“Current thinking is that the lentil is one of nature’s most perfect foods. I remember when milk was one of nature’s most perfect foods, but that was a long time ago.”  J. Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle

“How is it that the staff of life has become public enemy number 1 for so many people?  Vesanto Melina

Consider how your perceptions of foods have changed during your lifetime. Foods such as dairy products or wheat that once might have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval now are shunned by many who experience unwelcome reactions to these dietary staples. OR Foods such as dairy products or wheat, which have long been viewed as dietary staples, now are shunned by many who experience unwelcome reactions to these items. Food allergy and intolerance have increased at alarming rates in recent decades. For example, it is estimated that allergies have tripled during the last three decades in developed countries. Dairy products maintain their “essential food group” status on some national food guides, though their tendency to cause gastric distress for so many individuals raises questions about directing people to eat foods that make them ill. Since seventy percent of the world’s population experiences some degree of lactose intolerance; a diet that excludes milk can be considered more “normal” than one that includes cow’s milk for humans. (If you’d like to convey your opinion to Health Canada before the upcoming food guide revision, email healthyeating@hc-sc.gc.ca )

Many of us find our quality of life to improve immensely when we eliminate one or other of the “Big Eight” triggers for food sensitivities: dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and gluten, peanuts, and tree nuts. Why the allergy epidemic? What can we do to make life easier when familiar favorites are banned from our menu? How can we ease the physical or emotional distress of friends and family with food sensitivities?  I have investigated these and related questions for “Food Allergy Survival Guide: Surviving and Thriving with Food Allergies and Sensitivities” by Vesanto Melina, Jo Stepaniak, and Dina Aronson, The Book Publishing Company, 2004.

Food allergies and sensitivities are linked with arthritis, asthma, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), candida, celiac disease, dermatitis, depression, digestive disorders, fatigue, migraines, and other conditions. Once the medical profession dismissed links between these common conditions and diet, yet recent scientific research confirms that for some of us, diet plays a significant role, and dietary change can alleviate symptoms and improve our lives immensely. We are learning about the powerful role played by our intestinal wall, which is the main interface between the cells of our body and the outside world of foods and beverages. In recent years, scientists have discovered natural ways to increase our oral tolerance for foods and to improve the health of this part of our body; the intestinal wall that we expect (or hope) will distinguish between wanted and unwanted food particles, and allow entry only to the former.

 

At first, we may view food sensitivities as little more than an unwelcome prohibition against foods that have been lifetime favorites. Yet a possible and unexpected benefit is that sometimes food sensitivities provide inspiration and impetus to improve our diets. Even when we have a sweet treat, it can include nutritious ingredients and be free of the items that trigger unwelcome reactions. Here’s an example of a versatile, low-allergy snack that can be made with dried fruit, chopped nuts, carob, or chocolate. Corn syrup is a less expensive sweetener that can be use in place of rice syrup, if you prefer and can tolerate corn.

 

Crispy Rice Bars

These crunchy squares make a delicious dessert or sweet snack. They contain no gluten,

dairy or other animal products, soy, yeast, corn, or peanuts; tree nuts are optional.

 

2/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup sesame tahini, other seed butter, or almond butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

2 cups crisped rice cereal

 

Additions (choose one):

1/2 cup currants, raisins, or finely chopped apricots

1/2 cup lightly roasted chopped almonds or walnuts

1/2 cup nondairy chocolate or carob chips

 

Lightly oil an 8-inch square pan. In a small saucepan, place brown rice syrup and tahini and warm until the mixture is softened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla flavoring.

Combine the cereal and the addition of your choice in a large bowl. Pour the warm mixture over the cereal mix and combine carefully using a wooden spoon. Work as quickly as possible (this is especially important if using chocolate or carob chips so they do not melt). Pack the mixture evenly into prepared pan, pressing gently with your fingers. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill until firm. Slice into squares and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. These keep for about 10 days (at least in theory).

Makes 16 squares

Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian, internationally known speaker and consultant, based near Fort Langley. She is author of seven books including the new “

Food Allergy Survival Guide”; her website is www.nutrispeak.com. For personal consultations call Fort Integrated Health Clinic at 604-888-8325.

 

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