Gluten free diet

Gluten is in so many things. It's a common ingredient in soy sauce, in baking powder, in ready made sauces, malt extract, spices (not good quality spices though), ready made meals and more. In our bread-pasta-wheat-biscuit filled (Western) world it is hard to avoid gluten and for many people it is very difficult unless you plan ahead and read up on ingredients and labels. What surprised my most when trying out gluten free recipes is that they don't taste all that bad. I make my own gluten free flour (I just like making things myself) although you can buy gluten free flour in any health food store. Note that in larger supermarkets you might finds things like gluten free flour, biscuits, sauces, cakes and more. Buy organic if you are able to because often gluten free products are filled with rubbish to make them look more appealing.

Gluten is like a glue that for example holds the bread together (and other things). Some people just feel uncomfortable consuming gluten products (I don't like too much of it although I am not intolerant). Other people are intolerant and some people become very ill by consuming gluten in even small amounts and it means that they are allergic to it. I once knew a teenager that became seriously ill and broke out in bleeding rashes even when eating small amounts of gluten. So, it can be a serious issue. The gluten itself is made up of many different proteins and the most 'famous' is gliadin. If people are allergic to gluten it's this protein that often causes a reaction in the immune system. A similar protein is found in rye , oats and barley. When people allergic to gluten try to eat it, the immune system tries to fight against it. It is an auto-immune condition, which means that it occurs as a result of the body’s immune system attacking gluten in the digestive system. Less nutrient is absorbed (minerals and vitamins) which can cause a detrimental effect on the body, especially in children who are still growing. Often people with gluten allergies will lose weight, will have permanent diarrhoea, will be chronically tired and will feel ill. This is just amongst the few symptoms that people with gluten allergies will experience. It is not recommended that babies under 6 months old are given gluten in any form as they need all the vitamins and minerals they can get. Their immune system and intestines are also not fully developed and it might be hard for babies stomachs to digest gluten. That is why young babies should start with rice, millet and corn as their first solids.

Baking without gluten

It is not as easy as it might seem avoiding gluten. Read labels and nutrition information carefully. Study as much as you can on gluten and the different products containing gluten. For instance, you will need to make sure that there is no cross contamination between rice flour and wheat. Some mills will process wheat and then rice flour and market their rice flour as gluten free. That might cause a serious reaction for a person with a severe gluten allergy. Always buy organic from reputable sources (from a health food store). You might find gluten where you will least expect it. For example I have found gluten in chocolate, sugar, nuts, dried fruits and spices. Often wheat is used as a starch to make the product cheaper. Ask at your local health food store if any complaints have been made regarding a specific brand of gluten free products.

Rice flour is often the best choice when baking but you will need to combine it with other types of gluten free flour because on its own it will not taste nice and texture will be crumbly and awful. Some types of gluten free flours to try out are chickpea flour, potato flour, corn flour, millet flour and soy flour. Gluten free breads and cakes will not keep for long but because they won't take too much time preparing you will be able to make breads quickly (often in less than 15 minutes plus baking time). Some breads might not keep well past the first day but will taste excellent for a few days when toasted. You can always freeze loafs of bread as well (slice them and wrap the slices individually). You can also use xanthan gum to make the breads softer and more elastic but I haven't used it myself. You will find xanthan gum in your local health food store.

I put much emphasis on people seeking medical advise when it comes to gluten free diet. Speak to a doctor or a nutritionist (a proper one) if you suspect you are intolerant/allergic to gluten. I am neither a doctor or a nutritionist so any advice given here is only to be taken at face value and should not be used for diagnoses or treatment.

Products that do contain gluten:

  • Beer and pilsner
  • Bread crumbs and bread (and scones, flat breads and more)
  • Bulgur and cracked wheat
  • Barley, Pearl Barley and Scotch barley
  • Couscous
  • Granola
  • Oats, rolled outs and oatmeal (some people can tolerate oats)
  • Flour (bleached, unbleached, white and wholewheat)
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat starch
  • Bran
  • Kamut
  • Biscuits
  • Liquorice
  • Baking powder (use gluten free baking powder instead)
  • Malt extract, barley malt
  • Muesli
  • Pasta
  • Rye and rye flour
  • Soy sauce (use tamari sauce instead)
  • Spelt flour (some people can tolerate spelt flour)
  • Starch and modified starch (unless made from corn, potatoes, rice or tapioca)
  • Triticale

Products that may contain gluten:

  • Minced meat in ready made meals
  • Potato chips
  • Creamed coconut
  • Spices (especially cheap spices)
  • Sausages
  • Mustard
  • Ready made meals
  • Ready made sauces
  • Chocolate

Products that should not (and normally don't) contain gluten:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Rice flour
  • Millet
  • Potato flour
  • Chickpea flour (gram flour)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Quinoa
  • Soy flour
  • Sago
  • Sorghum
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Red wine, white wine, champagne and liquors (unless made with barley)