It’s everywhere now. Gluten free everything, from crackers to sausages to Easter eggs. It feels like everyone is jumping on the gluten free wagon. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy…
It’s accepted in paleo circles that gluten is one of the evils of the modern day diet. It has been found to play a role in illnesses including schizophrenia, autistic disorders, diabetes and allergies, discussed in a Chris Kresser post here. And of course, it’s the number one issue for coeliacs.
For food producers and restaurants it can be frustrating to have to add more detail and continually adapt your recipes to accommodate whatever is new and in fashion. Unless of course you’re a food producer who sees it as yet another way to make more money from consumers. Recently, 100 top British chefs signed a petition attacking new EU legislation forcing restaurants to specify known allergens. I disagree. It doesn’t take much to list what goes in to your dishes. All you’re doing is giving the consumer more information to make a decision. I label everything I make at Cherry’s Deli with full ingredients. It’s not an issue and I believe all consumers have a right to know what they’re eating.
Back to gluten free… If I’m eating out it tends to be the first thing I ask about a menu, although with the new legislation some restaurants are offering a full allergen menu which is helpful. Why do I start at gluten free? Because it’s often the most hidden and I tend to react to it with stomach cramps and bloating. I know how to avoid wheat by not eating bread, pasta and sauces. I know how to avoid legumes, they tend to be in descriptions of menu items. I know how to avoid dairy (although this can be worth checking too if you have an intolerance) by avoiding food in sauces and asking for a non-dairy alternative. Gluten, however, can be found in places you might not suspect… the few pieces of chorizo in your salad or the dressed crab you thought was just crab. So, it can be helpful when eating out to understand where gluten is hidden and use it to make an informed choice. There will be times when your only choice is a gluten free pizza, and that’s ok ,as long as you’re ok with it.
But when it comes to dessert, or to the supermarket aisles, be wary. I learnt another lesson on this a couple of weeks back when I ordered a large slice of gluten free cake, knowing full well that it probably wasn’t going to like me! I felt unwell for the next two days. But there would have been all sorts of other things in there, I hear you cry! Yes there would, which illustrates my point. I have made that decision in the past, a little less educated, and thought I was making a better choice. It will have had a replacement flour, probably from rice, or even gluten-removed wheat, cream, butter, colourings, and a shit-load of sugar! All combining to create and unhealthy response, some of which I felt, and some of which I won’t have felt.
If you are on the clean eating wagon, and it delights me that so many are :), steer away from gluten free and stick with the things you know will nourish you. The same for gluten free supermarket items like pasta, bread, crackers, and so on. If you have to make a choice and you feel that’s the most sensible, then make it. But don’t do what I did and kid yourself in to thinking it’s healthy, because it isn’t.