What You Should Know About Gluten – and Baking Without It!
Do you have what it takes to give up eating your favorite slice of pizza, bowl of pasta or morning scone? If you’re not diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, maybe you don’t have to. But, thinking twice about the amount of gluten you consume every day wouldn’t hurt either.
While it was originally thought that only a tiny fraction of our population suffered from gluten digestion problems, recent research estimates that 15% or more suffer from some type of gluten intolerance. Surprisingly, only about 1% of those who do have intolerance are diagnosed and milder forms of gluten sensitivity may even affect up to one-third of the American population.
In the past 50 years the incidences of the most severe cases (Celiac disease) alone have increased 400 percent, partially due to an increased awareness and better diagnosis but also suspiciously correlated with an excessive increase in consumption of highly processed gluten-rich foods. Our addiction to “light and fluffy” baked goods has driven producers to create a strain of wheat with a much higher gluten content (gluten is key to getting breads to rise and baked goods to expand) that may be even harder on the digestive system.
When your body does not digest gluten properly it creates irritation throughout your digestive system, especially on the wall of your intestine where most of your nutrients are absorbed. The result is not only poor digestion but decreased access to essential nutrients your body needs to function and stay healthy as well.
The body often reacts to the irritation caused by gluten in the form of an autoimmune reaction: working to eliminate the foreign substance and causing internal inflammation that impacts everything from the heart and brain to the digestive tract, joints and energy production.
Whether you have the sensitivity and know it, have it and don’t know it or don’t have it but consume an excess amount of gluten regularly, your may see significant health benefits from substituting a few gluten free foods for some of your gluten-rich staples. Plus, trying out new recipes and new ingredients can be a fun challenge in the kitchen and reveal great new treats that your whole family will love (and benefit from)!
If you’ve tried something gluten free and thought, “disgusting, this cookie tastes like sandpaper and is not even worth eating”, you are not alone. Many of the commercially produced cookies and breads are made with bean or soy flour, which don’t particularly taste good unless you enjoy eating an essence of garbanzo bean scone for breakfast.
Luckily, the increased awareness and occurrence of gluten intolerant and sensitive consumers has unveiled several other gluten free flours that taste great and work really well in your favorite recipe. Coconut flour is on the top of the list, not just for its mild flavor, but for its significant health benefits as well. I like Gluten Free Mama’s Coconut Blend.
Coconut flour has an unusual composition that sets it apart from other flours: containing 58% dietary fiber (the highest of any flour), 28% water, protein and carbohydrate, and 14% natural oil. Because it is largely comprised of fiber, which is a non-digestible carbohydrate, coconut flour is low in calories, helps keep you satiated longer and aids efficient digestion. Fiber has also been linked to heart and immune health, vitamin and mineral absorption, detoxification, lower cholesterol and blood sugar stability.
Using coconut flour in your own cooking is easy and learning to substitute it for flour in your favorite recipe only requires the addition of a few eggs. Check back Thursday for substitution instructions get a recipe for coconut flour carrot bread that makes a to-die-for breakfast!