I noticed in my practice that there is some confusion about gluten free grains. Many people think that oats are gluten free. And that gluten free oats are more processed than normal oats. So let’s look into that.
One of the first things I advise clients with digestive issues is to eliminate gluten. And many of them start feeling a lot better! But it can be confusing. And hard. Because the rest of the world eats gluten, gluten is in almost every processed food and gluten containing foods are a big part of our social life. Think birthday cake, tea and biscuits and beer…
So what about oats?
Well, technically oats are a gluten free grain. But they are usually grown in fields where they grow oats and glutenous grains (like wheat, rye and barley) in rotation. Which means that when there are still wheat kernels on the field from last year, they will grow wheat plants between the oats. So the oat harvest will probably have quite a bit of wheat in it as well.
Then when the oats are processed in a factory, guess what else gets processed there? Loads of wheat.
So oats in themselves are gluten free but are contaminated with (mostly) wheat. Oats that are marked ‘gluten free’ are the same oats, but they are grown in fields where they don’t grow gluten containing grain and processed away from wheat.
So yay! You can still have your porridge in the morning if you’re following a gluten free protocol. As long as it explicitly says they are gluten free. The same for oatcakes, oat biscuits, oat bars etc. Want to make your own oat bars? Here’s a recipe!
Which is great because oats are a very nutritious grain. They’re a good source of fiber, trace minerals and even plant-based protein. Eating gluten-free oatmeal regularly is a good way to obtain B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium.
Here is a recipe for something sweet and delicious and satisfying that doesn’t have any refined sugar, gluten or dairy.
I found it in one of the great cookbooks by the sisters Hemsley and Hemsley Good and Simple and I often bring it to parties and potlucks – so I know I can have a really delicious dessert as well 🙂
H&H call it Fridge Fudge but I think it tastes more like halva, but less sweet. Anyway, it has some good fiber, lots of minerals from the sesame seeds and good fats from the tahini and the coconut oil.
It’s a really simple procedure and there’s one important thing to remember: it needs to stay cooled. As soon as you leave it on the table for longer than say twenty minutes, it starts getting too soft and it loses it’s bite. Still great taste though.
You will need a simple food processor. Now you don’t need a big and expensive one; for this recipe I use the one that came with my stick blender. If you don’t have one of these, I think it worth considering. I use it almost every day: to blend soups and sauces, make energy balls and chop onions and garlic very finely.
Makes 12 – 15 small squares
85 gr dates: use the cheaper ones that are a bit harder and dryer, like these. So not the more expensive and squishy Medjool dates…
Golden or turmeric milk is a cow’s, nut or coconut milk, heated with a good amount of turmeric in it. I shouldn’t be saying this as a nutrition and herb expert because of it’s great properties, but… I didn’t like to drink it! The reason was that I used turmeric powder. That leaves you with quite a lot of bits in your milk and it has quite a strong bitter taste.
But now they’re selling fresh turmeric root in my local shop, so I decided to try again. Delicious! I loved it! Maybe you want to have a try as well.
Turmeric is well known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. And this is not something woo woo to brush aside: there are currently over 10,000 peer-reviewed articles published proving turmeric benefits, especially one of its renowned healing compounds, curcumin.
In several of those papers the researchers compared turmeric to conventional medicine, and found out it worked equally well or even better than the pharmaceutical medication!
Recently turmeric has even been recognised for helping with depression!
Turmeric milk recipe
I like to use fresh ginger root in my turmeric milk as well, as it makes it nice and warming. And I do add a tiny bit of sweetener.
One warning: turmeric can stain your clothes yellow, so don’t wear your new white shirt and make sure you put on a apron!
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp grated fresh turmeric
Optional: a teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 mug of coconut milk from a can, full fat
1/2 mug of water
Or; 1 mug of home made nut or seed milk
A tiny bit of sweetener: 3 drops of liquid stevia or a teaspoon of raw honey or maple syrup, optional
Put all your ingredients except for the sweetener in a saucepan
Heat gently until hot but not boiling
Leave it on a very low heat for 5 minutes
Pour through a tea strainer and add the sweetener if you want
Hummus is such a versatile and easy to make dish! I make this hummus recipe nearly every week because it’s a great one to have in my fridge in case of a snack attack. Or when the lunch of dinner I made is a bit bland or low in protein and healthy fats. This one is great for blood sugar and hormone balance!
It’s lovely as a snack with carrot, cucumber or bell pepper cut in sticks. A great one to bring with you when traveling as well!
Dried chickpeas vs cans
I use dried chickpeas, as ‘they’ use hormone balance disrupting Bisphenol-A (BPA) for the lining of the cans. Even the organic ones. Yikes! And I can’t find any beans in glass near to me. Anyway, cooking your chickpeas is easy peasy and cheap.
I start with a cup of dried chickpeas and soak them overnight with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This makes them a lot easier to digest. In the morning I rinse them well and discard any dark ones. Then I gently cook them with some salt until they are firm and not mushy. It depends on their age how long it takes! If they are too firm, let them simmer for another half hour with the lid on.
This would give you enough to store some in the freezer so you’ll have enough for 3 or 4 batches of hummus!
Serves 4 Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice. You can add more after tasting.
1 big or two small garlic cloves
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
¼ tsp of salt
½ cup of tahini
4 tbsp of water
2 tbsp of olive oil
optional: smoked paprika powder
You can use a small or big a food processor or a hand held blender for this. Don’t have any of these? No problem. You can also use a fork. Make sure you cut the garlic very finely or use garlic powder (1/4 tsp) to avoid having a big clump of raw garlic…
How to do it:
Press or finely cut garlic
Put chickpeas, salt, tahini, garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of water, cumin in food processor or container for blender.
Blend and then taste! Make thinner with water and add salt, lemon, garlic or cumin to taste.
Put in a bowl, drizzle the rest of the olive oil over it and shake some (smoked) paprika powder on for taste and beauty.
Going gluten free meant we had to re-think our snacks. My husband Hugo works as a handyman and gets hungry very easily. If he doesn’t have a good snack on him he will grab something that doesn’t work for him and suffer later.
These bars are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar and easy to make. We love them and usually make a double batch because they tend to disappear quickly.
We make them with bananas, but they work with steamed or roasted squash or sweet potato as well.
Here’s the recipe:
. 2 cups of (gluten free) oats
. 2 tbsp ground linseed
. 1½ tsp cinnamon
. ½ tsp ginger powder
. ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
. 1 tsp ground fennel
. ¼ tsp salt
. 2 mashed ripe bananas (or 1 cup of steamed or roasted and then pureed pumpkin or squash)
. ½ cup almond butter
. 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
. 8 pitted medjoul dates
. 1 tsp vanilla extract
. 10 drops liquid stevia or 2 tbsp coconut sugar or date syrup, optional
. ½ cup raisins
. ½ cup walnuts (optional but very nice)
How to do it:
. Cover the dates with hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes
. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (oats, linseed, spices, salt, raisins, nuts)
. Blend the wet ingredients with a fork or use a stick blender: (dates, water, bananas, almond butter, vanilla extract, coconut oil)
. Line a 20-20 cm square tray with baking paper and spread evenly
. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes on 180 degrees C
. Cut and cool on a cooling rack
Have you seen the gluten free shelves in the supermarket expanding? Many people are aware of their gluten sensitivity or even have coeliac disease. And the gluten-free food industry is eagerly stepping in. Which doesn’t mean that gluten free products are necessarily healthy: they’re almost always highly processed and contain lots of sugar, soy and processed oils.
So what to do if you want or need to go an a healthy gluten free diet? Here are some tips to help you transition:
Shop on the outside aisles of your supermarket. That’s where the healthy foods are usually located. So stock up on organic fruits and vegetables, lean meats and eggs among others.
Read labels!When you buy packaged foods, it’s important to understand what they contain. Foods that include wheat, rye, spelt, barley, or kamut contain gluten. Also, look for words like “spices,” “flavoring,” “modified food starch,” “maltodextrin,” “glucose syrup,” and “citric acid.” These can all contain gluten. Be sure to read the ingredients list and also the “contains” section of food labels.
These are the grains you can eat: quinoa, teff, buckwheat, brown rice, millet and amaranth. If you want to try oats, look for the gluten free ones. They’re not more processed than the regular ones, just grown and rolled in a safe way.
“Gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy‘. Especially stay away from gluten-free cakes, sweets and biscuits. They contain often loads of sugar and processed flours and are low in nutrients.
Don’t buy any ready-made sauces and dressings. Make your own so you make sure they are healthy and without any gluten, sugar or processed ingredients.
Go back to the kitchen and prepare your own meals. Chopping your veg and preparing your meal is a great way to unwind from a busy day. And it’s a lot cheaper as well!
Find some great websites and blogs. Cooking healthy and delicious meals is so much easier now with all the inspiration you can find online. I love the Deliciouslyella blog. Her recipes are also dairy and refined sugar free. Mynewroots is another great and very creative one. And if you love baking and sweet treats, have a look at Livia’s kitchen. Start with two or three easy meals at first. Once you feel comfortable, move of to more challenging or time-consuming recipes.
Get prepping. Make a big pot of soup and freeze it in portions. Make a batch of your favorite snacks with a friend. So that when you’re tired or uninspired you won’t be reaching for the not-so-good stuff. You’ll find more ideas in my free Healthy Eating on the Go guide.
Know which alcohol to avoid. Gluten-free alcohol includes cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs, but remember that beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten.
Over to you! What are your top tips for going gluten free?