"As a chef who lives a gluten-free lifestyle, I have developed great recipes that allow me to stick to my diet without having to sacrifice flavor. Gluten free does not mean you have to live taste free!" -Jason Roberts
Following is some basic info that you can use to help in your quest to live a gluten-free lifestyle.
For anybody paying attention to new health and food trends, gluten-free diets have become very popular. For Celiacs, this has been an all too real lifestyle requirement. A number of experts now are beginning to believe that celiac disease is at the extreme end of a spectrum of gluten sensitivity, and a number of people are adopting gluten-free diets to treat celiac-like symptoms in the absence of a positive test for celiac disease.
In addition, some parents are using gluten-free diets to treat autism, although evidence of the diet’s impact as an autism treatment is poor. Studies, including one conducted by the University of Rochester, found that the “popular autism diet does not demonstrate behavioral improvement” and fails to show any genuine benefit to children diagnosed with autism who do not also have a known digestive condition which benefits from a gluten-free diet.
For the true Celiac, mere food is just the beginning. Did you know that little things we take for granted, like ingredients of any over-the-counter or prescription medications and vitamins, cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss may contain gluten and need to be investigated before use? Well neither did we; it’s one of the reasons Jason was so adamant that we here at Team JR make sure good information about gluten-free living was here for you. We were even surprised to learn that glues used on envelopes can contain gluten. Additionally, most products manufactured for Passover are gluten-free with the exception of matzoh as an ingredient, usually in the form of cake meal. Gluten is also used in foods in some unexpected ways, for example as a stabilizing agent or thickener in products like ice cream and ketchup.
So let's talk about what Celiacs and those seeking a gluten-free lifestyle can eat. Several grains and starch sources are considered acceptable for a diet free of gluten including:
- Tapioca (derived from cassava)
Other grains and starch sources generally considered suitable for a gluten-free diet include:
- Sorghum (jowar)
- Chia seed
- Beans (various types)
- Nut flours
Almond flour is a low-carbohydrate alternative to flour, with a low glycemic index. In spite of its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat; pure buckwheat is considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet, although many commercial buckwheat products are actually mixtures of wheat and buckwheat flours, and thus not acceptable. Gram flour, derived from chickpeas, is also gluten-free (this is not the same as graham flour made from wheat). A gluten-free diet allows for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and many dairy products.
The diet allows:
- Montina and nut flours
Gluten Free Standards & Labeling
Gluten-Free have been set up by the “Codex Alimentarius”; however, these regulations do not apply to “foods which in their normal form do not contain gluten”.
The legal definition of the phrase “gluten-free” varies from country to country. Current research suggests that for persons with Celiac disease the maximum safe level of gluten in a finished product is probably less than 0.02% (200 parts per million) and possibly as little as 0.002% (20 parts per million). Australian standards reserve the “gluten-free” label for foods with less than 5 parts per million of gluten, as this is the smallest amount currently detectable. In the processing of gluten-containing grains, gluten is removed.
Many types of alcoholic beverages are considered gluten-free, provided no colourings or other additives have been added as these ingredients may contain gluten. Although most forms of whiskey are distilled from a mash that includes grains that contain gluten, distillation removes any proteins present in the mash, including gluten. Although up to 49% of the mash for bourbon and up to 20% of the mash for corn whiskey may be made up of wheat, or rye, all-corn bourbons and corn whiskeys do exist, and are generally labeled as such. Spirits made without any grain such as brandy, wine, mead, cider, sherry, port, rum, tequila and vermouth generally do not contain gluten, although some vineyards use a flour paste to caulk the oak barrels in which wine is aged; other vineyards use gluten as a clarifying agent (though it’s unclear whether gluten remains at the end of the clarification process). Therefore, some Celiacs may wish to exercise caution. Liqueurs and pre-mixed drinks should be examined carefully for gluten-derived ingredients.
Almost all beers are brewed with malted barley or wheat and will contain gluten. Sorghum and buckwheat-based gluten-free beers are available, but remain a niche market. Some low-gluten beers are also available, however, there is disagreement over the use of gluten products in brewed beverages–some brewers argue that the proteins from such grains as barley or wheat are converted into amino acids during the brewing process and are therefore gluten-free; however, there is evidence that this claim is false.
A staple in the Western diet, bread is typically made from grains such as wheat that contain gluten. Wheat gluten contributes to the elasticity of dough and is thus an important component of bread. Gluten-free bread is made with ground flours from a variety of materials such as almonds, rice (rice bread), sorghum (sorghum bread), corn (cornbread), or legumes like beans (bean bread). But since these flours lack gluten it can be difficult for them to retain their shape as they rise and they may be less “fluffy” in appearance. Additives such as xanthum gum, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), corn starch, or eggs are used to compensate for the lack of gluten.
Always avoid all food and drinks containing:
- Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
- Cakes and pies
- Cookies and crackers
- French fries
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Processed lunch meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces (including soy sauce)
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods such as potato and tortilla chips
- Self-basting poultry
- Soups and soup bases
- Vegetables in sauce
Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten. It can happen during the manufacturing process, for example, if the same equipment is used to make a variety of products. Some food labels include a “may contain” statement if this is the case. But be aware that this type of statement is voluntary. You still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you aren't sure whether a food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it contains.
Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. For example, using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination. Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.
We hope this information helps you manage and maintain your gluten-free lifestyle. For gluten-free recipe ideas, please click here.