What Is a Gluten Free Diet

Whether or not you are new to the gluten-free diet, you may feel confused by some of the conflicting information out there about what grains can and cannot be eaten on a gluten-free diet. To top things off, you may have never heard of some of the grains you are supposed to be eating, such as teff. The information provided here will help you sort out the grains you can and cannot eat and introduce you to some of the less familiar grains.

A gluten-free diet as followed in the United States does not contain protein from wheat, barley, rye, or hybrids of these grains. All other grain foods, with the possible exception of oats, are considered safe to include in a gluten-free diet. Oats are discussed in detail in Chapter 2.

Grains That Can't Be Eaten on a Gluten-Free Diet

  • Wheat, including all types (spelt, einkorn, emmer, kamut, durum) and forms (wheat starch,* wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, crushed wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein, farina, semolina, graham flour)
  • Barley, including all forms (malt, malt syrup, malt extract)

* Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)

All other grains (with the possible exception of oats) can be eaten on a gluten-free diet.

*The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to allow wheat starch in products labeled gluten free as long as the final food product contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Wheat starch is discussed in detail in Chapters 2 and 3.

Historical Nugget

The gluten-free diet has not always been the treatment for celiac disease. Before the 1950s and the identification of wheat gluten as the culprit in celiac disease, the thinking was that people with celiac disease could not properly absorb carbohydrates and/or fat. A particularly interesting dietary treatment used during this time was the "banana diet," made popular by physician Sidney Haas. This diet restricted both carbohydrates (with the exception of ripe bananas) and fat. In his famous paper, "The Value of the Banana in the Treatment of Celiac Disease," published in 1924, Dr. Haas presented the following foods as a typical diet for a child with celiac disease: albumin milk, pot cheese, bananas (as many as the child would take, usually four to eight each day), oranges, vegetables, gelatin, and meat.

In his paper, Dr. Haas makes the following observation: "Of interest in connection with the present paper is the statement that in Porto Rico (sic) the town dwellers who eat much bread suffer from sprue, the farmers who live largely on bananas never." It is interesting to note that the farmers' health was credited to bananas and not to the lack of bread in their diet.

Grains That Can Be Eaten on a Gluten-Free Diet

* Sorghum

* Millet

* Wild rice

Sorghum, Millet, Teff, and Wild Rice

You are undoubtedly familiar with corn and rice but may not be so familiar with sorghum, millet, teff, and wild rice. This section briefly describes these grains, and Chapter 6 includes delicious recipes using these grains. You may have trouble finding some of these grains in your local grocery or health food store. If so, Appendix C provides some helpful links and company names, so you can order all of the grains you need.

  • Sorghum has been eaten in Africa for more than four thousand years and is available as sorghum grain and sorghum flour. Sorghum flour works well in baked goods, and the whole grain may be eaten as a breakfast cereal. Sorghum may be available in your local natural-foods store. If not, you can order it from several companies listed in Appendix C, including Twin Valley Mills (twinvalleymills.com). This company is also a source of general information on sorghum and gluten-free recipes using sorghum.
  • Millet has long been a staple food of Africa and India. It is available as millet flour and millet meal, both of which are light yellow. This grain tastes and looks similar to cornmeal. The flour, which has a powdery consistency, works well in baked goods. Millet may be available in your local natural-foods store. If not, it may be ordered from several companies listed in Appendix C, including Bob's Red Mill (bobsredmill.com). This company is also a source of general information on millet and gluten-free recipes using millet.
  • Teff (also spelled tef) is a staple grain of Ethiopia, where it is used to make flatbread called injera. It is available as teff grain and teff flour. Teff flour works well in baked goods, and the grain can be cooked like rice and eaten as either a savory side dish or a sweet breakfast cereal. Teff grain is tiny and expands when cooked. This grain may be relatively difficult to find locally, but it can be ordered from suppliers in Appendix C, including The Teff Company (teffco.com). This company is also a source of general information on teff and gluten-free recipes using teff.
  • Wild rice is native to North America and was used as a staple food by Native Americans. It is unrelated to rice but is often mixed with rice or may be used in place of rice in recipes. It adds nice color and chewy texture to rice dishes. This grain is generally carried by natural-foods stores and some supermarkets. It can also be ordered from companies listed in Appendix C, including Gibbs Wild Rice (gibbswildrice.com). This company also is a source of general information on wild rice and gluten-free recipes using wild rice.

Amaranth, Quinoa, and Buckwheat

Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat may also be eaten on a gluten-free diet. Based on plant taxonomy (a scientific plant classification system), buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa are not true cereal grains but rather are herbs harvested for their seeds; cereal grains, by contrast, are classified as grasses. However, they are often referred to as pseudocereals because the fruits and seeds of these plants may be used in food (such as breads, baked goods, breakfast cereals, and pasta) in a manner similar to cooking with true cereal grains. The following list briefly describes these plants. For delicious recipes using them, see Chapter 6.

  • Amaranth is available as amaranth seed, amaranth flour, amaranth bran flour, and puffed amaranth. Amaranth flour works well in baked goods, and the seed is particularly good in soups. Amaranth seed is quite small (although not as small as teff) and does not expand much when cooked. Amaranth is generally carried by natural-foods stores. It also may be ordered from sources listed in Appendix C, including Nu-World Amaranth (nuworldamaranth.com). This company also is a good source of general information on amaranth and gluten-free recipes using amaranth.
  • Quinoa is available as quinoa seed, quinoa flakes, and quinoa flour. Quinoa seed is very easy to cook and is a good replacement for rice. Quinoa is generally carried by natural-foods stores and some supermarkets. It also may be ordered from sources listed in Appendix C, including the Quinoa Corporation (quinoa.net). This company also is a good source of general information on quinoa and gluten-free recipes using quinoa.
  • Buckwheat is available as buckwheat flour, buckwheat flakes, buckwheat kernels, kasha (roasted dehulled buckwheat), and buckwheat groats (raw, dehulled buckwheat). Buckwheat flour works well in a variety of baked goods, and kasha works well as a side dish and mixed with other grains. Buckwheat is generally available in natural-foods stores and some supermarkets. It also may be ordered from sources listed in Appendix C, including The Birkett Mills (thebirkettmills.com). This company also is a source of general information on buckwheat and gluten-free recipes.

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Living Gluten Free

Living Gluten Free

A beginners guide that will reveal how living "G" free can help you lose weight today! This is not a fad diet, or short term weight loss program that sometimes makes you worse off than before you started. This is a necessity for some people and is prescribed to 1 out of every 100 people on earth by doctors and health professionals.

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