving of pasta.

You can eat your fill with most quinoa dishes without worrying about consuming your entire calories in one meal, which can easily happen with pasta dishes.

If you are trying to lose weight, this is an excellent food to add to your diet.

Start enjoying your meals, feeling full after eating, and reaching your weight-loss goals.


Quick Introduction to Quinoa

Image by StephanieFrey
Image by StephanieFrey

Healthy eating is one of my passions. As a result, I am always looking for healthy foods – that also taste good.  About a year ago, I discovered quinoa – a strange looking seed with a name I didn’t know how to pronounce that could be used in a surprising number of dishes. And . . . so, began my love affair with this incredible food.

If you have not already discovered quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), now is the time! It is one of the most complete and healthy foods available. It is easy to prepare, extremely versatile, and filled with nutrients, flavor, and has a wonderful texture.

It was a staple food in ancient times and is now a foodie favorite served in the best restaurants around the globe. Unless you have been living in a cave, you have probably at least heard of it.

Let’s take a look at this amazing food and find out why it is so popular.

What Is It?

At first glance, you may think it is a grain, but it is not. It is actually a plant seed in the Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae), which also includes spinach, beets and chard.

These flat disc-shaped amino-acid-rich seeds are loaded with nutrition. When cooked they are light and fluffy with a soft crunch, which makes them a great substitute for rice. These nutritious little seeds are light and fluffy when cooked and come in a variety of colors (gold, red, and even black).

A Long History

Quinoa dates back 3,000 to 4,000 years when it was a staple food in the Andean region of Bolivia, Peru and Colombia where it was referred to as the “mother grain.” Because it is a complete protein source plus other nutrients, it has been nicknamed “Food for the Gods.”

Unfortunately, Spanish conquistadors in their ignorance destroyed the quinoa fields in an effort to control the indigenous people. They also made farming and sale of quinoa illegal.

It wasn’t until 1980 that the nutritional and health potential of quinoa was re-discovered in Colorado where crops were once again planted. During the last 30+ years it has grown in popularity and is now readily available  all over the world.

The Mother Grain

In spite of its tiny size, it is a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. It also contains manganese, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, and finally – lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Those minerals have also been found helpful for people who live with migraines, diabetes, and atherosclerosis (which puts you at risk for heart attack).

In addition to all of the above, it is gluten free. For those who are searching for alternative foods for wheat and other gluten foods, quinoa is an excellent choice and it comes in several forms (seeds, flakes, and flour).

Cooking Quinoa

  • Commercial cultivation processes remove most of the saponin that coats the seeds – a good thing since the coating is bitter. But, we still recommend that you rinse the seeds thoroughly before cooking to remove any residue.
  • Place the rinsed quinoa in water (1:2) and bring to a boil. Then, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
  • Some like to dry roast the seeds before boiling to preserve the natural nutty flavor. To roast: Toss in a heavy skillet over medium heat until the quinoa becomes fragrant.

Serving Options

  • Quinoa can be eaten hot or cold – in salads or soups.
  • In can be used as a side dish in a variety of forms.
  • Add it to your baked goods for healthier snacks.
  • Cooked quinoa can be formed into patties with onions, garlic, chopped veggies, etc. Use your imagination.
  • Add cooked quinoa to pancakes and muffins (one of my favorites) – a tasty and easy way to add protein to typically non-protein dishes and start a new wave of healthier eating.

It doesn’t matter your reason for exploring the possibilities of this amazing food – whether it is the need for a gluten-free alternative to grains or because you are a foodie who likes new food adventures – especially when nutrients are part of the package.

Give it a try . . . you will be surprised and happy with the results, I promise.

More to come on quinoa, be sure to join us.