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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

A Gluten-Free Diet is a Must for Some Individuals

Posted by Jenna Smith -

When walking through my local grocery store the other day I happened to find myself in a small section of gluten-free products. I was intrigued by the fact that these gluten-free products now had a specific aisle and section just for them. Just 10 years ago, gluten-free products were harder to find than a needle in a haystack. But gluten-free foods are on the rise and have had an annual sales increase of about 30% each year since 2006.

So just who needs to go gluten-free? Despite the popularity among celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga, a gluten-free diet is not an appropriate weight-loss strategy. In fact, it could even contribute to weight gain since many gluten-free products are processed and high in calories, fat and sodium. It's important to note that gluten is not unhealthy. Gluten is a protein found in a variety of cereal grains, including wheat. Many of these products include vital nutrients that the body needs. But for those diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet is a must.

Avoiding gluten is not that easy. While sources of gluten are wheat, rye, barley, and triticale, there are many products and ingredients, such as baked beans, broth, and frosting that may be made or cross-contaminated with these grains. Oats, for example, are naturally gluten-free, but they may be processed in a facility that processes wheat. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity the mere dust of gluten can cause pain, nausea, diarrhea, and even damage to the small intestine. Not all products are labeled "gluten-free." Look in the ingredient list for sources of gluten. Wheat may be listed as spelt, kamut, durum, farina, or semolina (or a variety of other names), and barley is usually present in products that contain "malt" anything. If it's still not clear, contact the company and ask about ingredients and production. Examples of gluten-free foods are amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, millet, soy, sorghum, tapioca, rice, quinoa, corn, flax, legumes, nuts, fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, fish and poultry.

But there is good news for those needing to avoid gluten! In August of 2013, the FDA set criteria for using the claim "gluten-free" on packaging. In order for a package to be labeled "gluten-free," it must contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. Most people with celiac disease can tolerate this very small amount of gluten, and this level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards. This is a great victory for those who need to avoid gluten. Before the new guidelines, a product could label their product as gluten-free and yet still have a considerable amount of gluten in it. Read the FDA's Consumer Update for more information about the new guidelines.

When trying to bake gluten-free, experiment with a variety of gluten-free flours and gums, such as xanthan gum and potato flour. A mix of flours and gums will usually result in better outcomes than using just one type of flour. Before baking, let the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. This can help hydrate the starches fully, which can improve the texture of the final product.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

¼ cup butter, softened

3 Tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

½ cup fat-free milk

1 cup gluten-free flour blend (see below)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

 

Heat oven to 425°F. Combine softened butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in sour cream and milk. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining ingredients. Beat just until mixed. Pour batter into greased 8­inch square baking pan. Bake for

18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

 

Gluten-free flour blend: Combine 2 cups brown rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour and 1 teaspoon xantham gum. Use appropriate amount for recipe; store remainder in container with tight-fitting lid. Stir before using.

 

Yield: 9 servings

Nutritional analysis per serving: 197 Calories, 8 grams fat, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 309 milligrams sodium, 26 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams protein

Source: University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service



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