10 Nutrient-Dense Foods to Include in Your Wheat-Free Diet
Every household has its go-to foods, yours should fit the wheat-free lifestyle (which also means cutting down on other grains and sugar and eliminating vegetable oils). Here are some nutrient powerhouses that will lead you down the road to better health and a better quality of life.
What you notice as you read through the list is the lack of processed food. Your new way of life probably won’t involve anything in a box because even when manufacturers remove the wheat or splash claims of “gluten-free” on the label, they’ve usually replaced the wheat with other undesirable ingredients.
This list includes an assortment of snack foods, basics for main dishes, and even a little dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. In time, you’ll discover your favorites and will be able to tweak this list a bit.
Did you know that one egg yolk contains more than 90 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 14 nutrients? It even includes 100 percent of the RDA for vitamins A, D, E, and K. This superfood practically replaces a vitamin pill.
And don’t forget protein. Most people think the egg white supplies all the egg’s protein, but the yolk actually contains more than 40 percent of the protein content in an egg.
Pasture-raised eggs raise the bar even more. The eggs from pasture-raised chickens have twice the omega-3 fatty acid content, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene than typical eggs. These are eggs from happy chickens who are allowed to roam free.
Don’t be fooled by the misleading term free-range. It just means the chickens have access to the outdoors; it doesn’t mean they take advantage of it.
Keep some hard-boiled pasture-raised eggs on hand in the fridge or whip some uncooked eggs up into an omelet with a dark leafy green, some cheese, and avocado. Good eatin’ for any meal!
Grass-fed beef is another superfood. You can’t beat grass-fed beef for nutrient density. First, it has two to five times the omega-3 levels of grain-fed cows. Then factor in its higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (an antioxidant), beta carotene, vitamin E, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium.
Unfortunately, grain-fed cows are more desirable for ranchers because they fatten up at a much faster rate (the cows, not the ranchers).
Grass-fed beef tends to be higher in protein and lower in fat than conventionally raised beef, so it requires about 30 percent less time to cook. It’s best cooked at medium temperature and only to medium-rare at most. After you get a taste of the good stuff, you won’t go back.
Everything tastes better with cheese. Even cheese tastes better with cheese. Cheese has calcium, good fat, and protein that doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. At the same time, it’s very satiating, so it curbs hunger.
Of course, we’re talking about cheese from grass-fed animals, not the products that try and pass for cheese (such as American cheese, those processed loaf cheeses, or shredded cheeses that have very long ingredient lists).
You can get grass-fed cheeses raw or pasteurized, although finding the raw variety can be difficult unless you venture to a health food store or know a local farmer. That’s okay. The pasteurized version will do just fine. Even people sensitive to dairy usually do well with certain grass-fed cheeses because very little lactose remains after the aging process.
Another nutrient-dense powerhouse that tastes so good you’d think it was bad for you: grass-fed butter. Grass-fed butter has a darker yellow color than its inferior grain-fed cousin because of its carotene and vitamin A content.
It also has an equal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is extremely important for reducing inflammation.
Try grass-fed butter, but keep in mind that using even regular butter is better than using the highly toxic, high omega-6 vegetable oils.
Butter will burn at high temperatures, so cook with it at low temperatures.
When you’ve banished most other sugar from your life and your tastes have changed, fruit takes on a whole new flavor, tasting sweeter than you ever could’ve imagined.
Berries are the most desirable of all fruits because you can reap the benefits of their antioxidants without unduly raising your blood sugar levels. Of course, you should always consume the raw fruit and not a fruit juice version. The fiber content in the raw fruit helps keep blood sugar levels down by slowing the digestion process.
Whatever your berries of choice — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries — you can enjoy them fresh as a side with any meal or frozen as a base for a smoothie. Just be sure to get the organic variety if possible because berries sprayed with pesticides tend to absorb those pesticides.
Dark leafy greens
Calorie for calorie, greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. Take your pick from kale; spinach; watercress; Swiss chard; and collard, mustard, and turnip greens. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that fight off disease. They’re also a good fiber source.
Plan on trying to get some greens with every meal, whether you make them the base of a salad, throw them into an omelet with your pasture-raised eggs, or just sauté them with some coconut oil or grass-fed butter and garlic as a nice side dish.
This oil is made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat also found in mother’s milk. It’s great for cooking at higher heats because it’s not susceptible to unhealthy oxidative damage like vegetable oils are. Coconut oil acts as an antioxidant, aids in cholesterol control, boosts thyroid function, and is great for hair and skin, among many other benefits.
The uses for this amazing food are almost endless. Besides sautéing, coconut oil is great to add to a smoothie to increase your fat levels and acts as a shot of energy. Also, use it in your coffee, or even on your skin as a moisturizer.
Just the word chocolate jump-starts most people’s salivary glands. Don’t add the dark chocolate version of your favorite candy bar to your shopping list just yet, though. That chocolate, sitting in the grocery store checkout lane, has all sorts of unhealthy ingredients — such as sugar in various forms, soy lecithin, emulsifiers, and artificial flavors — and not a high enough percentage of cacao to trigger its health benefits.
“Dark chocolate” means chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70 percent. As the cacao percentage goes up, most of the questionable ingredients disappear. You’re left with a treat that’s loaded with antioxidants and is good for your heart, brain, and blood sugar control.
Because the lower sugar levels don’t trigger a binge, you can satisfy a sweet tooth with just a small serving (up to 3 ounces).
If you’re worried about your high-cacao chocolate tasting bitter, remember that when you cut down on your sugar intake, foods that didn’t taste sweet before become sweeter. Dark chocolate is no different. The bitterness disappears, and the resulting taste is delicious.
Your classic milk chocolate variety will soon taste like wax and chemicals. If you aren’t used to the darker stuff, try starting with a bar in the 55 percent range and work your way up.
The healthy fats in nuts provide a lot of satiety, so you don’t feel the need to eat more and more. Nuts are an easy snack; they travel well, so they’re great in a pinch when you’re hungry and nothing else is available.
Just be sure not to leave them in a hot car because they can become rancid. A couple of handfuls a week (a handful is about 1 to 2 ounces for most people) are enough to reap the benefits.
When buying nuts, choose the raw, unsalted variety or even the sprouted version, which makes them easier to digest. You can also soak nuts for a few hours and then rinse to allow the enzymes to break down, which is easier on your digestion. Toss your favorite nuts on a salad for crunch or eat them straight. You can also grind them to make homemade nut butters.
This flour substitute is a staple, but with a caveat. Almond flour is good to keep on hand for those times when you want to splurge and bake up something yummy.
However, almond flour is very dense (using many, many almonds to make a typical serving used for baking), so the omega-6 levels of these baked goods are too high to make them a regular part of your life. For the special treat, though, it performs admirably!