It is difficult to escape the omnipresent furor in the media touting
gluten-free products and a gluten-free diet. “There’s no smoke without
fire,” my grandmother used to say, and obviously there must be something
in this. To discover the inside story, read on.
Gluten is a
protein, such as meat, fish or eggs. It is present in various quantities
in many grains, predominantly wheat. Mankind has been eating bread, the
staff of life, with wheat flour for millennia and seems to have
survived thus far. So why has gluten been targeted as the nouveau bad
guy? If you are a celiac sufferer, the answer is elementary, my dear
Watson. Celiac disease is a hereditary, genetic anomaly of the digestive
tract, predominantly in persons of European origin, manifesting when
gluten is eaten. For celiac sufferers, that is equivalent to someone
allergic to bee stings being stung by a bee. It can result in
anaphylactic shock and can be life threatening. Approximately 1 percent
of the population suffers from celiac disease, and for them even a
microscopic amount of gluten is dangerous.
A much larger portion
of the public suffers from gluten intolerance, which is not as severe as
celiac but causes the sufferer to experience discomfort, bloatedness,
lethargy and a plethora of other symptoms after eating gluten-rich
To reveal whether you are a celiac sufferer is
definitive and requires a biopsy. To find out if you suffer from gluten
intolerance is more subjective. You would need to go on a gluten-free
diet for a number of months and compare your sense of wellbeing to the
period during which you were eating gluten.
For most of us, the
problem is not so much the gluten itself but the glut of gluten in
today’s mass-produced-food society. Gluten is ubiquitous. Think grains,
baked goods, pasta, cereals, processed meat and poultry, sauces,
candies, even beer! Not content with the gluten naturally present in
wheat, most bakeries add extra gluten to their baked products to make
them rise higher and improve texture. We are being deluged by gluten,
and that is the real problem for the average person.
aspect of the problem is that modern wheat, genetically engineered to
improve agricultural yield, has a higher resulting concentration of
gliadin, a component of the gluten protein, which is an appetite
stimulant, causing us to eat more than we should and contributing to
Any way you look at it, living in modern society is not
the same as even 100 years ago. While mankind has previously managed to
thrive on the staff of life for millennia, he was never faced with such a
deluge of gluten as he is today.
Common-sense wisdom (and much medical research) therefore seems to dictate cutting down on our gluten consumption.
can start by reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet and
emphasizing the more basic food types like meat, fish, eggs, milk,
grains, vegetables and fruit. You can further cut down the gluten
content by eating whole-grain products rather than those made from white
Switching from wheat products to those made from grains
that are lower in gluten, like spelt or oat flour, is also an excellent
way to go.
If you need to cut out gluten completely, life becomes exponentially more complicated.
with your physician or dietician and research on the Internet which
foods are totally gluten-free. There are many of them. Remember, though,
switching to a totally gluten-free diet is a major change in lifestyle
and not something that should be considered by the faint hearted.Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
✔ 1 cup brown sugar
✔ ¾ cup butter (or gluten-free margarine), softened
✔ 2 eggs
✔ 2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla essence
✔ 2¼ cups gluten-free flour mix (see below)
✔ ¼ tsp. xanthan gum
✔ 1 tsp. baking soda
✔ ½ tsp. salt
✔ 2 cups gluten-free chocolate chips
✔ Gluten-free flour mix: 2 cups rice flour, ⅔ cup potato starch,⅓ cup tapioca flour, 1 tsp. xanthan gum.
Preheat oven to 180°.
Cream sugar and butter in mixer.
Add eggs and vanilla while mixing.
Gradually add remaining dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
Stir in chocolate chips.
rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto a baking tray 5cm. apart. Bake for
9-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on tray for 2 minutes and
transfer to cooling rack Les Saidel, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in Ginot Shomron with his wife, Sheryl, and four children.
He is the owner of Saidel’s Bakery (www.saidels.com
), which specializes in handmade organic health breads, and inventor of Rambam Bread. He also works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.