Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nutrition Corner: A Valuable Resource

When I was in our local health store last week, a woman who was working there asked me if I had any advice for those who are looking for healthy gluten-free grains to buy.  I told her that I didn't have a specific list, but I asked her if we could use the computer at the store to research for any information from the Celiac Center at Columbia University.  I was excited about the helpful information we found.  Here it is:

Nutrition Corner

A Message From Anne Lee, Nutritionist

Hippocrates said, "Let thy food be thy medicine". In some ways he must have been thinking about people with celiac disease. Years later, the only treatment for celiac disease remains the gluten-free diet. Food is not only their medicine, but also all the other things food is to everyone: the joy of birthday cake; the fun of pizza at a social gathering; traditional dinners of Passover, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every other occasion worth celebrating; and, the simple joy and satisfaction from our daily meals.

Nutritional concerns for people with celiac disease are similar to any person. It is important to make sure your diet has enough fruits and vegetables for many vitamins and minerals, dairy products for calcium, and protein for muscle building. Adequate rest and exercise are vital parts of any healthy lifestyle. Of particular concern to people with celiac disease is the grain group, and here, the gluten-free diet varies considerably from a regular diet. The grain group provides fiber, B complex vitamins and iron. Unfortunately, many gluten-free vendors do not enrich products with these key nutrients. However, all is not gloomy. In fact, this opens up many tasty and adventuresome opportunities in the world of grains. Many native and ancient grains are packed full of the nutrients. Amaranth, wild rice, and quinoa add a wonderful variety of flavors and textures (see Grains).

It is important to remember a gluten-free diet is not a restrictive diet in the sense of limiting foods. Rather, a gluten-free diet includes all the same great meat, fish, poultry, milk products, fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs a regular food plan contains. Only grain usage changes and therefore cooking methods need adapting. Gone are the days of deep fried coated mystery morsels. Here are the days of good tasting grains, recognizable meats, and generally, far fewer calories and fat.

As a nutritionist, I feel strongly that food is more than just something you eat. Yes, it does provide the vital nutrients your body needs to thrive. A proper balance and variety of different foods is essential to ensure the delivery of a wide range of nutrients. But as importantly, food provides us with social and emotional experiences. Just because you are on a special diet does not mean you cannot enjoy good food. With a positive outlook, maneuvering through a gluten laden social scene will be as easy as a piece of gluten-free cake.

Replacing wheat, rye and 

You may have just been diagnosed with celiac disease or just starting on a gluten-free diet.  Either way, the prospect of eating in a wheat-laden world may seem overwhelming.  But, there's no need to panic.  A gluten-free diet is actually simple, healthy, and not the end of good food.

In general, fruits, vegetables, meats are safe and gluten-free.  Most dairy products are also fine.  Lactose intolerance may be a transitional problem until the villi heal.  The starch/bread/grain group is really the only area of change.
We like to think about this grain group in a positive fashion.  By eliminating wheat, rye and barley, you actually leave many of the high nutrient dense grains like quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth.  These grains provide variety and great taste.  You can also include some old favorites like rice, risotto, potato and corn.  But don't forget the beans and legumes, lentils, chickpeas and black beans make great salads, flours and soups
A gluten-free diet can be really tasty, healthy and even make dinner interesting again. So let's begin!

Glossary of grains for the adventurous palate

Do not be intimidated by the unusual names of some grains. They are just as easy to cook and just as delicious as our old standbys.  So be adventurous.  Try one of the nutrient packed alternative grains and taste buds watch out!  Use grain as hot cereal, side dish, in soups and stews, as flour for pancakes, baked products and commonly found as cold cereal.
Amaranth: Once a sacred food of the Aztecs, has a corn like aroma and woodsy flavor.  Best suited to porridge-type dishes or ground into flour for bread.  High in protein,  dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium and B vitamins.
Buckwheat: Called kasha if toasted.  Best recognized for its use in flour form for pancakes and soba noodles.  Use this heartiest of grains in salads and stuffings.  As a grain as hot cereal, side dish or added to soups, stews and casseroles, as a flour for baking, thickening, and pancakes.  High in high quality protein, magnesium, B6, dietary fiber, iron, niacin, thiamin and zinc.
Millet: Dry and airy when cooked with a little water, but moist and dense when cooked with extra water.  Bland in flavor, millet readily takes on flavors of foods cooked with it.  As a grain as hot cereal or side dish, as flour in baking.  High in protein, fiber.

Quinoa: Native  South American grain with a soft, crunchy texture, boasts the highest nutritional profile of all grains--it's often called "super grain."  More high quality protein than other grains and cereals.  Also high in iron, magnesium, B vitamins, calcium and flour.

Wild Rice: Taste, aroma, size and color depend on whether it is wild or cultivated, where it is harvested and the processing method.  Dietary fiber, protein, potassium and zinc. Grain used as a side dish.
Teff: As a grain, use as a hot cereal, side dish, casseroles, cold as salad. As flour to thicken sauces.  Also available as pasta. High in protein, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Grain preparation table
Now that we have been introduced to these grains we need to know how to prepare them.  These grains need to be cooked before incorporated into most salads, and soups.  They are also delicious just hot out of the pot as a side dish.

of Liquid
of Grain
Cooking time
Amaranth1 c1 cSimmer 7 minutes, let stand covered 5-10 minutes.
Buckwheat2 c1 c15 minutes
Millet1.5 c1 cSimmer 15 minutes, let stand covered 10 minutes.
Quinoa2 c1 cSimmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Teff2 c.5 cSimmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Wild Rice1 c1 cSimmer 30 minutes.

Hidden sources of gluten
Sources:Reason for caution
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein:May use wheat, rye, oats, or barley as hydrolyzed plant protein, HVP or HPP protein source.
Malt or malt flavoring:Derived from barley.
Dairy substitutes:Rice or soy milk products may contain barley or malt flavoring.
Soy sauce:May contain wheat or barley.
Modified food starch:May be derived from wheat.
Processed cheeses:Cheese slices may contain modified food starch.
Prepared cake frosting:May contain wheat starch.
Sauces, jams, gravies:May contain wheat starch as a thickener.
Packaged foods:May contain flour, modified food starch, wheat or barley.
Prescription drugs, over the counter drugs:May contain wheat starch as a filler or dispersing agent.
Lipstick:May contain wheat starch as a filler or dispersing agent.
Play dough:Contains wheat.

In addition, natural and artificial flavors, dextrin, brown rice syrup, malt vinegar, mono and di-glycerides, and flavorings in meat products may contain gluten.

With a gluten-free diet, it is important to focus on the positive. Rather than list all the various additives to avoid or that are allowed, we decided to focus on those main ingredients (besides the obvious) that may contain gluten. Remember that ingredients change and even the sources of those ingredients. Therefore, you must be aware and diligent about checking labels.

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