Before I go any further with HSK, I thought it important to dig into this concept known as “gluten free” that you’ve probably heard a lot about in recent years and how it applies to my own kitchen. You might be asking yourself “what is gluten and why are people doing away with it?”
- Gluten is a bondable, elastic protein found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley.[source]
What’s the big deal about a little bit of protein? It’s been argued that the human body is not actually capable of properly digesting gluten protein, though for the majority of the population it’s not a problem. While some have decided to go gluten-free for the purposes of weight loss, most people that exclude gluten from their diet fall into one of two categories.
Celiac is a medical condition in which those who have been diagnosed experience gluten-caused damage to the small intestine. This auto-immune disease then results in an inability to absorb nutrients as well as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals – all of which are necessary to complete health. [source]
Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, features a much more broad spectrum of symptoms. Those who suffer from gluten sensitivity tend to experience a wide-range of symptoms that typically evaporate when gluten is eliminated from the diet. [source] People that suffer from gluten sensitivity aren’t necessarily at risk, but can experience headache, bloating, excess gas, exacerbated skin conditions, as well as joint and bone pain to name a few. Remember how I mentioned that the human body isn’t capable of digesting gluten?
So this brings me to my own experiences with gluten. For most of 2012, I was generally feeling unwell with fatigue, headaches and a whole smattering of other symptoms. Somehow I always just chalked it up to various stages of PMS.
In early September of this year, I had a friend staying with us who is gluten sensitive, so I started researching some gluten-free recipes to cook for her. As I looked more into gluten-free diets, I noticed that I could check-off every single symptom of gluten sensitivity. With that, I made the decision to eliminate gluten from my diet entirely to see if anything would clear up. I was very surprised with the almost immediate results.
Personally, I like to refer to it as “tootin’-free” because “glute-toots” and bloating were only two of my symptoms to evaporate within a week of giving up gluten. The incessant headaches stopped, the restless sleeps ceased, my energy sky-rocketed and I even managed to lose a little bit of excess weight. While I haven’t yet been tested for either a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, I count myself as one of many, many Canadians that simply feels better without gluten in their diet.
Because I’ve been cooking and baking for longer than I can remember, converting to a gluten-free kitchen was no doubt a challenge – though not as tough as I expected. Giving up gluten has forced me to focus on fresh, real food. Read a label or two… you’d be amazed at how frequently food producers sneak wheat into products. Soy sauce, anyone?
Baking, on the other hand, has been like learning to ride a bike again. Gluten in wheat flour is what gives most baked goods their fluff, their elasticity and their flavour. Finding ways to work around it, creating with wheat-free flour blends, has been an interesting experiment. Baked goods without gluten do not react in the same way during the actual baking process, so every attempt is a lesson. That said, about 99% of the recipes you can expect to see on HSK will either be gluten-free or will be modified to include those who do not (or cannot) eat gluten.
I can appreciate that a gluten-free lifestyle is not something that appeals to everyone, nor is it necessary for everyone. It’s something that I’ve found has worked for me and has left me feeling better on the whole. If it’s something you’re curious about, I encourage you to talk to your doctor and do your research. The Canadian Celiac Association is a great place to start. I’m not a doctor, an expert or any kind of authority on the subject and these thoughts are simply my own. And one last thing: if you choose to eliminate gluten, be sure to include lots of fresh, whole food in your diet instead of purchasing replacements labeled “gluten-free”. Processed foods never did anything good for anyone’s tummy.