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My journey to a Gluten-Free diet

7:41 PM Posted by Vanessa Pike-Russell
What prompted you to change to a Gluten-free diet?

Over the years I have become aware of foods with gluten which can trigger nasty side-effects. Most of the times they are foods that I crave, such a starchy breads, cakes or doughnuts. Consumption of these 'comfort foods' can result in painful side-effects such as stomach cramps, wind, bloating, diarrhoea, facial bloating and sometimes headaches and 'brain fog'. Now it has a name - Gluten sensitivity.

"
Gluten sensitivity (GS) encompasses a collection of medical conditions in which gluten has an adverse effect... Gluten is composed of the sticky, storage proteins found in wheat."1

It wasn't until I started to note the link between diet and my body's response that I realised I was sensitive to gluten and yeast. When I removed these foods from my diet I found I had more energy and very little bloating and my bowel problems all but disappeared.

Since delving into Gluten-Free diet I have learned that it is not only wheat which I have to avoid, but a wider range of grains and some sauces which use wheat-based thickening. It is the hidden sources of gluten in food which makes dining out or buying takeaway meals so difficult.

"
A gluten-free diet is a diet completely free of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals: wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent." 2


I have friends who are Celiacs and for them any gluten can trigger a world of pain - even a crumb. The term coeliac derives from the Greek κοιλιακός (koiliakόs, "abdominal")

"Coeliac disease (pronounced siːli.æk/), also spelled celiac disease, is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy on up. Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described. A growing portion of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increased screening... Other cereals such as maize (corn), quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, rice, and wild rice are safe for patients to consume" 3

At first the changes I made was to limit the amount of bread I ate to two slices a day, switching from the cheap white bread to gluten-free Soy and Linseed bread. I also cut out wheat-based pasta and switched to rice and corn-based varieties purchased in the health food section of Woolworths and Coles.

Now I prefer to eat Gluten-Free bread such as Country Life Bakery Low-GI Gluten Free which can be purchased through Woolworths. It is made with a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, Linseed meal, psyllium husks, buckwheat, rice bran - and tastes fantastic!

These can be expensive but if you limit yourself to two pieces of bread a day and keep some bread frozen in sandwich bags in packs of two they can last longer. The loaf size is half that of regular bread and twice as expensive but you can't put a price on your health. Before I go shopping I visit Woolworths HomeShop (homeshop.com.au) and do a search for Gluten-Free. You would be surprised at the range that Woolworths stocks. Sometimes you may need to ask the store manager to order in some products in a range, as I have found that some of the smaller stores such as Warilla Grove do not carry the full line but are often willing to order them in if there is a need. Woolworths now delivers to more areas including Lake Illawarra where I live, which makes things easier.

What Gluten-Free products do you use?

Favourite brands stocked at Woolworths include:


Country Life Bread Gluten Free Sliced 510g $6.13


Woolworths Free From Pizza Dough Gluten Free 320g
$3.40

Woolworths Free From Choc Chip Muffin Mix Gluten Free 450g $5.28

San Remo Pasta Macaroni Gluten Free 250g


Leda Gluten Free Gingernut Cookies 155g
3.18

Freedom Foods Gluten Free Wraps 170g 4.37



Orgran Flour S/Raise Wheat Gluten Free 500g
3.51
Nu-Vit Linseed Gluten Free 500g 2.28


I also enjoy the Empower range of Gluten-Free cake and muffin mixes available at health food stores.

I often make my own breads, including Cornbread which is made from using three types of corn flours (polenta, cornfour and white maize). It is wonderful for sandwiches or as an accompaniment to dishes such as stews, curries and soups. It tates great when toasted with some chilli and cheese and you can add other ingredients to it to make it more savory, such as jalapeno chills and Parmesan. Today I made some jalapeno chilli and Parmesan cornbread muffins which are cooking as I write. The smells reminds me a little of the cheesey scones my Grandmother used to make.

Does having a Gluten free diet equate that you can have a boring menu?

As the list of gluten-free flours grow it is getting easier to cook our favourite meals without a loss of flavour or texture. I am excited by the use of coconut flour (made from
finely ground coconut meat) and coconut oil for shortbreads and other biscuits but also in pastries and pie crusts. Rather than feeling saddened by the need to restrict gluten in my diet I am excited by the alternatives that are out there and look upon this as a way of widening my ingredients list and exploring some of the long established gluten-free alternatives used in cuisines around the world.

For example, Besan or Gram (chickpea) flour "is a staple ingredient in Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines... and when mixed with an equal proportion of water, can be used as an egg-replacer in vegan cooking... the flour is used to make pakoras, papadums, and onion bhajis, Burmese tofu, and jidou liangfen."3

When I realised this, it explained why I had less problems with much of the Indian cuisine I enjoy than I did when ordering pizzas or other wheat-based fast food favourites. If you don't have access to Besan Flour then you can make some yourself using chickpeas which are available in many supermarkets and health food stores. The following recipe for besan flour is from Wikipedia, a wonderful source of gluten-free flour information, as is the Celiac Sprue Association.

How to make Besan Flour at home:

1. Take pre-cooked chickpeas, rinse thoroughly and drain.
2. Spread evenly across an un-greased baking tray and cook on medium heat for 2–3 hours then turn off oven and leave overnight to cool.

3. Place into a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine consistency.

There are other recipes available on Illawarra Gluten Free and available online. I suggest you start by printing out a list of gluten-free flours and working from there.

What are some of the most well-known varieties of Gluten-free flours?

There are many types of flours that are naturally gluten-free. Some are nut based, others plant or seed based.
Almond meal *
Amaranth flour
Arrowroot flour *
Artichoke flour
Besan (chickpea) flour *
Brown rice flour
Buckwheat flour
Channah (type of chickpea) flour
Coconut Flour (finely ground coconut meat)
Corn flour *
Corn meal *
Cottonseed flour
Dahl or Dal flour (Indian split peas or beans ground as flour)
Flaxseed meal (also known as liniseed meal) *
Garbanzo meal (chickpea aka besan and gram)
Lentil flour
Maize (Corn) *
Millet flour
Nut meal
Peanut flour
Quinoa flour
Semolina flour*
Sunflower seed flour
Items with a * are available at most Woolworth stores. Others can be found at Health Food Stores and online.
If you do want to eat out at restaurants and cafes that cater to gluten-free diets pay a visit to the Gluten Free Eating Directory of Australia I have also discovered Green Poppy in Shellharbour has a wide range of gluten-free products and been introduced to Lee & Me in Wollongong Mall by a friend, making my trips into Wollongong more enjoyable. The Educated Palate in Wollongong also offers gluten-free cakes and products. The biggest find has been the Go-Vita Superstore in Shellharbour Medical Center which stocks a wide range of gluten free breads, flours, pies, pastries and ready-made meals. With the help of Woolworths, Go-Vita and The Green Poppy my search for gluten-free products has been made so much easier.

As you can see the reduction of Gluten from my diet has been a positive experience. If you still believe that Gluten-free means flavour-free take a look at a sample gourmet gluten-free banquet.

MENU
(from A Gourmet Gluten-Free Dining Experience)


GF = Gluten Free
DF = Dairy Free
V = Vegetarian

BREADS
Cornbread: Cornflour, Yellow Polenta, Salt, Gluten-free self-raising flour, butter, agave syrup, buttermilk) GF DF
Tortilla: Corn tortillas, some lightly toasted for dipping in Guacamole

ENTREES
Guacamole (Avocado, lemon juice, garlic, salt, gluten-free home made tortilla chips) GF DF
Goats cheese & lyonnaise tart with beetroot, hazelnuts & baby endives GF

MAINS
Spinach and ricotta gnocchi with choice of sage butter or homemade tomato sauce GF V
Mussells marinara in a spicy marinara sauce (mussells with tomato, spices, herbs, grapeseed oil) GF DF
Surf and Turf - Scotch Fillet topped with Garlic prawns (GARLIC PRAWNS: Prawns, Garlic, Coconut Oil, Salt) GF DF

DESSERT
Ricotta cheesecake with Passionfruit couli (gluten free biscuit base, ricotta cheese, agave syrup, passionfruit pulp) GF
Fruit salad (Kiwi fruit, lychees, longan, pineapple, mango)
Gluten free chocolate biscotti

Each menu item is gluten free and offers a vegan-friendly entree or main. It also includes a few dairy-free items for those who are intolerant or sensitive to dairy or lactose.

I have chosen a range of mains (dairy, seafood, meat) so that there is a choice and the colours will look great in photos. Picture the green of the spinach in the spinachand ricotta gnocchi complemented by the red of the homemade tomato sauce. The lush green of the guacamole and the cute and pretty lyonnaise tarts with cubes of roasted beetroot and justo decorate the plate. For the meat eaters, a healthy portion of steak with prawns on top. And to finish the evening some delicious and colourful desserts destined to please and convert anyone who held beliefs that gluten free means a lack of flavour :)


I hope that providing a hub of Gluten-Free information tailored to the Illawarra will be of benefit to others in similar situation. If you know of a gluten free product, company, restaurant or cafe please leave a comment and I will add it to the site.

References:

  1. Gluten Sensitivity by Wikipedia
    URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten_sensitivity
  2. Gluten-Fre Diet
    URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten-free
  3. Celiac disease by Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celiac_disease
  4. List of Gluten Free Flours by Illawarra Gluten Free
    URL: http://illawarraglutenfree.blogspot.com/2009/07/gluten-free-flours.html
  5. Besan / Gram flour by Wikipedia
    URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gram_flour
  6. Gluten-Free Diet by Wikipedia
    URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten-free
  7. Gluten Free Eating Directory of Australia
    URL: http://www.glutenfreeeatingdirectory.com.au/
Shopping
  1. The Green Poppy, Shellharbour
    Shop 2/8 Addison St
    Shellharbour, NSW 2529
    Phone: (02) 4295 1234
    http://www.greenpoppy.com.au/

  2. Go-Vita Superstore Shellharbour
  3. Unit 15 / 75 Cygnet Avenue, Shellharbour City Centre, NSW 2529
    p: (02) 4297 4916 f: (02) 4297 4920 http://www.govita.com.au
  4. Woolworths
  5. Coles
  6. Happy Bellies Food Co-Op at University of Wollongong
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