Gluten Free Eating: Health Benefits And Recipes To Try

A gluten-free diet is benenficial to one's health. This strict diet can be difficult-the following recipes may help make it a pleasant experience.

Gluten is a combination of plant-derived proteins found in products containing wheat and many products containing oats or barley. It is the substance that makes flour sticky and gives firmness to cakes, breads, crusts, etc. Most people digest it easily using their villi""small, hair-like projections lining the small intestine. People with Celiac Disease cannot digest gluten appropriately. When they ingest the protein, an immune reaction takes place in the small intestine, damaging its lining. The villi become flattened and they exhibit a multitude of symptoms including diarrhea, gas and bloating, weight loss, and gray, foul-smelling stool. Though there is no known cure for Celiac Disease, symptoms can be controlled by strict diet modification. For instance, rice flour can be substituted for wheat flour in most recipes and corn meal can take the place of standard crusts. While things like pastry, beer (barley), pasta, rolls and other such items are generally eliminated from the diet, people with Celiac Disease can continue to enjoy a variety of foods like meat, cheese, rice, corn snacks, fruits, vegetables, popcorn, broth-based soups, potatoes, etc. People with a gluten sensitivity may also develop dermatitis herpetiformis""an itchy, blistering skin ailment. Additionally, it is speculated that individuals with Autism may be adversely affected by gluten, so a diet free of the offending protein may help alleviate symptoms.

A diet void of gluten is often low in carbohydrates. Gluten-free bread is typically made from brown rice flour, so refined carbohydrates (like those found in standard white bread) are limited. Therefore, given the negative stigma associated with a diet rich in refined carbohydrates, individuals adherent to a gluten-free diet are afforded numerous health benefits including significant weight loss, lowered cholesterol and increased energy. Going gluten-free can be a bit difficult, considering proper diet modification means eliminating many common foods. The following recipes may help make it a more pleasant, palatable experience:

Sweet Chestnut Pancakes

* 4 ounces rice flour

* 3 eggs

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 1/2 pint milk

* 1/2 ounce sugar

* 4 ounces sweet-chestnut puree

* 4 ounces cornmeal

* 1/2 teaspoon tartaric acid

* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

* Salt to taste

Beat eggs, oil, milk and puree. Mix dry ingredients. Quickly combine together. Spoon mixture onto iron griddle and cook over medium heat until both sides are golden brown. Serve hot with butter and jam.

Rice Bake

* 4-5 medium tomatoes, chopped

* 3 " ", sliced

* 6 slices cooked bacon, chopped

* 8 ounces chopped mushrooms

* 2 large white onions, chopped

* 2 cups sharp grated cheese

* 2 tablespoons sharp parmesan

* 1 pound cottage cheese

* 5 cups cooked rice

* 4 beaten eggs

Mix everything but the sliced tomato and grated cheese. Pour into greased baking dish. Cover top with tomato slices and grated cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F until firm (about 50 minutes). Serve immediately.

Spicy Beef and Macaroni

* 2 cups water

* 1 pound ground beef

* 1 medium onion, diced

* 1 cup gluten-free barbeque sauce

* 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

* 1 green pepper, diced

* 2 cups gluten-free elbow macaroni

Brown meat in deep skillet. Stir in onion and pepper; cook until tender. Add water, macaroni and sauce. Cover and simmer on low heat until macaroni is tender and top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Corn Bread

* 3 cups buttermilk

* 1 tablespoon each""sugar and onion powder

* 4 eggs

* 4 cups yellow cornmeal

* 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

* 2 teaspoons sage, rubbed

* 1 cup sour cream

* 2 tablespoons each corn oil and baking soda

* Pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and grease 13" baking pan. Mix wet ingredients in large bowl and toss dry ingredients with fingers in separate container. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients until coated. Pour into greased pan and place on bottom rack for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 10 minutes. Bread is done when dough begins to pull away from pan.

It is important to remember that a gluten-free diet does not give one the freedom to gorge themselves on rich, fatty foods. Rather, adhere to a balanced diet complete with protein, calcium fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

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