The next few weeks is all about digestive health here at HCHQ. I'll focus around many of the issues that are emailed in, as well as discuss some from my own personal journey. We have our 2 gut health masterclasses coming up over the next week so I am busy in the kitchen - fermenting, making sauerkraut, kimchi and creamy cultured yoghurts from my cookbooks for everyone to try. It's going to be an awesome week!
Striving for a healthier digestive system has been my life long search and it was one of the reasons I developed my range of functional proteins and superfoods. I wanted clean, wholesome nutritional products that did not cause bloating or gastrointestinal issues.
When I opened my first cafe some years back, I tailored my menu for those with sensitivities to gluten. I baked gluten-free banana bread using almonds and coconut, made gluten-free pancakes from buckwheat and chia, and even had a gluten-free porridge made with LSA meal, grated apple, cinnamon and sun-dried raisins.
Now, when I design recipes for my healthy cookbooks, I still love using wonderful gluten-free ingredients so that everyone will be able to enjoy my delicious recipes.
Personally, I aim to follow a gluten-free diet because it just makes me feel better and it's kinder for my sensitive digestive system and IBS issues. I'm not a coeliac but I like to adopt my 80/20 philosophy that I apply to how I eat, which still allows the occasional slices of good quality sourdough. I always try to seek out wholefood and less-processed ingredients that just make me feel good.
Gluten is naturally present in some cereal grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. The gluten-free standards in Australia are the strictest in the world. To make a claim of being gluten-free in this country, no detectable gluten may be present and a zero-tolerance rule is applied.
The gluten-free standards in Australia are the strictest in the world. To make a claim of being gluten-free in this country, no detectable gluten may be present and a zero-tolerance rule is applied.
Other countries allow for a little leniency and comply with the international standards of 20 parts per million of gluten, which they consider a safe level for individuals suffering from coeliac disease. It's probably why many of us are still a little confused when we see recipes from overseas that use "gluten-free oats", or products labelled gluten-free that aren't considered to be so in Australia.
It's also important to realise that just because a product is declared gluten-free, it doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy. Some of these foods contain preservatives, gums and sugars that are highly processed.
My favourite alternatives to gluten are ingredients such as buckwheat, nuts and seeds, coconut, quinoa and brown rice that can be made into healthy breads and baked goods. The optimum gluten-free diet is pretty simple: fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
The optimum gluten-free diet is pretty simple: fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
MY TOP GLUTEN-FREE INGREDIENTS INCLUDE:
FLAXSEEDS + CHIA:
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins, calcium, manganese, magnesium and fibre. Flaxseeds and chia are high in both insoluble and soluble fibre, which helps to promote gut motility and regular bowel movements. They are both great prebiotics and nourish our good gut bacteria.
Flaxseeds and chia are one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, with amazing anti-inflammatory properties.
My fridge is filled with antioxidant rich bundles of broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, leeks and Tuscan kale. Perfect for making into nourishing soups or warm salads, which I make on a daily basis as a quick healthy dinner.
Broccoli for instance is a wonderful super food, loaded with cancer-protective glucosinolates (a type of phytonutrient) and antioxidants, including vitamin C, E and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Fruits are extremely high in antioxidants and fibre that help to fight free radicals in the body, reducing the risk of disease. Choose seasonal fruits, such as banana, apples, kiwi fruit, citrus and pears. Use fresh fruit to sweeten your recipes such as healthy cakes, smoothies and freshly made juices.
It’s wonderful how something as pure as a grated apple or smashed banana can add natural sweetness to your recipes and add a lovely depth of flavour, texture and delicious nutrient boost.
NUTS + SEEDS:
These little crunchy bits of goodness are packed with protein that keeps your body sustained for hours. Adding nuts and seeds to your diet will also have a stabilising effect on blood sugar and keep you satisfied and energised. Almonds and macadamias are some of my favourite nuts, as they are packed full of protein + heart healthy fats that are kind to your arteries and can help lower cholesterol as well as keep blood sugars stable. I also love adding chia seeds and golden flaxseeds to bread and cake mixes as they give a boost of omega 3 as well as help the bread hold together, especially if you're not using eggs.
Nuts + seeds are great in baking and create a beautiful rich and nutty flavour and texture. I also love making my delicious raw pumpkin seed + matcha milk that's packed with essential minerals including zinc for boosted immune health.
Buckwheat is a seed related to rhubarb. It has a wonderful nutty flavour and is gluten-free, low GI and high in amino acids, fibre and essential minerals manganese, magnesium, zinc and copper. The fibre is soluble, which helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and promote bowel health. Buckwheat is also rich in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant polyphenols like rutin, which helps to reduce blood pressure.
Buckwheat makes the most delicious gluten-free breads and cakes when combined with extra virgin olive oil, your choice of milk or water and a pinch of sea salt.
I tend to avoid store bought / ready made gluten free products as many are filled with gums, psyllium and thickening agents that interfere with my digestion and make my IBS matters worse.
I much prefer creating my own healthy bake mixes from scratch using quality wholesome flours and ingredients and I know exactly what's going into my body.
My perfered option to going gluten free is to simply just reduce your consumption of refined white flours and processed foods in general and just eat nutrient-dense wholefoods (vegetables, greens, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish etc) that provide our body with fiber, antioxidants and the quality nutrition we were meant to eat. The digestive system thrives on plant based foods - it’s the ultimate prebiotic that feeds the beneficial gut flora we need for our wellbeing.
I believe that food is most healing when it is close to it's original state and has the properties to heal and nourish. The Healthy Chef philosophy is a realistic and sensible approach to healthy eating that will last a lifetime.
I encourage you to make small diet and lifestyle changes that will have positive outcomes to your health in the future. Enjoy the journey of healthy eating with balance, wisdom and moderation.