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Gluten Free: Myth, Fad or Good Idea?

20 J0000009UTC 2011

Going gluten free might seem pretty nutritionally trendy, almost hip— until you try it. When a woman asks at the cafe counter, “Um excuse me, but do you carry gluten free chocolate chip zucchini bread?” it might make you want to chuck the bread across the room. The fact is if you really do take gluten out of your diet, it’s not fashionable and some days it’s not all that fun, but it is functional.

What is gluten?                                                                     Gluten is an umbrella word used for the often intolerable proteins (gliadin & glutelin) found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley (note: beer), triticale, kamut and bulgur. Oats are sometimes included at a gluten free grain because of their similarity and exposure during food processing. Gluten comes from the Latin word for glue, descriptive of the stretchy, doughy, chewy property it gives to the food items out of which it is made. Consequently it is also gluey, stretchy and doughy in your body once consumed.

Why go gluten free?                                                                                                     There are tons of reasons, but each person requires a unique reason and experience of his or her own before trying it. Why? Because almost everything boxed, bagged or canned at the grocery store contains that little protein. Going gluten free takes a bit of work, some creativity– and usually a shift towards a healthier, whole-foods-based diet. So– it’s good to have a good reason before you begin.

What are some good reasons to take gluten out?                                                  Regardless of the results of an allergy ‘prick’ test that says you may be okay with wheat or gluten, you could see amazing improvement with hives, eczema, itchy skin, congestion, throat clearing, full ears, itchy eyes, ‘seasonal’ allergies, asthma (chronic or exercise induced), headaches, migraines, swollen joints, achy joints; autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; diarrhea, digestive disorders and any of the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. *Note that the last three IBDs require more specialized diets for optimal healing.

Does gluten free stuff taste like cardboard?                                                                      No way. In fact, there is more complexity, richness and nutrient density in foods once you discover something other than bleached, boring, stripped, white wheat. Sure, it rises and stretches nicely and, yeah, it is a main ingredient in the beloved Oreo, but there are options if you are ready to experiment. Check out Elana’s Pantry and Gluten Free Girl for a great entry to a gluten free world.

Click on my recipe tab for two new recipes!— One is Gluten Free Banana Bread, modified from Gluten Free Girl’s site; the other is Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pancakes, modified from another site I recently found, Teafactory. These are great for fall and good starter recipes if you are curious about baking with alternative flours– easy, quick and super yummy.

And remember, you don’t have to ‘go gluten free’ to try or create something gluten free. You may just like a change of pace…and taste.

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