From low-fat recipes to recipes designed for persons with diabetes, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, shares recipes and advice to create healthy meals that are guaranteed to please. [Editor's note: Elaine no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
“Gluten free” has fast become one of the nutrition buzzwords in the past few years. Inquiring minds want to know who might be helped by eliminating gluten. Some people absolutely need to follow a gluten-free diet owing to the autoimmune disorder of the small intestine called celiac disease. Others want to try it in the hope that it will improve the way they feel.
The grains that contain the protein gluten—namely, wheat, rye, and barley—are, to say the least, ubiquitous in our traditional diet and cuisine. Just think about some so-called all-American foods: hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, apple pie. They all contain wheat four.
The gluten-free ingredients most often substituted for foods that typically contain wheat flour are potatoes, rice, corn, and soy. Although it is a huge challenge to follow a gluten-free diet, there has never been a better time to take this on. An ever-growing inventory of products and resources are now available.
Where do oats fit into all of this?
Oats have traditionally been considered harmful to people with celiac disease, but new research has indicated that the questionable protein in oats (avenin) is not harmful if eaten in moderate amounts and if not contaminated by wheat in processing. Some authorities still have doubts on the safety of oats, so it’s best to discuss this with your doctor or allergy specialist.
Several of the biggest surprises I found while reading up on celiac disease is that it can show up at any age and can sometimes be triggered by events like surgery, pregnancy or childbirth, viral infections, or severe emotional stress. This explains why some people develop celiac disease later in life.
Another surprise was that celiac disease is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases in the United States today. It’s often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or other maladies. I also didn’t know that the physical reaction to eating gluten could be immediate for some people (that’s what I expected) but can be delayed for weeks in others—no two reactions are alike when it comes to celiac disease.
If you think eliminating gluten from your diet might help you, talk to your doctor or dietitian. It’s something you can try for a few weeks and see how you feel. You can purchase some substitute grains to use in recipes calling for wheat flour at many supermarkets or online.
Bob’s Red Mill, for example, sells Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, which they recommend for making everything from cakes and cookies to breads and muffins. This combination flour contains garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and fava flour. Their Gluten Free Pancake Mix contains potato starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, corn flour, and xanthan gum. Some of the wheat-free pastas on the market are made from a variety of ingredients, including quinoa, corn, potato, rice, and beans.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
The Recipe Doctor Blog