“Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for.” - David Chang
Around 8.5 million people in the UK are now gluten-free for several reasons. Gluten is a protein that’s present in wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Gluten intolerance can cause health problems that can lead to serious illnesses (cancers, ulcers, osteoporosis, etc.).
The large number of celebrities who’ve gone gluten-free has led to its rise. Novak Djokovic, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Lady Gaga have all become proponents of the gluten-free diet, making the whole thing very popular all over the world.
Since it’s difficult to know the health benefits of going gluten-free for those who aren’t gluten intolerant, here’s what you should know before you do.
In this article, we're looking at why you should go gluten-free, which foods contain gluten, some tasty gluten-free recipes, and providing you with some advice for going gluten-free.
Why Go Gluten-Free?
There are three main reasons to stop consuming gluten:
- Gluten intolerance
- Gluten sensitivity
- To improve your health
In the first instance, gluten intolerance is an auto-immune problem in the intestine that leads to poor absorption of gliadin and atrophy of the mucus in the intestine.
Coeliac disease usually appears between 6 and 24-months old but can appear later. Symptoms include digestive problems (diarrhoea, constipation), fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains. If untreated, coeliac disease can cause cardiovascular problems, cancers, or neurological issues. Immunological tests, intestinal biopsies, and trying a gluten-free diet are ways to get a diagnosis.
For gluten sensitivity, the symptoms are similar. However, once the immunological tests are completed, the antibodies found in coeliacs won’t be present and neither will atrophy of the villi of the small intestine. If you think you may be gluten sensitive, consult a medical professional and plan a gluten-free diet that includes the right nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
If you’re neither gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, there may be no reason to go gluten-free. Recent studies conducted by Columbia and Harvard have shown that stopping gluten consumption in those who aren’t intolerant could increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“Whole grains are known for their ability to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.” - Laurent Chevallier, nutritionist.
Going gluten-free for those who aren’t gluten intolerant comes from a misunderstanding of the science.
How can you explain that some people feel better if they stop eating bread?
“You need to know that some breads are full of additives that aren’t necessarily tolerated by the body. Rather than stop eating gluten, you need to consume bread with real yeast.” explains Dr. Laurent Chevallier.
Before blaming gluten for everything, you might want to change your diet and eat fewer processed products, eat healthier, and exercise. You’ll see an improvement in your wellbeing.
Which Foods Contain Gluten
Gluten can be found in plenty of products. Here are a few of them:
- Bread: white, brown, unleavened, etc.
- Flour: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, etc.
- Breakfast products: cereals, biscuits, pastries, etc.
- Pastries: cakes, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, doughnuts, ice cream cones, etc.
- Premade products: pizzas, soups, sauces, quiches, dough, sweets, crisps, stock cubes, soy sauce, chocolate.
- Drinks: beer, whiskeys, powdered drinks, etc.
- Certain medicinal products.
- Other products: surimi, gherkins, meatballs, stews, etc.
Those with gluten intolerance should pay attention to food labels. Ideally, you want to avoid as much pre-prepared and readymade products as gluten is often used as a thickener. It’s better to cook from raw ingredients.
Find out which foods are gluten-free.
If you need to take gluten out of your diet, there are plenty of recipes that you can easily make. There are a lot of traditional recipes that you can make without gluten as long as you use starch or cornflour rather than flour to thicken sauces.
Here are three gluten-free recipes to get you started:
Ingredients for 3 people:
- 150g of yellow and green lentils
- 1 carrot
- 10 pieces of dried tomatoes
- 1 egg
- 5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 10 mint leaves
- 150g of rice
- 1 onion
- 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 natural yoghurt
- Salt and pepper.
- Cook the rice and lentils in different pots.
- Mix the carrot, onion, rice, lentils, tomatoes, eggs, parsley, vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper.
- Roll the mix into small balls and bake in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes.
- Serve with a sauce made from the yoghurt, mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Quinoa and Bream Ceviche
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 4 filets of bream
- 3 grapefruits
- 600g of quinoa
- 80g of coriander
- 20g of sesame
- 2 “Chioggia” beetroots
- 4g of pink berries
- 400ml of rice vinegar
- 200ml of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the quinoa for 10 minutes.
- Cut the grapefruit into segments and collect the juice to make a sauce with the olive oil and rice vinegar. Cook the sauce for a few minutes before mixing with the quinoa.
- Cut the bream until small cubes and add the coriander.
- Serve in bowls: quinoa on the bottom, the raw bream in the middle, the grapefruit segments around the outside, and the beetroots sliced as a decoration.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Fondant
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 300g of dark chocolate (check that there are no traces of gluten)
- 200g of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 6 eggs
- 150g of soft butter
- Preheat the oven to 75°C. Butter the mould and melt the chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes before adding the butter.
- Mix two eggs in a bowl and 4 egg yolks with the sugar. Keep the whites. Add the cornstarch and the butter and chocolate mix and whip.
- Beat the egg whites and add them.
- Pour into the mould and bake for 30 minutes.
Advice for Eating Gluten-Free
Going gluten-free might seem complicated since it’s present in so many ingredients. However, with a bit of advice, you can change how you eat without running the risk of consuming gluten.
- Don’t eat ready meals: tins of ravioli, frozen chips, etc. Many ready meals include gluten as its often used for consistency.
- Read the labels! Check for gluten and its derivatives: gliadin, glutenin, wheat starch, malt, malt extract as well as vegetable proteins, etc. Generally, allergens are in bold on most packaging. If you have any doubts, quickly search on Google for the answer.
- Replace wheat flour with gluten-free flour: rice flour, chickpea flour, cornflour, chestnut flour, buckwheat flour, etc.
- Replace chemical baking powder with baker’s yeast, guar gum, xanthan gum, sodium bicarbonate, or egg whites.
- Replace dough with other cereals and starches: rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc.
- Make bread without gluten.
- Opt for salads in restaurants.
Now you can choose whether or not going gluten-free is for you. If you’re gluten intolerant, don’t hesitate to look for recipes online. If you want to stop for other reasons, you might want to talk to a medical professional to ensure that you don’t take any unnecessary risks.
So what are you going to do?
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