Last week I completed a ten day natural building course in the Tsitsikamma, Western Cape. My fiancé and I dream of building our own off grid, eco friendly house along the garden route with a massive bamboo yoga shala and bustling organic fruit and veggie garden for yours truly. The course was incredible, and so unbelievably empowering. I highly recommend it to anybody looking to move in a more sustainable direction – check out The Natural Building Collective. It is still quite bizarre and amazing to me to acknowledge that I can now plan and build my very own home!!!
There was a lot of physical work to be done. Three times a day we gorged ourselves on hearty vegetarian meals in an attempt to replenish our energy levels, provided to us by the backpackers we were staying at.
I was grateful and excited to take time out from cooking, and I was thankful to the chefs who were most definitely putting loads of love into every one of our meals. There are lots of variables to consider when cooking daily for a group of twenty people, especially when they are a bunch of ravenous builders. I noticed immediately that gluten was making an appearance in almost everything from pasta dishes, muffins, wraps, bread, and soups thickened with white flour. I immediately surrendered to the fact that I would be eating gluten regularly over the course of the trip, a food item long since gone from my regular intake.
In just ten days of eating my old nemesis I could feel and see the difference. A familiar resurfacing of trusty old pimples were popping up from beneath my skin and running all the way along my brow, jawline and the pink flush of my cheeks.
I have struggled with acne almost all of my life, which I refer to often in my posts. Over the course of the last 18 months I have been on a mission to heal this condition from the inside out. On the 1st of May 2014, I chucked out all of my heavy medications and proceeded along a more natural and holistic route. What came to follow was a never-ending supply of pussy pimples, lots of tears, grease and a whole lot of growth. All of this happened around the same time I was overcoming an abusive relationship with substance that affected me deeply. I scarcely recognized myself. I found myself oscillating back and forth between thoughts of going onto anti-depressants, but a force deep inside of me was determined to heal naturally. I wrestled daily with a stream of negative internal dialogue, depression, anxiety and self worth issues.
These particular struggles have left me wearing a new pair of spectacles in which I see things in a completely different light to how I ever experienced or understood them before. I am infinitely thankful for this newfound body-mind connection.
Fortunately, I have reached the stage in my life where I enjoy observing the ways in which different foods affect my health. I view from an experimental standpoint what uplifts or distresses me. Instead of getting caught up in the same old emotional patterns from before, I was intrigued at this very noticeable response. I am delighted to have arrived at this place in my life, and at the same time I acknowledge that I still have some way to go.
In light of this most recent experience, I want to focus on informing my readers on what awesome gluten free substitutes we have available to us, instead of ranting on about the highly processed life cycle of wheat and wheat containing products.
Oats are one of my favourite carbohydrates for many reasons. They are versatile, absorptive, and when eaten for breakfast will easily carry me over until lunch. What makes oats so versatile is the effortless way they combine with other foods, and therefore are regularly used in pancakes, muffins, cookies, and granola bars – ground into flour or in their whole oat form.
All oats start off as oat groats (as whole and unbroken grains). Before being processed into another variety of “oat”, groats are roasted at very low temperatures resulting in a slightly toasty flavor. This heating process also inactivates the enzyme that causes oats to go rancid, increasing its shelf life.
The three most commonly found oats are steel-cut, rolled, and instant oats. The difference between these oats is how much the oat groat has been processed which affects texture and cooking times. Steel cut oats being your least processed oat and thereby taking longer to cook, and your intsant oat being the most processed and fast cooking oat.
Oats are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and high in the minerals thiamin, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. Oats are high in soluble dietary fiber, which lowers “bad” cholesterol, improves insulin sensitivity and helps to reduce cravings.
If you regularly shop for oats you’ll notice that you have the option to choose “gluten free” which means that you are purchasing a “Gliadin” (wheat-gluten) free product. Gliadin is the glutinous protein found in wheat and other wheat containing products that is most commonly associated with gluten sensitivities.
Oats contain Avenin, which is a protein similar to Gluten. Therefore, no oat can truly be “gluten free”. In oats, the structure of Avenin is slightly different from the other gluten proteins. Most people who are gliadin (wheat-gluten) intolerant are able to tolerate the Avenin in oats; however, there is currently no test to determine whether or not one is sensitive to Avenin. The best way is to experiment with oats and to look out for symptoms, such as bloating, fatigue, diarrhea, cramps or break outs to name a few. We are all different so how the body decides to communicate with you will be unique to you.
In addition, it is important to consider any product that may have come into contact with wheat or may be contaminated by it. With good farming practices, an oat crop may be certified as “Gliadin” (wheat gluten protein) free. This would mean that there was no cross pollination or contamination as the crop was being grown, no contact with wheat or other wheat products during processing, milling, and packaging.
Most people with Coeliac disease can safely eat Avenin. Problems can occur if oats are produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye, due to contamination. There are, however, a small number of people with Coeliac disease who may still be sensitive to gluten free, uncontaminated oat products and should therefore be used with caution or avoided completely.
I’ve spoken about berries before and how much I adore them, and who wouldn’t! They are soft, sweet, brightly coloured, and full of free radicle scavenging phytochemicals. Phytochemicals play a vital role in the body, protecting your cells from damage and containing some of the highest antioxidant values of any other fruit. Our ancestors foraged for and snacked on berries for thousands of years, since they grow easily and their seeds are spread with the help of birds who enjoy them as much as we do – tasty little nutrient dense presents from mother earth.
Mulberries are widely available in South Africa, and if you are lucky enough you may just have your very own mulberry bush bustling away in your back garden. Do you remember filling plastic bags full of mulberry leaves as a kid to feed to your silkworms!!? Mulberries have an enormous amount of health promoting functions in the body. For one, they are packed with colon supporting dietary fiber, and they contain anthocyanins that protect the heart against cardiovascular disease. Mulberries also contain resveratrol – the same compound in red wine which makes drinking one high quality glass of red wine per evening actually good for you. Resveratrol functions as a block against cancer causing compounds, and inhibits tumour growth.
Make sure you buy organic berries, as their soft and sweet juicy flesh coupled with a very thin skin makes them a heavily pesticide laden fruit.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
1 C nut milk of your choice (I used hemp milk: 1 C water & 2 T hemp seeds)
2/3 C gluten free rolled oats
2 T chia seeds
2 T raw honey
2 T pecan nuts, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh mulberries
Mint for garnish
Fold the oats, milk, and chia seeds together in a bowl, and cover with a clean dishcloth overnight.
In the morning, dish into two separate bowls and decorate the top of the chia oat mix by layering the mulberries, honey, and chopped pecans in that order, and finishing with a garnish of mint.
I suggest adding more milk just before serving for extra creaminess, or add a few tablespoons of organic, full-fat, plain yoghurt.
You can make this dish look really pretty, so take the time to have fun with your presentation!