09 December 2009

All about gluten

Just recently, I've been asked a lot of questions about gluten. What is it? Why is it bad? What does it do? This made me realize that I've never actually explained it on my blog and that many of you may have the same exact questions.

First of all, the main problem with wheat flours, rice, and other grains is the high-sugar/low-nutrient content compared to other sources of carbohydrates, and not gluten. Let's make that clear. However, gluten isn't something to shrug off. It is estimated that 1 in 30 Americans have intolerances to gluten without ever knowing it, not to mention the many suffering from celiac disease and other vitamin malabsorbtion diseases. One study even shows that 1 in 3 may have issues digesting it. The "gluten free" market is the fastest growing market in the food industry today with pastries at Starbucks and cake mixes from Betty Crocker boasting their lack of our friend gluten.

So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein formed when water is added to flours from wheat, rye, barley, etc. Glutenin and gliadin are proteins in these flours that combine when they become wet and help form pastey dough for breads and give structure to cakes and muffins.

Why is it bad and what does it do? Well, it binds to vitamins in your intestines and prevents them from being absorbed. Most notably, it does this to vitamin D and calcium... Remember I said if you don't eat a high sugar diet (and in effect, a high gluten diet), then you don't need quite as much vitamin D and calcium in your diet?

02 December 2009

Eating Seasonally

Though it may be nice to have tomatoes, peaches, and pineapple available in the middle of December, it isn't exactly the greatest thing to be doing for our environment or the cost of food. As Americans, we want what we want and we want it right now. This mentality has certainly helped earn us a place as the most powerful nation in the world, but it has also caused a few problems.

What is eating seasonally? It is choosing to purchase fruits and vegetables based on their natural growing and harvesting times (read: when they are the freshest). Why is this important? There's an awful lot of labor, money, and oil required to ship a bunch of asparagus from Peru to your dinner table in February. That money is largely going to overseas farmers and is more often than not much more than you would pay in May to a farmer in your own state. The oil to get that vegetable here on that plane or that ship was also quite expensive to say the least and doesn't do much good for the quality of the air we breathe. Again, this reduces the demand for food (and the certain waste created by shipping food 5,000 miles across the world). Reducing the demand for food ultimately lowers the cost. Eating seasonally also pretty much directly coincides with eating locally. This keeps your dollars in your city and state and also allows you to come face to face with the hand that feeds you at your local farmer's market. I can also guarantee that it will taste better.

So how can you do it? Well... Instead of buying peaches, cantaloupe, and eggplant during the winter months, try apples, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Take a look at the lists below that I've compiled for you to help next time you are at the market. As you can see, there is some overlap, and plenty of other options that I didn't list here.

Eating seasonally isn't always convenient. I'll admit that it is certainly nice to be able to enjoy a strawberry today as if it were late May and I certainly can't live without bell peppers year round. However, I would just encourage you to make an effort to make it a priority. Seasons eatings!

Apples, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Pumpkin, Radishes, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Onion

Spring: Asparagus, Celery, Kale, Spinach, Strawberries, Bell Peppers

Artichokes, Apples, Blueberries, Blackberries, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale, Okra, Melons, Onions, Peppers, Peaches, Squash, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Strawberries, Spinach, Raspberries, Lettuce

Apples, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Lettuce, Melons, Onions, Peppers, Pears, Pumpkin, Zucchini


On another note, I told you a few weeks ago that I would keep you updated on the feedback I received from my letter. In addition to a very personal response from Rep. Virginia Foxx, I recently received a phone call from a woman in D.C. representing Senator Richard Burr. She left a very nice voicemail message for me with a lot of political nonsense, but at least it's getting read, right?