Healthy Eating Tips for Gluten Free Diets
Who needs them?
The answer is: anyone who has difficulty digesting a protein called gluten, found in some grains. The problem is known medically as coeliac disease, and symptoms may start before the age of three, with diarrhoea, wind, and occasionally even weakness or malnutrition if the victim can’t absorb enough protein.
Luckily, a gluten-free diet is all that’s needed to control the condition. This means avoiding wheat, barley, rye and their products, and in some cases oats, which contain a gluten-like substance.
Rice, maize (corn) and buckwheat are the most useful alternatives to wheat. Use them as flours for thickening sauces and in batters, coatings and doughs. Flakes of millet can also be stirred in to thicken sauces and stews, or you can use pureed vegetables.
Keeping up the fibre
You lose valuable fibre when you cut out gluten-containing foods, so make sure to replace it with other sources of roughage such as gluten-free bread and biscuits, brown rice, peas, beans and fresh fruit and vegetables.
To make your own, grind raw buckwheat grains in a coffee grinder. If the flavour’s too strong for your taste, mix it with equal quantities of rice flour.
These can be a serious problem as so many contain hidden gluten, often in the form of thickening agents. Read all labels carefully, particularly on sauces, salad dressings and baking powders, and take care with beer since it is sometimes made with wheat. Buy Japanese Tamari rather than ordinary soya sauce, which is often thickened with wheat flour.
Always ask about ingredients when eating in a restaurant. Sauces are a common problem, and one that’s easy to overlook. Even mayonnaise, mustard and vinaigrette could be thickened with flour.
Just because you can’t eat oats doesn’t mean you have to forgo a warming, nutritious breakfast. Millet flakes, buckwheat flakes and rice bran work just as well and can be cooked in exactly the same way, but you will have to vary the cooking time according to the grain you use.