Why exploring your neighborhood and the spice cumin is good for your brain!

Several years ago I discovered that change of scenery is great for my creativity! Last week I was walking to a local coffee shop several blocks from my home to do a little writing when I discovered Nourish Cafe, a small space serving up plant based organic fare. Wow, fresh juices, smoothies, wraps, and salads! Yum! And lots of gluten free options too! My brain felt stimulated and excited. I asked how long they had been open and the server replied about one year. What?! How did a whole year go by without me knowing that this cafe existed? I was shocked!

New experiences actually stimulate the release of dopamine in our brain… our neurotransmitter responsible for drive, motivation, and pleasure. Actually, even setting goals or working on a new project can stimulate dopamine release. Have you ever moved to a new town or city and felt completely invigorated? Or felt all your senses come alive when vacationing in a new destination? When it comes to food, our brain also likes new taste experiences! It is common for people to get bored with what they cook and lose their appreciation for cooking healthy and tasty foods.

Ordering a new cookbook or just digging up some forgotten recipes is sometimes all it takes to get your enthusiasm back for cooking again! Or just adding one new spice to your spice rack can make a big impact on flavors. I suggest ground cumin if you have not yet tried it in your dishes. I love it on roasted cauliflower, in chicken dishes, and adding it to hearty stews!

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If you have no time to cook this week or just need a break, then be sure to take a walk around your neighborhood to see what you discover! Maybe you will find a local cafe serving up healthy and delicious fare…just what your brain needed!

To eat gluten or not?

For years I have debated whether or not I should completely eliminate wheat/gluten from my diet. I eat gluten free at home and mostly stay away from it when I go out to eat.  However, I am not so strict that I only go to certified gluten free restaurants.  And I don’t always check with the chef if the sauce used in a recipe is gluten free. And yes, I do partake in a few bites of desserts every once in awhile that are not gluten free!  Years ago I did testing that indicated that I was not genetically predisposed to get celiac disease.  I have also tested for blood, saliva and stool antibodies to gluten which resulted in very little reaction. But technology for testing gluten sensitivity has advanced dramatically within the last five years or so… so I began to doubt the sensitivity and accuracy of the results of my previous tests.

I finally broke down and shelled out a significant amount of cash to do the Cyrex Laboratory Array #3 test. To date, this test offers the most comprehensive analysis available for determining gluten sensitivity. It shows the reactions to several gliadins and other wheat proteins. This test has set new standards for assessing gluten sensitivity.

You see, wheat is made up of many proteins and peptides. In fact, it has been discovered that wheat is made up of more than 100 different components that can cause a reaction. Gliadin is a class of proteins present in wheat and several other cereals within the grass genus Triticum. Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. Most labs test for alpha gliadin, but not all the other gliadins! So you might not respond to alpha gliadin, but instead react to one or more of the other gluten proteins.  Make sense?

I was very eager to receive my test results once I did the blood draw. Test results finally came in: Twenty four markers tested and I did not react to one!  And I did expose myself to gluten in the month before the test several times so that I would not come back with false negatives. It should be noted that I have completely eliminated gluten in the past (I was really strict for 2 months) and did not notice any difference when I added gluten back into my diet. Maybe that was why my test results did not surprise me.  I received my test results right before the holidays. I had a free pass to enjoy all those glutinous holiday treats!  Or did I?

Although I must say that I did enjoy a few gluten containing holiday treats in December, I knew that I would go back to limiting gluten in my diet. Gluten is just difficult for the digestive system to break down. Its difficult-to-digest qualities are due to the high levels of disulfide bonds it contains. And my digestive system needs all the help it can get!

In addition, most foods containing gluten are processed and completely devoid of critical vitamins and minerals (unless they have been added back in). And add to that the “anti-nutrients” found in grains such as phytates, enzyme inhibitors, etc.

And to top it off, most gluten containing foods are going to be high in simple carbs!  I don’t know about you, but I need to watch my carbs to maintain my weight and regulate my blood sugar!  Avoiding gluten for the most part over the past years has done something else for me: it has lowered my intake of carbs and processed foods. Which is a good thing… even if my test results show that I can tolerate it!  🙂

Special Note: Even the most advanced testing can sometimes produce false negatives.  The best way to assess food sensitivities is to do an elimination diet.  When completely eliminating a food (like gluten containing foods for example) from your diet, it must be completely eliminated!  For example, if you go to a restaurant during your elimination phase, you need to make sure that the restaurant is not using the same pans to cook gluten containing foods and gluten free foods.  Cross reactivity occurs; and even tiny amounts of gluten will set off an immune system reaction!  If you are interested in learning more, please apply for a complementary strategy session.