Glorious Gluten

Gluten.

A curse word to the health-conscious consumer, local food markets are now devoting entire aisles to gluten-free products. Cookies, cake mix, pasta, cereal, pizza crust…the list goes on and on! This anti-gluten movement has become a nationwide craze!  Soon items like water bottles and cat litter will boast “gluten-free” just to boost sales.

But what IS gluten? Simply put, it’s the protein in wheat. So what’s the big dumb deal about avoiding it? If you’re not one of the 5% of Americans with Celiac disease, why not give it a chance? I’m not saying that you should eat it at every meal, but incorporating it into a balanced diet a few times a week may actually be beneficial.

I think half of the people jumping on board the gluten-free train are either doing it to be trendy or as an uninformed attempt at living more healthfully. Hate to break it to you, but just because cookies don’t contain gluten doesn’t mean they’re good for you.  In fact, they may contain additional sugar/and or fat.  What’s more, besides being a processed food, the item has to go through even MORE processing to remove the gluten.  In a way, eating a gluten-free product is like eating a DOUBLE processed food product!

Because processed foods are linked to obesity and higher body fat, along with many other health issues, E and I avoid them at all costs. Stick to whole foods, people. Get thee behind me, processed foods!  Don’t let a gluten-free label trick you into stocking up on sugary, carb-laden goodies disguised as “healthy” snacks.

I’m mostly vegan.  I say mostly because I eat wild caught fish about twice a week and don’t feel right refusing food containing dairy products when I’m a guest in someone’s home. While a vegan diet contains protein in the form of legumes, soy, and nuts, it’s not always easy to get enough to build muscle and prevent the storage of body fat. I’m a prime example.  Last year I was a committed vegan and hardcore runner, and am now at a healthy weight…and 34% body fat. That’s right, over a third of my body weight is pure fat.  Now that I’m aware of the major impact of protein on my body composition, I make certain to incorporate at least 20 – 30 grams of it into every meal (and I eat five times a day).

For me, gluten is a godsend.  Gluten flour is almost pure protein powder, and when mixed with water and cooked, has one of the most meat-like textures of all the meat substitutes I’ve tried – and I’ve tried a LOT of them! The cherry on top? Making seitan (the fancy name for gluten “meat”, or “wheat meat”) is surprisingly simple – just add water and seasonings, and either boil or bake. Yes, it’s that easy!

So as it turns out, gluten is not the devil!  E and I make all sorts of savory gluten dishes and look forward to sharing many of our recipes with you in the future. Hop on board the anti-gluten-free train!

~B, a skinny fat girl and humble gluten advocate

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