Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baking Gluten Free

Are you new the the gluten free world? Have you found that it seems a bit tricky? Gluten free items are popping up everywhere but they may not be as healthy as you think. If you are looking for a gluten free item, you should first look for the GF symbol, or a wheat stalk with a line across it that says  " gluten free". Wheat free is not the same as gluten free.  Wheat free  means any other grain has been used. For instance, barley, rye or any combination of grains. But it is not exactly gluten free by any means. And it could also be made in a manufacturing plant where wheat products are also gliding on the same equipment.
As gluten intolerance and Celiac disease have become more common, people are looking to alter their eating choices, and the food business is now booming with gluten free items. In fact, it is the fastest growing food market at this time! However, just because something is gluten free doesn't automatically make it healthy.

Some of the national brands that have come into the market in this field are: Betty Crocker, Chex, and Bisquick, just to name a few brands that I see at my regular grocery market. You will  find more options and brands that are exclusive to health markets but so far, most grocery stores are fairly limited. While they are better then their gluten cousins, they are also void of nutritional value in many cases making sugar the first ingredient!  As someone who eats out several times a week, I realize that I am not the healthiest eater 100%  of the time. I admit that I have a sweet tooth and like a goodie now and then. Going gluten free is rather daunting when you love your sweets and treats. Therefore, label reading is essential. For example, while a label may say " gluten free", it is still prudent to read the nutritional value of the product you and your family will be consuming.  Though I have been gluten free for years, I still read the ingredients and I am always amazed at how many of these "foods" or mixes use sugar as their main ingredient! For instance, I looked at all of the boxes of Betty Crocker cake, cookie and brownie boxes for their ingredients. Only one listed the flour they used ( rice) as a first ingredient, the other 3 were all listing sugar as their main ingredient! Then they have flour ( usually rice or, and potato) salt, xanthum gum, baking soda! I am not knocking the fact that mainstream companies have come into the gluten free market, however. I actually feel the opposite and would buy these if I was in a hurry to put something together spur of the moment or was out of my flour mixes and such. And it is great that they have ideas and other recipes you can use to make other dessert choices with these flours. I just know that charging me $5.00 for a cup of sugar and a cup of rice flour seems a bit high , especially if there is no nutritional value in it

For those of you who like to bake from scratch, this can easily be a healthier option. Some of the flours I like to use the most are  chickpea and  coconut flour and while they aren't even real grains they are wonderful sources of fiber and nutrition. Mixing at least three flours together is usually best for flavor or texture in your baking, but you can be more creative then these boxed mixes and you can certainly control the amount of sugar. Trying to keep things simple when you first start this, then go to a natural health food store so you can read those ingredients and find the most healthy ingredients. Some great flours are often not used because of their expense but you may find some at a health food store for probably a dollar or more than these national brands. Then  as you learn how to cook gluten free you can add some other nutritional flours to your recipes and make them much cheaper. If your looking for where to start with a recipe, the internet is loaded with great bloggers and women who have become gluten free for and are share amazing recipes.If you can think it, you can find it! Even crackers and hot crossed buns are possible to make gluten free.

Here is a great flour mix for a pie crust ( or muffins)
1 cup Sorghum flour *Iron and protein rich
1 cup Amaranth  *Excellent protein, high in fiber and lysine ( an amino acid rare in any other grain) lowest
  in glycemic value and perfect for diabetics.
3/4 cup of cornstarch (or tapioca, my preference)
1 tsp xanthun gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
 You can use this mix as the base for a pie crust or muffin  that you like and add the sweetener ( and quantity) that you prefer.
There are a lot of great options  for those who are gluten free. Gluten free can be easy and healthy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Looks can be deceiving!!

Looks can be deceiving is the term for any and all who have Celiacs or gluten intolerance. After all, who knows who has what, when we are all experiencing different problems, symptoms and issues. If you look at my photo here, you'd probably think that was coffee and a regular cupcake. Well, it's actually a vanilla chai latte ( organic, mixed with almond milk) with a gluten/ dairy free cupcake! I don't think you could taste what it was missing either because it really was so amazing.... however, our bodies are a lot like this. We may look healthy on the outside but how we are feeling or what our body is telling us may be a totally different story. And sadly, we may not be feeling anything for years to come and then suddenly we are hit with a devastating illness. Maybe we are experiencing something, but we do not know the connection to what is causing it. Most  Dr.'s are hard wired to give drugs and medications rather then to talk about food and diet. So many people describe symptoms that are in that " gluten" list but Dr's do not what is causing it so they are giving patients a drug for that headache,  IBS or skin rash......when in reality, stopping the gluten could easily stop the reaction. 

Being that gluten can be causing 300 symptoms, it is a common connection to many health problems. Since the effects of gluten can be triggered up to 3 days later, it is sure to make anyone doubt the source! I remember going out to eat, having the rolls, and  later complaining that some one must not have washed their hands or the food must have been bad. I can't imagine how many really nice  places I misjudged with that! Some I never went back to because the thought was so horrible. Thankfully, my husband never showed any problems ,so I am sure it was just me. But since some of my kids would also be affected, we just thought he was really blessed to have a " steel" stomach!

 If you know someone who is suffering from the symptoms of gluten ( I'll blog about that another time) then please refer them to see a Dr.  and tell them to  insist on being tested for it.  It's a very easy blood test these days and they could know if it's an autoimmune issue, an intolerance or an allergy. Some of the different symptoms you may experience may be completely different from your friends or as I found out in the case of my child's. Parents complaining of a child who cannot concentrate or who is tired all the time, may not put the connection to gluten it if their friends child that has been tested positive,  has symptoms like failure to grow or IBS symptoms. Though they may very well have the same problem. This is where gluten can be deceiving. 

 However, since gluten isn't a necessary nutrient for living, it wouldn't be too hard to just go off of it for a month or so and give it a try. After all, that is what I did before myself and my son were diagnosed.  If you are just sensitive, you may not have to worry as much as if you are Celiacs. But it is good to know if you have Celiacs because if you do, you are more prone to other autoimmune issues and even cancers. But either way, it can't harm you to go off of it and see if your symptoms improve. Will they go away right away? Probably not, see gluten can stay in the body from 6 months to a year! But you should see really good results in less then a months time. My most noticeable issues was the energy and the lack of headaches!

There is a world of people suffering with this issue but we are not aware of every connection that could be causing it. I am not saying gluten for everyone is horrible, some peoples health issues are connected to other allergies, smoking, food additives, artificial colors or sugars. The world is full of toxins and stress. And as humans we eat and sleep badly!  I am just saying,  if there was more awareness of these symptoms or more automated testing, maybe we would see far less health care issues. We could spend less on drugs and more money on real food! And maybe we could all start to feel a whole lot better! After all, feeling good isn't deceiving!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where's the gluten??

Remember the commercial from way back, " where's the beef"? I think it was a Wendy's commercial? Well, when you are gluten free for either Celiacs, gluten intolerance, a wheat allergy, or just wanting to have a healthier diet, then " where's the gluten" may be your new motto.

  As a personal gluten free consultant, I get asked this question a lot. After all, most people believe they are gluten free when they first try it. It seems pretty easy, don't eat wheat pasta, bread, cookies and pizza. Ok, I got it! But that is not the only places that wheat is hiding! Or barley for that matter either. So when your looking for wheat, what are you looking for? Well, obviously, the word wheat will be a clue that it would contain wheat. But there are lots of other words that mean wheat but don't say it! Sneaky isn't it?

For instance, " modified food starch". Usually, this means wheat starch, but it could also be corn or tapioca. Though because corn is also a common allergy ( and wouldn't you know the symptoms nearly mirror that of wheat allergies and intolerance) it will often be labeled as corn starch or modified food starch * corn. However, not always. In fact, did you know that if a manufacture does not use more then 2 % of any ingredient, then they don't even legally have to list it? Isn't that a bit scary? And so we have to check the labels very carefully and you may even call a manufacture and ask if the modified food starch is wheat or corn if it is an item you would want to eat. Modified wheat starch will be in a lot of foods, primarily processed foods. You will find it in bullion, gravy, soups and even some chips! So you'll want to be sure to check that one out. I have even seen it in shredded cheese as a way to keep the cheese from caking.

Next you'll see barley malt, it is made from barley and so it is not gluten free. Barley malt is particularly found in cereals and used as a flavor for foods as well. You'll find barley malt in beers, malt vinegars, syrups and milk shakes ( usually as in a " malt shake") as well as other foods.

Where else is the gluten? Well, many other places! In fact, it's even in lipsticks and glosses! Food like dips, fries and seasonings! But here are the  other words you going to mostly look for as these are terms for " wheat", : Couscous, matzo or matzoh, semolina, einkorn, durum, triticale, farina, cake flour, hydrolyzed wheat protein and pregelantinized wheat protein. 

Though there are foods that should be gluten free ( like milk or cheese) some like sour cream may not be so it will not automatically say " gluten free" but you should check the ingredients in any food that is man made! It's a good idea for other preservatives and additives too that aren't good for you either so feel no pressure to buy something you haven't investigated! 

Now you can go off to the market as  a gluten food label detective! And if your in the mood for some beef, try this Ruben sandwich at Jason's Deli, it's gluten free on Udi bread.

What the heck is " gluten"???

Isn't "gluten" the strangest word? I never said it until 11 years ago, and now I say it all the time! So if your new to being gluten free or if your wondering what it means, I'll happily fill you in on what that strange word is.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye , kamut and spelt. The last two grains you don't see too often but the first three your probably familiar with. Gluten is the " glue" basically of those grains. It helps things stick together and why it makes such great breads and rolls. Since it is the glue, it literately sticks to your gut! It has that same stickiness that it has to hold the flour together as it does when it hits your stomach's intestines! If you have Celiacs, this is what it does to you. Inside your intestines are small villi ( think a piece of carpet that has the little pieces sticking up) that grab your nutrients as they are digested. However, if the villi are coated with gluten, then your nutrition is basically lost because the body isn't able to grab that nutrition! This is very serious because it causes the villi to die and the damage to the gut can be so destroyed that some of it may never return to a healthy state. This of course, can lead to a myriad of diseases since 90% of our health is in the gut. If you have Celiacs, it is imperative that you are especially careful since this autoimmune disease is often paired with others such as thyroid disease, arthritis and even cancer.

Years ago the gold standard for determining if you had Celiacs disease was to take out a piece of your small intestine and colon. If there was damage there in those two pieces, then you had it! But what if you didn't have damage to that little part did they took out? Did that mean you didn't have the disease? Well, the new standard is just blood tests. Simple, easy and painless! However, still 95% percent of people are still misdiagnosed . I have read where the statistics are as high as 97%. That is a lot of people who are taking drugs for something else or feeling awful a whole lot when they could easily be feeling much better. If you read about this on the internet you will find many different ideas of what and how and when but the basics are the gluten!

 Now non Celiac, gluten sensitivity is seen as a different issue though the treatment is basically the same. No gluten! Biopsy tests can't find the same intestinal damage but they do know that the gut has a reaction to the gluten as does so many other places in the body. It is seen as more of an allergy to the gut. Not the same kind of damage but could it be that these are " pre- Celiac's" symptoms? Since so many more adults then children are diagnosed it would seem possible that they could have started with sensitivities but since we eat wheat so much, ( the government wants us eating that more then any other food group) then it developed into Celiacs? There is much to learn on this still and it is hard to find firm findings. Though it is said that allergies can be inherited as is Celiacs! I have read where the assumption is that this is a European decent issue because wheat was introduced in the Middle Ages in Europe and so the ancestors passed this on since this is genetic. However, where there used to be no Celiacs or gluten intolerance, in North Africa and the Middle East, there now is! Recently I read where a Saharawi refugee camp had tested 65 children positive for gluten sensitivity, 71 did not have it. The main food they were eating was  bread.  They had distended, painful bellies!  I hope as the science for this continues that we will learn more about the hows and why's to stop this from being so misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

 As of now, the rate of having gluten sensitivity is six times that of having Celiacs disease and growing. It is estimated that in 2019, 50-60 % of the population will be diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten sensitivity or pre- Celiac, or light Celiac as it being referred as now. The reason they expect the numbers to increase is because Dr.'s are now more aware of the more then 300 symptoms , tons of autoimmune diseases and learning that more then 50 diseases are direct causes. This coupled with better and easier testing methods. And the fact that patients like you and I are asking these questions. Is it gluten?

Now more celebrities are coming out with their issues with Gluten and making it more public in Hollywood and that is encouraging more people to pay attention to it . To name a few would be Zooey DeSchanel, Rachel Weisz, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Gwyenth Paltrow. And I am sure as more and more people are diagnosed it will become far more popular and there will be more awareness raised. Next blog, where is the gluten?