Stu: With a steady rise of celiac cases and gluten intolerance, it’s not surprising to see gluten free food products jumping out at you everywhere you go. As far as I’m concerned, you can have an organic, gluten free, raw sugar cup cake blessed by a tibetan monk, it still doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It’s simply a marketers dream and the very thing you ‘think’ is healthy could well be adding to your health woes and piling on the kilos!
Yes I know it sucks with all the confusion out there, but this fantastic post from nutritionist Angela Greely is here to help you understand what to look for when buying your next gluten free product. Over to Angela…
Angela: Gluten is the main protein found in cereal grains wheat, rye, triticale, barley and oats. It is glue like substance that gives elasticity to the dough and the soft texture. A small percentage of the population is coeliac, where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing small bowel damage. There is a bigger portion of the population that is intolerant or experience nonceliac gluten sensitivity. The symptoms can be bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain and diarrhoea. This is a marketers dream, as there is a whole industry built on gluten free products.
Why gluten free products can be unhealthy
Gluten free products are everywhere. There are entire supermarket aisles dedicated to them. The market for gluten free products has risen by 15% in the last few years. The food industry knows that it is big business and they charge a premium for the products.
Remember! Just because the product says gluten free does not make it a healthier choice.
A cake is a cake, whether it’s gluten free or not. When I was looking at the products in the gluten free section, which is usually beside the health food section, there were things like chocolate and multi-coloured cereals. Still not a healthy choice as they still have sugar and colours added.
3 Pitfalls to Gluten Free Products:
- They tend to have more processed/vegetable fat and sugar in them to make them taste better. Many gluten free breads have sugar in their ingredients;
- Many contain thickeners, stabilisers and emulsifiers to them to give them the same texture as the gluten based range;
- A lot of gluten free products are made from corn, potato, tapioca and maize starch, which send your blood sugars sky-high.
There are some awful products available and there are some amazing products available. ALWAYS read the ingredients label. Instead of starch you want to see ingredients like almond meal, coconut flour, buckwheat, rice flour and quinoa.
Alternatives to Healthy Gluten Free Grains
Pseudo-grains (Stu: meaning they’re healthy alternatives disguised as grains but actually aren’t grains) like buckwheat and quinoa are natural superfoods, they are actually seeds.
Their health benefits:
- Buckwheat: A good source of iron and magnesium and high in protein and fibre
- Quinoa: A good source of B vitamins, calcium and magnesium and high in protein and fibre
Gluten Free Pasta Products I Personally Use:
Orgran Buckwheat Pasta (Ingredients: Stone-milled buckwheat flour 80%, rice flour).
Orgran Vegetable Rice pasta (Ingredients: Brown rice, vegetables spinach and beetroot).
Gluten Free ingredients to AVOID, period:
Here is an example of the ingredients of a popular gluten-free pasta brand available in the supermarket. These are the kind of ingredients you need to look for and avoid:
- maize starch
- potato starch
- soya flour
- rice starch and emulsifier E471… Not so good!
If you like flour, a great alternative that I love is buckwheat flour. I use it for making pancakes and use quinoa in salads, risottos and as a side.
How to Shop for Gluten Free Breads
A good rule is the more like ‘conventional wheat bread’ it is the more likely there are nasties in it.
If you take the gluten out you’re taking the dough and the soft texture out. It’s a different type of bread and you just have to reset your taste buds, the good ones are very nutrient-dense hence the bread is dense. I always freeze mine, as they tend to go off quicker.
What to look for in the LOW QUALITY gluten free breads
Example ingredients of a supermarket-bought gluten free loaf: Potato starch, rice flour, tapioca starch, filtered water, psyllium husk, sugar, mineral salts (450, 500), emulsifiers (475, 471 (soy), 481), dextrose, modified maize starch (1442), salt, yeast, sesame seeds, vegetable gum (415), food acid (575), thickener (466), yeast extract, potassium sorbate.
Can you see why this can be damaging your health?
What to look for in the BETTER QUALITY gluten free breads
Example Ingredients using Spring Wellness bread (as the example): Veggies, herbs, sprouted and fermented gluten free grains, cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil, filtered water and Himalayan crystal salt.
Can you see the difference between the two examples? You have to look for good quality gluten free loaves in specialties bakeries, farmer markets and health food shops.
|If you prefer to bake your own bread or snacks we have loads of amazing gluten free recipes on our website HERE|
So yes, if you pick the right gluten free products they are a healthier choice. With regards to weight I think a lot of people tend to have too many grains in their diet. I believe you will feel healthier if you limit your grains so they don’t dominate your diet and pick healthier gluten-free choices. Also if you are not coeliac and can’t tolerate wheat you might also be able to tolerate ancient grains like spelt and kamut as they have lower levels of gluten. Kamut (Khorasan wheat) has been shown to be beneficial for reducing blood sugar levels and heart disease risk factors like LDL (bad) cholesterol. Read more about this here.
Just in case you are wondering what we do, as a rule we generally avoid grains. I’m personally intolerant to wheat and do like my ancient grains, buckwheat and quinoa. I limit my grains to 1 or 2 meals a day and only ever ¼ of my plate.