The gluten-free trend
In the last few years we’ve all begun to hear the words ‘gluten-free’ more widely used and many of us are trying to cut down or eliminate gluten from our diets. As alternatives become more readily available we thought we would write a simple guide to help anyone venturing on the path to a gluten-free lifestyle.
More people are feeling the effects of stress and food intolerances and many of us find that moving towards a gluten-free lifestyle seems to have a beneficial effect. This may be for a number of reasons so it’s good to listen to your own body and how you feel as an individual.
The symptoms of both gluten intolerance and coeliac disease can be similar, and research suggests that about 1% of the population may have coeliac disease while many more are sensitive to gluten. www.coeliac.org.uk has lots of useful information about symptoms and advice for diagnosis.
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a sticky, stretchy substance found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Wheat tends to contain more gluten than barley and rye, and ‘ancient grains’ such as spelt and kamut have recently been growing in popularity as these contain lower levels of gluten.
What foods contain gluten?
You mainly find gluten in bakery products, from fresh bread to pastries, biscuits, crackers, pies and cakes. It’s also contained in some cereals, durum wheat pasta, couscous and beer. If in doubt, read the label which will clearly say if the food contains gluten or is gluten-free.
Leading a gluten-free lifestyle
The really good news is that following a gluten-free lifestyle is becoming so much easier, even when it comes to eating out. The more knowledge you have about ingredients, the freer you can become. There are so many fantastic gluten-free foods to choose from today. Once confined to the shelves of specialist health food shops, quinoa is now a staple in supermarkets, as are rice noodles which make a great alternative to pasta. There are plenty of gluten-free breakfast options to choose from, including gluten-free oats and granolas. Best of all, all fruit and vegetables, fats, meat, dairy, eggs and fish are gluten-free too.
Top tips for making gluten-free choices
- Cooking with natural ingredients from scratch allows you to know that you are cooking gluten-free
- Make sure you check food labels carefully, for example yoghurt is naturally gluten free, but extra ingredients such as cereal may contain gluten
- When eating out, restaurants now have to provide allergy information so it is becoming easier to navigate menus, do always ask if you are unsure
- Shop, shop, shop – what a great excuse to explore your supermarket and local health and independent food shops for gluten-free foods and ingredients. There are now whole sections devoted to ‘free from’ foods
- If you’re a big bread fan, the good news is that there are now a whole range of gluten-free breads available. Even better, why not try baking your own. There are lots of gluten-free flours on the baking shelves, including a whole host of delicious nut flours
There are plenty of great gluten-free recipe websites and cookbooks now available to get you started and give lots of ideas, here are a few of our favourites
River Cottage Gluten Free by Naomi Devlin
Nosh Gluten-Free by Joy May
Clean Cakes by Henrietta Inman
For simple gluten-free swaps, why not try these:
|wheat cereals||gluten-free granola|
|biscuits||gluten-free snack bars|
|sandwiches||soup & salads|
|wheat crackers||gluten-free oatcakes|