What Is Gluten Free?

December 15, 2011

Gluten free foods have exploded in the last year as more people have been diagnosed with an allergy, or who have discovered that they just feel better without gluten. You may find yourself entertaining a guest this season who has this in-everything food sensitivity, and you may be wondering, What Is Gluten?, and What Foods Are Gluten Free?

‘Celiac Disease’ is an allergy to gluten, which is found in wheat and other products. Unfortunately, gluten is the key to making bread rise, gravy thick, etc, and so those accommodating a gluten free diet often find themselves on a very narrow road.

As with any alternative diet, what is gluten free is not going to be a great substitute for the foods you would normally eat. Rather than trying to make replacements, explore other cultures for naturally gluten free diets. For example, Mexican food (as long as you use corn and not flour tortillas) is a good option, as is Asian food (as long as you avoid glutenous rice).

You may ask, Why Gluten Free? Well, for those not properly diagnosed with Celiac Disease, they’re finding that many stomach troubles disappear with the gluten in their diet. Poor digestion and stomach upset, as well as severe forms of gastrointestinal disease like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis may go away for some people with a diet change that includes avoiding gluten (as well as other common allergens).

Those with Celiac Disease are incredibly sensitive to gluten cross-contamination, so be careful what foods you prepare together.

What Is Gluten Free:

  • Even though some liquors may be made from wheat and other glutenous foods, gluten isn’t distilled into the final product, so don’t pay more for fancy gluten free labels. Non-distilled alcohol, like beer, DOES contain gluten, however.
  • Flours made from rice, almond, corn or quinoa can be substituted for wheat flours in many cases, although you might also need corn starch or something similar to replace the gluten bonds that make many foods, including baked goods.
  • Check labels. If using a prepackaged food, it may contain gluten even if you don’t expect it to (veggie burgers, for instance).

If you’re still wondering “why gluten free? why not wheat free?” know that these are two different allergies. The increase in allergies is regularly attributed to different, sometimes contradicting things. Too many chemicals in our environment, not enough germ exposure at a young age, a rapid change in food quality (specifically, GMO, but that’s only been around for 50 or so years, gluten free recipes began circulating at least 80 years ago).

Whatever the case, allergies are skyrocketing, so before entertaining guests, make sure you know what is gluten free, and what isn’t.

What are your tips for entertaining gluten free guests?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: