Before I dive into a recipe, I’m starting with a little anecdote on the thoughts that provoked today’s rice focused recipe. It was about a year ago that I decided to cut out wheat and the majority of grains from my diet just as a sort of experimental change of pace. I was feeling like I had a number of health issues going on that could only be helped by adjusting my diet and trying something new. I do not have celiac disease but based on a number of occasions of indulging in a sandwich or pastry type of treat I’ve come to the personal conclusion that I have a gluten sensitivity and my digestion is facilitated best by a wheat free, low grain diet. Gluten has become a curse word amongst our food culture presently and I think unnecessarily so. My short cut point of view on it is that it is simply a component of food that we can eat that agrees with some and with others not so much. It’s not something to be hated, feared or avoided-I now look at foods with wheat as occasional treats that are meant to be savored in the spirit of the day so as to not take away from the experience (such as the cake your Mom or friend brought you for a birthday or being a guest at a dinner party).
I stopped eating wheat and gluten containing foods because for the most part, anything in my diet that had wheat in it was something processed that I was seeking to eliminate anyway: bread, crackers, cereal, and take-on-the-go type of energy bars. Refined sources of carbohydrate as such spike your insulin levels and almost immediately turn to sugar in the body and are most likely to be stored as fat due to their high glycemic index. I saw an opportunity to include more nutrient dense foods in my diet if I cut out these processed foods which overall display a fairly bland nutritional profile. If a diet is to include grains it is better off with live sprouted ones, barley, oats, and other whole sources of that contain the iron, magnesium and other micronutrients that your body needs.
On a scientific note, a gluten intolerance is subtle and could manifest days after the gluten containing food is ingested, whereas an allergy causes an fairly immediate severe and acute reaction. In someone with celiac disease, a small peptide in gluten is able to cross the intestinal surface and gains access to the intracellular space where an immunological cell response causes a cytotoxic inflammatory problem. There have also been studies that show, yet not entirely conclusively so, that gluten peptides as well as casein peptides from cow dairy products can cross the blood brain barrier and compete with the natural peptides within the body (hormones and neurotransmitters) that bind to opioid receptors. The theory is that the binding of gluten and casein peptides to opioid receptors leads to a disruption of normal neuronal function. Also, the affect of endogenous opioids like that of endorphins which interact with these receptors that cause euphoria are shown to be mimicked by exogenous opioid peptides like that of alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco, and most interestingly, wheat. Therefore a link has been made to wheat consumption displaying similar addictive patterns to that of common substances of abuse. Craziness!
Overall, to try and wrap up this extensive conversation on wheat and gluten that could be looked into much more expansively-wheat can be addictive, but this may not hold true for all. This goes hand in hand with suggesting that some people’s guts may be permeable to the gluten peptides, whereas some may not. My general belief is that everyone responds differently to food so it is crucial to listen to your body and observe how it reacts whenever you eat. For me, I was feeling like I could eat these foods and never feel satisfied. I’d eat and crave bowl after bowl of cereal and I was growing tired of feeling straight up addicted to it. Such a response to food was making me feel out of control and generally uncomfortable. Now, I truly sense no craving for any wheat products and my energy and mood is phenomenally more stable. I used to blame my terrible disposition upon not having enough to eat on being hypoglycemic, but in all reality, I probably was just eating the wrong things and my body was not being fueled efficiently. Since I’m not eating wheat, I’m turning to foods that keep me better fueled throughout the day; this has automatically made me eat more protein, fats, and whole foods in general and I’m no longer experiencing a desperate crash of energy midday.
Onward to the recipe! I was inspired to make up a rice dish the other day because I realized I had barely dabbled in any grains outside of oats. Rice is probably one of the most innocuous foods on the digestive track and is a great grain option for many who may be avoiding gluten. This dish can be eaten cold or right after cooking so it is versatile and can be made ahead of time and eaten throughout the week. It’s definitely one of those dishes that gets better with time as it marinates in its dressing. The long grain brown rice remains slightly firm even after cooking due to the outer bran layer still being intact. A great way to eat the leftover version of this would be over some spinach or kale and an over easy egg on top. A substantial serving of this could serve as a refreshing meatless meal; the lentils and boost of veggie power from the carrots and interest of flavor and texture provided by spices and raisins make it a fun change of pace. This would be balanced out even more beautifully topped off with a few slices of ripe avocado!
1 cup long grain brown rice, cooked in 2 cups water
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tbs. parsley
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
½ cup dry green lentils, rinsed
½ cup raisins
Small bunch of cilantro
For the dressing, create a 1:3 ratio
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbs. honey
3 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/ In a 2 quart pot, add 2 cups water and 1 cup of long grain brown rice that has been rinsed in sieve a few times. Add in oil, parsley, spices and salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and then reduce a low hit to cook at a simmer, covered for about 50 minutes.
2/ When about 30 minutes has passed, add in the rinsed dry lentils to the pot of rice and put the lid back on. When another 15 minutes has passed, add in the raisins, stir, and put the lid back on. When 50 minutes is up the rice should have absorbed the majority of the water but if there is still some, this is okay-take the pot off the heat and keep covered as the rice continues to absorb the liquid and cook as it cools.
3/ While the rice is cooking you can do the prep for the other components of the salad-peel 4 carrots and using a vegetable peeler, go down the carrot vertically to create long ribbons. Place ribbons in a serving bowl.
4/ For the vinaigrette, grate the ginger and lemon zest into a jar or whatever you want to mix in. Add in the lime juice, olive oil and honey. Shake until an emulsified consistency forms and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
5/ When the rice mixture has cooled slightly, add it to the carrots in your serving bowl. Add in the chopped cilantro and pour over the vinaigrette to your liking; toss together and serve!
All of my information stated here is purely based of off self-study. Mark Sisson of Mark’s daily apple serves as one of my primary choices for nutrition information as of late and the information I based this commentary on can be found here.