February 24, 2018

Are gluten-free foods healthier?

I’m sure you have heard of many people who started feeling better and losinggluten free scrabble pounds after going gluten-free. I know I have lost over 25 pounds after going gluten-free and that’s without “dieting” or being deprived from tasty foods.

Many people lower their blood sugar level and even their cholesterol on a gluten-free diet.

So, why is it that so many lose inches but some may actually gain more weight when they go gluten-free?

The answer lies in the actual diet. Substituting gluten foods with gluten-free counterparts does not make it a healthier diet!

You see, gluten-free baked goods contain just as many carbohydrates as their traditional gluten counterparts do, which ultimately convert into sugar. Those sugars will affect your body’s ability to function properly. It will put your liver on overload and increase insulin production just as much as the gluten counterpart, and you will feel no difference in your health. You may feel less aches and pains caused by gluten consumption, provided you followed a truly 100% gluten-free diet without cheating! You must eliminate all sources of gluten, including but not limited to shampoos, make-up, and any possibility of cross contamination. Otherwise, you will feel that you didn’t benefit from going gluten-free, and you would be right, because you didn’t do it properly!

It is very important to take proper steps to repair damage caused by gluten. The right supplements, vitamins, minerals and enzymes are critical.

Using Black Beans Rather than Potatoes

Living healthier is nothing but making small conscious choices and changes. That’s all!

I recently moved to a new place and had the family over for dinner. Knowing that I can’t get too fancy or too “creative” with my family I keep things pretty basic: a meat and potato kind of concept. If you know me, you know that simple is still a full meal, with a couple different meats, at least two veggies, salad and of course, dessert.

I eat what I preach. Quality always comes first, starches and sugars last or avoided all together. Roasted potatoes were initially on the menu, a side which is simple, easy and fairly quick to make. However, a potato is all carbohydrates, hardly any fiber or proteins. Everyone’s insulin levels would have shot up to the skies. By simply replacing the potatoes with a black bean, diced vegetables and fresh herbs salad, I not only lowered the carb count, I also increased the protein and fiber and added a whole lot more nutrients. No one noticed the lack of potatoes or starch nor missed all the gluten-full foods they generally eat. The gluten-free, casein-free and sugar-free chocolate cake was a grand finale.

Small and simple menu changes will lead to major benefits in your health.

Love your skinny genes!!!

DSC_4051 - CopyWe all have them, good or bad, skinny or fluffy, healthy or otherwise. We can blame or credit Mom and Dad. But it is the actions you are taking today, the habits you keep on repeating day in day out, the environment you’re living in, and the friends you surround yourself with, influencing your genes.  Most important of them all, the food that goes in your mouth is the biggest influence! That’s right! Your nutrition is the foremost influence on your genetic makeup. The food you eat and the drugs you take will either have a beneficial effect on your genes or cause complete chaos in your body.
While I’m not suggesting that your parents, grandparents, or even your great- grandparents have nothing to do with your genetic makeup, that part is what it is. What I am suggesting is that you, your nutrition, and your food choices have just as much effect on your genetic makeup as the “deck of cards” you were dealt at birth.
If you think this is crazy, keep on reading.
The future of nutrition is here!  Based on the science of Nutrigenetics which…
1.      Aims to understand how the genetic makeup of an individual coordinates the response to diet- your body will process and react differently to the pancakes you had earlier for breakfast, the sandwich, chips and soda you had for lunch, or the handful of nuts and the slice of fruit you will have later as a snack.
2.      States that genetics alone do not determine your future health and well being – there is no such a thing as your genes being the sole cause of your Multiple Sclerosis or autoimmune disease or even developing cancer.
3.      And studies the interplay between nutrition and your own genetics as an individual- what information are you sending to your genes?
The second piece of this science is…
Nutrigenomics, which is the influence of nutrients and dietary ingredients on gene expression; it is the activator of our genes mechanism. And that food is information to our cells and genomes.
Your future health is determined by the interaction between your genetics and your environment, including and not limited to, your nutrition, and your medications. Therefore, every bite you eat, every sip, and every pill you take communicates directly to your genes.  Our ancestors used food as medicine and in many cases as a slow killing poison. How are you using food today?
If we follow nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics, we have an option to either provide our body, that temple of our soul with beneficial information or self destructive signals.
Here are some simple steps you can take to benefit and start influencing your genes positively:
By eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet, and replacing daily habits that may be influencing your genes negatively with alternatives that are known to have a positive impact on your health
– Eliminate Sugars and artificial (chemical) sugar substitutes, and all sugary beverages from your diet
-.Eliminate or decrease grain- sourced carbohydrate consumption. Your body does not need grain based carbohydrates. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are sufficient.
-Eliminate Gluten from your diet. Your body can not break it down completely. You don’t need it!
-Dairy, corn, soy, eggs (for some) are all inflammatory. Eliminate whichever you react to negatively.
-Moderate alcoholic beverage consumption.  While some red wine is beneficial, too much alcohol will affect many of your organs just like fructose in sugars and sugary beverages and carbohydrates.
a.      Overloads your liver by driving more fat than it can export.
b.      The increase in blood sugar levels will trigger the pancreas to increase insulin secretion, which will cause insulin resistance.
c.       Drives energy deposition into the fat cells, therefore causing weight gain.
d.       Aside from the obvious behavioral effect on the brain, alcohol, like the other food groups mentioned above, also taps into the brains reward center (Nucleus Accumbens) stimulating dopamine release, which conveys the feeling of pleasure. More pleasure, more dopamine released and more food we crave. Over stimulating the dopamine signals causes a down regulation of the dopamine receptors and building tolerance! Therefore, you end up eating or drinking more to get the same effect. More importantly, we start associating those foods with pleasure.
– Keep your insulin levels down whether you are diabetic or not. Eat more fiber with your carbohydrates, which will lessen the insulin response.
-Cut your portions size by 20%.

-Wait 20 minutes before going for a second portion. It takes food 20 minutes to travel the 22 feet of your intestines before specific cells at the end of your intestines release a hormone called “Peptide YY”, which travel through the blood to your brain signaling satiety.
Once you start making even small shifts in your habits and nutrition, you will notice major changes in your health, you will start feeling better, reduce and eliminate pain, have more energy, mental clarity, weight loss, loving your body, feeling vibrant, confident and happier. And, feel sexy in the skinny jeans you’ve had your eyes on!
If you would like to learn more and get additional support and recipes go to http://culinarycreator.com/gethealthynow/

10 Steps to a Gluten Free Lifestyle

Article written by Chef Varouj, Originally Published in Happy Healthier Women Magazine

Gluten-Free-BreakfastI see newly diagnosed gluten sensitive and celiac patients/clients at least twice a week, and all have one thing in common besides the obvious of course; they all feel overwhelmed!

Confused, lost, angry, frustrated, and at a loss, uncertain of their life from this point forward, all they have heard from their consultation with the doctor is all the things they can’t have. And boy, did life just get harder or what? It may seem like it initially, however, I would say… NOT!

We are so programmed to consume everything gluten-full, that our brain is addicted to it just like an alcoholic’s is to booze!

No can do is everyone’s first reaction. “I can’t give up bread!” is the first response I get. And I totally understand it. That was my very
first sentence uttered when I was first diagnosed. After all I owned a bakery. I lived on bread, croissants, pastries, pizza and pasta.

Here are few pointers to ease you into the gluten free lifestyle…

  1. Rule of thumb; When it comes to gluten sensitivities there is no such a thing as “it’s just a small bite.” or “Just taste it!” what’s a small bite going to do to you? Or it’s my birthday; have to have a piece of cake! NOPE, YOU DON’T!!!
  2. If you are religious, ask for gluten-free (GF) communion wafers. (Many churches now offer GF version.) And yes, a little piece of the wafer once a week, once a month or even once a year is enough to reset your reactions. Gluten sensitivity is a systematic autoimmune disease!!! This means, your immune system can’t tell the difference between a bite and an entire loaf. Hence the importance of the next step.
  3. Eliminate all possibilities for cross- contamination. From kitchen tools, toasters, toaster ovens, ovens, cutting boards, and wooden spoons. Remember, that any regular
    baking done previously has left residue all over your kitchen and tools, especially the oven.
  4. Clean your pantry from ALL gluten foods. Out of sight, out of mind rule applies here. Many will have cravings for gluten-full foods, especially in the first few weeks.
    This may be harder if you are the only one in your family on a GF diet, or live with roommates eating the typical American gluten filled diet. Nonetheless, resist temptations.
  5. Be aware of all hidden gluten sources such as some chocolate, licorice, or even prescription medications.
  6. Stop playing the victim! Accept the fact that this is now your lifestyle. The sooner you eliminate ALL gluten from your diet the sooner you start reversing and repairing the damage. Seek help from a qualified professional, such as a Certified Gluten Practitioner.
  7. Inform and educate you family and friends about your new lifestyle and be sure they understand that this is not about you choosing to be “difficult”, or wanting to try “the newest diet.” You have a PERMANENT ALLERGY!!! Be persistent, don’t give up, chances are, they will NOT get it anyways!!
  8. Plan your meals ahead of time. There will be less of a chance of you falling back into old habits when you are not starving. Be sure to have snacks such as fruits and nuts, high quality gluten-free protein shakes make great alternatives to a quick meal replacement on the go, or as a last minute solution.
  9. Look for support groups in your area such as Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), Meet up groups, and any celiac or gluten-free groups for moral support, to bounce back ideas, learn more from each other’s experiences, and maybe exchange a few recipes.
  10. Resist replacing gluten full foods with gluten-free counterparts, again, this will be a little challenging at first, but work toward reducing the extra carbohydrate consumption.

Once again, working with a qualified professional will not only ease your transition into a gluten free lifestyle, it will make it much safer, achieve faster results, and be able to monitor any sudden or unexpected/unwanted changes.

The goal is to feel better, repair and restore damaged tissues and stay on the healthier path.

I would love to hear about your experiences, your thoughts and comments. Or if you have any questions you can reach me direct at chefv @ culinarycreator.com

Death by Gluten: Health Risks of Undiagnosed Celiac Disease


Did you know that mortality rates are twice as high in untreated gluten sensitive individuals compared to those with celiac disease, even on a gluten free diet?

According to the largest study published in the medical journal American Journal of Gastroenterology, those with gluten sensitivity had a 72% increased rate of mortality compared to those with celiac disease. It is mind boggling the amount of misinformation out there about gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Let’s address gluten sensitivity for now.

I’m not a doctor, but with a little research and some homework it’s not too hard to find thousands of actual research data points about all aspects of celiac disease, and more specifically gluten sensitivity, as well as the effect of gluten on dozens of illnesses.

Why is gluten sensitivity more dangerous, yet the most underestimated and least treated?

Well, for one, most doctors don’t have the time to read and research all the new studies published in all the different medical and scientific journals and still have time to tend to their patients’ needs. Some perhaps don’t care to! I realize my last statement will ruffle few feathers, but it’s the sad truth. Our health system is partially to blame for this, there is simply no money in telling someone stop eating wheat and all other gluten containing products and you will be fine! And in doctors’ defense, let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to hear that from our doctors, we want a quick fix, and we want it now! Notice I said quick fix, not prevention or elimination! We expect to get a prescription from our doctors; we have been psychologically predisposed to walk out of that office with a piece of paper in one hand with a promise for an immediate cure. Or shall I say relief!

And that’s only half the problem. If someone is diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, and the misinformed or hardly trained staff members pass on the little info they have to patients, then, the patient is left on their own to learn more about gluten sensitivity. And with so many online resources underestimating the seriousness of gluten sensitivity compared to celiac disease, most people are left with the belief that as long as you are not a celiac, there is no harm in consuming a little gluten from time to time. NOT SO!!! Celiac disease is nothing other than the end stage of gluten sensitivity! The toll that eating gluten for years, even decades, takes on the intestinal lining creates a ripple effect. If you are not a celiac (yet) but have gluten sensitivity, you are slowly but surely damaging some organ or tissue in your body, your intestines, your liver, your brain, your heart or muscles.

Bottom line is that not all information online is accurate or scientifically backed. This is a scary statement I found online from a “celiac/GS coach”: (the quote has not been altered)

“Gluten intolerance is similar to celiac; someone with gluten intolerance may experience some of the symptoms of celiac, but once the gluten has passed from the body their system clears up and the symptoms go away with little long-term effect. This is based on current medical research and opinion, but no conclusive evidence is available.

Treatment for Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance

The only successful treatment for celiac and gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet. If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, a strict gluten-free diet reduces the risk of having a gluten reaction considerably. If you are celiac you must eat foods that are gluten-free. For celiacs, continued consumption (even the tiniest amount) may cause damage to the small intestine. For those that are gluten intolerant, ingesting gluten should not cause damage but will consistently produce unwanted symptoms.”

So, what is the problem with that statement?

First, it is worrisome to know that many individuals’ lives will be affected by the lack of that “coach’s” knowledge. Second, while it is true that your body will clear or detoxify from gluten over a period of 2-3 weeks, provided you are fully on a gluten free diet and not using any gluten containing products, including toiletry. Research and studies are clear: gluten sensitivity is a permanent disorder!

And because many underestimate the danger of gluten sensitivity simply because the initial symptoms such as brain fog, lack of energy, bloating, joint pain, and many of the other issues may not seem to be as painful as the symptoms for celiac individuals. Therefore gluten sensitivity often remains untreated, and even worse, gluten sensitive individuals are told they would be fine with gluten containing foods because they are not celiac. Until they become celiac!

Many will develop far worse diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurological problems, seizures, liver damage, autoimmune problems and many other diseases. In which cases, gluten is seldom considered as the culprit. Therefore, mortality will become inevitable since gluten consumption is not completely stopped. Degeneration of organs and tissues that are already weakened continues and increases.

If you suspect that you may have any reactions to gluten, be sure consult with your doctor or find a certified gluten practitioner like myself and others throughout the country and get the treatment you deserve.

It’s your life; make it a healthy and a happy life!

Hooked On Beets

gluten-free-beet-salad-chef-vI know it’s not quite the beets season, but, I’m hooked on the cooked and peeled organic baby beets that are sold vacuum sealed in many stores. I love them! And they are gluten free! And for once, convenience without sacrificing your health! I have tried them few times now and they have been very consistent, tender, juicy and clean- though you may have to trim the ends form time to time! Best of, they are cooked just right, and you can do whatever you want with them, have them as a salad, a side dish or make a meal of them on a hot day like I did today. It takes less than 10 minutes and I bet your little ones will try it as well. Just like my little buddy Eli who told his mother she needed to got the recipe for the beets salad.

Beets are not only delicious once you balance the flavors with a bit of saltiness, a little kick of spice, and a hint of acidity like vinegar or lemon and my personal favorites, fresh herbs.
Beets are also very good for your health. It’s been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. In a recent blog titled “Is Your Gallbladder Cranky”, Dr. Mikell S. Parsons talks about the benefits of beets on the gallbladder.

So what it takes to make a delicious beet salad? Just a few ingredients, And Eli, I want to see a picture of you making this salad! 😉


  • 5 small to medium beets, quartered
  • 8-10 Olives, mixed, or Kalamata
  • 1 Green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Jalapeno, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dry mint
  • 5 leaves of fresh basil, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Feta cheese crumbles
  • Salt and fresh pepper to taste


  1. Quarter beets, slice onions and jalapeno, toss together with all the other ingredients except feta, adjust salt and pepper.
  2. Add feta cheese last minute and toss gently. Enjoy

Simply Gluten Free Cookbook: Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Sugar-Free Approach to Classic Recipes Plus a Recipe for You!

simply-gluten-free-3d-imageIt’s finally here!  If you have ever written a book or created a cookbook – it is a large project that, as best as this single guy and devoted Uncle can describe, is a little like having a baby.  You have to create it, nurture it and wait for it’s completion and arrival.  It’s a labor of love that is very gratifying when it all comes together in a perfect little package!

So it is a big day here announcing that the new “Simply Gluten Free Cookbook:  Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Sugar-Free Approach to Classic Recipes” is completed and can now be ordered and the recipes served up in your kitchen!  Many many thanks to the friends, family and volunteers who cooked up recipes, took pictures, edited and then edited again the cookbook.  I appreciate each of you very much!

The “Simply Gluten Free” cookbook is a collection of more than 50 recipes that are delicious, quick and easy to make that your entire family will love.  Some are classic age old recipes and all are formulated to be gluten- free, dairy- free, and sugar-free without sacrificing flavor, texture or presentation.

Below is one of my favorite recipes included in the cookbook.

Grilled Asparagus, Charred Bell Pepper and Citrus Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes


  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted & peeled
  • 4 whole eggs, poached
  • 2 tablespoons white wine, coconut or distilled vinegar
  • 3/4 cup citrus vinaigrette
  • 1 cup bacon, nitrate and nitrite free, sliced and sautéed, (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted, coarse ground

Asparagus with peppers and citrus vin...For the citrus vinaigrette – Makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup lemon, orange and/or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon zest of lemon, orange, and/or lime
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, approximately
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Do ahead…

  1. Peel asparagus stems (if needed) and put in a bowl, toss with salt and pepper and drizzle of olive oil and grill or roast for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Grill or char over open flame or broil bell peppers, place in a bowl cover, set aside for 10 minutes, then peel, stem and slice into 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ slices, set aside.
  3. Sauté bacon until crispy (if using) set aside.
  4. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the juice, zests, shallots, salt and fresh pepper, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil and whisk until all the oil has been used.
  5. Fill a small pot with water 5 to 6 Inches deep, add the vinegar and bring to a simmer.

To Poach the Eggs:

  1. Gently crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl, and slide into simmering water. Be sure to maintain a simmer.
  2. Simmer for 3 minutes (Make sure the yolk is still soft and runny.
  3. Using a slotted spoon remove the egg, drain and top the asparagus.

To Assemble:

Slice asparagus in an angle into oblique 1/2″ thick slices, put in a bowl, add peppers, bacon, toss with half cup of the vinaigrette, taste, add more vinaigrette if needed, portion into individual plates or bowls top with a poached egg and 1 tablespoon of pistachios and serve.

Do you want more recipes like this one?  Order “Simply Gluten Free: Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Sugar-Free Approach to Classic Recipes” here.