I may have to apologize to some folks. I’ve been super snotty to people who were wanting to be gluten-free, because I suspected they were just following a fad without knowing why. Someone would mention eating or making something gluten-free, and I’d say, “Oh, are you one of those rare but unfortunate people with Celiac disease? No? Well then why on earth are you trying to be gluten-free?”
Most people didn’t know why they were trying gluten-free food. I’d usually get a hesitant, “Well because it’s more healthy?” One person actually told me they thought it must be more delicious because everyone was going on and on about it. “No,” I would reply, “Gluten-free pretty much means it tastes like cardboard. So if you don’t have Celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, why bother?”
I felt pretty snotty about it, and I acted pretty snotty about it. I have low tolerance for fad-followers who don’t know why they are doing something. Why do I even care? I’m not proud of myself.
While scornful of gluten-free lemmings, I do keep trying to cut wheat back from our diets. It’s a known inflammatory, has little nutritional value, and quickly gets converted to sugar in our bodies. Yet it’s everywhere, it’s cheap, and pasta or bread are such easy fall-backs when we’re trying to put dinner on the table on a busy work/school night.
When I was offered the chance to review Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies, 2nd Edition, I jumped at it. Not because I had any sudden interest in going gluten-free (I’m not a lemming, after all), but because I thought it would give me some new meal ideas to help me cut wheat.
Halfway through chapter 1, I learned a new term and became convinced to get serious about cutting wheat from my family’s meals: Leaky Gut Syndrome. Doesn’t that sound awful? According to the author, when we eat wheat, our bodies produce a protein called zonulin that kind of tricks our guts into letting toxins into our bloodstream. Our bodies are specially designed to only let nutrients through into the bloodstream, but zonulin makes the small intestine more permeable so icky stuff gets through as well. Yuck. Gluten getting through is what causes the horrible problems for people with Celiac disease.
So now I can’t snottily tell people that there is no medical reason to avoid gluten if you don’t have Celiac disease…. because avoiding gluten basically means avoiding wheat and wheat is BAAAAAD.
So beyond scaring the tar out of me, how useful is the book? Extremely. There are comprehensive lists of foods to avoid and foods that are safe, and ideas for swapping out good grains for wheat. I especially loved a section called, “Surviving a gluten-free bread disaster,” in which the authors give a few suggestions for how to use the (inevitable?) cardboard bread instead of chucking it in the compost.
An especially helpful chapter is “Setting Up Your Kitchen & Pantry” (chapter 5). It has a great list of ingredients to keep on hand for whipping up a wheat-free meal on a moment’s notice. It also has a lot of information about how to manage your kitchen if you are balancing a 100% gluten-free eater with gluten-eaters. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that, but it does make it seem doable.
For me, the money-shot happened in chapter 8, “You Don’t Always Need Recipes.” I am horrible about following recipes – I’m totally a “pinch of this, handful of that” kind of cook. Danna Korn is also this type of cook, so I’m in good hands with this book. She offers easy ways to transform a wheat-filled meal into a more healthy option, without having to follow intense instructions. Bless her.
I’m so delighted to have found this book, and look forward to cutting the wheat from our lives with the help of these simple explanations and instructions. The writing is accessible, and the recipes are easy and mostly kid-friendly. I am having fun experimenting with non-pasta dinners, like Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini, Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes and Carrot and Zucchini Latkes (yum!). With the help of the meal-planning section, I’m mapping out our
gluten wheat-free diet easily.
I’m not willing to admit I’m a full-on gluten-free convert. In fact, even the author admits my point in chapter 4 (talking about people losing weight while on the gluten-free diet):
“Although I like to think of the gluten-free diet as the best diet on the planet, it’s not actually the gluten-freeness that gets the credit when we’re talking about weight management on the gluten-free diet. It’s the fact that you’re adhering to a high-protein, low glycemic, nutrient-dense diet. And following this healthy diet provides health benefits that extend far beyond being gluten-free.”
I think I’ll adopt a paraphrase of that statement next time I hear someone wanting to be gluten-free because it’s a fad! It’s a lot less snotty than my previous response.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, are prone to gassiness, or just want to cut the pasta and bread from your diet, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies, 2nd Edition.
I was given a copy of this book to review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own, of course.