Localicious: The Gluten-Free Belly

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If we ourselves aren’t “gluten-free” we likely know of someone who is. “Gluten-free” simply means that one has removed gluten from their diet, typically due to a sensitivity, intolerance, or an allergy to gluten. Many say eliminating gluten has made a positive impact on their health, and the number of people taking on this diet change is rising.

What is it about this little protein component in many common grains that’s causing such a ruckus? And why are so many people experiencing problems with it today?

For one thing, hybridized wheat typically grown today is much different to what we consumed 10,000 years ago, explains Dr. William Davis in his book Wheat Belly. A wild four-foot-tall grass called Einkorn was the original wheat stalk that once fed our ancestors. It contained only 14 genes whereas the dwarfed stalks of wheat grown today contain 40-plus genes.

art-515-loca2According to Davis, this “new” wheat variety was never tested for safety or dietary compatibility before being sold to the public. He’s found it at the root of most diabetes, arthritis, and the ubiquitous fattening of Western populations, especially in America. Davis writes, “Small changes in wheat protein structure can spell the difference between a devastating immune response to wheat protein versus no immune response at all.”

Sometimes wheat alone is the culprit, and other times it’s gluten. We each have our own unique biochemistry with different dietary needs and responses. Food allergies and intolerances, when triggered, often cause the body’s immune system to overreact.

Wheat is not the only grain that contains gluten. Rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale and semolina all hold this pesky protein within their structure.

Gluten (typically from wheat) is often added to breads, crackers and meats as a binding agent. It’s used to make soy sauce, pasta, licorice, and even the waxy encasing of brie cheese. Eliminating gluten can be tricky, but can easily be done once you are aware of its sources.

A gluten-free lifestyle may narrow down our meal options but doesn’t have to limit our enjoyment of food. It requires becoming a skilled label reader and perhaps a creative cook, and encourages a whole-foods style of diet, which naturally promotes better health and energy. All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, as are a number of grains, including quinoa, rice, buckwheat and millet.

For those switching to a gluten-free diet, “Keep an open mind, try new things,” advises Jennifer Coles, owner of Coco Gluten-Free Baking Company in Chico. Fueled by a desire to keep her love of baking alive after learning she needed to remove wheat and gluten from her diet, Jen created her bakery, which offers everything from sweet treats to savory dinner rolls.

Coco Gluten-Free Bakery uses organic and local ingredients as much as possible and offers a wide array of items, including paleo donuts, vegan velvet cupcakes, grain-free triple-chocolate brownies, Chico Chai biscotti, and sandwich bread – great for school lunches and French toast! Jen’s hand-crafted pastries can be found at five local coffee shops offering gluten-free menu items. Order items online at http://www.cocobaking.com, by calling (530) 513-3117, or find them on Saturdays, 8am-1pm, at the Chico Certified Farmers Market at 2nd and Flume Streets. 

Vicki Leidi of Amazing Foods for Health has been involved in the natural food industry for over 30 years and has helped numerous people with food allergies embrace needed changes in their diets. She created a line of organic gluten-free baking mixes that are also free of the top eight food allergens. The mixes use ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and flax, and can be purchased at seven Upper California locations, including Orchard Nutrition in Redding, and Chico Natural Foods. To find all locations or to order online, visit http://www.amazingfoodsforhealth.com.

“I want to help people embrace the gluten-free lifestyle – it has so many positive benefits,” says Vicki. “There’s a whole world of gluten-free food out there!”  

art-515-loca3Grain-Free Morning Glory Muffins*

Makes 6 Muffins

A great combination of fruit, vegetable, nut and coconut ingredients, this muffin is a healthy, fiber-rich addition to any breakfast or brunch. Use organic ingredients when possible.

  • 3 Tbs unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract or vanilla flavor
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ Tbs unrefined coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 6 muffin cups with coconut oil. Mix together eggs, remaining coconut oil, applesauce and vanilla. Add in salt, baking soda, cinnamon and coconut sugar. Whisk coconut flour into batter until there are no lumps. Fold in shredded carrot, raisins and nuts.
  2. Fill muffin cups with batter, and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Bake 20 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate.

*Recipe courtesy of Melissa Diane Smith, author of Going Against the Grain, from her new book Going Against GMOs. For more information, visit MelissaDianeSmith.com and GoingAgainstGMOs.com.

Hannah Kraemer
About Hannah Kraemer

A resident of Siskiyou County since 2013, writer Hannah Nelson’s main passion is nutrition. Graduating from the Nutritional Therapy Association in June 2011, she gives her best to helping others live a healthier, fuller life.

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