If nutrition these days isn’t confusing enough, what about the term, gluten-free?
It’s estimated that about 1% of the world’s population has celiac disease. It’s also estimated that 5-10% of the world’s population has some type of gluten insensitivity.
We see gluten-free options on menus at restaurants, gluten-free bakeries, gluten-free sections in our grocery stores, and now, gluten-free vacations.
What does the term gluten-free mean and why has it become so important? First of all, let’s take a look at what gluten is and why it is or isn’t important for our health.
A gluten-free diet means eating no food products made from wheat, rye and barley.
Nutrition aspects of grains
Whole grains include three different parts; bran, endosperm, and the germ.
The bran is the outer layer of the seeds and contains fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
The endosperm is the kernel and contains complex carbohydrates, protein, and B vitamins.
The germ produces the sprout and contains B vitamins, Vitamin E, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Grains also contain other essential nutrients that may prevent diseases, improve our immune function, and help maintain blood sugar levels.
Fiber is also present in whole grains. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Oats, barley, and rye have soluble fibers that slows down digestion which aids in controlling glucose to help with blood sugar levels. Bran has insoluble fiber that adds bulk to our stool.
Who should avoid gluten
If you have the autoimmune disease, Celiac disease, your body cannot tolerate gluten. Even small amounts of gluten can trigger an immune response that can take a toll on your gastrointestinal system.
A simple blood test can detect Celiac disease. The blood test looks for the antibody transglutaminase immunoglobin. If diagnosed with this Celiac, all gluten must be avoided.
People who suffer from gluten sensitivity which is non-celiac related, may experience symptoms related to their digestive habits that include bloating, IBS, stomach pain, fatigue, or even weight gain. Why people have these insensitivities is still not fully understood.
Grains that contain gluten include:
Gluten-free grains include:
- Buckwheat flour instead of wheat flour
- Gluten-free bread, pasta, and other products
- Oats can be eaten by individuals with celiac disease, but they need to check with their doctor first
Is gluten a fad?
Most people do not consume whole grains in their diet and eating a gluten-free diet does not guarantee good health. Some gluten-free products are made of whole ingredients while most are highly processed, contain large quantities of refined sugar, GMO’s, as well as additives and preservatives.
Many people blame wheat for their inflammation, fatigue, and abdominal discomfort but still eat large amounts of oil, animal products, and processed foods.
Are we addicted to grains like we are addicted to animal products?
The problem isn’t so much the grain but the type of grain. Consumption of refined grains are the culprit on people’s plate. Refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, cookies, and pastries.
How to go gluten-free
Read the ingredients list. You want to avoid ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.
Avoid processed gluten-free products such as pastries, cakes, chips, and cookies. They may be gluten-free but they are still junk food. There is no nutritional benefit to eating these types of foods.
Make your own gluten-free foods with whole, plant-based foods. Choose which foods go into your dishes.
Banana Oat Pancakes (gluten-free)
- 1 medium ripe banana
- 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 – 1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
- 3/4 cup gluten-free oat flour
- 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- To a mixing bowl, add banana and mash. Then maple syrup, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Then add non-dairy milk (start with the lesser amount and work your way up as needed) and whisk to combine.
- Add oat flour, gluten-free flour, and almond flour. Gently stir (being careful not to over-mix) to combine. If too thin, add more gluten-free or almond flour. If too thick, thin with a little non-dairy milk.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet, griddle, or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
- Once hot, spoon 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the batter onto skillet. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and the edges appear dry (~2-3 minutes). Carefully flip pancakes and cook until browned on the underside (~3 minutes more). These pancakes are delicious on their own, but they’re amplified with toppings such as additional fruit or chocolate chips, peanut butter, and maple syrup.
- Will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days or in the freezer* up to 1 month.
Eat Well – Move Well – Live Well