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Should we be eating gluten-free?

There are various gluten-free options for flour that can be incorporated into any diet, such as almond, cashew and rice flour.
There are various gluten-free options for flour that can be incorporated into any diet, such as almond, cashew and rice flour. - 123RF Stock Photo

Inspiring Change

Reasons for avoiding gluten vary from person to person. Some choose to limit their intake, while those with celiac disease cannot tolerate even the tiniest amount. Health benefits of avoiding or eating less gluten, as reported by some clients, include enhanced digestion, increased energy, improved concentration and mental focus and clearer skin. Whatever the reason for avoidance, the demand for gluten-free products continues to grow. Statistics show that in 2014, the global market for gluten-free foods was worth around US$4.21 billion, with the projection of US$7.59 billion in 2020.

I’m not a fan of ready-made, gluten-free alternatives, however. I prefer to make my own and here’s why. Mass-produced gluten-free products are often lower in fiber and higher in carbohydrates than their gluten-containing counterparts. Additionally, they most always contain some form of added sweetener such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), malt barley, rice syrup, glucose, dextrose and maltodextrin, to name a few. For interest sake, diets containing an increased amount of high-fructose corn syrup and added sugars have been associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease in both adults and children.

Big food companies have gotten wise to the unhealthy reputation high-fructose corn syrup has developed — and some are still using it — but under an alias. Variations to look for include: natural corn syrup, isolated fructose, maize syrup, glucose/fructose syrup and tapioca syrup. Not only do these types of sweeteners contribute to disease, the danger here is that consuming foods that contain them as one of the top ingredients can lead to overeating. These sweeteners interfere with the hormone that tells our brain that we are full, and before we know it, we’ve eaten too much.

Many gluten-free products are made with unhealthy trans fats. Like HFCS, trans fats have been shown to increase the risk for many chronic diseases such as, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

I’m always on the hunt for healthy gluten-free recipes for myself, and to share with my clients. Although my eating style has changed over the years, some days I crave a sandwich or a cracker. Like me, those who have reduced their gluten intake, or have given it up all together, are usually thrilled when they find an acceptable alternative.

Thankfully, through trial and error, I have discovered how to make my own healthy gluten-free flat breads, crackers, crepes and wraps. I must say, I find them all very satisfying. My go-to crepe/wrap is one such example.

Trying a new gluten-free pizza crust recipe, I was disappointed, as my first attempt was a bit of a flop. The crust was heavy and doughy in the middle, and because I refused to use the oodles of oil the recipe called for, it stuck to the pan. Liking the idea that garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour was gluten-free and the organic variety was readily available, I didn’t give up. I simply added more liquid and came up with my own version of socca crepes. Besides the flour, the only other ingredients are water, choice of seasonings and a little coconut oil. I’ve also had success with adding an egg to the batter, making the crepes a bit more substantial for mini pizzas or “pita” chips. These crepes are perfect for any sandwich filling, as well as tacos, and even desserts. If time is a concern, and it is for most people these days, they can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for a few days, or frozen between sheets of waxed or parchment paper.

Diets are as individual as people, and whether a person chooses to eat gluten or be gluten-free, or somewhere in between, I suggest eating whole foods and keeping an intake of processed foods to a minimum.

I invite you to try my socca crepe recipe (posted on the gallery page of my website at www.janiceinspiringchange.com). Also, if you are interested in more gluten-free recipes and healthy meal ideas, visit the Janice Inspiring Change Facebook group.

Janice Amirault is a Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant (R.H.N.) practicing in Bridgewater and Yarmouth. Amirault can be reached via email or online at www.janiceinspiringchange.com.

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