How to go grain-free
To eat grains or to not eat grains? I am proudly and staunchly in the grain-free camp. From a Paleo lifestyle perspective, the hunter-gatherer diet of our ancestors, which they subsisted on for over 2.5 million years, is far more deeply and indelibly imprinted into our DNA than our agricultural habits of the past few thousand years. So it’s no surprise that our modern-day dependence on grains is having an impact because our bodies (and brains) are ill-adapted to cope.
The argument against
Research is now revealing that over-consumption of grains may be one of the key drivers behind the explosion of chronic modern-day illnesses such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So many causes of these diseases are being traced back to the contents of many grains, especially those that have a protein called gluten, which is responsible for wide-reaching allergy and sensitivity issues.
Grains and legumes typically contain very high levels of phytic acid, which can bind to minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc and take them out of the body. That means heavy grain consumption can lead to deficiencies in key minerals. Over-consumption of carbohydrates from a grain-based diet can also deplete stores of serotonin and B vitamins. Grains are also among the many foods that contain goitrogens, which are thyroid-inhibiting substances.
Grains and legumes typically contain very high levels of phytic acid, which can bind to minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc and take them out of the body.
By far the worst culprit when it comes to consuming grains is gluten. Gluten comes from the Latin word for glue and is found in many grains, including wheat (this includes durum, semolina, spelt and kamut), rye and barley. It’s made up of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, and these comprise at least 80 per cent of the protein content in most grains. Gluten is what gives bread and baked goods their elasticity and fluffiness.
Unfortunately, over-consumption of gluten can cause rampant and prolonged inflammation. This inflammation is responsible for the development and onset of a range of chronic illnesses, from diabetes to osteoporosis to cardiovascular disease, and is a key contributor to our soaring obesity rates.
Gluten can also have a detrimental effect on brain health. For those who are gluten sensitive, the blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal cortex actually shuts down after it is consumed. This impacts on your ability to focus, manage emotional states and plan and organise, as well as how your short-term memory functions.
That’s why, at its heart, living a Paleo lifestyle is about embracing a grain-free existence through finding new and fun ways to get creative in the kitchen. I’ve been a chef for over 25 years but never have I been on such an awesome and delicious food adventure as the one I’m walking now; and being grain-free is expanding my horizons bigtime!
By choosing to make organic vegies, quality animal-protein sources from land and sea, low-sugar fruits, nuts and some seeds the stars of my culinary creations, I am able to create a whole lot of nutritious, delicious recipes that I hope will not only make you feel well but also give you the courage to shake things up with what you serve on the dinner table.
Some of the vegies that are the best for your body are cruciferous stars like broccoli and cauliflower. As soon as I ditched rice, I started to make these nutritional powerhouses into delicious alternatives by grating, pulsing and then lightly boiling them (five minutes is enough).
They make a fantastic side dish with a tasty curry and can also be the main star of the show. I know for my girls, Indii and Chilli, one of their all-time fave mid-week meals is cauliflower fried rice with bacon. And the best bit of all? It only takes a few minutes to prepare.
There are so many fantastically flavoursome ingredients we can use instead of slavishly living off the breads, cereals and pastas that we’ve been told to eat for years.
Once you start getting creative in the kitchen, it’s incredible how many delicious dishes you can start creating.
Just think of your vegies as your stars and your nuts as the (sugar-free) icing on the cake, so to speak. Once you start getting creative in the kitchen, it’s incredible how many delicious dishes you can start creating.
My mum Joy, for example, threw out all the pasta in her house when she realised she could use thin slices of zucchini in its place and she says she feels more sprightly than ever since doing this. Love you, Mum! She reckons her favourite bolognaise sauce tastes even better smothered over zucchini spaghetti and is stoked that it doesn’t make her stomach feel heavy at the end of the meal. I’m excited about the stories people are sharing with me all over Australia regarding their phenomenal success both in and out of the kitchen.
Don’t get boxed in or think too hard about it all. Just cook with love, follow your heart, choose great local, seasonal ingredients and you can’t go wrong. Our food is our medicine and, by creating a movement together, we can change the future for our children and their children. Now doesn’t that make it worth forgoing the bread basket?
Cook with love and laughter,
Serves: 6 (1 loaf)
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins
Prep time: 5 mins (plus 7-12 hours soaking time)
Nic’s Paleo Loaf
Serves: 6 (1 loaf)
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 80 mins
Cauliflower Fried Rice
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
How to go grain-free
Although our modern diet is heavily dependent on grains, there’s a world of healthy, delicious alternatives for your table.
- 320g raw macadamias
- 4 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Soak the macadamias in 750mL of water for at least 7 hours (overnight is best). Drain the water and rinse the nuts thoroughly under warm water.
- Place the macadamias in a food processor and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, then pulse for one minute to combine. Add 240mL of water and continue to process until the texture is smooth. If the macadamia cheese seems overly thick or dry, gradually add more water and lemon juice to adjust the consistency.
- The macadamia cheese can be stored refrigerated for up to one week.
- Variations: Cashews can be used in place of macadamias. Simply soak the nuts for at least 2-4 hours and halve the added water. You can also add flavours using one teaspoon of truffle oil or chilli oil.