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Pretzel and White Chocolate Chip Cookies.(Photo by: Courtesy)
The gluten-free buzz
Switching to a totally gluten-free diet is a major change in lifestyle, so before doing it, find out what the truth is behind the trend?
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 products.

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.

A further 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 obesity.

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.

You 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 flour.

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.

Consult 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.

Drop 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 (, 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.
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