Category Archives: Food for Thought

Is Gluten Killing Your Brain?

The other day I had the opportunity to listen to a teleseminar with neurologist David Perlmutter talk about how gluten and other carbs affect your brain, from his upcoming book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Anyone who has had brain fog from ingesting gluten, whether they have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, can attest to this. He also talks about how good fat is vital for your brain’s health and how a simple change in diet can create a difference for good, especially in children, instead of using drugs to regulate or alter behaviour.

In addition to the topics highlighted on the teleseminar page, here are some notes of interest he explains in his talk, in no particular order:

  • Why eating less carbs and more good fat is good for your brain’s health and overall health.
  • How good fat is super-fuel for your brain.
  • The importance of cholesterol (and its interesting, surprising role in getting your vitamin D!)
  • How memory and behaviour are affected by diet and, conversely, the alarming effects of some prescription drugs on memory.
  • How diseases such as diabetes are a choice, not genetics (although genes do play a part, it is triggered by diet – not by being genetically predisposed).

It’s just about an hour in length, so listen to it when you have some free time to spare. It’s worth it! I’m keen to read Grain Brain after listening to Dr. Perlmutter to learn more about this subject to share with you.

You can listen to the teleseminar here and pre-order the book Grain Brain here.

Update: You can also enter to win an advanced copy on Goodreads! Click here to enter. US residents only.

{Book Review} Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

If you’re interested in the psychology of eating, how companies market to consumers to eat more or less, portion sizes and control, and what can influence our eating decisions, this is the book for you. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. (published in 2006) explores these topics and more. The most important thing to take note of about this book, however, is that it is not a diet book, telling you how to lose weight and keep it off. Rather, it is “about reengineering your food life so that it is enjoyable and mindful.”

As it is stated in the introduction,

The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.

(Interestingly, and especially of note for those who live on a restricted diet because of food allergies, intolerances, or diseases, it is noted that the word “diet” comes from the Latin word, dieta, meaning “a way of life”. Indeed for many, living with food allergies et al and becoming creative within those boundaries no longer becomes a diet but a lifestyle. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “diet” in a restrictive sense has only been used since the fourteenth century. I studied Latin, so my passions for language and food temporarily collided.)

Some of the topics were baffling to me, such as how changing the colour of a food can change people’s perception – and even trick them into thinking that they’re tasting something else! This was examplified with a story about a World War II Navy cook (in this book, named Billy) who once accidentally ordered twice the amount of lemon Jell-O but no cherry Jell-O. In a stroke of genius, he made the lemon Jell-O as usual but added red food colouring. Although it was still lemon flavoured, it looked like cherry Jell-O. The sailors, when they tried it, didn’t know the difference – some even complimented him on having found cherry Jell-O. This is explained as having worked because the sailors expected it was cherry and tasted it as such.

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“Chewing gum is really gross, chewing gum I hate the most.”

The use of xanthan gum and guar gum in gluten-free baking is almost ubiquitous, both used together or one gum used to mimic the binding and thickening qualities of gluten. I have little experience with using either gums, though I decided to write this post about what I do know and what I’ve learned so far.

When you read the title of this post, you were probably thinking I was going to go on a tangent about chewing gum, perhaps recalling once a time when I expounded upon the fascinating history of chewing gum during my sister’s birthday dinner when we were all eating sushi. That’s for another time and place. In this case, I’m merely using a Willy Wonka quote.

This is not a xanthan/guar gum 101 or any sort of guide about how to use them in gluten-free baking. This is a post simply about my experiences with it, from which possibly some wisdom may be gleaned. I am not an expert, as you’ll find out.

I’ve wanted to write a post for a long while about how I use these gums, xanthan and guar, in my baking and I’ve been spurred to do so now after some tweets yesterday. There’s this magic about Twitter that I’ve read about on other people’s blogs, in which you ask a question and you’ll get answers, but I never had experienced this myself – until yesterday.

As you may know, I’ve been regulating my tweeting to the evenings to allow myself the time to focus more on my studies during the day and accomplish other tasks. This has mostly been a practice in discipline – not that I was a tweetaholic, which I’m not – and it’s been really good so far. I had to tweet yesterday morning, though, to ask a question about if guar gum could be used instead of xanthan because I was planning for pot stickers. (I don’t know these things, so I ask!)

This was my tweet:

I got answers! Two minutes had not even passed.

I am extremely grateful to Caneele, Jeanne, and Laura (the author of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen, from which the recipe for pot stickers come) who answered and provided input. I learned that guar can be used instead of xanthan, but it is less elastic – and, I learned from Laura, she tried using guar gum for the pot stickers but it didn’t work. I was so glad I’d asked instead of deciding to just wing it and hope for the best.

I got more xanthan gum, for the first time in almost two years.

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