Gluten-Free Diet: Is it Right For You?

Does it pay to go on a gluten-free diet when you do not have gluten intolerance? What does gluten-free food actually mean, and is it right for you? These are questions that may have crossed your mind with all the “gluten-free” buzz that has been happening as of late. Along with the questions: is it actually a healthier option? Will it make me lose weight? Let’s try to answer some of them, shall we? 🙂

What is Gluten

First, let’s talk about gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains as wheat, barley and rye, and triticale which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. [1] It is the protein that gives the food a gummy and elastic quality, and is important protein in making baked goods as it gives it its nice structure.

How does it affect people?

Gluten is the only protein in food that cannot be fully digested. As the food goes through our digestive system, this indestructible molecule can slip through the intestinal walls. And for people who have Celiac disease, this can cause intestinal inflammation. [2]

Our small intestines have what we call villi which are finger-like projections in the walls of the small intestines, 0.5 to 1.6 millimeters long.  These villi collectively form a “brush border” facilitating nutrient absorption from the food we eat as it passes through the small intestine. [5] In people with Celiac disease, gluten irritates the lining in the small intestine, and causes the immune system to attack the villi, damaging it over time. As a result, nutrients go through our system without getting properly absorbed. This in turn can cause malnutrition.[3]

Purpose of Gluten-Free Diet

Intolerance to gluten ranges from gluten sensitivity (non-Celiac gluten intolerance) to Celiac disease.  A gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity for its treatment. A gluten-free diet can be beneficial for other conditions, as well, like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome being that a gluten-free diet is also classified as a low FODMAP Diet ( Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), a diet that is helpful for people with IBS.

However, an important thing to note is that worrying about gluten is not at all material to those without these conditions, since gluten doesn’t affect them in the same way.

I Don’t Have Gluten Intolerance: What’s in it for me?

Since in a gluten-free diet, one would need to eliminate certain grains, it is a risk that you could miss out on the nutritional benefits of a well-balanced diet. Wheat, barley and rye containing foods, especially in their wholegrain format offer important nutritional benefits. Gluten-free processed foods refined to make them gluten free has the disadvantage of stripping grains of their essential parts, making them have less fiber, vitamins and minerals as compared to whole grains.

However, should your choice of a gluten-free diet involve you switching to more non-processed food, opting for food that are naturally gluten-free like plain fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, that you wouldn’t consume on your normal diet, then this might prove beneficial. However, as gluten containing food may contribute to a nice balanced diet, then a better choice would be to eliminate processed food from your diet instead, regardless of gluten content.

Will a gluten-free diet help me lose weight?

Being smart in your choices pays, especially when introduced with  diet concepts that are unfamiliar. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking a certain diet will help you lose weight, without proper research and effort to be informed. Since the gluten-free diet only aims to eliminate the protein gluten, properties of food that will affect your weight need to be taken into account before deciding to get into this type of diet, and any other diet for that matter, with weight loss in mind. Look at the calorie content of food, for refined carbs, for unhealthy fats in your diet instead.

Those who claim gluten-free diet helped them lose weight benefit from it by incidentally removing processed food from their diet, regardless of gluten content. Gluten-free food and weight loss are not synonymous, unless it helps you to “get rid of the junk” and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are naturally gluten-free, as mentioned by Shelley Case, one of North America’s premier experts on the gluten-free diet. [4]

Bottom line: Gluten-free diet is the right diet for those with gluten-intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and certain conditions like IBS. Gluten-free diet can incidentally be healthier if it eliminates processed food from your diet. However, in some cases it could be less beneficial if it causes one to eat more processed food stripped of nutrients. A gluten-free diet should not be seen as a weight loss diet since what is removed in the diet is mainly gluten. And depending on how much nutrients is eliminated and junk food added when it is processed, gluten-free food can either be healthier or less healthy than conventional gluten-containing food.

References:

1- Boyles, S. (2012, February 17). Gluten Sensitivity: Fact or Fad? Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20120220/gluten-sensitivity-fact-or-fad

2 – Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not. (2014, November 25). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

3 – Bradford, A. (2015, December 10). Gluten-Free Diet: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com/53061-gluten-free-diet-facts.html

4 – Helms, J., MS, RD. (2012, September 6). Will Going Gluten Free Help You Lose Weight? [Web log post]. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2012/09/will-going-gluten-free-help-you-lose-weight.html

5 – Moreau, J. (Eds.). (n.d.). Digestive System, Enzymes, Absorption in the Small Intestine. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://scienceaid.net/biology/humans/digestion.html

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Gluten Free Broccoli Soup

BroccoliSoup

Regular soup recipes are easy to hack, if you are looking for gluten-free ways to increase nutrient content of your meals. It’s a perfect first course or a side to any of your dishes. You can safely make gluten-free versions of soups by selecting ingredients that we know to be gluten-free. (no gluten, barley, or rye–no soup extenders, wheat flour and the like). Here is an easy recipe to try.

What you need to be careful about are two things in this recipe: the milk, and the broth. Gluten Free broth can be made easily by cooking broth from scratch (boil chicken, or beef, or get remainder stock for another recipe), or more conveniently, use a gluten-free soup mix or bouillon cube). Try this easy Broccoli soup recipe, using flash frozen Broccoli. They are better than fresh grocery store-bought ones as  nutrients are preserved well at the vegetables’ maturity.  Try this recipe and let us know how it turns out! 🙂

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs broccoli flowers
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (use gluten-free vegetable bouillon)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon thyme or parsley
2 tbsp butter
1 cup all-purpose cream or milk of your choice

DIRECTIONS

Blanching: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt. Put frozen broccoli directly in the water (no need to thaw!) and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes until they become bright green and tender.

Drain and using a food processor or a blender, puree the broccoli by batches until smooth.

On the same pot, melt butter and sauté the garlic, onion and celery. Add chicken broth or vegetable broth and season with salt, pepper and thyme or parsley. Lower heat to medium and let the flavors marry together simmering for 2 to 3 minutes.

Switch to low heat and add in the broccoli puree. Add in 1 cup all-purpose cream or 1 cup milk of your choice and let simmer for another minute. Serve on the side of grilled cheese sandwich, or meat dishes.

Risotto ai frutti di mare (Seafood Risotto)

Risotto is one of the most popular comfort food in Italy. It’s versatile and flexible as it can be prepared with any ingredient, and it is a happy coincidence that this traditional recipe is basically gluten-free!

The rice (Arborio rice) that you will use in this recipe has high rice gluten content, though fear not as this gluten is not what those on a gluten-free diet need to stay away from. This rice gluten content in Arborio rice is what gives this risotto its creamy, rich consistency and texture.

What you have to be a bit careful about is the broth you use with this recipe. Be safe and make the broth yourself from scratch or find broth packets that do not have wheat , barley or rye and their other forms in the ingredients.

For seafood lovers, here’s a recipe you can prepare as an accompaniment to a hearty fare, or you can make it the main course of a meal. Buon appetito!

Ingredients

1 pack mixed seafood
400g 1 pack risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli rice)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic,chopped
6 tbsp White wine
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 liter fish or vegetable broth (or try a gluten free bouillon broth cube)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Steps

Prepare seafood mix by defrosting and patting dry with kitchen paper towel.
Before cooking the risotto, bring broth to a boil then turn the flame to the lowest setting possible just to keep it warm. Using cool liquid would stop the risotto from cooking.

Sautée garlic in olive oil. Turn heat to medium and add seafood mix. Stir and cook for no more than 2-3 minutes. This is to flavor the olive oil. Quickly remove seafood with a slotted spoon leaving all flavored oil on the pan. Place seafood mix in a bowl and cover with foil. Set aside.

Using the same pan with flavored oil, on medium heat, add chopped shallot and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add rice and stir for 2-3 minutes to coat rice. This seals the rice to maintain its chewy quality. Once the grains are translucent add white wine, keep stirring and let wine evaporate.

Here comes the tricky part, as this is the secret to the creaminess of risotto. Add the broth gradually by adding a ladleful of broth at a time. Stir using a wooden spoon. Never let the risotto dry out and do not cover the pot. When broth is absorbed, add a ladle of broth again and then stir gently. keep going for about 13-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add seafood mix and it is almost done. Continue stirring for 3-5 minutes until rice is cooked al dente ( tender on the outside but firm to the bite in the center). If broth is absorbed during this time, add broth gradually half a ladle at a time as we don’t want risotto to be watery but should still flow a little when served.

As a final touch, stir in butter and squeeze in lemon juice.
Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Gluten Free Blueberry Pancake

blueberry pancake.jpg

With gluten intolerance, the typical pancake is one of the items you would eliminate from your meal planning. It’s such a shame though , as pancakes have become a standard breakfast item for good reason. It’s quick and easy to prepare and you can make exciting combos with different fruits, to add to your fiber intake, or even make dessert pancakes with chocolates (and more yummy ideas you can think of!).

And so what a relief that with flour options other than wheat, the fantastic pancake can still be a mainstay on your breakfast table.

Here’s a great recipe to follow:

Ingredients

1 cup Brown Rice flour  – provides sweet and nutty flavor

1 cup Sorghum Flour  – close to regular wheat

3/4 cut White Rice flour  – lends a light texture

1/4 cup cassava starch – helps to make products less dense

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum – helps give it a fluffy texture (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp butter

An option is to get ready  made gluten-free pancake mixes. if you don’t know where to source all these different ingredients. 

1 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (20% off offer on blueberries for home delivery until this Sunday!)

Directions

Combine and sift together all dry ingredients. Beat the egg separately in a small bowl and add in milk. Whisk this into the dry ingredients and add in melted gluten free butter. You can choose to mix in the blueberries at this point.

Heat a frying pan on your stove, add in 1 tbsp of oil and coat the surface. Pour around a quarter of a cup of batter. As for me, I like to wait for the batter to have a few bubbles as it cooks and place around 6 to a dozen berries to evenly cover the whole pancake. After around 3 minutes, flip the pancake and let the other side cook for another minute.

Serve with honey or maple syrup and add in more fruits, if desired. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Overnight Berry Oats

What exactly are overnight oats? These are a no-cook method of making oatmeal. Instead of cooking your oats on the stove, you mix rolled oats with liquid and other mix-ins, and let it rest in your fridge overnight.

Popularly made in nice sturdy mason jars, it’s a quick healthy breakfast or snack option for you and the kids. I sometimes make 5 to 7 jars a weekend so I can grab these anytime for rest of the week.

What’s great about this is you can substitute the ingredients to whatever you feel like to amp up the nutrients or create the flavors you want. You can easily make this gluten-free by using gluten-free oats and staying away from ingredients that contain wheat, barley, spelt, or rye or their other forms.  Oats are naturally gluten-free. Though, during growing, harvest, transport and storage, other grains that have gluten may unintentionally be mixed with oats. And so it is safe to get oats that have the gluten-free label. Household brand Quaker Oats already has a line that is especially branded as gluten-free, so you may want to try this or other gluten-free labeled oats.

INGREDIENTS

Mix-ins:
¼ cup berries
(choose one or mix strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries)

Tip: You can get Berries delivered to your home. A good offer here gets you 20% Off  on imported berries. 

Base:
1/3 cup yogurt (plain regular yogurt–no additives)
3/4 cup rolled Gluten-Free oats
2/3 cup unsweetened milk of your choice
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

DIRECTIONS
Whisk all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. You can choose to add berries whole or chop them up for better blending of flavors. Spoon into a jar with a nice secure lid. Cover and let rest in your fridge for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight. Enjoy!

Chicka Ortega-Boutain

Gluten Free Pasta with Scallops and Mussels

There’s no need to worry being picky at an Italian restaurant to enjoy this classic Italian pasta dish–gluten-free. You can prepare it in minutes with the convenience of gluten-free pasta at GERALD.ph, as well as frozen seafood that you may have delivered to your home. 

Ingredients
200 g Gluten Free Yellow Soy Bean Pasta (you can also pick  rice & corn, edamame pasta)
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1 pack scallops (roe off)
1/2 pack mussels (shell off)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup frozen chopped parsley
2-3 tbs garlic herb butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 tbs. gluten-free flour (rice flour is an option)
2 tbs. olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Directions
1.In a large pot, cook pasta until al dente or tender to the bite. Drain and set aside some pasta water.
2. Lightly dredge each scallop in a bowl full of gluten-free flour and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Shake off the excess. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and half of the garlic herb butter. Saute scallops for about 2-3 minutes on one side until just beginning to brown, then carefully turn over and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Add chopped garlic into the skillet and saute for 30-40 seconds – do not let it brown. Add the wine and a little bit of the pasta water, about 1/4 cup. Then add mussels and cover for 3-4 minutes. Stir.
4. Add cooked pasta and season with additional salt and remaining herb butter. Add more pasta water or a touch of wine if you prefer more broth. Sprinkle with parsley and toss gently to combine. Voila, a delightful pasta dish!

Gluten Free Smoked Salmon Spaghetti with Arugula

Gluten Free Pasta dishes are easy to make. All you need is gluten-free pasta–can be rice and corn pasta, edamame pasta. And hand picked ingredients that you know are gluten-free: avoiding ones with barley, wheat and rye and their sub forms. For instance, try this simple yet flavorful gluten-free dish for your next family lunch!

Ingredients:

250 grams Smoked Salmon, chopped (now at 20% off!)
250 grams Spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp capers
2 tsp lemon rind
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
100 grams rocket arugula
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Take out salmon slices from packaging and chop.

Cook pasta in a pot, according to package directions, until tender. Drain water and set the pasta aside. In the same pot, add olive oil and sauté the garlic until soft. Add in the pasta, salmon, capers, lemon rind, and rocket arugula.

Continue to cook under low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until rocket arugula starts to wilt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!