Corn may be an ideal alternative to gluten-containing grains, but it can also be surprisingly addictive, causing cravings and weight gain.
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When Kimberly Knost, a 53-year-old mother and office worker, began a gluten-free diet more than a year ago, the acid reflux pain in her stomach went away. She began substituting corn products, the easy alternative to gluten-containing wheat products. But new problems emerged. “When I started eating corn tortillas, corn chips, popcorn, or cornbread, it was hard for me to stop,” says Kimberly. “I craved them, kept eating them, got very bloated in my abdomen, and gained weight.”
After watching the documentary King Corn, Kimberly learned more. “I had no idea that corn is in practically every food in the U.S. food system and it’s a big reason why Americans are so fat. After seeing that movie, I have tried to be very careful with my diet.”
Today, Kimberly mostly avoids corn to keep her eating habits and weight in control and buys more grass-fed meat. When she does eat corn, she goes out of her way to make sure it is not genetically modified and tries to have cut corn, which is less addictive to her than cornmeal or corn-flour products.
Carefully Considering Corn
Kimberly is one of a growing number of gluten-free eaters who find that even though corn is gluten-free, it cannot be eaten with abandon. Corn is a high-carbohydrate, high-glycemic (blood sugar-spiking) food, and as King Corn shows, corn in excess can fatten us up just as it fattens up cattle. Two other issues: the production of commercial corn uses a lot of pesticides; and about half of the corn in our food supply is genetically engineered.
So what kind of role should corn play in your diet? Use the following tips to educate yourself and decide what is best for you.
- Consider eliminating all corn products for two weeks to see how you feel, especially if you have gained weight or developed new health problems you didn’t have before increasing corn intake. During the first several days of a corn-elimination diet, some people experience strong cravings for corn-based foods, but cravings and other symptoms may lift, and weight loss often occurs after four or five days. If this happens to you, you may have an unrecognized corn or carbohydrate sensitivity, or insulin resistance and may need to avoid corn. On the other hand, if you avoid corn for two weeks and recognize no changes in symptoms or weight, you should be able to include corn in your diet.
- Buy organic to avoid pesticides commonly used on corn. Steer clear of genetically modified corn, and seek out corn products labeled organic, 100% organic, or made with organic ingredients. Some labels also specifically say non-GMO.
- Eat more blue or white corn- two types that are not genetically engineered, according to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception.
- Put variety in your gluten-free diet. Instead of repeatedly eating yellow corn products, alternate various gluten-free products (e.g., quinoa, brown rice, heirloom rices by Lotus Foods, rice-based bread, blue corn tortillas, white corn chips) in your diet. Also, try flax crackers in place of corn chips and use more vegetables in place of corn products.
Makes 6 muffins
Lower in carbs and higher in fiber than most corn muffins, these muffins have just a touch of corn taste. With only 3 Tbs. of organic blue corn meal, this is a good recipe to try when reintroducing corn after an elimination trial. Eat as a snack or as part of breakfast. Serve with chicken soup, chili, or a large salad. Use as a side dish with baked pork chops or chicken breasts.
Reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2009, by Melissa Diane Smith. Adapted from a recipe in Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, ND.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 6-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Whisk together eggs, coconut oil, honey, applesauce, vanilla, and salt in bowl. Mix together corn meal, coconut flour, and baking powder in separate bowl. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and mix until no lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake 10 to 11 minutes.
PER SERVING: 131 CAL; 4 G PROT; 10 G TOTAL FAT (7 G SAT FAT); 8 G CARB; 106 MG CHOL; 132 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 4 G SUGARS