Food for Thought: Is Gluten Free Right for Me?
By now I’m sure you have heard the term Gluten-Free (GF), but what does this mean and is it right for you?
So what is gluten and who should avoid it? Gluten is a protein found in many grains, prepackaged foods and in many beauty products. For someone with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, gluten can be lethal and must be completely avoided. I have friends with this challenging disease who cannot even use pots and pans that have been exposed to gluten, even after washing.
Although I do not have Celiac disease I personally follow a GF lifestyle. Some folks are sensitive to this gluten protein and if they have any underlying inflammation in the body, gluten can be one of the culprits. It is especially aggravating for those with digestive issues and joint inflammation.
If you don’t have Celiac disease, but are struggling with inflammation and/or digestive issues, you may want to try going GF, but first I would suggest looking at avoiding overly refined flours and sugars. I find it quite interesting that friends who cannot tolerate breads and pastries in the US, go to Europe and eat the breads and pastries without any upset. This furthers my belief that it may not be just the gluten, but the overly processed grains here in America.
I encourage my clients to eat 100% whole and/or sprouted grains, the less processed the better. To take it a step further, I ask them to try some of the ancient grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, and buckwheat, which are all gluten free. Technically they are all seeds, not grains, but in most recipes they are used like you would a grain. You may want to try using one of these in your favorite rice dishes as a substitute. Yes, rice is GF, but it is a more starchy carbohydrate that will raise blood sugar and has been known for having traces of arsenic.
A word of caution when considering a GF lifestyle… don’t fall victim to all the overly, ultra-processed GF foods on the shelves of the supermarket. It is simply junk food in another form! Here is an example of a GF cookie, with the first ingredient being “SUGAR,” which all experts agree is the number one culprit for the deterioration of health in our culture. My next article will be about the sugar blues… stay tuned! When it comes to reading labels on pre-packed foods, also consider the ingredients you cannot pronounce or if you do not know what it is – these are best to avoid and are typically preservatives or emulsifiers that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
So let’s look at some great GF alternative flours. My two favorite, go-to for replacements are garbanzo bean, also known as besan flour in Asian markets, and organic almond flour. Local grocers carry the garbanzo bean and I get my organic almond flour from nuts.com. I create an assortment of baked goods with these flours and also use them to “bread” veggies and meats to bake. Below are two of my all-star recipes. Keep in mind that some folks have allergies to nuts so it is important to share with your guests that you have used a substitute to prevent anyone from consuming something they may be allergic to.
I hope you enjoy these recipes, and as always if you have questions, reach out to me at email@example.com
Chocolate Chip Cookies — Vegan, GF, Nut-free, Grain-free
Wisk in large bowl & allow to sit until thick:
1 Tbsp. whole psyllium husk (this is an Indian herb you can purchase at a health food store
1 Tbsp. Avocado oil
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp. vanilla,
½ cup avocado oil
½ cup coconut oil,
1 ¾ cups coconut palm sugar,
½ tsp. sea salt,
1 tsp. baking soda,
1 tsp. baking powder
Fold in 1 pkg. dark chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)
Stir in 3 cups chickpea flour until just blended.
Scoop by spoonfuls and press flat onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake at 325F for 8-10 minutes.
Best kept refrigerated or frozen (place on a cookie sheet and set in fridge until chips are solid, then place in container for storing).
1 T ground chia seeds
1/4 C water
1 T olive oil
1/4 t baking soda (non-aluminum)
1/4 t pink sea salt
1/2 C ground flax meal
1 C ground almonds
Favorite spice blend
Whisk the chia seed with the water until it is “egg-like”. Add oil, baking soda, and sea salt and whisk until well blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flax meal and then the ground almonds. Mix until dough forms.
Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll flat. Slide the dough that is between the parchment paper onto a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle with the spice blend. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or place in the dehydrator for 24-36 hours, or until crisp.
Can be used as a pizza crust or broken into small pieces for dipping or spreads.
Janet E. Verney is an author, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Wellness Designer, and healthy food chef who resides in Higganum and loves helping others to “health-up” their lives! Have a burning health or nutrition question, write to Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit her website at roots2wellness.com.
Photos of food by Janet. Photo of Janet by Studio Petronella.
As seen on Haddam News Online.