What is gluten?

Now, there’s a question, and is going gluten free the way forward?
Personally, I have to eat a gluten free and dairy free diet due to harsh intolerances to both food groups. In this day and age it seems that many people; particularly celebrities who we may follow, have adopted a gluten free diet, not necessarily because they have a gluten intolerance, but because they deem the diet to be healthier. The diet seems to have become more of a ‘trend’.
So is it healthier to eat gluten free? There is actually little evidence to support the idea that gluten is bad for us. In fact, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals and fibre. I’ve heard a lot of people say “I think I have an intolerance to gluten because I’m bloated after eating bread, pasta, biscuits, cereal…” you get the jist. Isn’t it quite obvious that these carb rich foods are going to have a potentially far greater bloating effect (depending on the person) on our bodies than eating some celery or a salad? However, on the flip side it could well be the case that some people have an intolerance but have never been checked. I say, if you think foods are bothering you, try and get tested, but before you know from a Doctor, don’t restrict or eliminate gluten from your diet.
Either way, I wanted to give a mini guide to those of you that aren’t sure what gluten is, others that have just found out they have a gluten intolerance, or those who can be fit and healthy whilst eat gluten, but would like to try some of these alternatives. After all, some of these options can be even tastier than the regular stuff! Who needs pasta if you can make and eat spiralized veggies?!
So what is it?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and cereal grains. It acts as a ‘glue’ in these kinds of foods, helping them hold their shape and giving them that often chewy texture.
Some of the main sources of gluten are listed below (this is by no means a full extensive list but some of the culprits to watch out for!) –
Bread        Wheat        Spelt        Rye        Bulgar wheat
Wheat bran- all of those bran based cereals are a no no!
Couscous
Soy sauce
Beer
Quite a few spirits- I recently researched this out of curiosity to realise that a few spirits, including some specific brands of vodka, aren’t gluten free. Yikes! I would have to read far more into it, but it is definitely something to check out and drink with caution!
Breaded foods
Some dressings and sauce
Biscuits etc
The list could be endless, but if you’re not sure, check the label of the product for the alarming words in capital letters, ‘CONTAINS GLUTEN’.
OMG, WHAT CAN I EAT?
Don’t be alarmed by that never-ending list. It’s not as scary as you may think and with some of the tastiest recipes and alternatives below, you wont even realise. At first I used to get scared if someone would ask me to go out for dinner. I would worry that my order would be a long list of me changing, removing then adding bits to a dish to create a meal I could actually eat….
“Errr so, I can’t eat any gluten or dairy because I’m intolerant. So, is it possible to have this salad, but instead of the halloumi is it possible to change that to chicken, and can I also have no dressing?”
Literally me, all the time! But don’t fret. Most places are actually very good now at catering for these intolerances, or they have a separate gluten free menu! Don’t worry, we’re special.
So, a few alternatives to get you started…
Gluten Free Nut Granola
Something like this is so easy to make to sprinkle on some yoghurt and berries on a morning. Choose your favourite 180g of chopped nuts, 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil, 1 tbsp of honey/agave, 1 tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp of vanilla extract, mix it all together in bowl. Tip on to a large baking tray and bake for 20 on 170’C. Easy!
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Almond Meal Cookies
Almond meal is a great alternative to flour. Check out my recipe for the tastiest  Coconut Almond Cookies here. Don’t worry, being gluten free doesn’t mean you have to stop eating biscuits.
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Courgette Noodles
These are perfect as an alternative to pasta, and a bonus, they are super fun to make. Buy yourself a spiralizer and you can make noodles from so many veggies. I also love butternut squash noodles, however you do need to put in a bit of elbow grease to get it spiralized! It’s so worth it, where’s the strongman emoji when you need it??
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Quinoa
(Easy Peasy Keen-Waa) <<< Check this out!
Quinoa is a perfect alternative to couscous, and it’s a superfood. Why would you even eat couscous in this first place if you could eat something SUPER?? No but really, Quinoa is a great grain, that’s easy to cook and it’s filling and tasty. It is also great for porridge, although I’m yet to try it. Watch this space for a Quinoa porridge recipe!
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So there you have it. Eating a gluten free diet can be both easy and tasty if you know what you’re doing, and it most certainly doesn’t restrict you to eat celery and lettuce. I personally love celery and lettuce, (or as my brother calls it, rabbit food!) but it’s got to be with all the added extras!
Please let me know if you have any burning questions, want more recipes or need to know the best places to eat in London as a gluten free foodie. I’ve been eating with a gluten free diet for years now, I do feel like I have it perfectly down to a T!
Enjoy!
Sopha x

 

 

 

 

 

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