Living with food intolerances - Acceptance and Alternatives
So I have been living with food intolerances for a fair while now, I don’t consider myself as having food allergies, I can eat pretty much whatever I want and it won’t kill me (well, not right away anyway), but boy oh boy do I have a lot of things that cause me pain, breathing difficulties and discomfort.
Way back when I started my food elimination trials (Whole30), this new way of life felt forced upon me, I didn’t want it, didn’t want to think about it, could not fathom living the rest of my life with so many restrictions, so I fought it for a long time. I remember reading in the Whole30 literature that you should not make up substitutes for your favourite things and I really did think that the founders had missed a trick there, surely this sort of lifestyle would be easier to adhere to if you can make the things you like to eat, substituting ingredients for those that don’t disagree with you. And you can, but I now believe that you shouldn’t do too much of that until you achieve acceptance.
Acceptance. This is not a diet, this is my life now. This is the way I live and don’t I feel great! This is actually easier if eating things that your body doesn’t like causes you pain as the pain will help keep you in line.
Acceptance is when you can fully understand and appreciate that milk squeezed from a nut should not have to taste like milk squeezed from a cow, and - here is the important part- you stop wishing that it would!
Acceptance is when you stop wishing for fluffy white bread, or even chewy wholemeal bread, and understand that gluten free breads, while they will never make good fairy bread sandwiches, can be delicious and filling and satisfy that bread hankering that most of us have (I will teach you, is okay, gluten free bread does not have to be horrible).
So, now that we have achieved Acceptance and stopped pining for the good old days we can begin to consider Alternatives. This is really important not only for your enjoyment of food, but also for your health. If we are going to eliminate a really important food group from our diet like dairy or grains we MUST replace the nutritional value that we have lost. The really obvious one is calcium. Most of us get our calcium from milk, cheese, yogurt. Okay, so we have eliminated dairy, where do we make up the shortfall in our calcium intake? And I am not talking about today or tomorrow or next week, if we are to make a life long alteration to our diet like this, we must make a lifelong commitment to embracing an Alternative.
So how do we put this into practice? Well, for me it is about what I will accept into my diet. I don’t cook with anything I would not ordinarily eat, I am not talking about wheat flour or cows milk here, I am talking about those things so very loved by alternative food manufacturers like locust gum, guar gum, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, things that I would not have in my pantry and would never have sat down and eaten, and before you say, would I have sat down and eaten baking powder? Well yes actually, I would, if you have ever eaten cake, ever eaten anything made with self raising flour, ever eaten scones, ever eaten pancakes or waffles or crumpets then odds are that you have eaten baking powder.
So here we go, anything that uses melted butter, you can substitute olive oil for, I use a mild olive oil in my baking so the end product doesn’t taste olivey. But here is where the science comes in, a cup of olive oil is the same weight as a cup of melted butter, so we can simply swap one for the other without unbalancing the recipe, other things are not so straightforward so we need to consider that when we are substituting our Alternative.
One cup of plain wheat flour will have the same rate of absorbtion of wet ingredients as one cup of quinoa flour, or one cup of tapioca flour, or ⅞ cup of rice flour or chickpea flour, or ¾ cup of green banana flour or ⅓ cup of coconut flour, so you see, just substituting a cup of coconut flour for a cup of regular white flour will simply not work.
The gluten in that plain white flour, the source of so much trouble for so many people, adds loft and moisture and glue to our baking, take it out and we are looking at dry, crumbly, leaden heavy baked goods. So how do we avoid this? Well, this is what I do, in my cakes I start with a base of dates cooked in water, leavened with baking powder and puréed, I use the mucilagey quality of the dates to provide moisture and glue, the baking powder to add loft, and extra eggs to trap that loft and set it. If you want to know more about this, go to my Cookie House Kitchen Banana Choc Muffin recipe, the gluten, dairy and nut free version, see how Acceptance and Alternative can lead to really, really good cake.