Tackling the Gluten-Free Issue

Since I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about gluten-free mania going around, I figured this week could be dedicated to giving you all a little more information about gluten in our diets and take some time to set the record straight.

After having one of my good friends, who happens to have Celiac disease (gluten allergy/intolerance), as a roommate, I have learned A LOT by bearing witness to her shopping and eating habits, not to mention having tried a ton of her gluten-free recipes. Brief PSA for those of you that are like her and maintain a gluten-free lifestyle because you or a loved one has Celiac disease: just because a product says that it is gluten-free DOES NOT mean that it hasn’t been processed with or come into contact with wheat or gluten. Similarly, many restaurants fail to realize that there are people with severe gluten allergies who aren’t avoiding it as a weight loss tactic and thus, cross-contaminate their food with wheat by not using separate cooking utensils and food preparation areas.

For the rest of you under the impression that a gluten-free diet is the weight loss miracle you’ve been waiting for: don’t hold your breath. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many of the foods labeled gluten-free do not always necessarily mean that they are healthier. In fact, many of these products have to compensate for the lack of wheat and gluten with additional sugar and fat, overall increasing your calorie intake. Some people who switch to gluten-free diets without properly adjusting will also deal with some vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and even experience some weight gain, so it really is a balancing act.

However, if it is done properly, people who switch to gluten-free diets still have the possibility of seeing weight-loss results. Just beware that while there are gluten-free foods that are better for you, that will not necessarily apply to all of them. Additionally, it is helpful in alleviating digestive issues like inflammation, bloating, and cramping. One of my doctors said that cutting back on gluten could also help to reduce migraine occurrences.

All in all, if there is one thing you take away from this, it should be that this is not a dietary plan to be entered lightly. There are quite a few benefits, but if you do not have a gluten allergy or wheat sensitivity that mandates these restrictions, you should also take the time to weigh the risks. This is also something that I would recommend talking to your doctor about to make sure that you implement it safely and without causing deficiencies.

For everyone who has to be gluten free, that doesn’t mean you should have to miss out on any of the fun! My friend Courtney, who I mentioned earlier, gave me her AMAZING chocolate chip cookie recipe to share with you all, which she modified from her original recipe once she had to go gluten-free. I’ve tried them and honestly they are just as good as they were before.

2 ¼ cups gluten-free sugar

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 sticks margarine

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder (check to make sure the one you pick up is gluten free)

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2-2 ½ cups chocolate chips

Separate into two bowls. In the larger bowl, add sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and margarine. In the smaller bowl, add all the remaining dry ingredients, then slowly combine the contents of the smaller bowl into the larger one and mix with wire whisk.

Once all of the dry ingredients are added from the smaller bowl into the larger one, add in chocolate chips and mix them in with a spoon. Scoop out one teaspoon of cookie dough per cookie, placing them on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes and once you take them out, let them cool on a wire rack.

If you have any personal experience or have any feedback/gluten-free recipes to share with our readers, feel free to share in the comments or on the Catholic Health Services Facebook page!