Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Poor, little gluten-free girl: How to stave off food intolerances
I am not actually gluten-intolerant which means that if I happen to be strolling past an adorable french bakery and the intoxicating whiff of freshly baked baguettes happens to entice me I could, technically, stop in for a bite. Unfortunately M cannot, so I dedicate my spare time to making equally delicious gluten-free foods instead so that we can both enjoy them. After all, food does taste better shared.
But where the heck do these food intolerances come from? Unlike full blown anaphylactic allergies (where the person's airways can swell shut and they can stop breathing) food intolerances are reactions to food that are less obvious than the medical emergency; often the people suffering from them have no idea that they have them! This means they can go years without being diagnosed and can be the reason why quite a few people have to be extra vigilant in avoiding the problem foods. Usually symptoms include poor digestion, feeling of malaise, brain-fogginess and skin conditions (like acne and eczema).
Food intolerances are our bodies natural reaction to continued exposure to a particular substance. This is the wonderful and horrible thing about our bodies. You see, it's great if we are constantly ingesting harmful bacteria and our immune system targets them out and creates an allergic-like response to them, thus fighting them off. However, it is quite another thing when the thing we are ingesting is a simple food like tomatoes and your body has the same reaction! Yes, your body can have allergies to normal, healthy foods!
So, you're lucky enough not to have a food intolerance but how do you keep it that way? The number one rule is this: you must eat a well varied diet and try to have different foods every single day. Your body reacts to foods that it is exposed to often so why not stop this process? So many people have a gluten-intolerance because wheat and gluten have found their way into EVERYTHING and so can be ubiquitous in our daily diet. You could be ingesting wheat for every meal in the form of flour, oats, wheatgerm, etc. that could be found in anything from condiments to whole-wheat pasta.
How do we eat more variety? I find the easiest way to do this is to take a trip down to Chinatown, where the markets offer a wide variety of different foods that are not common to the typical North American diet. If you're lucky enough to live in Toronto, may I suggest the Lucky Moose on Dundas West? It is here that you will discover the answers to the following questions:
What the heck is a dragon fruit?
How do you choose bok choy?
What is the difference between normal and Chinese broccoli?
Not sure how to prepare a certain vegetable? Try looking it up on youtube or google. It may be a lot more simple than you think. So, go ahead and grab a rutabaga. Bite into that delicious asian pear. Once you begin discovering new and exciting tastes and flavours, you may never want to stop.