Going Gluten Free: Not Just a Food Fad

To say that I love food is an understatement. I love to eat, and love to cook even more. I especially enjoy my carbohydrates; there are few things better than chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven, fresh waffle cones, and a hearty bowl of macaroni and cheese.

Imagine my surprise when my boyfriend announced that he was going gluten-free. This was coming from my kitchen sidekick who was always the first to sample my baked goods, and, last year, proposed making our own pizza at home. In fact, the combination of his red hair and love for baked goods could inspire a new Oxford dictionary definition for the term ‘gingerbread man.’

When I asked him why, he simply stated that he wanted to see if the rumours were true: does a gluten-free diet really make you feel better? Humans only began consuming wheat 10,000 years ago; as a result, wheat gluten is not completely absorbable by the digestive tracts, especially those of people whose systems have not adapted to this relatively new change. According to the New York Times, “non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a wide, unseen epidemic undermining the health of millions of people,” and that the solution to this was simple: a gluten-free diet. To many, this may seem to be a food fad. After talking with several friends who had experimented with going gluten-free, however, the general consensus seemed to be, yes, going gluten-free did make them feel better. Not only did they notice an improvement in their digestion, but they also felt less sluggish and more energetic.

In support of his decision, I have limited my gluten intake by cooking and experimenting more with alternatives: gluten-free flours, polenta, quinoa, and rice. I was slightly concerned as to where I could find these substitutes in St. Andrews, but a wander into Holland & Barrett and the Health Food Store reassured that I would have no problem locating gluten-free ingredients.

While my experimentation has yielded some less than satisfactory results, I have also made delicious meals that make up for more than the absence of gluten. My gluten-free culinary creations thus far: a variety of rice dishes, such as bibimbap, various risottos, fried rice, and paella; polenta pancakes; breakfast quinoa; blood orange polenta upside-down cake; pizza crust made from cauliflower; and probably the best chocolate cake I have ever had in my life.

Surprisingly, limiting my gluten intake wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. And, although I haven’t gone completely gluten-free, I’ve noticed that I do feel lighter and more energetic on gluten-free days. The only problem left is my insatiable hunger!

Feel free to check out some of my recipes, including gluten-free ones, at my blog Life is Like a Dumpling

Images by Genevieve Yam and Jesse Steere