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Articles Tagged with: glutenfree
The Raw Endurance of Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes

by acclaimed endurance athlete and New York Times best-selling author “Ultramarathon Man” Dean Karnazes

It was nearing 11p.m. and I was famished. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of options available. The backcountry road I was traversing was miles from civilization and I didn’t have any food with me, having long ago depleted the supplies in my small backpack.

My predicament was an interesting one. Interesting because I was in the midst of an athletic event. But not just any event: a nonstop, 199-mile, twelve-person relay race. Problem was, I didn’t have eleven teammates. I was attempting to run the entire distance solo, as a team of one.

“Think, Karnazes, think,” I mumbled to myself. I’d already been running for nearly eleven hours, covering roughly 65 miles, yet I still had a very long way to go. I desperately needed fuel.

“Ah!” a thought popped to mind. In my pack I had a cellphone and a credit card. Why not order takeout! I found a listing for the nearest pizza parlor and dialed. After placing my order, they asked for my street address. Instead, I gave them the coordinates of an intersection up ahead in the distance.

Half an hour later a pizza-delivery driver pulled up. As you may imagine, he was somewhat confused, having never delivered a pizza to a guy out running before. Thankfully I’d thought through my on-the-go dining strategy prior to placing the order. Although I wanted a large pizza, I knew that attempting to run with a bulky cardboard pizza box wouldn’t be easy. So I requested a thin-crust pizza, unsliced. When I got it, I removed the entire thing, rolled it up like a big Italian burrito, and ate as I ran. It was a sloppy mess, tomato sauce and cheese dripping everywhere. But it was so tasty. Of course, the carb high was inevitably replaced by a brutalizing low point. My joints hurt, and my guts were rebelling, too. Still, I lumbered on.

That story pretty much summarizes my early diet as an ultramarathoner. During those protracted endurance events I was burning roughly 500 to 700 calories per hour. With some races lasting forty or fifty hours that equated to roughly 29,000 calories, or two weeks worth of food in a clip. I figured I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted and get away with it.

Of course, I was wrong. For better or worse, as an athlete, your body becomes very fine-tuned to even the subtlest effects of diet and nutrition. What I came to realize as I experimented, learned more about food and health, and paid closer attention to nutritional information, is that all calories are not created equal. When I ate processed or refined foods, I became aware of a particular sluggishness and mental haze that followed twenty to thirty minutes after consumption.

Over the next two decades I completely reengineered my diet from eating nearly all processed and refined food to eating no processed or refined food. In doing so, I replaced the foods that inhibited my performance with foods that boosted my performance.

Eliminating gluten was a major turning point. Once I removed gluten from my diet, my performance and overall stamina noticeably increased. Race times got faster, my strength for training routines bettered, and recovery after a hard workout or race improved. I was even able to complete fifty marathons, in fifty states, in fifty consecutive days, a feat many thought would be impossible for any athlete, never mind for one who didn’t load up on heavy carbs. I attribute much of this success to following a healthy, gluten-free diet.

My current diet is about as clean as you can get. I never eat anything from a bag, nor do I cook or process the foods I eat. Most of my fruits and vegetables are organic, especially those on the infamous “Dirty Dozen” list.

There are a few exceptions. I do enjoy traditional Greek-style yogurt (full fat, no sugar added). And my primary source of protein—wild, sustainably caught salmon—is cooked, though minimally so. I am also a coffee drinker, though just a cup or two in the morning.

I’m now in my fifties, but I still work out and race as competitively as I did twenty years ago. My training typically consists of running 70 to 80 miles per week, and cross-training with a TRX suspension trainer to improve overall body strength. Also, I never sit down. My entire office is set up at standing height, and I do all of my writing and email correspondences, calls, and paperwork on my feet. It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking. I prefer to stand, thank you.

My health-benchmark-measurement numbers are very good. My cholesterol levels and blood pressure are low, my resting heart rate is around forty (that’s good), my overall body fat percentage is less than five, and my strength-to-weight ratio is that of a much younger man. Perhaps most surprising for a runner, I’ve never suffered an injury. Here again, much of this I attribute to a clean, gluten-free diet.

Although people used to question my food choices, more and more athletes are now moving in this same direction. Converts include tennis greats Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic, basketball legend LeBron James, and even slugger Mike Tyson.

When people ask me for diet advice, I always preface my response with the caveat, “Listen to everyone, follow no one.” But for gluten, I’ve modified the Nike slogan: “Just don’t Do It.”


Photo credit: Maren Caruso 

Gut Instincts: The Fact and Fiction Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

By Aimee Lee Ball

Recently a market research group called Mintel International did a study about gluten-free foods and beverages, noting a need for innovation. Few Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease, an immune response to a protein in wheat and other grains that precipitates an inflammatory condition in less than one percent of the population. Yet the phenomenon of adopting a gluten-free diet is so widespread—Mintel estimated sales of gluten-free products would reach $10.5 billion in 2013, with a 50 percent increase expected over the next two years—that the research group’s admonition to the food industry was: Keep up the pace—there’s gold in those gluten-free cookies.

The study neatly joins two seemingly incompatible but indisputable truths about this moment in our common culture: There aren’t a whole lot of people who have a diagnosed medical reason for avoiding gluten. But suddenly a whole lot of people have decided that they’re better off without it. The gluten-free diet has reached the popularity of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey combined (with a fair amount of absurdity—perhaps you’ve seen “gluten-free water” in the market).

Which begs two questions: Why gluten? And why now?

The writers of two popular books on the subject believe they know: David Perlmutter, M.D., a neurologist in Naples, Florida, and author of Grain Brain, calls wheat the brain’s silent killer and turns the classic American food pyramid upside down. Gluten, he says, is our generation’s tobacco—virtually everybody’s problem—and there is no such thing as healthy whole grains. “Gluten sensitivity is perceived as an intestinal illness, but to think that it has nothing to do with the brain is silliness,” he says. “If your gut is sensitive, that will be directly related to the brain. Celiac disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis are all things that hang their hats on the mechanism of inflammation. When the gut develops inflammation, it’s traumatizing to the brain.”

William Davis, M.D., a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and author of Wheat Belly, says that wheat isn’t even wheat any more—it’s a monstrosity created by genetic research so that it will yield more grain per acre. He proposes that wheat is unique among foods in its addictive properties, somewhat similar to heroin (although it makes us hungry instead of high), and leading to similar disastrous consequences, from mood swings and mental fog to delusions and hallucinations. Modern wheat, he says, is a “perfect chronic poison.”

There is no doubt that celiac disease is on the rise, doubling every twenty years or so. It’s rather astonishing to note that twenty years ago, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health published an 800-page report on digestive diseases, the words “celiac disease” did not appear. But the leading researchers in the field dispel the trendy theories about what’s causing that spike:

Genetically modified wheat is not commercially available. “There is not a single grain of wheat sold anywhere in the world that comes from genetically modified gluten,” says Stefano Guandalini, M.D., founder and medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. How come? Part of the answer has to do with government oversight: In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration controls foods from genetically engineered crops in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency under the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. The name itself is a mouthful, suggesting a lot of red tape; approval for commercial use is a complicated—some would say draconian—process.

Animals aren’t eating Frankenwheat either. “There is no genetically modified wheat commercially produced in the U.S., regardless of whether it is fed to humans, cows, or pets,” says Jayson Lusk, Ph.D., a food and agriculture economist at Oklahoma State University. “The only genetically modified wheat in the U.S. is the tiny amount grown for research purposes, typically indoors in greenhouses; it is highly regulated and is not released in the food supply, human or otherwise.”

Lusk cites two reasons that wheat farmers don’t pursue genetic modification, both related, unsurprisingly, to profit: Europe and Japan buy huge amounts of American wheat (there’s a good chance that the delicious fettuccine in Rome is made with amber waves of grain from Kansas), but they’ve been antagonistic to genetic engineering. So there’s concern about the impact on international trade. Corn farmers do create modified breeds, and they’re accustomed to buying new seed every year because seed that is saved from the previous crop doesn’t reproduce well. “But wheat is a different beast,” explains Lusk. “The seeds don’t lose their productivity when the farmers replant, so they balk at the expense—‘What, you want me to buy new seed?’”

But perhaps the most salient facts are these: It’s hard to alter wheat. “The genetic makeup is really complicated,” says Brett F. Carver, Ph.D., professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oklahoma State. “Up to 300,000 genes may be expressed in the plant until it’s harvested, which makes it difficult to judge the effectiveness of any single gene. Most of what’s inside the wheat kernel is starch, so it’s hard to improve productivity and also increase the protein content, which is what gluten is. In that sense it is unrealistic to say that the protein in wheat has reached unprecedented levels. We’re trying to preserve the gluten content and properties in the wheat to maintain its traditional function in a multitude of food products.”

In the early 1900s, wheat’s gluten content varied between 14 and 18 percent of the wheat, according to Guandalini. Currently it’s between 13 and 16 percent, thus essentially unchanged. Some manufacturers add gluten to make various foods more chewy, stretchy, spongy, or palatable—for instance, to increase elasticity in bagels—and it’s the major component of the ersatz “meat” called seitan or the “mock duck” at a Chinese restaurant. (It’s also in “thickening” shampoos, “volumizing” mascaras, and the kind of postage stamps you have to lick.) But we are not eating more wheat. “Nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Guandalini. “The amount of wheat consumed per capita in the early 1900s was almost twice as much as the amount currently being consumed. It used to be 240 pounds per person; now it’s 120 to 130 pounds.”

The thinking about celiac disease changed dramatically in 2003 when the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland published a study in Annals of Internal Medicine showing that one in 133 people in the United States were affected by the disease, which damages the lining of the small intestine, where almost all nutrients are absorbed. “That put it on the map,” says Amy Burkhart, M.D., R.D., who, as her designatory initials attest, is both a physician and registered dietician in Napa, California, specializing in digestive health. “The incidence of celiac disease was not one in 10,000 as we were taught in medical school.” Screening got better too: An older test, called EMA, was expensive and technically difficult; the new test, called tTG, is less expensive, easier to perform, and more sensitive, with fewer false negatives, although Burkhart points out that a true diagnosis must include a biopsy of the small intestine, done endoscopically, plus genetic testing to confirm the presence or absence of specific genes associated with the disease.

That groundbreaking study a dozen years ago was led by Alessio Fasano, M.D.; he’s now director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, and jokingly blames himself for the public confusion about gluten. “There are a lot of fantasies and very few facts,” he says. “Gluten is the only protein that we cannot completely digest, and there is some scientific evidence that we as a species did not evolve to deal with it. For two and a half million years, humankind was 99.9 percent gluten-free. When our ancestors changed from a nomadic lifestyle to being settlers, they started to generate grains containing gluten. Gluten is like a pearl necklace: We break the necklace and peel the pearls—amino acids—with digestive enzymes, but we can’t completely digest gluten because the composition is so weird.”

Fasano has written a book called Gluten Freedom that he calls “the voice of common sense,” and he does not share the “wheat belly” and “grain brain” exhortation for a gluten-free world. “These books say that because nobody can digest this stuff, everybody needs to go gluten-free. That’s a stretch of imagination. Since we didn’t evolve to deal with this molecule, the immune system deploys the same kind of weaponry as when we’re under attack from bacteria. We engage in war with many bacteria every day, but we rarely lose this battle and develop infection. Same with gluten—we all engage in this fight, but very rarely do we lose the battle.”

Fasano and other leading researchers in celiac disease concede that they don’t know why there’s been an uptick, but there are some good theories: One has to do with the microbiome, the collection of microorganisms and bacteria that inhabit the human body. “Man used to be born in a non-sterile environment,” says Guandalini. “That kind of exposure would direct the development of a healthy immune system. We have lots of cells that happily live in our gut. It’s like having Riccardo Muti of the Chicago Symphony, ensuring a nice harmonious play of all the elements.” But various aspects of life in the developed world, like the use of antibiotics and the increase of cesarean births, change the composition of our healthy bacteria and have a profound impact on development of immune system.”

The microbiome definitely influences how carbohydrates in food are fermented. “We know that the genes associated with celiac haven’t changed, and gluten hasn’t changed,” says Peter H. R. Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York. “We have billions of bugs in our bodies, and they vary with the seasons. They may or may not be involved, but it’s tantalizing to think they might be.”

In 2011, Peter Gibson, M.D., a professor at Monash University in Australia, published a study showing that gluten caused gastrointestinal distress in people who did not have an autoimmune disease, and an international consensus conference gave credence to the concept of “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” (NCGS). But when Gibson decided to repeat the study with more rigorous controls, he reversed his own findings and said so in the journal Gastroenterology. The study was small but shone light on an odd acronym that may soon become part of the common parlance. FODMAP (an abbreviation for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols) is a group of sugars found in some foods such as apples, watermelon, onions, garlic, and, yes, wheat. They are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, and the fermentation process from all that bacteria in the digestive system can create symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue. (Sound familiar?) When people eliminate bread products from their diet and feel better, Gibson posited, it may be because they’re unwittingly cutting out FODMAP. The Australian Government has already taken the step of creating a “FODMAP-friendly certification program” with logos to identify low-FODMAP foods. It may not be long before we’re hearing about celebrity-endorsed FODMAP-free diets.

“The problem is that for celiac disease, we have biomarkers—exact lab data that can tell us for sure, you have this condition,” says Guandalini. “In NCGS, there are no biomarkers, so we must rely on the patient’s report. The symptoms could be due to FODMAP. But I add another consideration. There is emerging evidence in animals that a protein in wheat called amylase-trypsin-inhibitor (ati) is very capable of causing some degree of intestinal inflammation. The jury is still out for humans. But the point is that at present we have absolutely no proof that gluten has anything to do with so called ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity.’”

Those who condemn the new varieties of wheat argue that too much experimentation took place before government guidelines were set. It’s perfectly true that hybridization has been pursued for years in the name of increasing crop strength, maximizing profit, and feeding the world. Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize and was known as “the man who saved a billion lives” in recognition of his work toward ending world hunger by developing high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat. “Wheat that the Romans and Greeks were eating was different,” says Fasano, “but wheat changed over millennia, not decades. Hybridization doesn’t explain the recent numbers for celiac disease. I believe we’re in the midst of an epidemic not because we changed the content of gluten in wheat but because something changed that made people lose their tolerance to gluten. And probably the most influential change is the composition of bacteria that live within us, the microbiome.”

Not having simple answers to questions about gluten is as wearisome to those studying it as it is for those suffering from it. “What’s happening now is frustrating for people who have a true medical issue because the fad component is taking over,” says Burkhart, who has a personal as well as professional interest—she and seven family members have celiac disease. “It’s a challenging path for most people. They turn to the Internet, and it’s a myriad of confusion.”

But you may take heart from a prediction. “We’re close to finding a cure for celiac disease,” says Guandalini. “We’re working actively on the idea of restoring tolerance to gluten by interacting with the immune system in different ways, and we’re confident this will come to fruition.”
And as for the mixed messages and misinformation, be assured that for everyone it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.


Photo credit: Maren Caruso 

GFF Faves: The Best Gluten-Free Crackers

To select the best nationally available gluten-free crackers, we gathered a group of eight mostly non-GF food lovers and pros to blind taste 38 different varieties. A novella’s worth of notes and many gallons of water later, we proudly present our picks for basic crackers worthy of a place in your cupboard.
by Amy Copperman


Glutino Original Table Crackers
Our preferred Saltine substitute
$30.17 for a pack of 6 at

Crunchmaster Baked Rice Crackers, White Cheddar
Crisp and light with addictive cheddar popcorn properties
$10.62 at

Mary’s Gone Crackers, Original
Hearty, healthy, non-GMO, organic, and crunchy with big seed taste
$45.48 for a pack of 12 at

Crunchmaster Multigrain Crisps, Sea Salt
Light and crispy with slightly sweet brown rice and sesame flavors
$28.09 for a pack of 6 at

Glutino Cheddar Crackers
Less cheddar-y and more flaky, buttery, and Ritz-like
$8.28 at

Crunchmaster Cheddar Cheesy Crisps
The kids’ favorite; like Doritos, complete with finger-lickin’ cheese dust

Wellaby’s Crackers, Classic Cheese
Thin and crisp, with hints of Cheez-It and Pringles
$27.72 for a pack of 6 at

Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins, Hint of Sea Salt
Easy low-sodium nibblers with light almond taste
$15.54 for a pack of 6 at

A Peek Inside GFF Issue No. 2: Winter 2015

We’re loving our second issue, which is loaded with tons of tasty gluten-free recipes, interesting articles, and delicious food photos. Here’s the scoop on what you’ll find within its pages. (And you can order a digital or print copy here.)

Baked Good: Introducing Helene Godin and her superb GF/DF desserts at NYC’s By the Way Bakery
Raw Endurance: “Ultramarathon Man” Dean Karnazes on his rough road to the diet of champions
Del Posto Delivers: Why NYC’s four-star Italian restaurant is our top choice for a world-class GF experience
Test Tube to Table: Aimee Lee Ball dissects the high-tech food movement
Simmer on This: Everything you need to know about bone broth
Chef’s Table: A deliciously relaxed Sunday supper (including the best chicken EVER) by two- Michelin-star chef Daniel Patterson
GFF Faves: Our recs for the best sandwich breads
Destination Maui: Our editor’s favorite spots for flavor, sun, and fun on the Garden Isle

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Scone Glaze
Cinnamon Pecans

Cardamom-Spiced Granola with Coconut and Puffed Rice
Perfect GF Berry Scones
Smoked Trout Kedgeree with Cauliflower and Kale
Strawberry and Tahini Crepes with Pomegranate Seeds and Toasted Pistachios
Cinnamon-Pecan Praline Scones

Almond Cookies
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Spiced Bosc Pears and Currants
Citrus Jelly with Citrus Ice
Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Individual Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Ganache
Mini Chocolate Chip Bundt Cakes with Chocolate Glaze
Pecan Brownie Cookies

Homemade Chai

Braised ‘n’ Glazed Spare Ribs
Chickpea Crepes
Duck Legs Braised in Red Wine and Cocoa
Olive-Oil Fried Egg and Smashed Avocado Crepes
Pork and Ricotta Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
Pasta with V8 Sauce
Roasted Beet and Yogurt Crepes with Pomegranate Molasses and Toasted Cumin Seeds
Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Sole with Sweet and Sour Chard
Roasted Whole Chicken with Herb Vinaigrette
Sautéed Lamb Sausage and Orange-Olive Relish Crepes
Swiss Chard Crepes with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Turkey Chili
Tortilla Española

Salad of Chicories and Shaved Radish
Winter Salad with Moscato Vinaigrette
Kohlrabi, Cress, and Asian Pear Salad

Side Dishes
Butternut Squash Puree
Del Posto Gluten-Free Focaccia
Mustardy Potato and Celery Root Mash
Milk-Braised Fennel
Olive-Oil Crushed Potatoes with Leeks and Tatsoi Leaves
Spiced Beluga Lentils with Black Mustard Seed-Brown Butter
Steamed Baby Broccoli with Rice Wine Vinegar

Bone Broth
Dungeness Crab and Parsnip Bisque
English Boiled Dinner with Potato-Parsley Dumplings
Green Pozole
Polish Boiled Dinner

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Muffins

Flavor, moistness, and texture make the difference between a good muffin and a great muffin. These gorgeous offerings from New York’s By the Way Bakery have all three, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free status, which makes them perfect for school parties, work functions, and anytime indulgence for all.
Makes 12

3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
3 tablespoons brown rice flour
¼ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup potato starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugar, oil, and eggs until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined.

Dividing evenly, spoon the batter into the muffin pan. Sprinkle Demerara sugar on top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, about 32 minutes.