Everyone and their mama might be going gluten-free right now, but many readily available gluten-free foods have added sugars, soy and sodium to maintain flavor. This makes them a poor choice for most people—especially for those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (more on PCOS in my first story, along with a bone broth recipe). Incorporate whole foods, like garbanzo beans, in your diet instead.
As soon as temperatures start rising and the sandals come out, I start to reminisce about the monsoon I grew up with in Karachi, Pakistan. When the heat became unbearable, there was always the promise of rain that brought much-awaited relief from the scorching summer heat.
The joys of rain were increased exponentially when I came home from school to find mom in the kitchen, kneading dough for besan ki roti (literally, garbanzo bean flour flatbread). I would help her prepare the assorted chutneys: the mint/cilantro one, the mango one, and then there was my favorite, the red chili chutney. If you were like dad, you’d eat your roti with sliced fresh mangoes. Flatbread with mango is an odd combination, I know, but somehow, it simply works.
When rain was rare and so eagerly anticipated, it was welcomed with much fanfare. And even though I don’t have to wait for monsoon season to enjoy the rain anymore, rain is still, undoubtedly, associated with besan ki roti for me. Besan (garbanzo bean flour) is ubiquitous in South Asian cooking, used in everything from breads to fritters to desserts. It has a mild nutty flavor, and I often add a pinch of turmeric to it to bring out its yellow even more. When I decided to go gluten-free to help with my PCOS, the besan of my childhood was reintroduced into my new diet.
The Gluten and PCOS Connection
Much has been said about the relationship between gluten and PCOS, and I will try to sum it up here in the easiest and least boring way–much to the chagrin of my family who loves to remind me that I don’t have celiac disease so going gluten-free does nothing for me. Fam, I know you come out of a place of love, but hear me out: most women who suffer from PCOS, like me, also have a condition called insulin resistance.
With insulin resistance directly related to PCOS, getting off the blood-sugar roller coaster is often the first and most important step in getting hormonal issues under control. The key is to eat foods low on the glycemic index; these foods release energy slowly into the bloodstream. A wheat-based meal like pasta is (sadly) not one of these foods.
It has also been suggested that daily consumption of wheat products and other related cereal grains might contribute to an inflammatory response in the small intestine. Women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation already so eating gluten will only exacerbate the problem.
Let’s Be Clear: Gluten-Free Does Not Mean ‘Healthy’
If you remove regular bread from your diet and start eating gluten-free bread instead, you have gotten rid of the gluten. But you have not gotten rid of the other damaging effects of refined products like bread that cause a spike in your blood sugar and throw your entire hormonal system into disarray.
Additionally, many gluten-free foods have added ingredients that may be equally, if not more harmful than gluten, such as sugars, soy, and saturated fats. The most important thing is to find a diet that keeps your blood sugar balanced and gives your body all the nutrients it needs to perform its functions, meaning whole foods like vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, and beans.
Beans, like garbanzo, are a great plant-based source of protein, and are rich in filling fiber and iron. Add a good source of fat, like coconut oil or avocados, and you’ve made yourself a meal with satiating micronutrients that release energy slowly.
Switching Up a Monsoon Favorite
Mom’s besan ki roti recipe used a more binding flour like whole wheat with the garbanzo bean flour to make the dough more pliable. When I took the whole wheat flour out to keep my version gluten-free, I turned the dough into a waffle batter (this also makes the recipe much quicker and easier).
Golden, crispy waffles are spread with ghee and topped with fresh, juicy tomatoes (heirloom all the way!), bell peppers, snap peas, and scallions. Feel free to use any summer vegetables you like or have on hand. I like to quickly sauté them in olive oil with some chopped garlic. If you want something more, try a poached egg. Or smoked salmon? YAS! Then finish off with a yummy avocado-lime chutney (a spin on ma’s mint/cilantro concoction). This makes for the perfect brunch or dinner and tastes even better if you eat it al fresco. Some sunshine and some waffles. What better way to ring in the summer?
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