A gluten-free diet is as trendy as the latest dress, but if you don’t have celiac disease — which is marked by severe gluten intolerance — can you benefit from cutting out gluten foods?
Gluten is a protein complex. It is found in several grains including wheat and related grains including semolina & barley. It is the stuff that gives elasticity to dough, makes breads chewy and pasta stretchy.
Gluten is found in food products made from grains naturally containing it but is also used as a protein additive to many products. For example, it is used in beer, soy sauce, dressings, gravy, ketchup, canned soups etc. It is also added to commercially produced bread as it makes the dough rise more easily and improves the uniformity, structure and texture of the bread.
However, you do not need to quit Gluten as a fashion fad. People with celiac disease (severe autoimmune disease) have no choice but to quit Gluten completely. However, for rest of us it is more about listening to our bodies. They talk, but we hardly listen.
A vast majority of people suffer from gases, acidity, indigestion, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and these symptoms are indicators of myriad of things and gluten intolerance is only one of them.
Before falling prey to food industry listen to your own body:
- Are you overeating?
- Are you eating because you are hungry or because you are feeling low or angry
- Do you know when to stop eating?
- What are the types of food you are choosing, is it balanced?
- Are you simply stuffing yourself with processed food?
So, once you introspect on these, you realise that you will bring more mindfulness in your eating.
Is wheat the culprit?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, because we are only eating wheat. Whether it is our regular home cooked meal, for Indians it is Roti and globally breads, pastas, pizzas and the likes.
No, because I am not asking you to be anal about it.
And what wheat are we eating?
Before the agricultural revolution we were not a grain eating species. But 10,000 years since wheat domesticated us (I love this quote by Harari), wheat has been the top predator of the Plant family. It is in every corner of the world. While in the process of our human evolution we learnt to digest wheat, wheat is no longer the original “mother of wheat”. The food industry and agriculturist have made several hundred hybrid varieties of wheat, and the original wheat is bearly available. And this mutated wheat is high in gluten and very heavy to digest.
And well then we have the processed all purpose flour (maida) which is used in breads and pastas and any food that needs elasticity. This has even higher amounts of gluten.
And whether you have a celiac disease or not, human gut isn’t capable of digesting this modern wheat which we are overdosing ourselves with.
When I say try a gluten free diet, I don’t want you to become anal about it. I recommend you become more mindful about what you are eating. Why you are eating? Is it suiting your body?
Don’t stop wheat, bring variety. Bring alternatives and see how it transforms your life.
So are carbohydrates the culprits?
No. Absolutely not. But carbs don’t mean wheat only. And a meal cannot be only carbs. Again, mindfully balancing your meal with different types of grains, proteins, fat and fibre is the key to healthy life.
What are the alternatives for WHEAT a.k.a gluten free diet?
Depending on which part of the world you live different options may work for you. Don’t go running to a fancy super market serving global food. Start slow and start something locally available. A native grain/alternative that is both pocket and gut friendly 😅
- Jowar (sorghum)
- Bajra (pearl millet)
- Ragi (finger millet, nachni)
- Oats (yes, make a flour out of the healthy oats)
- Amaranth (Rajgira)
- Rice flour
- Makai atta (not synonymous to regular corn flour used to thicken the soups and gravies)
- Gram flour (besan)
Millets are great for health.
They are frequently described as “ancient grains”, though they are technically seeds. They are nutrient-rich and offer numerous heart-protective properties and are full of fibre. Plus, they add something unique that can help add some flavor variety to your modern wheat only diet 🙄
Here are more specifics for souls who need it
A cup of cooked millet contains about 207 calories with over 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and less than 2 grams of fat. It is rich in minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium as well as essential vitamins like folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and Vitamins B6, C, E, and K.
Some ideas for gluten free recipes:
- Millet upma (jowar, barley, ragi)
- Millets Cereals (exclude wheat. Also, Corn flakes per se are gluten free but most brands have malt coating which is gluten)
- Oats porridge.
- Main course:
- Potato stufffed with veggies and mushroom
- soya chunks stir fried
- Vegetable fried rice
- Jowar Burritos bowl
- Egg plant bruschetta
- Rice flour momos
- Any rice preparation
- Swap wheat rotis with millets or gram or rice flour.
- Mix vegetable besan chillas
- Chikkis (sesame, peanut, amaranth)
- Besan laddoos
- Dates, nuts and seeds
- Oats or quinoa halwa
People who go WHEAT FREE often are relieved of their persistent bloating,gases, constipation, gastric headaches etc. Also, the health benefits of other grains are immense including their rich fibre content. Making it more nutritious. Needless to say it is highly recommended if you are trying to lose weight as well. Patients often tell me how light they feel, how it has helpled their bowels and how amazing it is for the taste buds!
My humble request once again is be mindful eaters and listen to your bodies.
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