March 2014 Book of the Month – Cooked

The March Clean Eating book of the month is Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. I give this book 5 out of 5 Strawberries!

5:5 Strawberries

It’s no secret that I have a food crush on Michael Pollan. I often call him my food guru. I write about how he convinced me to try eating meat again in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals in this post. I realize that it’s not much of a surprise that I liked his most recent book, as I have liked all of his books. Although the picture of pasta on the cover did make me question whether or not this would be the first of Pollan’s books that I would not like ;-).  Allow me to share the reasons why I really liked Cooked.


The goal of this book is to help you see the value of cooking food for yourself in a world of short cuts, fast food restaurants, and microwaves. The book is organized into four parts: Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Part of what I love about Cooked is that Pollan takes a historical and cultural look into how humans have fed themselves since the beginning. Additionally he takes what he has learned and then tries it out for himself in his own kitchen. You gotta love a guinea pig!

The section on Air is really a section on fermentation and bacteria. He discusses the work of Sandor Katz [pretty much the godfather of fermentation, his bible is The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World] and he discusses the work of Sister Noella Marcellino, a raw cheesemaker and holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. perhaps I found this section the most fascinating because of my studies and work as a nutrition consultant. Here is quote showing the immense importance and need for probiotics in our diet: “Probiotics-beneficial bacteria ingested either in fermented foods or in supplements- have been shown to: calm the immune system and reduce inflammation; shorten the duration and severity of colds in children; relieve diarrhea and irritable bowl syndrome; reduce allergic responses, including asthma; stimulate the immune response; possibly reduce the risk of certain cancers; reduce anxiety; prevent yeast infections; diminish levels of E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle and salmonella in chickens; and improve the health and function of the gut epithelium. (Pollan, 2013, p.335)”.

I hope you’ll check out this book and the Cooked four part series on Netflix.

Is Gluten Free For Me?

Gluten is one of the proteins found in several grains including wheat, barley, rye, bulgar, sometimes oats, and possibly spelt and kamut. There are several problems when it comes to digesting this protein. First, gluten is an inflammatory that damages internal organs and tissues. When a peglutendiagramrson’s body has a negative reaction to a food, the body sends out inflammatory molecules, cytokines, to identify the food as an enemy. The immune system continues to attack the enemy, which can cause damage in the digestive system. These cytokines also cause a great deal of damage in the brain (Perlmutter, 2013).

Furthermore, gluten is one of the few foods that can cross the blood-brain barrier. This barrier exists to protect your brain from things that are foreign. Because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, it can have a negative effect on brain function. Dr. William Davis (2009) examines studies that have shown ingesting wheat has been associated with worse symptoms with those diagnosed with ADHD, schizophrenia, and the autism spectrum.

In addition, gluten also causes spikes in the blood sugar after it is consumed. The glycemic index is the extent of which a food raises a person’s blood sugar (and insulin) relative to glucose (glycemic index of 100). The glycemic index of whole wheat bread is 72, while the glycemic index of table sugar (sucrose) is 59, thus whole wheat bread raises blood sugar more than regular sugar (Davis, 2009; Pollan, 2013). Other physiological effects of gluten consumption include sleepiness after consumption and an increased appetite after consumption (Davis, 2009).

Furthermore, the wheat that we consume today is not genetically or physiologically similar to the wheat of decades ago. The first cultivated wheat, einkorn, has only 14 chromosomes and produces a less stretchy and stickier dough that rises very little (Davis, 2011; Pollan, 2013). It also has a less appealing flavor than the current wheat strains. Current wheat strains, triticum, are genetically very different, having 42 chromosomes, and it produces a much higher yieldwavesofgrain in the field, and is elastic, pliable, and rises nicely, which is ideal for baking (Davis, 2011; Pollan, 2013).


Additionally, wheat causes an exorphin release (similar to endorphins, but originating from a source outside of your body) in your brain, making your body crave it the more you eat it. Digestion of wheat “…yields morphine-like compounds that bind to your brain’s opiate receptors. It induces a form of reward, a mild euphoria” (Davis, p. 50, 2009). This creates an ongoing cycle of eating wheat and craving wheat that can be hard to break.

Lastly, gluten is so prevalent in foods today that many people consume wheat without even realizing it. Besides the obvious breads, cereals, pastas, cookies, and cakes, gluten is also found in soy sauce, salad dressings, spice packets, cheeses, gravies, sauces, French fries, prescription medications, cosmetics and so much more (Perlmutter, 2013). It also has many aliases as well, including names like modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, seitan, and textured vegetable protein, which are misleading and may be challenging to identify as wheat (Davis, 2009).

There is a wealth of evidence showing that gluten has many adverse effects on our health, you’ll have to decide for yourself, is gluten free for you?

Health & Hugs <3,



Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014). Foundations of Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.

Davis, W. (2011). Wheat Belly. New York, NY: Rodale Inc.

Perlmutter, D. (2013). Grain Brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Pollan, M. (2013). Cooked. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Get off Gluten blog (2014, April) Flowchart of wheat retrieved from

Mitsides Group (2014, April) Image of wheat retrieved from