Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Going Wheat/Gluten Free

What is Gluten?
Gluten comes from the Latin word for glue and it does just that in cakes and breads.  Gluten is what holds everything together.  Unfortunately it is that same binding agent that inferferes with the absorption of the other nutrients in the food/meal. The result is then a big clump of "food" in your system.  

Why is Wheat/Gluten Causing So Many People Problems?
Gluten inolerance is on the rise due to our high grain based diets, as well as the fact that wheat has a lot more gluten in it than it did over 100 years ago.  This is due to the engineering of crops, making it them more "desirable. "Years ago wheat was also milled with other grains and nuts, today we are eating refined white flour.
Due to this increase, our bodies are unable to digest all the gluten (big clump) which in turn leaves it scratching your intestines, creating inflammation or worse yet, the leaky gut syndrome.  Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition in which the the walls of the intestines become porous due constant irritation and scratching.  These pores grow and allow larger particles/chemicals to pass into the bloodstream and then travel all over the body.  The immune system detects these foreign particles and begins attaching the body.  These attacks can result in diseases or disorders such as celiac or autism.  

Symptoms of an Intolerance or Allergy
A reaction to wheat or gluten could result in itching, asthma, eczema, migraines, rashes, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, coughing,"foggy" head, general aches and pains.
It could take several hours for your body to display these symptoms. In turn it could also take weeks for the gluten to leave your system. As a side note 50% of celiacs are also intolerant to dairy.

What Does Gluten Free Mean?
Gluten is found in the following grains wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, farro, kamut, malt, semolina, spelt and triticale.  Going gluten free would mean completely eliminating these grains from your diet and lifestyle.
  • Pay attention to packaging.  If it doesn't say gluten free do look through the ingredients such as spices, flavourings, seasonings, all which may contain flour.
  • Foods such as soya sauce, malt based products, brewer's yeast, broth, some teas, sauces, dressings often contain gluten.
  • Some alcoholic drinks contain gluten (ex. beer, wine coolers can be made with malt)
  • Gluten can also be found in cleaners, skin products, shampoo, soap,  play dough, craft supplies, medicines, make-up, sunscreen, stickers, toothpaste, home repair material (drywall compound.)
* Warning:  When going gluten free do be aware that you could be filling your body with a lot of starches instead (tapioca, potato, corn etc.) and these too can also wreak havoc on ones system.  Do read your labels especially when buying gluten free products, this isn't necessarily healthier for some people and may cause similar conditions.  Gluten free grains should also be eaten in moderation.
Personally, I feel it is best to eat a lot of variety of grains and alternate them with meals that are completely grain free.  For some grain free recipes.  

Baking Gluten Free
There are a lot of options out there for gluten free flours.  I find it best when combining a few of them together.  When making a cake or bread it would be best to combine some of the flours with one of  the starches.
Here are some of the flours I like to use: 

Almond Flour: Not only does this flour add a lovely almond flavour but it is also high in protein and fibre.

Buckwheat Flour:  This is another gluten free flour which is nutty in flavour.  It is work well in pancakes, breads and muffins. 

Coconut Flour: Not only does this flour smell delicious but it is also high in fibre.  Coconut flour really absorbs moisture so I would be careful to not add too much. 

Millet Flour: An ancient grain, lighter in colour and sweeter in taste.  Do ensure if it finely ground or it can make the dish a bit "grainier."

Quinoa Flour: This is a very healthy alternative as it is a whole protein.  I would use this flour in lower quantities as it has a strong taste.

Sorghum Flour: It comes from the sorghum plant and described as soft and sometimes nutty in taste.  It is a popular substitute and and does well when combined with a starch.  Sorghum will also add some protein to your dish.

Teff Flour: Teff gives a nice rich brown colour to recipes.  It is high in fibre as well as protein and has a lovely nutty taste.

White/Brown Rice Flour: I tend to just buy the brown rice instead of the white, as it is a whole grain.  I do believe the white rice is cheaper.  It does absorb moistures so do mix a little less when substituting.  It is a popular flour in gluten free cooking but will add little nutrition.

Chickpea Flour (garbanzo bean flour):  I like to use this flour for coating food before frying or baking.  It does not have a great taste when raw but does well when cooked.  

Arrowroot Starch: This is another awesome thickener.  It is more expensive but has the benefit of almost no taste.  I like to use this one when making homemade ice cream.

Potato Starch (not flour): This is another great thickener and can withstand a higher heat than corn starch.  It will also help bind ingredients in your recipe.

Tapioca Flour: It is not a grain but rather a root starch.  It is a great binder in recipes as well as a thickener in sauces.

Here is one simple recipe to replace 3 cups of flour:
Gluten free flours do absorb more moisture.  Looking for recipes with fruit or adding fruit and liquid sweeteners will help retain the moisture.  Adding nuts or chopped fruit also create more flavour.
Remove baked good from their pans sooner than later as they can turn soggy if left too long.

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