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Expert Interview Series: Gigi Stewart of Gluten Free Gigi On Holistic Health

Gigi Stewart, creator of GlutenFreeGigi.com and editor of Food Solutions Magazine, is also a professional recipe developer, nutritional advisor, science and health writer, and highly sought-after public speaker in the health and nutrition community. Gigi took some time to...

Holistic health

Gigi Stewart, creator of GlutenFreeGigi.com and editor of Food Solutions Magazine, is also a professional recipe developer, nutritional advisor, science and health writer, and highly sought-after public speaker in the health and nutrition community. Gigi took some time to sit down with us and discuss not only gluten-free foods, but also her views on holistic nutrition and science-based health research.

Why did you decide to create Gluten Free Gigi?

As a neuroscience and natural products research scientist, I observed firsthand the link between nutrition and quality of life. In 2007 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease and multiple food allergies (soy, peanuts, tree nuts), the science became personal when I used my expertise to completely transform my health in a matter of months with food alone. I knew I could help others with what I was learning; and in 2009, I launched Gluten Free Gigi as a hub for holistic healing.

Many people have very strident opinions about nutrition and the foods they eat. What is your overall philosophy when it comes to health and wellness?

I believe in a holistic approach to nutrition and wellness, and that this approach should be rooted in valid scientific research and viewed with an open mind and free from extremist actions and attitudes.

The subtitle of your blog is "Smart Nutrition Backed By Science." Why did you choose to emphasize this approach?

My background as a researcher in the field of neuroscience and natural products is something I use daily in my work. I believe there is a gap in fact-based information when it comes to health and nutrition. So many people struggle with information overload due to the access most of us have to web-based resources. Unfortunately, there is as much misinformation as there is good, solid info out there these days. I strive to be a resource people know they can trust time and again when it comes to issues relating to wellness.

How does your background impact the way you view foods and ingredients?

Food is the ultimate "natural resource." We must eat every day to sustain the body. In my research, I learned early on that we can enhance our health - and even restore it - by selecting foods that are right for us. We can also do damage to our health with foods. This sounds so simple, but if you really consider that idea, it is powerful knowledge each one of us can use every time we eat every day.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about gluten and gluten-free foods floating around today. What are some of the most common gluten-related myths that you hear about?

Sadly, individuals with celiac disease (like me) who absolutely must eat gluten-free for life are lumped into the "fad diet" group with those who are searching for a dietary holy grail of sorts. I hear about gluten-free folks being picky eaters or wanting attention. Of course, there are trend followers out there, but there are many who must avoid gluten for health reasons.

One of the scariest things I hear for someone with celiac disease is "a little gluten won't hurt you." That is 100% false. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease. I strive to increase awareness of this and other autoimmune diseases through my work.

These days, there are more and more products in supermarkets which are touted as being "gluten-free." Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?

This can go either way. On one hand, I love the options available, especially for children who must be gluten-free due to a health issue. On the other hand, I tend to avoid "boxed" foods and opt for a more natural gluten-free diet (fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, etc.). That is generally healthier for anyone, gluten-free or not, and it is the plan my body is happiest following.

At the end of the day, I say it's great that those products are there for those who want them. If some of us choose to eat a different way, that's OK, too. No one is forced to purchase a product that's made available. To each his or her own, I say.

Finish this sentence: "People who are on a gluten-free diet are usually surprised when I tell them that they really can eat ... "

Buckwheat! Buckwheat is a plant that's a relative of rhubarb and has nothing at all to do with wheat. The name is misleading, but buckwheat can be eaten in "whole grain" form or milled into a nutritious flour that makes terrific baked goods.

Do you have a favorite gluten-free recipe that always seems to draw praise?

Without a doubt, my gluten-free cornbread and gluten-free naan bread are crowd favorites. My readers rave about these once they make them! You can't tell they are gluten-free.

Are there any appliances, gadgets, or machines that are handy to have in your kitchen that make it easier for someone to cook gluten-free dishes?

If I had to choose only one, I would say invest in a good immersion blender (or stick blender). I find this to be a huge time saver and mess reducer when making soups and sauces. I even use mine to make salad dressing. It's a great, inexpensive tool.

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