Going ‘gluten-free’ is all the rage at the moment. The awareness of gluten, and the harm it can cause to some, has soared and caused widespread fear. So now going ‘gluten-free’ isn’t just for those with coeliac disease - it’s the diet of choice for Hollywood starlets and health nuts alike. Even in the absence of any undesirable symptoms, gluten is being perceived as something to be avoided.
The widespread fear of gluten has also had a knock-on effect on grains, and carbohydrates in general. Diets such as ‘The Caveman Diet’ and the ‘Atkins Diet’, which involve cutting out entire food groups, are now extremely popular. At Rude Health we feel that there’s a general misunderstanding around gluten, grains and what it all really means. So we invited more of the best of the industry to explore their views on grains and the general recent changing attitudes towards them at London's new healthy cafe, The Detox Kitchen.
We were joined by the likes of London's top holistic health coach and yoga instructor Julie Montagu, Hip and Healthy magazine editor Sadie Macloed, blogger of the moment Madeleine Shaw, Psycle instructor Rhian Stephenson, and Arganic founder Dana Elemara. Also represented were co-author of Honestly Healthy's best selling book Vicki Edgson, food writer and cook Signe Johansen, Waitrose Kitchen staff writer Anna Marie Julyan, and personal trainer Scott Ashley.
Here's a few of the topics that we wanted to explore:Are all grains equally good or bad? What is your grain of choice and why? Gluten-free and grain-free, the new health fad? View on the current trend for ancient, rather than local and traditional grains.
Outspoken Rude Health co-founder Nick Barnard (far right) kicked off the debate with a few words about our own views on grains:
We feel that the extreme reaction of coeliacs to gluten caused a huge improvement in gluten labelling. Food producers are now even starting to bring out more gluten-free foods. Fantastic news of course for those with coeliac disease, but is it entirely necessary for the rest of us? Can we assume that all ‘gluten-free’ foods are necessarily good for us? Just because a cupcake is labelled ‘gluten-free’, does that automatically mean that it’s also unprocessed or unsweetened? Think about it.
Studies suggest that only 1 in 100 people have the disease. So why are we punishing ourselves by cutting out foods that we love, such as the odd slice of freshly baked sourdough, artisan bread? The smell alone is almost impossible to resist. Is it possible that we are victims of the latest dietary fad or buzzword?
At Rude Health we have no intention of giving up our favourite foods. All we do is make sure that we use a variety of grains, we keep them whole and produce them in the most natural, sustainable way possible.
Vicki Edgson (above) was trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and travels extensively around the country speaking at lectures and seminars. She is a true food educator. She believes in getting back to basics, eating nutritionally dense whole-grains in their original form. "It's hugely beneficial. We need to look to artisan bread-making methods, and get our own hands in to knead our own dough - the nutritional benefits of sprouted grains in particular is fantastic, and great to know that Rude Health are already onto this!"
Signe Johansen (left) has written a few books of her own. She embraces her scandinavian heritage and culture when it comes to food. "As a cook I really believe grains are not only a vital source of energy, but they also provide flavour, texture and above all, joy. To a Scandi, few things beat a slice of dark rye bread, thinly sliced and topped with silky, home-cured gravlaks, pickled cucumber and a slick of creme fraiche. Winters would be even more bleak without a bowl of warming oat porridge to start the day. And pearled spelt makes the most versatile base for summer salads, replete with seasonal vegetables, nuts and seeds... Healthy and delicious don't have to be mutually exclusive, so let's stop fearing carbs and start embracing the diversity of good grains. After all, boring old wheat hasn't got a patch on power grains such as spelt, rye, oats, corn, rice, barley, freekeh, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and teff!"
Madeleine Shaw (left) used to suffer from bloating and discomfort due to a poor diet made up of a lot of 'low-fat' and refined, processed foods. Yet after living out in Sydney for three years, learning how to cook at a 'paleo' cafe, she started to notice some improvements, but felt she was overcompensating her lack of carbohydrates with protein. Trial and error has gotten her to a place where she now believes in balance, which involves incorporating healthy and unrefined grains into the diet.
Dana Elemera (right) is passionate about the idea that food is the key to our health when it comes to medicine, productivity and beauty. "Life is too short to not allow yourself to enjoy a nice artisan piece of sourdough with some proper butter once a week. Asking what's in your food and how it's made is more important than cutting out an entire food group - it's not sustainable. Things that are less processed and contain no weird ingredients are easier for both the body to digest and understand. This means it won't mess with your metabolism. There are many free-from products out there with lots of strange ingredients in them to make up for what's missing which I wouldn't go near but you see others eating them in abundance without any question. We need to be mindful by listening to our bodies rather than just following fads or textbooks. Lets use our common sense, a bit of gluten combined with a nutrient rich diet allows you to enjoy it without reacting badly, so moderation and variety is key."
Anna Marie Julyan believes that we're living in exciting times. "There's a lot of work to be done but varied grains are increasingly appearing on shop shelves and in recipe books. We're rediscovering the grains we used to eat and others that form the staple part of other food cultures: spelt, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, amaranth, teff... All of these have the potential to enrich people's diets with nutrient dense, tasty foods. On my way home from the Rude Health breakfast I walked past a corner shop with fridges full of sliced white sandwiches and sausage rolls – hopefully we can reach a point where the same fridges offer foods made with a wealth of different grains."
Rude Health co-founder Camilla Barnard (above). However different everyone’s opinion, the thing that united us was a commitment to better education and to encourage people to think harder about their food and the processes they go through It’ll be a long road, but with more discussions like these and influencers getting behind the issue we can move in the right direction, one step at a time.
See all the photo's of the event on our Facebook page. And read our view on grains on our previous blogpost: Why you should think twice about going gluten free
Eat right, stay brilliant.