Choices in Gluten Free Foods
Gluten Free Foods are becoming more preferred as a choice for those seeking a healthy diet. It is now one of the most discussed health food trend with Gluten Free products and brands being introduced every now and then.
What is Gluten and why is there a deliberate effort to encourage people to avoid it?
Gluten is basically a component in wheat, and in grains closely related to wheat, that gives the wheat flour dough its sticky consistency.
It is a protein compound, and it is known to cause the unpleasant reactions that people with celiac disease suffer when they consume wheat products.
The other grain cousins of wheat that contain Gluten are barley and rye.
Health Effects of Gluten
The people who need to avoid Gluten at all costs are those who suffer Celiac disease. It is an autoimmune disease that is genetically inherited.
When someone suffering celiac disease takes food that has Gluten, their immune system reacts by waging an attack on the small intestine’s finger like structures known as villi that assist in digestion and nutrient absorption. This essentially causes a gradual erosion of the small intestines.
People with celiac disease suffer serious consequences when they take food containing gluten. Some of the common effects are:
• Digestive discomfort characterized by diarrhea, bloating, constipation and gas
• Tissue damage of the small intestines
• Tiredness, headaches and depression.
• Skin rashes.
There are people who do not have celiac disease but still suffer from gluten sensitivity. They get symptoms such as stomach aches, bloating, tiredness and gas when they consume products containing gluten .
Allergies due to wheat consumption are not the same as celiac disease which is an autoimmune disease. However people suffering from these food allergies will benefit from gluten free diets.
People who suffer from Irritable Bowel-Syndrome (IBS) have also reported an easing of their discomfort when on gluten free diet.
All food products that have wheat as an ingredient contain gluten. Some of the foods, apart from the obvious wheat products, that may contain gluten are sauces, soups processed meat, beer, ketchup and mustard.
Common Gluten Free Foods
There are many healthy options of gluten free grains that can replace wheat. Some of these are;
• Rice: Rice is a very good substitute for wheat in making Gluten-Free Pastries. There are many varieties of rice flour, including brown rice flour, white rice flour, and organic brown rice flour. The rice flour can also be graded according to texture to have coarse and fine rice flour.
• Corn or Maize: Corn flour is also a good alternative to gluten containing products. Corn Flour can be used in making cookies, bread and in thickening sauces and soups.
• Potato: The Potato is a delicious and nutritious food that can be a good accompaniment for many meals including fish, meats, and vegetables. The potato is versatile and can be prepared by frying, boiling or even baking.
• Cassava, Sorghum, Millet, and Amaranth are all sources of flour that can be used to make bread and other food items that are traditionally wheat based. Sorghum and millet can be used to brew beer and can replace barley and malt for gluten free beer.
Other gluten free foods are;
• Meat and meat products that are not processed
Gluten Free Products
Gluten free bread is made with flour from grains that do not contain gluten. Some of the gluten free bread is made from millet flour, Cornflour, Cassava Flour and Rice flour. You can have a choice of trying out different healthy bread recipes including gluten free dairy free bread, gluten free yeast free bread, gluten free dairy free banana bread and vegan gluten free bread.
Many stores across the country are now stocking Gluten Free bread. Some of the popular brands are Udi, Katz, Canyon Bakehouse, Glutino and Trade Joes. Manna organic have a range of Organic Gluten Free bread which they claim is baked with organic flours of brown rice, corn starch, amaranth, millet, sorghum, sunflower, among others.
Sourdough is an old technique of making bread from fermented the dough. The process is said to break the gluten bonds in the dough. Sourdough bread has gotten some publicity as being okay for people on gluten free diets even though it is made from flour containing gluten. These reports are not conclusive and the studies have been criticized as not being representative especially by the celiac disease community.
Most of the sauces and soups are made with wheat as a thickener. Some of the popular sauce that you should avoid is the soy sauce which is made from fermented wheat. It is important to shop specifically for gluten free sauces, especially if you need to have your gluten free fried rice!
You can make your own sauce using gluten free ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, olive oil and others. One such popular source is the Gluten Free Enchilada sauce which you can prepare using totally gluten free ingredients including olive oil, paprika, gluten free chilli powder, coconut water and onions.
Gluten free cookies are made with gluten free all purpose flour. There are many recipes on how to make gluten free cookies, both dairy and non dairy varieties. It is important to check that all the ingredients are actually gluten free.
Some thickeners may contain wheat flour so it is important to go for gluten free thickeners like Xanthan Gum which is also a good emulsifier and stabilizer. To make gluten free dairy free cookies, you substitute the butter in the recipes with non –dairy products such as non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening.
As many of the Gluten free flour alternatives are usually coarser in texture than wheat, the key to having a smooth gluten free cake is getting a fine mixture of the gluten free flour. Extra fine rice flour works well to give soft cakes.
It is always a good idea to do home baking as home baked cakes are always fresher. For Gluten Free Sugar Free Cookies and Gluten Free Sugar Free Desserts, you can substitute the sugar with stevia powder.
Gluten Free Egg Noodles are now available from the stores. If you have some time to spare they are also some of the easiest to prepare at home. Homemade Egg Noodles are almost always much better than store-bought noodles. You get to decide what goes into your noodles and you can improve it with time according to your taste.
For example you can choose to prepare Gluten Free Dairy Free Egg noodles by substituting milk with coconut oil. As with all the Gluten free treats, the important thing is to make sure all the ingredients is actually 100% gluten free.