By Janice Mansfield, the creator of ‘Real Food Made Easy’ in Victoria Canada.
It’s easy to get confused by the term Gluten Free (GF). Some carbs (carbohydrates) contain gluten which can cause a mix-up, however, not all carbs have gluten, and gluten is actually related to protein.
Quick Tips For The Gluten Free
Here is the skinny: Gluten is a protein found in many grains such as wheat, which does all kinds of great things in baking, but causes an autoimmune reaction in people with Celiac disease. It can also trigger inflammation in people with other autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s or rheumatoid arthritis. Because it is a long-chain protein with relatively strong bonds, it is also hard to digest, this can be stressful on the stomach and intestines. This difficulty with digestion is why some people can’t eat wheat but can eat other grains like spelt or amaranth that contain a lower gluten content.
If you have trouble digesting bread, you might want to try sourdough or wild yeast bread first and see if that makes a difference. The long, cool fermentation process required for the wild yeasts also promote a reaction called autolysis. Autolysis causes the enzymes in the wild yeasts to break down some of those protein bonds (gluten). Essentially these breads are predigested by the enzymes in the wild yeasts. It is why people who can’t tolerate American bread can eat those delicious baguettes in France and pizza in Naples.
If you are considering a gluten-free diet here are a few things to take into consideration:
- The best thing you can do is eat food made from scratch
- There is a lot of fad dieting happening right now around gluten-free. Beware of the packaged and processed stuff as it is often very high in simple starches and sugars!
- Grain-free can be an even crazier a ride, with people spending way too much time obsessing over what’s allowed and what’s not part of “the rules”. Listen to your body and take notice of what’s happening when you eat certain foods
- If you want to find your trigger foods, go slowly. You need at least a week of eliminating one thing at a time. Or do an elimination diet and then reintroduce one thing at time to determine what the culprit might be
Creating a Celiac friendly kitchen can be involved as there are a lot of items with hidden gluten. Products such as soy sauce and many off-the-shelf sauces have wheat and/or modified starches in them. Even more complicated, products such as spices, nuts, sugars, etc… can be packaged in facilities with wheat products and get cross-contaminated. There is now a standard test required for products who want to bear the gluten-free certification symbol.
Going gluten free, there is a huge list of alternative flours to use, but they need to be used in combinations rather than individually to get a good texture. There are the obvious ones such as rice flours (brown, white, sweet, and wild rice), plus a host of GF grains such as sorghum, teff, millet and oats. Then there are the pseudo-grains like buckwheat, millet and amaranth which have a have a carb-bearing seed. You can also use legumes dried and ground into flour (lentil, chickpea, fava, white, and black beans) which are great since they contain protein, something which can be lacking in other GF flours. Starches such as tapioca, potato, cornstarch and arrowroot are often used in GF products in addition to nut flours and coconut flour. A recent discovery has been green plantain flour touted as a new low-carb option, there are a few others too. Even though a Celiac diet can be tricky, you can see there is a lot to play around with on the GF front!
More about Janice Mansfield
Janice Mansfield, the chef and owner of Real Food Made Easy has been active in the food industry since 2008.
Prepping for the MS Fundraiser Dinner
Very soon after setting up Real Food Made Easy, Janice began getting an increasing number of requests for good tasting gluten-free baked goods and began developing recipes that would be as good as, or better than their wheaten counterparts. About the same time, she began transitioning her home kitchen to gluten-free in order to help her husband better manage his Crohn’s symptoms.
Over the course of the last 2-3 years, her business has become increasingly specialized, focussed on helping people with multiple food intolerances and allergies. About the same time, she also began providing gluten-free baked goods to a select number of restaurants in Victoria.
While she herself is not Celiac, she has always endeavoured to provide as safe a gluten-free product as possible for all of her clientele, and early in 2013, she made the move to designate her kitchen as fully gluten-free, for baking, catering, and all home-cooked meals, transitioning all of her existing clients to gluten-free alternatives.