Gluten free for everyone?

  • A warm socca, rich with olive oil, with a hint of rosemary and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper…
  • A meltingly soft chocolate chip cookie, like Mom used to make, but with twice the fiber…
  • A rich chocolate cake so full of antioxidants that you can call it health food…

These are just a few of the reasons that the average American might want to consider including gluten free flours and foods in their diet.

Gluten free and wheat free diets are not about deprivation anymore. A person choosing a gluten free lifestyle, or even simply replacing some of the wheat flour in their diets with alternative flours will find an almost bewildering number of choices.* This makes coming up with great tasting meals at home that contain less wheat, or no wheat, quite easy, and many of these flours are not only tasty, many would rank high in a list of healthy foods.

For instance, millet is a light golden colored, delicately sweet tasting grain that, ground into flour, offers high fiber and protein content superior to wheat, corn or rice. It contains the minerals phosphorus and magnesium and several B vitamins and is considered a low allergy grain. (1)

Garbanzo Flour (aka Chick Pea Flour) offers a rich, intense, almost nutty flavor that makes the Socca, a specialty snack bread of Southern France, satisfying and delicious. Garbanzo Beans offer numerous health benefits such as high fiber, high protein, and valuable minerals and nutrients such as Folic Acid, Manganese, Iron, Copper and Zinc.(2)

There are many, many more fine choices out there, all with their own unique flavors, textures, and nutritional profiles.**

People in the United States who follow a gluten free diet often do so for medical reasons. Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies being three common ones. Yet most alternative flours have been used and enjoyed in many different countries for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Not because wheat made them sick, but because these alternatives are delicious, healthy food.

It is a shame that we, as a nation, have learned to prefer one grain – often with most of the nutrients and fiber stripped out – to a varied and health enhancing diet that includes many choices. Substituting alternative flours for some, or even all, of the wheat flour (especially white wheat flour) in the American diet would be a new taste experience for most of us, and might even go a long way toward helping us back to being a healthy population.

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(1, 2) The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, 2005, Michael Murray N.D.

*Care should be exercised when introducing new foods into the diet. If you have any health issues or concerns, allergies, or questions, you should consult a qualified health care practitioner before trying an unfamiliar food.

**Not all products used in gluten free baking are necessarily “healthy”. Some, mainly those meant to replace the thickening capability of white flour while mimicking its lightness and fairly neutral flavor, have no fiber to speak of and very little nutritional value. A sharp eye on the label will help the consumer identify these products, and use them in moderation, if at all.

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