Deliciously Ella: How to go gluten-free naturally
Whether you are coeliac or just keen to cut down on the gluten in your diet, avoid ready-made alternatives and choose unrefined foods that are naturally gluten-free
I cut gluten from my diet just over three years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made – I feel so good for it. But just as the concept of going gluten-free has risen in popularity, so has the scepticism surrounding it, and I thought it would be a great thing to talk about this month.
I’m sure lots of you have wondered whether or not to cut gluten from your diet, and whether that would make you feel healthier and happier. For coeliacs this is a necessity rather than a choice, but for the rest of us, especially with so many celebrities joining in the trend, it’s easy to feel coerced to sign up to something that can be amazing but which also has the potential to be pretty pointless.
The reason for this is that usually we replace gluten with a gluten-free alternative, rather than opting for whole, natural, unrefined foods. So we stock up on gluten-free cookies, pizza crusts and cereal, and there are two problems here. The first issue is that these products are fairly expensive – surveys have shown that gluten-free products can be more than five times the price of the regular item. To give you an example, 535g of Genius gluten-free bread costs £2.90, whereas 800g of Hovis costs 78p.
My second reservation is that these products tend to be full of refined ingredients and additives, so you’re not gaining much goodness. Gluten-free bread still contains flavourings, stabilisers, added sugar and preservatives, and that’s the case with almost everything in the “free-from” aisle.
Most of us don’t tend to read the backs of packets, so it’s easy to be conned by the gluten-free label. It’s worth having a close look at what you’re buying to see if it’s worth the investment. Ultimately these products may cost you more while not doing much good for your health.
If you’re looking to feel better then you should focus on eating whole, unrefined foods that are naturally gluten-free rather than anything that is made to be gluten-free. I love starchy, comforting meals, so don’t worry, I’m not advocating that you switch your pizza for a plate of kale!
Instead I use brown rice, sautéed beans, lentils, roasted sweet potatoes or squash, potatoes, quinoa and other grains such as buckwheat or millet to form the base of my meal – they work well to create something filling and satisfying, but you should still feel a little lighter at the end. These kinds of ingredients are much kinder to your wallet too, so in the long run you should save money as well as boosting your health and happiness.
They are also much more versatile than you might think: you can make pizza using quinoa, risotto using short-grain brown rice; you can buy brown-rice pasta to use in all your favourite dishes, and when it comes to baking you can use brown-rice flour or buckwheat flour – so you won’t be compromising on flavour either.