Insider Report: An in depth look at what living in a gluten free world is like.

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     This is a guest post from my friend, and avid Spiced Anecdotes reader, Hema. She has been gluten free for 15 years and she’s kindly agreed to be interview for the readers of Spiced Anecdotes (and myself) to learn more about what this actually means. Hema has answered some of the more burning questions I’ve had about gluten free eating and made things clearer! Thank you Hema!

What is different about what you eat, say compared to myself or the general population?
Well, the food I eat and the products I use (beauty and skincare products) do not contain gluten.  Wikipedia defines gluten as follows:
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.
What does gluten free eating look, smell and feel like to you?
I’ve been gluten free for over 15 years now and it feels fabulous!  For a start, I no longer have the pudgy belly I used to as a teenager and young adult, or that constant feeling of being bloated, and I no longer suffer with constipation and irregular toilet habits – I now go to the toilet quite regularly,  sometimes 2 to 3 times daily – a very efficient digestive system!  My body is better able to digest a gluten-free diet so I’m not putting strain on my organs – they’re not constantly fighting to process the foods I eat.  Prior to going gluten-free, I had a lot of health issues such as (as I mentioned before) constantly feeling bloated (kind of like a sausage trying to burst out of its skin), but also lethargic, nauseous at times, and also as if I was fighting the onset of the flu – with tired and achy limbs.

Gluten free food smells and looks like regular food but tastes much better and is far better for you!  In this day and age when foods are over-processed and over refined and therefore far too complex for our digestive systems, its great that alternative grains and foods are making a strong comeback; where years ago it was difficult to find alternatives and gluten free foods, its becoming more and more mainstream and readily available e.g. quinoa, millet, buckwheat.

I’ve also recently become “semi-vegan” – I still eat fish but I don’t eat any red meat, eggs, chicken, honey, soy products, or processed sugars – partly for medical reasons and partly because I have strong beliefs regarding animal welfare and cruelty.  I’m not “militant” about it but for example, I try to only eat fish and seafood that has been sustainably fished.  I’m certainly not against other people choosing to consume meat but I believe that we consume far more meat than we need to and our animal farming practices can be far less cruel.
 What foods do you actually eat?
This is a typical day for me:

Breakfast: a piece of millet bread, toasted and topped with sliced banana, a sprinkle of cinnamon, crushed walnuts and a drizzle of agave syrup, followed by cup of caffeine free tea sweetened with rice milk.

Or a bowl of gluten-free cereal (Macro do a great ‘Café Style Berry Crunch cereal) – see pic.

Gluten Free Cafe Style
Berry Crunch Cereal


Lunch: a salad made with baby spinach, coleslaw mix (you can buy this pre-packaged from Woolworths or Coles), chickpeas, sliced capsicum, sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, a small tin of tuna (sustainably caught) and a drizzle of Greek lemon dressing.  I may also eat a handful of strawberries or nuts between lunch and dinner.

Dinner:vegan chilli con carne with nachos, fresh guacamole and a dollop of hummus.  Usually I make a big batch of chilli so it ends up being frozen for dinner on another day, or lunch the next day.  I’ll also sometimes roast a piece of salmon and have that with potato and olive mash, or a few steamed veggies.  And being of Indian background, there’s always vegetable curries made with coconut milk and served with rice.  On a lazy day I’ll have 2 slices of millet toast spread with refried beans and topped with slices of avocado and a medley of antipasto vegies.
What happens when you do and don’t eat gluten free?

Well, if I eat something that contains gluten I almost immediately become bloated, my face gets hot and red and I get that feeling of a sausage trying to burst out of its skin, and in the day/s to follow I’ll suffer with constipation, lethargy and sore limbs.  It takes a while for my body to digest and process the gluten.  It’s not a comfortable feeling.

What is the first thing you would advise someone to substitute into their diet, and what would this replace? Why would this be the first thing to substitute for you?
Definitely bread – it’s what people consume most of on a day to day basis, right?  It was what I first replaced when I became gluten-free.  Bread is eaten at almost every meal, for example, at breakfast with bacon and eggs, at lunch as a sandwich, and at dinner when you have bread rolls with your spaghetti Bolognese or casserole.

Gluten Free Genius Bread

There are great alternative grain breads out there – easily found at health food markets, organic supply stores, Woolworths and Coles (see pic).


Can you still eat out?

Yes, of course!  A lot of café’s and restaurants cater for gluten free and vegan diets!  When making a restaurant booking, I always let them know of my dietary requirements and they are more than willing and able to cater for my needs : )

What do you indulge on for gluten free treats (i.e. is chocolate still okay)?
Chocolates are definitely still OK – especially your 70% cocoa based ones, and of course, its important to read the labels to ensure they are gluten free and not made using machinery where non-gluten-free products have been made.

There are also a lot of gluten free treats already out there on the market sold in both Woolworths and Coles, some of the more notable brands are: Kez’s, Macro, Leda, and Freedom Foods.

I also make a lot of my own desserts, and one of my new faves is this recipe for chocolate mousse:
http://kirantarun.com/food/2012/09/07/chocolate-avocado-mousse/  It’s not only gluten-free, its also vegan, raw and sugar-free : )
What hints and tips would you give us about eating or cooking gluten free?
Get a good gluten-free recipe book, stock up your pantry and start 🙂 That’s exactly what I did!  I threw out everything that contained gluten and replaced it with alternative flours, grains and pastas.  It’s all readily available now, unlike when I first changed over to a gluten-free diet.  If you’re making the change purely for lifestyle reasons, then start of by buying alternate grain gluten-free breads and pastas and incorporating it slowly into your daily diet.  If you’re doing it for medical/health reasons, well then you have no choice – just do it! – your body will thank you in the long run.
  
In all honesty, what’s the worst part about being gluten free? What’s the best part about being gluten free?

I can’t think of any negatives for being gluten free but the one major benefit is that it’s better for your overall health.  Eating gluten-free you ten to eat more fruits and vegetables, and a larger variety of grains and flours (millet, quinoa, coconut flour, chickpea flour, tapioca, etc).  As they say, ‘variety is the spice of life’!  Also, gluten-free foods tend to contain less chemicals and artificial flavours and colours, and they contain healthier carbohydrates and are full of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals.  All round, going gluten-free (whatever your reason) only means a healthier you!

Any final thoughts?

Some good foodie blogs that also contain gluten-free recipes:
http://www.mydarlinglemonthyme.com/  (gluten-free and some vegan recipes)
http://www.thefirstmess.com/recipe-index/ (gluten-free and vegan recipes)

I am really surprised by some of the things that Hema (and people with gluten issues) can actually eat. The foods Hema has mentioned are mouth-watering and I can’t wait to try that chocolate mousse made with avocado! Yum!

Please leave us some comments. 

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