How many gluten-free friends do we have out there (show of hands)? For our latest in the Healthy & Whole series, we’ve got gluten-free recipe guru and photographer Lindsey Love of the blog Dolly and Oatmeal. She’s found that just because your diet is gluten-free, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy. Many gluten-free flours, mixes, and foods can be loaded with additives, gums, and starches that do little to nourish your lifestyle. Lindsey has discovered many gluten-free whole grains that have great flavor and texture and can be used in your everyday kitchen. Here, she shares her wisdom with us — and make sure to check out her new book, Chickpea Flour Does It All, for some amazing recipes using whole grain chickpea flour (like this queso dip!). Hats off to Lindsey for a beautiful book with creative recipes that make healthy gluten-free diet look like a breeze. (Above, Lindsey’s Raspberry Currant Yogurt Crumble Cake.)
Hi there! I’m Lindsey Love, from the blog, Dolly and Oatmeal. While I run my food blog full-time, I also freelance as a food photographer and stylist, plus I’m the author of my first cookbook, Chickpea Flour Does It All. I’ve maintained a gluten-free diet for almost 6 years now, and I’ve found that this lifestyle has served me to become a happier and healthier human. But it wasn’t without some trial and error that I came to find a wholesome gluten-free diet that leaves me feeling my most vibrant.
Early on in my gluten-free journey I was keeping to a strict GF diet, and would regularly partake in snacks like pretzels, crackers, and cookies. But I was often left with stomach pains similar to ones I had experienced before I went GF. I quickly found out that many of these packaged premade snacks were made with large portions of potato and cornstarch starch, xantham gum, white rice flour, and tons of sugar. This lead me in the pursuit of a more wholesome, gluten-free diet.
Facts About Gluten
But first, let’s understand gluten. Gluten is a protein found in many flours including, wheat flour, rye, spelt, and barley. The protein acts as a binder, or glue, and provides elasticity in dough and batters. Have you ever come across a cookie or bread recipe that tells you not to overwork or over-mix your batter? This is because if you overwork your gluten, like when kneading dough, that elasticity only becomes tougher, producing a dense loaf of bread for instance.
Now that we know more about gluten, we can now assess why so many additives are used to replicate it in gluten-free goods. Because gluten-free flours are just that, they don’t have that glue-like protein that flours containing gluten have. Since becoming more mainstream, all sorts of gluten-free products have flooded the market. This is both a great thing, while simultaneously being not so great.
It’s great because most people have a wide array of options, whether at a grocery store, or at a restaurant. The downside is, that with the influx of people being diagnosed with Celiac, or a gluten intolerance, the market has been flooded with products seeking to mimic traditional products containing gluten, and consequentially what you’re left with is a lot of added sugar, starches, processed gums, and flours containing little to no nutritional integrity.
Embracing Whole Grain Gluten Free Food
As I mentioned above, when I first started eating gluten-free, I regularly ate premade packaged snacks with those processed gums, starches and sugar, and I was often left with stomach pains. I knew there had to be a way to get more nutrition in my baked goods and snacks, so I endeavored to look at ingredients more closely. While my book, Chickpea Flour Does It All highlights chickpea flour (duh) many, if not most of the recipes include many whole grain gluten-free flours that I rely on in my daily pantry. Here are a few things that I found helpful to keep in mind:
- Whole Grain Gluten Free Flours: No matter if you’re gluten-free or not, it’s proven that your diet is more whole when your diet consists of whole grains. The same applies to gluten-free flours. Very simply, whole grain gluten-free flours like oat flour, sorghum, and chickpea flour all contain large amount of nutrients that our bodies depend on: protein, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. Non-whole grain gluten-free flours that are found in gluten-free flour mixes, gluten-free cookie or cupcake mixes, or gluten-free pizza mixes, tend to be high in carbohydrates, which don’t provide your body with sustenance it requires, which can end up leaving you feeling depleted. There are some mixes out there that are whole grain, but make sure to look at the ingredients!
- Cornstarch vs. Arrowroot: Cornstarch is used in a variety of baked goods, sauces, and gravies making baked goods lighter, and used to make slurries for sauces and gravies. But the process in making cornstarch is highly processed, making it hard on the digestive system. This is where arrowroot powder comes in. Arrowroot powder is extracted naturally from a tuberous plant, which is peeled, mashed, strained and dried into the powder we buy at the grocer.
- Gums (Xantham, Guar, etc.): Gums like xantham gum are used to bind and give elasticity to gluten-free baked goods. And for many people they have little to no effect on their overall well being. However, for those with digestive problems (like me and many others), gums can be irritating to the gut. There’s little you can do when buying premade food other than avoid gums in what you buy. But for homemade goods I use psyllium husk powder in its place for pizza dough, sweet baked goods, and bread. Psyllium husk powder is a form of plant-based fiber sold as a capsule or a powder, and can generally be found in the vitamins and supplements section of your grocer or market.
Whether you’re experiencing problems or not, including gluten-free whole grains into your diet will not only provide you with a more nourishment, but they will add texture and flavor to your cooking and baking.
A few of my favorite whole grain gluten-free recipes:
- A spring flatbread
- Summer socca salad
- Strawberry-Oat Cacao Muffins
- A raspberry and currant crumble cake
- Granola scones
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.