Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gluten-Free Eating Is Getting Easier—and More Delicious!

The growing availability of gluten-free foods and resources about gluten-free diets is evidence that more people are taking this protein out of their diets.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat*, rye, and barley that is the culprit behind celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disease triggered by the ingestion of gluten. In celiac sufferers, estimated to be 1% of the population, the gluten attacks and flattens the villi—the tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food. This in turn causes various symptoms and leads to serious health conditions if left untreated.

Symptoms of celiac may include headaches, acid reflux, digestive problems, joint pain, skin lesions or eczema, and constant fatigue. Malabsorption of food can lead to weight loss, anemia, and assorted autoimmune disorders (Celiac Disease Foundation, http://www.celiac.org). It is important to get a professional diagnosis from a gastroenterologist if you suspect celiac.
For people with celiac, it is imperative that they avoid even trace amounts of gluten in order to manage their disease and heal from its effects. When dining out, it is not enough that a restaurant offers gluten-free dishes; those meals must be prepared with separate utensils and cookware to avoid cross-contamination with foods that contain gluten.

Other people are opting to avoid gluten for a variety of other reasons: a gluten sensitivity that upsets their stomachs or makes them feel fatigued; an allergy to wheat, rye, or barley; and other health conditions/diseases that could be aggravated by gluten or are related in some way to celiac.
Lucky for all of these people that there are many gluten-free alternatives, if you know what to look for or cook with.

Gluten-free whole grains (and flours) include amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, certified gluten-free oats (if you can tolerate them), quinoa, rice, sorghum, and wild rice. Gluten-free flours can also be made out of dried beans and nuts. Whole shelves and freezer cases in supermarkets are now devoted to a wide range of gluten-free cereals, breads, flours, pizzas, dough, cookies, and snacks. There are countless numbers of cookbooks and websites devoted to gluten-free cooking and baking with thousands of recipes for gluten-free dishes. Blend a little research with some dietary flexibility, add a good portion of adventure, and you can be cooking and baking delicious gluten-free meals for you and your family!

Do you have a favorite gluten-free recipe, product, or resource you’d like to share with our readers? Leave your suggestions in the comment box for others to read.

*This includes spelt, kamut, farro and durum varieties; bulgur, semolina

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