Sincerely Carolina

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Why Gluten-Free Does Not = Ick!

by caroline

Like the term “vegan” or “vegetarian”, I get a lot of crinkled noses when I mention that a recipe is gluten-free.

And that’s because very often this is what people hear instead:

“This recipe is bland.”

“This dish is completely boring.”

“I just sucked all of the deliciousness out of this food.”

That’s why it’s so important for people to understand that “gluten-free” like any of the other terms for special diets does not have to = yuck-o.

First, let me start by saying this: A lot of the foods you already eat are naturally gluten-free. In addition to the many fresh produce items that color a plate pretty, meat, fish, beans, rice and most dairy products can all be gluten-free when they come from a place that does not allow them to come in contact with gluten. Nifty!

I also want to point out exactly what gluten is because I think a lot of people just aren’t sure what to make of it. When I first found out I have Celiac disease, I thought, “Gluten? That sounds a lot like glue …” The truth is I wasn’t that far off because as it turns out the word “gluten” comes from the Latin word “glutin-” or “gluten”, meaning “glue”.

Anyway, gluten can be defined as a protein that is found in foods processed from wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives dough elasticity and is used as a bonding ingredient in several other foods, including cereal, pasta, baked goods and more.

For people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, these elements that make up gluten can send their bodies reeling. Digestive issues, migraines, depression, hair loss and eczema are just a few of the issues related to having an intolerance to gluten.

So, let’s had back to my first point: A lot of the foods you already eat are naturally gluten-free. Take, for example, the arborio rice we used in our risotto dish — naturally gluten-free! Other items, like nut butters, yogurts, cereals, baked goods, rice pasta and ice creams are made with gluten-free ingredients and processed in an environment where a gluten-free product will not come in contact with a contaminate (cross-contamination).

Restaurants and large consumer product producers, like P.F. Chang’s, Subway and Betty Crocker, have all jumped on board by making items safe for non-gluten consumers.Being gluten-free can be tough, but there is headway made every day to educate people about this condition that affects an estimated 1 out of every 133 people.

So, when I say, “gluten-free” what I mean is it’s “safe” … not icky. The products available in stores today, and the dishes gluten-free chefs and experimenters have come up with will knock your socks off — gluten-free eater or not. We know how to play around with flours and other ingredients to make dishes and treats that are safe, and keep a gluten-free tummy happy.

And that’s it. No yucky-ness about it.