Go Gluten Free

What is gluten?

Gluten is the elastic protein found in most grains like wheat, barley, rye, semolina, durum, spelt, einkorn, triticale, farro, graham, bulgur wheat and even in commercially available oats. Gluten is pervasive, it can be found in a wide range of foods you wouldn't normally associate with wheat.

Thinking of going gluten free?

Ask to be pre-screened for Celiac disease first. You cannot be tested for Celiac disease once on a gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease is a serious, lifelong, gastrointestinal disorder that can cause a wide range of clinical symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal distension, weight loss, malnutrition and skin disorders due to permanent intolerance to gluten, a complex mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye.

Less than 5% of celiacs are diagnosed even though 1 in 100 North Americans have the disorder. Ask your doctor about the simple pre-screening blood test that will tell you whether you have this inherited disorder.

For more information about Celiac disease visit the Canadian Celiac Association website at www.celiac.ca.

Other reasons for going gluten free

Gluten-free diets aren't just for celiacs or those with wheat allergies. Eating wheat, even whole wheat can actually do more harm than good. it is estimated that up to 50 percent of the population may be intolerant to the high-gluten content in wheat being produced today. That is why it must be listed as one of the top 10 allergens.

The reason is that we don't completely digest all of the wheat, leaving the undigested portions to ferment. Wheat is also pro-inflammatory which means it's easily converted to sugar, causing a rise in insulin levels and cellular inflammation. Wheat can be found in so many foods that we do not expect to find it in.

Because wheat is found in so many foods, most people only discover their intolerance to gluten when they go gluten free and their overall health improves dramatically.

What is gluten free?

With so many items containing gluten in one form or another, you might think a gluten-free diet would be restrictive, but the opposite is true. There are lots of flours, grains and starches that are safe to eat, including:

  • Amaranth & amaranth flour
  • Arrowroot starch
  • Buckwheat
  • Kasha
  • Gluten-free oats and oatmeal
  • Chick peas
  • Soy, garbanzo & bean flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn & cornmeal
  • Polenta
  • Cornstarch
  • Millet & millet flour
  • Almond meal & flour
  • Chestnut meal & flour
  • Pecan meal & flour
  • Cashew meal & flour
  • Potato flour & starch
  • Quinoa flour
  • Rice & rice flour
  • Sorghum flour
  • Sweet potato & yam flour
  • Tapioca or manioc starch
  • Teff flour

There are also lots of safe pre-made foods, but because gluten is so pervasive, always check the label to make sure its says gluten free.

  • 100% corn tortillas & taco shells
  • Polenta rolls
  • Plain teff wraps
  • Brown rice tortilla wraps
  • Unflavored mochi
  • Corn pasta
  • Quinoa & corn pasta
  • Soy pasta
  • Brown & white rice pasta
  • Rice noodles
  • Rice glass noodles
  • Buckwheat soba noodles
  • Rice paper
  • Rice & tapioca wraps
  • Nut butters like peanut, pecan, almond & cashew
  • Seed butters like sunflower, sesame & hemp
  • Gluten-free beer and lager

Where do I begin?

The easiest way to go gluten free is to start with simple foods you already know like fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, plain chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Be wary of any broths, added seasonings, marinades, and of course batters. Eggs are also gluten free as is tofu, but avoid baked tofu because it often has seasonings that contain gluten.

All potatoes and rice, including risotto, are gluten free. To mix it up, you can also try quinoa. It's quick and easy to cook, and there are dozens of great recipes that use it.

What about dairy products? Cultured plain organic yogurt is gluten free. To sweeten it you can add honey, 100% fruit jam or pure maple syrup. Try to avoid flavored yogurt because they often have added granola or flavors made with gluten-based products. Aged cheeses like Cheddar and Parmesan are also safe, and even fresh goat cheese is gluten free, but again watch for added flavours. One last thing to remember about dairy; 'low fat' versions of dairy products often have added fillers or starches that may not be gluten free so check the label carefully.

Reducing the amount of gluten in your life is pretty straightforward, and other than the obvious gluten foods, it's best to also avoid processed foods because they often contain hidden glutens in the seasoning or sub ingredients that are not listed.

If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or would like to remove all traces of gluten from your diet, contact the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association for advice from the experts!

Support for the gluten free

If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or would like to remove all traces of gluten from your diet, contact the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association for advice from the experts. A wonderfully rich world of gluten-free products awaits you! Check out some of the local GF groups and organizations listed below to get you going.

Canadian Celiac Association  |  www.vancouverceliac.ca
Gluten Free Cooking School  |  www.glutenfreecookingschool.com
The Celiac Nurse  |  www.celiacnurse.com

Out & About

With the growing popularity of gluten-free living and its associated health benefits, going gluten free doesn't mean you have to only eat food you've made at home or purchased at a gluten-free store like Cloud 9. Today there are a growing number of restaurants and even fast food places that offer gluten-free menu items.

The Celiac Scene  |  www.theceliacscene.com
Gluten Free Vancouver  |  www.glutenfree-vancouver.blogspot.com
Celiac and the City  |  www.celiacandthecity.blogspot.com