Life in the Gluten-Free Aisle
Is it just me, or is the crazy gluten-free diet not so crazy anymore?
When I started eating gluten-free five years ago, people looked at me like I was nuts!! “Well, what on earth can you eat?” I can still hear my mother asking.
“Really Mom, there are tons of things that I can eat!” I’d lie, with the intention of keeping her from worrying (my mother’s big worry in her old age was that I, as a 60ish year old woman, was too thin. I hadn’t yet accumulated the expected mid-section fat that was believed to hold estrogen, and therefore ward off osteoporosis!)
Truth be told, she was kinda right—about the difficulty finding gluten-free foods, not that I was too thin!! It was a struggle to find satisfying gluten-free foods. Chickpeas on a bed of salad is yummy for only so long, especially without a variety of gluten-free salad dressings. Five years ago it was difficult to find a grocery store or a restaurant with gluten-free alternatives. They just did not readily exist. Many restaurants or store clerks didn’t even know what gluten was, let alone be able to suggest an alternative.
But that was then. Today, gluten-free folk enjoy entire grocery aisles dedicated to gluten-free products. Restaurants have separate gluten-free menus, pizza places offer gluten-free dough, and there are gluten-free bakeries and even gluten-free pastas that have emerged!!Mom can now rest in peace knowing that I have plenty of delicious food to choose from.
So, what is gluten and why are so many of us avoiding it?
Gluten is a protein found in most grains (i.e. wheat). Gluten provides elasticity that makes bread chewy. It eliminates the sticky, doughy-like texture, and keeps bread and cakes in their intended shape. It’s like a glue. Gluten is also found in most salad dressings and sauces as a thickening agent.
Living a gluten-free lifestyle improves cholesterol levels, digestion and increases energy levels. By eliminating gluten from your diet, many unhealthy foods are automatically eliminated like fried chicken, since chicken is dipped in a flour batter before frying. Most desserts have gluten, and so do those delicious breads that are served at restaurants before the meal. Once you make the commitment to eliminate gluten, calories from sugar, wheat, and pasta are automatically eliminated. Health benefits are immediate, including healthy weight loss. Eating gluten-free foods reduces your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and other diseases such as diabetes by increasing your intake of those foods higher in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. An improved diet will also improve your immune system.
Let’s be clear: I’m no super hero! When Christmas, holidays and parties come around I have a really hard time staying away from all those yummy cookies and cakes!!! I completely understand why people aren’t consistent with the gluten-free lifestyle, or why they decide not to give it a try at all! With that said, I can’t stress enough how much better I feel when I consistently adhere to a gluten-free diet. I have more energy, am naturally slimmer, and less arthritic. I sleep better and my face isn’t as puffy. Yes folks, my face isn’t puffy. After years of being off wheat, my body scolds me with a physical reaction when I slip up, by greeting me in the morning with puffiness under my eyes, grogginess, achiness, and sometimes a headache. My body repels gluten so much that an internal alarm system goes off, doing what it can to send out warning signals.
Of course, everyone is different, and I by no means wish to imply that your experience will be just like mine. However, the growth of gluten-free eaters does suggest awareness as opposed to a fad. Illnesses associated with gluten do exist. From personal experience, I can attest to the importance of going gluten-free, and can’t help but add my voice to the growing chorus of voices who are spreading the word. The gluten-free lifestyle has worked wonders for my family and me.
Here are some ways to get started:
Gluten-free brands that don’t taste like cardboard:
Glutino:A great gluten-free brand that makes crackers, cookies, bread, pizza and has cake, muffin and brownie mixes . . . almost everything that I used to miss!
Rudis:My favorite bread so far. I personally like the “multi-grain,” but there is cinnamon raisin, and other flavors also. Remember to toast it! All gluten-free bread is much better toasted.
Udis: Like Glutino, this is another great brand that makes a little bit of everything… including bagels and English muffins! Again, toasting is highly recommended.
Gluten containing grains that you should try to avoid:
Check the ingredients before ingesting these items:
-Canned or packet soups, sauces in jars and packets.
-Blended seasonings, gravy granules, stock cubes, curry powder, curry paste
My favorite cookbook (but there are so many others):
The Gluten-Free Cookbook, what to eat & what to cook on a gluten free diet.
Awesome. Now I can’t wait to start sharing some of my favorite recipes with all of you! Stay tuned!!!
-Germaine Parra Avila