Gluten - The Popular Bad Guy

2/17/2015 - 7:21:11 AM

What is it with bad guys? Everyone loves them and everyone hates them. Among the talk about trans fat, monounsaturated fats, (wrote about that here) processed sugar, and grains, gluten free is definitely one of the most popular bad boys and is so popular in fact that 1 in 5 people eat a GF diet. This is astonishing really, because reportedly only 1% (3 million people) in the U.S have actually been diagnosed with celiac disease, and only a few more have allergies that prevent eating gluten. Of course there are always those that go undiagnosed, so supposing we could pull that number up to about 7 million it still would be millions less than the amount of people who decide to buy GF.

In recent polls its become clearer that alot of people don’t actually understand why/why not to eat it. They’ve heard that it might not be good for them from friends or their favorite blogger, and when it shows up on the aisles of stores, “hey, why not? Just to be safe..”

It’s not that simple, and unnecessary for many.

What is Gluten

Gluten is a type of protein that is most specific to wheat, but has the build and weave of similar protein in some other grains. Found in the endosperm of wheat, it nourishes the embryo and later helps to hold the baked or cooked grain together. It’s how we bake bread, as the gluten helps hold the structure the bread needs to rise and lighten. In and of itself it is not a bad boy unless you have one of the following conditions.

Celiac Disease

For those who aren’t sure what celiac disease is, it is an auto-immune reaction that basically causes the body to produce antibodies that damage the small hair-like structures in the lower intestine called villi, and the villi is what allows food to be digested. Eventually because of damage to the villi food can’t be used in the body and malnourishment results along with symptoms like:

- Digestive problems (abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea)
- Weight loss
- Severe skin rash
- Iron deficiency anemia (low blood count)
- Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
- Growth problems and failure to thrive (in children)
- (Find a more comprehensive list here)

This can be a serious problem, and at best a really unpleasant one. In such a case it is best to be diagnosed and to immediately avoid gluten in as many foods as necessary and work on healing the intestines. Whatever you do don’t try to self-diagnose, unless you have previous knowledge or experience in dietary ailments. There are millions of people out there following a GF diet where it may not be necessary at all.

Food Allergies

There is the group of people with an allergy to wheat, and sometimes the gluten within wheat. The reactions come in on the same scale as those with shellfish or peanut allergies though they can range in severity from mildly annoying (rash, runny nose, hives, itching, etc) to life-threatening (breathing worsens or may lead to anaphylactic reaction) This is something that is necessary to identify, but can also be pin pointed somewhat easier but it is still by far best to have an allergy detected by professionals.

Gluten Intolerance

This is also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and is probably what a larger percentage of gluten free eaters experienced. The symptoms are similar to a celiac condition as they can experience diarrhea, fatigue, and joint pain but don’t actually have damaged intestines. Perhaps this is something that would develop on down the road if a person with a sensitivity continues to eat gluten, but by and large they have escaped the damage if not the misery.

In most of these cases doctors recommend avoiding gluten, as well as any foods and ingredients that contain gluten such as beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and some soups.

[Check it out]

If you think you have an inflammatory or allergic reaction to eating foods that might have gluten then by all means get it checked out immediately. Even just 2-3 symptoms from the above list can be extremely unpleasant and it isn’t necessary to live with that type of pain not to mention the risk of an allergic reaction. However if you don’t quite fit the above categories a gluten-free diet might not actually be something you have to follow and the culprit could be something else.

The Other Bad Boys

Health care practitioners could tell tales as to what a bad or irregular diet, stress, and lifestyle can do to you. In a country where we automatically assume we can have it all there are just some things we shouldn’t have. Many people could make a big difference in their health just by changing a few (or many!) bad habits. These habits are not specific to non-gluten eaters, and can apply to folks who have to eat gluten free.

- Cut back on stress - We can be stressed and have no idea that we are, but the body is still fighting those bad effects. It can be things like always leaving the house late and habitually rushing all day x 7 days a week, taking on too many commitments (read former), yo-yo dieting, bad friendships, too little sleep, too much alcohol or caffeine, etc etc Too much of those kinds of stress and the effects really build up over time.

- Eat cleaner - You don’t have to become a health nut to eat better. Oftentimes all it takes is educating ourselves a little on nutrition, balanced eating, and good lifestyle habits to make that change for ourselves. Learn to grab fruit and granola vs. sugary cereal. Don’t snack as much. Control portions. These things make a big difference.

- Exercise. Always. - sitting too much and not moving is hugely detrimental. Even extra walking in a day makes a difference, and will benefit your body, and cut back on stress. Bam, two for one.

In the Kitchen

Today our recipes go out to our gluten free customers, whom we try to serve in our store as well by pulling in products that are certified gluten free. For today we went with the ultimate comfort food and cooked up a delicious mac n cheese. Most people that have to go gluten free really miss those comfort foods, and we wanted to showcase a couple for you.

Gluten-Free Apple Cake w Cinnamon Frosting

Cake Ingredients:

5 eggs at room temp
1.5 cups, lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup canola oil
3.5 cups almond meal
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 large apples, peeled and grated **
1 cup lightly packed shredded coconut
¾ cup chopped walnuts

Additional ground walnuts for decorating the cake, if you wish

Frosting Ingredients:

4 tbsp. (½ stick) butter at room temp
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. lemon juice
a pinch of salt
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

Cake Directions:

Heat oven to 325° F. Line bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper
Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 15 minutes or until thick and tripled in volume. Place the oil, almond meal, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, apple, coconut and walnuts in a large bowl. Mix well.
Fold in egg mixture and spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour - 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Cool completely in pan. Top cake with the cinnamon. Forst and garnish with additional walnuts if you like nuts.

Frosting Directions:

Place butter, cream cheese honey, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until well combined.
Turn mixer to low and add the powdered sugar one half cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. If you need too you can add extra powdered sugar to reach the best consistency for spreading.

** After you have grated the apple press between several sheets of paper towel or use a flour sack towel to remove any extra moisture.
Yield: 1 9” single layer cake


Gluten-free Mac n Cheese

Here’s the real comfort food of the 20th and 21st century. Nothing can beat good mac n cheese for warmth and comfort, and who wants to give up comfort with gluten?

2 tbsp. butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1tsp. dry mustard
pinch cayenne
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra sharp cheddar, grated
½ pound of gluten-free elbows

Heat oven to 375°F and put an oven rack in upper third or oven. Use 1 tbsp of butter to grease a 9” round or square baking pan.
In blender puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta and pour into prepared pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
Uncover the pan, stir the pasta, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tbsp. of butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more until browned. Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.

Feel the comfort.


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