“the healthy cook” dan churchill: why go gluten-free
posted: January 15, 2014
Dan Churchill is one rad guy. A lululemon alumni ambassador, we met Dan a couple of years ago when he was a determined dude ready to take on the world through his love of food and fitness. Fast forward to 2014. Having been a part of Australian television’s Master Chef series last year, Dan’s passion for the kitchen has soared to new heights, and he’s more determined than ever to become “the healthy cook of the world.” It’s a goal he’s crushing with cookbooks like Dude Food (for the guy who wants to cook—or the girlfriend who wants her boyfriend to cook—but he doesn’t know where to start) and his most recent endeavour, The Healthy Cook.
The Healthy Cook is filled with unassumingly easy recipes that taste good (I made his Sweet Potato Top Chicken Country Pie last night—amazing) and are good for you. Heck. Yes.
Dan’s Sweet Potato Top Chicken Country Pie. Yum
And though you wouldn’t even know it by taste, the book is filled with gluten-free recipes. Breaking the mould of what we expect in gluten-free cooking, each dish is exciting and accessible, whether you eat gluten-free or not.
We asked Dan a little more about the subject and his take on the nutritional trend. Over to Dan…
These days it’s common to hear about gluten-free food, and restaurants, shops and bakeries world-wide are including it on their menus, but what does it really mean?
Gluten is a protein compound derived from wheat and found in foods. It is the component that gives elasticity to dough, allowing it to be shaped, rise and fall, and it adds a distinctive texture to the overall product. The problem is we were never meant to digest it.
Our internal organs recognize gluten as a foreign substance and struggle to break it down. Some people can handle it, however more and more people are becoming what is know as gluten-intolerant or -sensitive or being diagnosed with celiac disease. The effects of a gluten intolerance can include irritable stomach, increased susceptibility to aches and pains, joint and finger swelling, nausea, headaches, and a feeling of uncomfortable nature around the bowel.
Whenever I translate what gluten is, I like to take people back to their childhood. Do you remember CLAG glue (North Americans: think Elmer’s Glue)? When you ate this, which some kids did, it was like eating gluten. Gluten is stretchy, sticky and toxic and as it passes through your system it sticks to walls of your digestive system, stretches, causes passageway issue and ultimately your stomach cannot simply break it down.
Dan’s gluten-free waffles won’t stick to your insides
Common foods that contain gluten include bread, pizza, pasta, soy sauce, cakes, pastry. As bread is a big part of western society’s meals, to some degree our bodies have adapted to breaking it down. As a result, the onset of the associated illnesses is often delayed, and individuals are not being affected until their early 20s. The biggest problem with this is that people feel they are immune to the intolerance and consume bread, for example, free of initial problems, so once reactions begin it is harder to stop eating it.
It is unrealistic for me to say you should stop having gluten altogether purely because one, that would make me a hypocrite; two it is unrealistic; and three it does not align with my “healthy cook” philosophies. I myself consume almost everything gluten-free, however I also place a high value on a balanced lifestyle. I grew up on making my own pasta and pizza doughs, and call myself Italian. It’s important to still have these meals every so often as they produce an amazing positive response from your hormones—you just have to establish how often.
Hunky Dan captures tastebuds—and hearts—in this article for Australia’s Woman’s Day magazine
If you are someone who loves these kind of foods but knows it’s time to make a change, it’s important to wean your body off rather than go cold turkey. Studies show a much more successful rate in progressively training the brain to handle cravings compared to complete restrictions. I now have bread once a month, pasta and pizza alike. I trained my mind to go without and have established a routine to not rely on these foods to entertain my meals.
Alternatives like sweet potato, crispy greens and even brown rice are amazing. Once you begin your transition it gets easier with each day that passes. You also learn about a lot of other foods are out there. Too often people become reliant on gluten-based foods to feel satisfied. Well, here is your chance to counter that.
The recipes in my latest book, The Healthy Cook, are simple, mouth-watering dishes that are easy for the home cook, and they’re 95 per cent gluten-free (with with the exception of oats, which can be swapped for steal cut or quinoa flakes). There are heaps of options to help you kickstart your gluten-free lifestyle.
Take charge, begin the change. It’s amazing the new-found energy you will discover.
Dessert anyone? Dan, seen here in Australia’s Famous magazine, has ideas for that, too
Check out more info on Dan and his recipes on his blog. Psst! On his blog you’ll see he’s also holding a contest to win a trip to Australia to cook with him. Hello!