How (and why) I wrote a cookbook
This journey began a few years ago when I was having problems related to Interstitial Cystitis, painful bladder disease. I asked for help on one of the message boards I frequent, things were going from bad to worse and I didn’t know why. Someone asked if I was watching my oxalates. I had never heard of oxalates but being the researcher I am, I started reading up on them. Immediately I was intrigued by the idea that the healthy foods I had been consuming were harming me.
I’ve written a lot about oxalates in the past and want people to make the connection between poor health and oxalate consumption. There may or may not be a link but isn’t it worth checking out?
Oxalates are compounds/organic acid in many vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and are known as an “anti-nutrient.” The reason for them is to give protection to plants from insects and animals.
Why? To help ensure that seeds needed for the propagation of plants aren’t digested by hungry people and animals. When birds or bears feast on blueberries, the seeds are still viable, even after being pooped back out!” source
“Oxalate can bind to minerals to form compounds, including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. This mostly occurs in the colon, but can also take place in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract.” source
Since oxalates are toxins, they are poison to some people.
They are found in many nutritious foods which was surprising to me. You will find high oxalates in spinach, rhubarb, chocolate, peanuts and peanut butter, almonds and almond butter, beets, sweet potatoes, figs, raspberries, soy including soy flour, tofu, lentils, legumes. If you are eating a vegetarian diet and consume tofu and almond flour based foods, you may want to pay attention to how you are feeling.
Since I was already gluten-free, adding another restriction to my diet was going to be a challenge.
I couldn’t bake with almond flour or eat almonds as a snack. No more peanut butter on toast, no more sauteed spinach. I realized I was consuming A LOT of oxalates. I completely overdid the almonds and almond flour since so many gluten-free baked goods call for almond flour. My Paleo cookbooks were pretty heavy in oxalates too.
I learned that even gluten-free flour could be high in oxalates, along with spices, seeds, and nuts. When I tell you that my diet was super high in oxalates at the time, I mean it. I made daily smoothies with lots of fresh spinach, my favorite thing to bake was almond flour scones, I ate a sweet potato for lunch every day followed by a treat of chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joes.
As I kept reading and learning, I removed the high oxalate foods from my diet and saw an overall improvement. I am really surprised that oxalates aren’t more well known because these little toxins are connected to a lot of diseases.
Oxalatan contribute to Hashimoto’s and other thyroid conditions, there is also a relationship between oxalates and celiac disease:
“…when oxalate levels in the blood become high, it can get stored all over the body where it can produce effects in any potential organ…not just the kidney. I had learned that systemic effects from oxalate could change the course of a condition in patients over years of time. For patients with celiac disease, this storage might have occurred primarily during the years before diagnosis when problems with fat digestion would have increased the percent of oxalate absorption from the diet.” and
“Celiac disease is one of many conditions where high oxalate levels have frequently been found in patients. Some of the other conditions include bariatric surgery, cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease, short bowel syndrome, autism and more.”
read the full article here.
A new connection that is being recognized with respect to chronic candida (and digestive imbalances, including inflammation and leaky gut) is the role of oxalates. (keep reading here)
There is tons of research about the illness-oxalate connection but you have to put on your thinking cap and dive in pretty deep. Most doctors don’t even know what oxalates are, or are not familiar with how devastating they can be to health.
When I saw my uro-gynocologist for IC, she never brought up oxalates as a possible reason for my issues. I am forever grateful to the person who brought this to my attention.
Another article on the subject points out that low energy could be part of an oxalate issue as well as: “hidden source of headaches, urinary pain, genital irritation, joint, muscle, intestinal or eye pain.
Other common oxalate-caused symptoms may include mood conditions, anxiety, sleep problems, weakness, or burning feet. Indicators can be digestive, respiratory, or even bed wetting for children.” source/full article here.
If any of these symptoms apply to you, checking the oxalate levels in the foods you eat might be a good idea. And you are the best advocate for your health so don’t be shy about researching and educating yourself in oxalates. I’m sure as medicine progresses, we will see more on this subject.
If you want to keep reading, there is a great article here about oxalates.
As I began to revamp my diet, I was also fighting candida so I had to be mindful of white sugar and yeast. My head was spinning with all the foods I could NOT eat. For many months, I worked on figuring out what I could and couldn’t/shouldn’t eat and I carried a list of high and low oxalate foods with me at the grocery store.
I enjoy making nice dinners for my family who, by the way, have none of my restrictions. How could I cook for them and make sure I could eat too? The small things you don’t think about- spices, herbs, flour blends, bread crumbs- became issues for me as I searched for substitutions that would work in recipes. Those recipes in the Paleo and Gluten-Free cookbooks I looked at for inspiration suddenly became tests in finding creative solutions.
WHAT COULD I EAT?
Recipe by recipe I started to find substitutions or remade the recipes completely. When I understood what I could and couldn’t consume, I threw together meals that were low-medium oxalate.
While I had been writing fiction for many years, I never considered writing a non-fiction book. I had always loved reading recipes though, going way back to when my mother subscribed to Good Housekeeping and as a child, I’d peruse the recipe sections. Writing articles on health for my blogs was something I frequently did and I seriously considered getting my certificate in holistic health coaching since wellness/health is one of my passions.
A thought started brewing…what if I created a cookbook for other people who had the same eating restrictions?
Could I put something together to help other people in my situation? Looking on Amazon, I noted there were TONS of cookbooks for those who are gluten-free, keto, and paleo, but not many for those who were gluten-free AND low oxalate. In fact, the options for low oxalate cooking were few. Maybe I could put something together…
Here’s where things got kind of weird and I knew I was being guided by a greater force. For years I’d been writing books and trying to find an agent and a book deal, only to be met with rejection after rejection, but I sent ONE letter to an editor at a publishing house and she immediately responded with interest. She asked me for a book proposal which I created and sent, within a short time she had responded with a book deal.
All the pieces fell into place quickly.
During the fall months last year, I cooked and took photos every day. I had many recipe ideas, some coming to me in the middle of the night, others popped into my head as I cooked something else. I wanted to include food people would actually want to make, recipes that were easy and called for ingredients that were familiar. Food that was affordable. Meals that could be created within forty minutes or so. One of the biggest struggles I noted was that people needed meal plans and ideas.
I cooked, I baked, I researched and double and triple checked my ingredients. I took photos and made notes. I typed up my recipes and edited my pictures and then in March 2018, I sent it all to my editor.
The project was an enormous undertaking. I’m nothing but a writer and a home cook with an interest in food, nutrition, and health who decided to attempt a cookbook that would make life a little easier for others.
I hope it does.
The book will be out in November 2018, you can see it/pre-order it here.
MEAL PLAN FOR ONE WEEK
DAY ONE: MEATBALLS AND ZOODLES
Meatballs made with grass fed beef, served over Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles). I make a homemade tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes, you can substitute a red pepper sauce (working on this recipe right now). If I ate bread, I would also have garlic bread or rolls. You can easily get gluten free bread or rolls. I spread butter or olive oil on there and sprinkle with garlic powder, toast until browned.
DAY TWO: CAULIFLOWER SOUP
This delicious soup is made with cauliflower and chicken broth. I’d serve with a simple green salad. I also have a recipe for popovers which always go with soup!
DAY THREE: GREEK SALAD
Huge salad made with romaine lettuce and other low oxalate vegetables, feta cheese, chicken.
DAY FOUR: MARINATED CHICKEN + Tzatziki Sauce
Marinate chicken in olive oil and spices, then bake. Served with rice or potatoes for my family, side of green beans. I also make a homemade tzatziki sauce for over the chicken.
DAY FIVE: MEATLOAF
Meatloaf with Trader Joes gluten free BBQ Sauce, low ox spices, and serve with homemade onion rings and a vegetable.
DAY SIX: BRAISED KIELBASA
Made with sautéed onions and served over Cauliflower Rice, also side of Easy Apple Sauce. *Kielbasa is high in histamines so I eat this sparingly.
DAY SEVEN: SHRIMP STUFFED PEPPERS
I buy cooked, cleaned shrimp so all I have to do is cook in the skillet. Stuff with rice if tolerated or cauli rice.
AND ONE MORE:
MEXICAN BEEF WRAP
Ground beef seasoned with Mexican Spice blend, add to that avocado, squeeze of lime, cheese, cilantro, all rolled up in a GF tortilla or skip tortilla and serve over lettuce.
I have to acknowledge the people over at the Trying Low Oxalate message board on Facebook and the work that Susan Owens does on the subject of oxalates!
For more info on oxalates, start here!