What Gluten-Free Really Means

by Lauren on January 24, 2013

The other day I realized that I don’t have any information on my blog around the topic of “gluten-free” – no recipes, product suggestions  or advice for those with Celiac disease (allergy to gluten) or a gluten-sensitivity. A common misconception these days is that gluten-free is a diet that will help you lose weight – not exactly.

John and I are in Florida to escape the deep freeze so I asked my friend and colleague Sarah Berneche to write a guest post for me while I’m away. Sarah is a great writer, and gluten-free guru. She graciously agreed to share her experience with Celiac disease, some great gluten-free products, and de-bunk the myth of “gluten-free.” I’ve also heard she’s a great cook so stayed tuned for some amazing gluten-free recipes!

“While Celiac’s Disease is a buzzphrase today, it certainly wasn’t back in 2005, when I first made the transition to a gluten-free diet. I was mid-way through the first semester of my third year of university and sleeping sixteen hours a day. I’d become so overwhelmingly anemic that my dad drove me to my classes (I was afraid I’d fall asleep at the wheel) and I took a leave from my customer service job at a local grocery store because I couldn’t lift anything that weighed more than a few ounces. In a seminar class on European history we covered a number of documentaries and films; I can’t tell you about any of them, though, because I passed out during all of them. And forget holding conversations with friends; my short-term memory was so shot I couldn’t recall what someone had said just two minutes prior. 

Determined to perform well, I drank coffee from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed to sustain me through my classes and assignments. Eventually, somewhere between constant doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, research and speculation, I found the answer (and solution) to my issues. I gave up gluten pretty much cold turkey and within weeks my health improved dramatically. 

These are probably not things most people associate with “gluten-free.” We think of Betty Crocker boxed mixes, maybe, or fad diets. Living a gluten-free life is unfortunately much more involved than simply giving up bread, pizza, pasta, and baked goods, specifically for those with an autoimmune disease. Several years later, I still struggle with nutrient absorption issues, as does my uncle, also Celiac, who requires regular B12 injections.  

At the same time, I don’t want to discount the challenges inherent in giving up much-loved, gluten-filled foods. Many people find this part especially difficult, particularly if they aren’t keen on trying new foods, don’t like (or know how) to cook and live with people who eat gluten. Gluten-free products can be very helpful, especially in the initial stages. I still remember scouring the natural food aisle of my local Superstore with my mom, evaluating my options (potato pasta anyone?)

While the quality of many of these foods has improved as far as taste and texture, many of these products are hyper processed, high in sugar and full of chemicals and preservatives. It doesn’t help that labeling is incredibly controversial: governing bodies define a “gluten-free” product as one that contains gluten levels under 20 ppm (parts per million). Some people react to levels as low as 3 ppm, which explains why one person with Celiac may react to a product while another may not (all the more reason to choose naturally gluten-free, minimally processed foods!) Fortunately for us, there are some great, nutritious products out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of my picks for foods that are gluten-free and sufficiently nutritious to help your body to heal:  

Pasta/Noodles:

King Soba 100% organic buckwheat noodles

King Soba 100% organic sweet potato & buckwheat noodles

Tinkyada brown rice pasta

Rizopia brown rice or wild rice pasta

Ancient Harvest organic supergrain quinoa & corn pasta

GoGo Quinoa quinoa & brown rice pasta 

Crackers:

Mary’s organic seed crackers (any variety)

Super Slims multigrain rice crisps

Blue Diamond nut & rice crackers (I like the pecan)

Cereal:

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Quick Cooking/Whole Grain/Steel Cut Oats

Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packs (convenient for travel)

Ancient Harvest quinoa flakes (use in place of bread crumbs or make into hot cereal)

Qi’a Superfood cereal (any variety) 

Bread:

Silver Hills sprouted organic gluten-free chia or flax (frozen)

Nature’s Path gluten-free ancient grains (if you can find it) 

Pizza Crust:

Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix

Cauliflower pizza crust recipe

Wild rice pizza crust recipe  **to speed up the process, you can purchase pre-cooked canned wild rice

Snacks/Indulgences:

Larabars

Pamela’s original or lemon shortbread

Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free chocolate cake mix 

For more information, check out the Canadian Celiac Assocation

Sarah Berneche holds a B.A.H. and M.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Windsor and a post-graduate certificate in Creative Book Publishing from HumberCollege. She works in corporate advertising and is currently pursuing her R.H.N. designation through CSNN’s distance education program to further her knowledge of food & nutrition. In her free time, she volunteers as a fruit gleaner and event organizer for Not Far From the Tree  and as a contributing blogger & editor for LEAF.  

 

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