Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, plant-based, and pescetarian. So many diets, so many restrictions, and so many health benefits, as well as downsides. But by far, one of the most well-known diets is the gluten-free diet. 'What is the gluten-free lifestyle?', you may be asking yourself. Maybe you've seen restaurants that brag endlessly about having two gluten-free items on their entire menu, even though it's just cheese-less nachos and overly salty fries.
Image Credit: Mariana Kurnyk from Pexels
Is it just a fad or a Tik Tok trend, similar to the "girl dinner" or the "intermittent fasting" method? Or is it a lifestyle only for people with health restrictions to indulge in?
What is gluten?
I suppose, first of all, I should tell you what gluten-free people are avoiding in the first place. Gluten. What is it?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, and einkorn), rye, barley, and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Essentially, gluten is the glue that holds almost all commonly eaten foods together, including bread, crackers, many types of sauces, soup, pasta, and many other types of delectable foods.
Image Credit: Eva Bronzini from Pexels
Also, wheat and gluten are basically the same, just different leaves of the same plant if you will. If something claims to be 'gluten-free', it cannot contain wheat, as gluten is a protein found in wheat.
Gluten has many health benefits as well, such as vitamins B, E, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants.
While gluten may have many benefits for people who can consume it, it has many downsides for those who cannot. Some of the signs of gluten sensitivity include:
- Chronic Pain
- Brain fog
- Skin rash
- General inflammation
- and many others
Image Credit: Sora Shimazaki from Pexels
Extreme gluten intolerance is called "celiac disease".
An estimated 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population, has celiac disease.
Around 3 million people struggle with celiac disease on a regular basis, and the numbers are growing due to improving testing methods.
The reason for this increase in gluten intolerance is that, in recent years, gluten and wheat have been altered greatly to aid in easier growing and processing, but our stomachs just can't seem to handle the change.
Gluten Be Gone
With all those glutenous side effects, it's no surprise many people have turned to going gluten-free, as even people who haven't formally been diagnosed with celiac may still experience gluten sensitivity.
Some of the benefits of going gluten-free or lessening your gluten intake include:
- Weight loss
- Heightened energy levels
- Clearer skin
- It allows more room in your daily diet for fruit and veggies.
- Improved joint health
- Improved digestive health
Plus a few more. You get the gist, everything that happens when you eat too much gluten or are sensitive to it can be helped by eating less or not eating any at all.
Image Credit: Melvin Vito from Pexels
But beware, banishing gluten from your diet altogether can cause withdrawal symptoms. It's best to ease gluten out of your diet, either completely or partially.
Some people report feeling dizziness, nausea, extreme hunger, and even anxiety and depression when they suddenly go from eating a lot of gluten to being gluten-free. These symptoms usually go away after a few weeks on a gluten-free diet, but talk to your healthcare provider if they persist.
Here are some great gluten-free substitutes for your daily gluten foods. I would recommend:
- Mama Mary's Gluten-Free pizza crusts
- Outside The Breadbox's gluten-free beagles
- BARILLA Corn & Rice pasta
- Mission Gluten-Free Tortillas
- Simple Mills Gluten-Free Crackers
And those are just the ones I eat often, there are so many more at your local grocery store.
Image Credit: Engin Akyurt from Pexels
No gluten, aw man. Whenever you say gluten-free at the dinner table or lunch with your friends there is always a collective sigh, am I right? So let's make 5 delish gluten-free dishes/snacks that you can enjoy, eye-roll, and sigh-free.
Disclaimer: These recipes are my own original ideas from being gluten-free myself. Any resemblance to anyone else's recipe is purely coincidental.
1. Pesto Pasta
Image Credit: Daniele Sgura from Pexels
I absolutely LOVE some pesto in anything I eat, I would literally drink it if it were socially acceptable. And who doesn't love pasta? So let us make it, just gluten-free. This recipe is super simple, all you will need is:
- Pesto Paste
- Gluten-free pasta (I recommend a popular brand above)
- Olive oil
- Pine nuts
- Parmesan (optional)
Now the fun part. Just boil your pasta for the recommended time, combine it with the pesto and olive oil in a warm pan/pot, add arugula, chives, and pine nuts, and enjoy! You can also add parmesan if you are not vegan.
2. Steak-less Steak Fries
Image Credit: Kei Photo from Pexels
Even though I'm vegan, I will gladly eat a bowl of chunky and greasy steak fries any day of the week, but surprisingly not many fries at restaurants are gluten-free, as most are breaded or cross-contaminated in the fryers.
You will need:
- Potatoes (preferably gold or russet)
- Oil (any oil would be proficient)
- Cayenne and paprika
- Steak seasoning
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while you prep your ingredients. Chop the potatoes into wedge sizes of your preference, and rub them in the oil and seasoning until proficiently seasoned and oiled (listen to your ancestors so you don't burn your tongue off). Put them on a parchment paper lined pan for 30-40 minutes, flipping them halfway through. If you want them extra crispy you can put them on low broil for a few minutes.
Let cool, again, no mouth burning, and enjoy!
3. Lazy Quesadilla
Image Credit: Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Quesadillas are amazing, flavorful, and cheesy. There is only one problem: I'm lazy. So I make these, the easiest quesadillas you'll probably make. Also, my personal preference is to butter the skillet I cook my quesadillas in, but be warned that it does make them a tad bit greasy, so you can skip that if you'd like.
- Gluten-free tortillas
- Vegan melt-able cheese (or dairy-based if that's what you prefer)
- Chopped bell peppers, onion, and jalapeno
- Refried beans (optional)
First place your tortilla on a flat surface. If you would like to add the beans, spread them on one side of the tortilla, then generously put the cheese on the same side, along with the peppers, onion, and jalapeno.
You can also add shredded meat of your preference to the recipe, or just add cheese. Go wild!
Once you are done with those steps, place your Quesadilla carefully in the skillet on medium heat, and cook until crispy making sure to flip it periodically.
Make as many as you desire and enjoy!
4. Everything Salad
Image Credit: Polina Kovaleva from Pexels
My mom would call this salad the "everything but the kitchen sink" salad, because, well, you can use anything in the kitchen except for the kitchen sink! Very clever really. Perfect for cleaning out your fridge of not-yet-bad veggies.
For this recipe, you'll want to have:
- Everything and anything! Shocking, I know. For example, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and pretty much any savory fruit or veggie you desire.
- Lemon juice
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
Chop all of your veggies (and fruits) into small pieces. I like to chop them into small squares for this recipe. Put them all into a bowl large enough to stir the salad, add a squeeze of lemon juice, some black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Combine and dig in! You can eat this simple and refreshing dish with a spoon, or with some gluten-free crackers for a crunch.
5. Perfect Pizza
Image Credit: Narda Yescas from Pexels
Sike! There is no such thing as the perfect pizza, is there? Then again, something does not have to be perfect to be delicious.....so pizza it is folks.
For this pizza night, you'll be needing:
- A gluten-free pizza crust
- Cheese (vegan or dairy, either work)
- Tomato sauce (make sure it's gluten-free!)
- Any toppings of your choice! Mushrooms, onions, basil, shredded meat, olives, green peppers, heck, even pineapple! Whatever floats your pizza boat.
Most gluten-free crusts come frozen and already made, so just thaw it out for a few minutes and start topping! Add your sauce, cheese, and toppings, then add some seasonings if you're feeling frisky. Since your crust is already partially cooked, just cook your pizza for 10-15 minutes, at the recommended temperature for your crust.
Let cool, cut, and eat! Simple as savory pie.
To Gluten, or To Not Gluten
Yay! Now you know everything about gluten, and why you should never eat it again!
Haha yeah. No.
If you do feel like you should stop eating gluten because it is poorly affecting your health, the responsible thing is to go to a doctor or dietitian and get a formal test done. Or even if you don't, pay close attention to your food intake and how you feel after. Some gluten foods may bother you, while others won't, listen to your body. But never stop eating gluten altogether without professional help, as it can cause more harm than good.
Image Credit: Mariana Kurnyk from Pexels
And even if gluten doesn't bother you, experimenting with some yummy gluten-free foods never hurt anyone, so just have fun!