I Had A Crippling Thyroid Disease. This Is The Diet That Helped Me Heal
Laurel Gallucci was a normal 20-something woman, working a full-time job in education and teaching Pilates when she suddenly began rapidly losing weight and suffering from little to no energy. She stopped ovulating completely and eventually had to quit her job to focus on healing. Now, she's thriving—the mother of a new baby and one-half of the female team behind the Sweet Laurel Cookbook and the newly opened Sweet Laurel Cake Shop in Pacific Palisades, California. Here, she shares her diagnosis—and the food that helped her heal.
On her diagnosis:
I was an athletic, busy lady. I had a full-time job in education, taught Pilates after work, and usually rounded out the evening with a jog on the beach. I ate relatively "healthy." Every morning for breakfast I had sprouted and organic whole wheat toast with peanut butter. I loved it because it kept me full. I refrained from heavy starches—I'd noticed in my college years my body wasn’t digesting starches; I always felt terribly bloated and constipated after eating potatoes, oats, and pasta. The doctors eventually diagnosed me with Hashimoto's disease (a disease that attacks the thyroid), secondary amenorrhea, and severe weight loss.
On changing her lifestyle:
In my last year as a school teacher, my Hashimoto's began to manifest in a big way. I had little to no energy. I was rapidly losing weight, stopped ovulating, and could not digest food properly. After intervention by my loved ones, I took a year off of teaching to focus on my health. I began working with an integrative medical doctor who encouraged me to remove foods from my diet that were causing inflammation and having a negative impact on my health condition. Per my doctor's orders, I removed all grains, refined sugar, dairy, and legumes from my diet (editor's note: While some doctors think lectins and gluten can cause inflammation, always consult a doctor to see what's best for your individual body). I saw a huge difference in my health.
On roadblocks to her health journey:
There was no cake or any sweets for that matter, for someone eating completely grain-free, refined-sugar-free, and dairy-free. I realized quickly that if I wanted to eat certain foods like cake, crackers, or doughnuts, I'd have to make it myself, which is how I began creating recipes for family and friends.
On her typical "day on a plate":
I start my day with collagen coffee, which I make with Swiss water process decaf coffee, collagen for protein, coconut cream for healthy fat, and cinnamon to help with inflammation. Other meals consist of lots of veggies and moderate protein. I am actually a vegetable fiend! Kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes—I love it all. I eat egg scrambles and organic pastured chicken and fish. And it is very common to see me snacking on 100 percent cacao throughout the day.
On her results:
My Hashimoto's disease is now in remission, and I was able to have a baby! Removing all grains, refined sugar, dairy, and legumes from my diet helped my healing journey by leaps and bounds. For me, it was the most anti-inflammatory approach. I have the energy to work out again, which is huge. Although my autoimmune disease is in remission, I like to maintain my anti-inflammatory diet because I feel good!
Want to try out one of Laurel's creations for yourself? This Chocolate Cake That Changed Everything was the recipe that started Laurel's culinary career. "This was the cake that changed everything," Laurel says. "Our whole company, and point of view, is founded on this cake. Decadent, rich, beautiful, and intensely chocolaty, it flies in the face of people who don't think you can have your cake and be grain-free, too. This cake is a showstopper, so get ready—people will freak out over it."
The Chocolate Cake That Changed Everything
Makes two 6-inch or one 8-inch cake
- Coconut oil, for greasing the pans
- 2½ cups almond flour
- ¼ cup 100 percent unsweetened cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting (recipe below)
- 1 cup Vegan Caramel (recipe below), optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 6-inch cake pans or one 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper rounds, then grease the sides of the pans with coconut oil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla. A little at a time, add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until a batter forms.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert the cakes onto racks and allow to cool completely.
- Place one layer on a cake plate and top with ½ cup of the fudge frosting, smoothing it evenly over the entire surface. Drizzle ½ cup of the caramel on top, if using. Add the second cake layer and top with the remaining ½ cup frosting, then drizzle the remaining caramel over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting
"Herein lies the glue holding together The Chocolate Cake That Changed Everything," Laurel says. "This frosting is delicious and decadent. It's a dark dark chocolate frosting. If you're not a dark chocolate fiend like us, we encourage you to add an extra 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to your batch plus a little extra coconut cream to sweeten it up."
Makes 1 cup
- 4 ounces 100 percent cacao unsweetened baking chocolate, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup coconut oil, solid
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup almond butter, store-bought or homemade
- ¼ cup almond milk or full-fat coconut milk, or as needed
- In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Slowly add the maple syrup and stir to incorporate. Allow to cool completely.
- Transfer the chocolate mixture to a medium bowl, and, using an electric mixer, beat in the almond butter until a thick frosting forms. Add the almond milk and stir with a spatula until smooth.
- For a creamy, almost pourable frosting, use immediately; for a fluffy frosting, refrigerate for at least 8 hours, then bring to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until spreadable. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
"We believe our early success has a lot to do with this recipe," Laurel says. "There have been vegan caramel super fans since day one (seriously, one guy has a weekly order), and once you try it, you'll know why. You'll see it pop up in a few recipes in this cookbook, but we won't judge if you eat this straight out of the jar with a spoon!"
- ¼ cup almond or cashew butter or puree, store-bought or homemade
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 or 2 fresh dates, pitted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth.
- Transfer the caramel to a glass jar, and place in the refrigerator to chill. The caramel will stiffen up in the refrigerator, so if your recipe calls for it to be spreadable, let the caramel sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, and give it a good stir before using. The caramel will keep for about 1 month, refrigerated.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.