It's all the current trend. If you're not vegan, you're gluten-free. But what is a gluten-free diet?
First, let's see what gluten is.
- Gluten is the name for proteins that occur in wheat, rye, and barley
- The proteins (mostly glutenin and gliadin) turn into a gooey substance when wheat flour is mixed with water.
- This glue-like substance results in dough and causes the bread to rise.
- The name gluten comes from gluten.
Foods that contain gluten.
Wheat is the main offender, but other grains such as barley, rye, and spelt also contain gluten. Spelt? I had to look it up. It's closely related to wheat and has been around since the Pharaohs ruled Egypt. Wheat is one of the main ingredients in bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, cereals, and a lot of other things we really like to eat. Sadly, it is also found in beer. So how can you give up gluten and still enjoy some of the good things in life?
How important is a gluten-free diet to your health?
1. Gluten intolerance is generally caused by only three conditions
- Celiac disease
- Allergy to wheat
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)
2. Celiac disease
- Celiac disease or celiac sprue tends to run in families. If you have a close relative with celiac, your chances of getting it are higher.
- No cause has been clearly identified, but there are definite risk factors.
- Type I diabetes, Addison's disease, autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Grave's or Hashimoto's, Down syndrome, and colitis, all increase the chances of developing celiac disease.
- Celiac is an autoimmune disease, triggered by gluten in the small intestine.
- Symptoms include diarrhea, sometimes constipation, weight loss, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea and vomiting.
- Treatment is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.
3. Wheat allergy is a common problem in children. They usually, but not always, outgrow it. Most of the symptoms are confined to the respiratory system or the skin. Anaphylaxis can occur.
4. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
NCGS is a poorly understood condition in which the intestine reacts to gluten proteins without either wheat allergy or celiac disease being present. It is difficult to diagnose. The causes of the disease are just now being discovered. It has a significant presence in the general population, but the percentage varies with the study, generally between 0.5% and 13%. Treatment is a gluten-free diet.
What is a gluten-free diet?
- The diet requires that you read labels. Lots of labels. Carefully.
- Grains to be avoided include: wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and some oats.
- These grains are processed into bread, pastries, cakes, pasta, cereals, communion wafers, crackers, and croutons.
- Some unexpected foods contain gluten. French fries, hot dogs, gravies, sauces, soups, potato chips, and salad dressings.
- Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, may use gluten.
- Naturally, gluten-free foods include: non-processed meats and poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and non-processed beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Some grains are also naturally gluten-free, including rice, buckwheat, amaranth, flax, millet, quinoa, tapioca, soy, and sorghum. These can be ingested without concern.
How to switch to a gluten-free diet.
- A gluten-free diet is very similar to the healthy diet your doctor's always going on about. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and poultry.
- However, some important vitamins and nutrients are found primarily in gluten-containing foods. Whole-grain breads are excellent sources of iron, calcium, fiber, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
- Eating gluten-free can decrease your intake of these important nutrients. Take vitamin supplements.
But what about my cookies and cakes?
You can have your cake and eat it, too. Here's a recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.
- 2 and 3/4 cups finely ground almond powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 and 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk the almond flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
Cream the butter, granulated and brown sugar in mixer on medium speed for 3-4 minutes until very light.
Add the egg, mix on medium, then add vanilla.
Add dry ingredients. Mix on low for about ten seconds, then scrape the bowl. Mix on low until mixture is homogeneous.
Add chocolate gently, mixing on low.
Separate dough into ten balls the size of golf balls.
Place in baking pans lined with parchment paper.
Press dough down to about 1 and 1/2 inches.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.
Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.