Have you recently found yourself sitting across the dinner table from a friend announcing their ‘gluten-free’ diet? If you have, you’re far from alone and you may even be that person yourself. Gluten-free diets have gone from a rarity being barely spoken about to being at the forefront of the new-age diet industry.
It is, of course, a necessity for people with Celiac disease or any intolerance to gluten to live a gluten-free lifestyle, but if you don’t have an intolerance, you can be just as healthy and fit whilst eating gluten, without the need to restrict the food you consume.
However, for those among us who do have an intolerance to gluten, finding the right foods and knowing what to eat can prove tricky. Also understanding why gluten can cause the reactions it does is important in order to understand your body and how to make it the healthiest it can be. This is a complete guide to everything you need to know about gluten, from the top gluten-free substitutes and recipes, to gluten-free benefits, and which foods to stay clear of.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a combination of two proteins, typically found in wheat and cereal grains. It affects the elasticity of dough, i.e. the chewiness of your bread, and acts as a ‘glue’ to bind it together.
Why Go Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free diets arose because many individuals have uncomfortable symptoms when they digest gluten. One of the most common signs of an intolerance to gluten is gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and cramps — things we all want to avoid! The symptoms can be worsened and more severe with cases associated with Celiac disease. It’s pretty easy to judge whether or not you have an intolerance as you can feel how your body reacts after eating foods that contain gluten. There are also food intolerance tests, which many UAE clinics provide, that can help confirm your suspicions.
What Are the Main Gluten Culprits?
The following foods are just some of the typical everyday foods that contain gluten, which should be avoided if you have a gluten intolerance:
- Any breaded foods
- Oats (they are often contaminated with gluten)
Some sauces often contain gluten too, such as soy, teriyaki sauce, malt vinegar, salad dressings, and marinades.
The Greatest Gluten-Free Foods
These are the very best and yummiest of all gluten-free food substitutes, along with recipe inspiration for all times of the day! It’s good to remember that most restaurants and takeaways now offer gluten-free substitutes such as pizza bases and gluten-free pastas, and they taste just as good. Below are six creative ideas to whip up some delicious gluten-free meals.
Even if you’re not eating gluten-free, subbing out wheat-based wraps for romaine lettuce is a delicious option. It turns fajita night into a gluten-free affair as well as making it less calorific and giving your more nutritional benefits. Win-win!
Gluten-Free Granola and Muesli
Despite what the name may suggest, buckwheat is actually closely related to the rhubarb family, and doesn’t contain wheat at all. It’s an excellent gluten-free substitute for granolas and mueslis, and provides a wonderful crunch and taste. Try Lean Living Girl’s Crunchy Apple and Cinnamon Buckwheat Granola to kick-start your day.
Using quinoa as a base for porridge is a great way to get a delicious bowl of goodness and energy — minus the gluten. It’s pretty much a straightforward replacement for cooking oats and can be made with regular milk, coconut milk, or any other nut milks or water. Add cinnamon, cacao powder, berries, and whatever else tickles your fancy to improve the taste and add some more health benefits. Click here for a delicious and easy recipe for protein and cinnamon quinoa porridge.
The spiralizer has become a gluten-free kitchen staple, turning vegetables across the world into delicious pastas and salads. It’s a fantastic way to avoid gluten-rich spaghetti, as well as being kinder on your waistline. A top trend now is spiralizing zucchinis into long ribbons and adding a sauce of your choice, be it a vegetarian avocado dressing or a more filling bolognese.
This forgotten vegetable has quickly come back into fashion by being used as a pizza base and as a substitute for rice (here’s a recipe on how to get started with cauliflower rice). If pizza is more up your alley, then this cauliflower crust pizza recipe from Lean Living Girl, topped with oozing mozzarella cheese and healthy Mediterranean vegetables, is a guaranteed gluten-free crowd pleaser.
Almond and Coconut Flour
These ingredients are commonly used in everything from breads to pancakes to cookies and cakes, and both are gluten-free and sound substitutes for regular flour (as well as being Paleo). The swap isn’t always a 1:1 ratio, so baking with them can take a little getting used to, but the result is something well worth waiting for. Try these chewy lemon and raspberry thumbprint cookies made with almond flour for a delicious sweet treat.