Eating gluten free

As many long time readers of my blog will know, even though I am not gluten intolerant myself, I often aim to cook wheat-free or gluten-free from a health point of view. I think we could all benefit from a diet lower in gluten, even those who do not have specific allergies or intolerances in this way.

However, because my standpoint is from a health perspective rather than a necessary way of life, I have become aware than my labelling of certain recipes as ‘gluten-free’ could do with some clarification to ensure that those who have severe allergic reactions to gluten containing products are better assisted in following my recipes.

The key point I would make, above all else, would be for you to double check all ingredients if you know you are gluten intolerant or may be cooking for a family member of friend who is. I will do my best to highlight issues within my recipes, but such is life that slip up’s may happen and ingredients are overlooked, so there needs to be an awareness all round.

A good resource for Coeliac’s in the UK is Coeliac UK which also has a useful ‘food and drink directory’ outlining products and brands that are safe to consume.

In reviewing my recipes and the typical ingredients I choose to cook with, there are three in particular that are a little ambiguous when it comes to wheat/gluten allergies and I so I have set out some clarification below.  Please leave a comment if you have any further thoughts on this, I am welcome to information and suggestions for things I may have overlooked.

The following notes have been extracted from Coeliac UK. Most people with coeliac disease can eat oats. But many oats are produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye which makes them unsafe. A very small number of people are still sensitive to ‘pure’ oats. The role of oats in a gluten-free diet has been debated for many years. Research looking at how oats affect people with coeliac disease shows that most adults and children can safely eat avenin, the protein similar to gluten found in oats. There are however, a very small number of people with coeliac disease who may still be sensitive to pure, uncontaminated oat products. If oats are produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye the gluten can get mixed up with the oats. This is called cross contamination. Only oats which are pure or uncontaminated will be safe.

I use regular oats in my recipes, but for those who know they are sensitive, please feel free to substitute pure uncontaminated oats in my recipes.

Spelt flour:
Spelt is ambiguous since some sources claim it to be wheat-free and some not, either way this grain is not gluten-free so is not suitable for those with a gluten intolerance. Spelt is a very ancient type of wheat with a rich, nutty flavour. It's far more nutritious than modern wheat strains, being richer in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre. It's also high in gluten - but of a different type to that found in modern wheat. Spelt gluten is more fragile and, many believe, easier to digest, hence why this confusion has come about since some people who are intolerant to wheat are able to digest spelt.

The following notes have been extracted from Sure Foods Living.  People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should not eat spelt (also known as “farro” or “dinkel”) because it contains does contain gluten as noted above. The same goes for Kamut, triticale, emmer and einkorn — all of these are cereal grains that have been marketed as “wheat alternatives.” All are in the wheat genus, however, and have biological names starting with “triticum,” the Latin word for wheat.

Spelt is handles in a similar way to regular wheat flour, hence why I use this a lot within my baking. From a health point of view, spelt offers me a more readily digestible product with results that are more predictable like regular flour. My typical gluten free mix is a buckwheat, almond meal, tapioca combination (in approx. 50/30/20 ratios) and I find this to be successful within a wide variety of recipes. Go ahead and experiment with your own gluten-free flour combinations.

Soy Sauce:
I use soy sauce in many of my savoury dishes as a flavour enhancement. Traditional Chinese soy sauce is made with fermented wheat, which makes it unsuitable for people with coeliac disease, however there are simple substitutions for this such as Tamari soy sauce which is gluten free and also liquid aminos which is made with soy beans and is a healthy salt free/gluten free alternative to soy sauce whilst offering a very similar taste.

I use either type of soy or liquid aminos interchangeably within my cooking.

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