05 Jun 2018
Thinking about ditching gluten from your diet? Although most of us tolerate gluten just fine, 11 per cent of Aussies live a gluten free (GF) lifestyle in order to feel lighter and healthier. Here’s how you can too.
WORDS: Jessica Zoiti
What is gluten?
Essentially, gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat varieties (including spelt, durum and kumat) and other grains such as rye, barley, oats and derivatives of these products, like malt and couscous.
Why go gluten free?
Of course, adopting a balanced diet full of wholefoods is always the healthiest path to choose however, anyone diagnosed with celiac disease – a specific allergy to gluten that causes damage to the intestine and affects one per cent of Australians – will need to learn how to eliminate the protein from their diet.
So too will those with an allergy to the protein. While people often interchangeably use the words ‘allergy’ and ‘intolerance’, the two are quite different. A gluten allergy is an immune system response to the protein. During a true allergic reaction, histamines are released into the body leading to itchy rashes, vomiting, coughing, wheezing and in the most severe cases, anaphylaxis.
When a person reacts negatively to gluten, but celiac disease and other allergies have been ruled out, they’re said to have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, with symptoms including diarrhoea, stomach discomfort, tiredness, bloating and depression.
Then there are people who simply feel cutting gluten from their diet will improve their overall sense of wellbeing and help shed extra kilos. Eleven percent of Australians choose to live gluten free – bloating, lethargy and excessive wind are often blamed on gluten in the diet (although there’s no scientific proof to suggest gluten is causing these symptoms).
Beware of misleading packaging
If you’re considering living a GF lifestyle, there are health traps to avoid.
Firstly, give snack foods the flick. While they may seem like convenient GF food sources, most don’t provide you with the nutrients you need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Also, not all shop-bought products that are labelled GF are actually so, as Jessica Lowe, fitness nutritionist and director at Happy Healthy, points out.
“Often shop brought sauces contain thickeners that contain gluten, but the gluten is not listed as an ingredient so people get caught out,” she explains. Jessica’s solution? “Try and cook everything yourself so you know exactly what goes into your dishes.”
The added benefit here is that you’ll be avoiding hidden sugars, additives and preservatives contained in most GF supermarket-bought foods. Hidden sources of gluten include baking powder, canned soups, custard powder, icing sugar mixture, margarine (which may contain breadcrumbs), dressings, gravies, sauces, medications, sausages, processed meats and stock cubes.
So skip the shopping isles and instead, hit the fruit and veg section to load up on wholefoods, including fresh in-season fruit and vegetable.
Great gluten substitutes
Cutting the gluten from your daily diet may seem daunting at first, particularly if your partial to pasta, cakes, bread and cereal. But as Jessica explains, by switching some of your common wheat or grain-based pantry staples for GF alternatives you can continue cooking versions your favourite recipes.
“When it comes to baking, use a gluten free flour like buckwheat, rice or coconut,” she suggests.
“Quinoa is an amazing super food that you can use in place of rice that contains gluten, and even oats. Not only is it gluten free, but also high in protein containing all nine essential amino acids. I have created so many great recipes using quinoa from loafs and muffins to salads, cereals and muesli.”
Another staple in Jessica’s gluten-free artillery is lupin flakes. “They are quite new to the market, but all the rage when it comes to gluten free baking, or adding something more wholesome to cereals instead of oats.”
And finally, when making gravy or a cream-based sauce, use buckwheat flour to thicken it. “If you sift it in, it won’t go lumpy and does not leave a funny taste or grit, like some other gluten free flours do,” Jessica says.
Where to buy ready-made, wholesome GF food?
Not got the confidence to whip up tasty GF creations yourself? The Black Truffle sells a wide range of gluten-free take home meals including winter warmers like shepherd’s pie, and beef and red wine hot pot with steamed rice. Goodies from the delicatessen include chickpea and turmeric patties, flavoursome beetroot sesame patties, and spicy Bombay potato cakes.
About Jessica Lowe
Jessica Lowe, director of Happy Healthy, is a qualified Fitness Nutritionist who has helped hundreds of people reach their body composition goals by eating a healthy and balanced diet. In 2015 Jessica completed both Fitness and Nutrition studies with the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers. She is extremely passionate about food and her style of eating promotes better and more consistent energy levels by fuelling people with the right foods that establish a consistent release of the insulin hormone, preventing and improving insulin resistance. Contact Jessica on Facebook (Happy Healthy Foody and Nutrition by Jessica Lowe), Instagram (@jessica_lowe_coaching) or at happyhealthy.com.au