If you have the slightest interest in health, food, and nutrition, you might know that there is a huge debate about gluten and gluten-free diets on the internet. I say that there’s a debate because there are lots of misinformation about gluten-free diets. This confuses people about the extent of its benefits and whether or not they should try it.
So I took on the challenge of creating a gluten-free food for my friends to know what they have to say. And I am taking this opportunity to share some facts about gluten, too.
Let’s get started!
What is gluten and what foods are removed in a gluten-free diet?
Proteins in wheat, barley and rye are sources of gluten. Oats and corn do not have these same proteins, however, may be contaminated by gluten sources during harvesting, storing, or processing.
Gluten is formed when flour with gluten proteins are mixed with water. Proteins then become flexible, sticky, and elastic, to help the food retain shape and to create a chewy & satisfying texture. The structure provided by glue-ten is perfect for batters and doughs as it traps air that makes for a “fluffy” final product.
Although bread is the first thing you might think of, a lot of common food products contain gluten. Wheat is commonly found in breads, baked goods, soup, pasta, cereals, sauces, salad dressings and anything that starts with roux. Barley is commonly found in malt (malted milk and shakes, malt vinegar), food coloring, soups, beer, and Brewer’s yeast. While rye is found in rye bread, rye beer, and some cereals.
In addition, many commercial food operations share processing equipment with gluten-containing food. This means that even if a product does not contain gluten in itself, it could be contaminated with gluten during processing.
When would someone need to be on a gluten-free diet?
Common symptoms for these may include digestive discomfort, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, headaches, tiredness, skin rashes, and unexplained weight loss. People experiencing a number of these might benefit from hiring a nutritionist-dietitian to guide them through an elimination diet. This will help them find out if gluten is actually the diet-offender or it may be some other food or food groups that are causing discomfort.
Would it be so difficult to transition into a gluten-free diet?
First of all, if you don’t need to do it, don’t. Save yourself from the unnecessary added anxiety and just enjoy a diet with a variety of foods, mostly unprocessed, in balance and moderation. Also remember that labels such as gluten-free, natural, organic, etc. does not always mean that it is good for you – most of the time it is just marketing.
However, it is generally harmless to try a gluten-free diet because there is no nutrient in gluten grains that you cannot get from other foods. However, you will have to be conscious in making sure that your diet is high in unprocessed complex carbs. This is to ensure that you are eating enough fiber, calories, magnesium, calcium, iron, and B complex vitamins such as thiamin & folate, all of which may be affected in a gluten-free diet.
This means that tubers like potatoes would make an awesome alternative for people who are cutting out gluten. They are a good source of fuel, and contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that we need on a daily basis. They are also so versatile and can be incorporated into many gluten-free food recipes.
How were those brownies?
It’s my first time baking anything that’s gluten-free so it’s amazing to be able to use potatoes as a substitute! I followed a gluten-free fudgy brownie recipe made by Filipino Chef Miko Aspiras with a few tweaks:
- I doubled the recipe, except for the sugar. Instead of 700 grams, I just used 500 grams.
- I didn’t make the chocolate-dipped crisscut potatoes, just the brownie.
- I also didn’t do the step to grease then flour my baking pan, and that was a bad move on my part. Instead, I lined it with parchment and it got stuck on the brownie. Although, my guess is I could have greased and floured the parchment and it would’ve prevented much sticking.
- I used Guittard extra dark chocolate chips because I preferred it.
And here’s the final product! I love how it tasted rich and moist but is not too sweet. I think the dark chocolate coupled with butter gave it such a luxurious flavour. And the fudgy texture was also how I like my brownies to be.
I shared it with friends and they found it comparable to high end brownies being sold in the market. And here are some of their comments:
- “I would prefer it if it was baked for a longer time cause I prefer a cookie texture on the outside and just a fudgy center instead of an entire fudgy brownie.”
- “It could do with a bit less of the espresso powder so that it does its job but the coffee taste is not too pronounced.”
- “It’s delicious but I prefer it if it were sweeter.”
- “It’s so good! You should sell these!”
- “We literally inhaled it, gone in 15 seconds! Can we order these? We loved it so much!”
I am so happy that the gluten-free brownies came out amazing! Keeping these comments in mind, I think it is a good idea to bake it 5-8 minutes longer and get the cookie texture. And I actually agree with the comment on espresso powder having an aftertaste so I would use only 80% of the amount next time. I disagree with the comment on making it sweeter although I could do that but use a sugar substitute to significantly lessen the calories.
The gluten-free diet is meant to address specific medical conditions. Although it is harmless to try, it would not be sustainable for most people.
People who would need a gluten-free diet should consider choosing healthy carbohydrates to fill in the void; adding potatoes into the diet is a suitable alternative. Potatoes are a natural, gluten-free whole food that provides energy, vitamins and minerals that will help the body thrive every day.