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Monday, 15 September 2014

Gluten-free: everyone's doing it

It's been one month since we cut gluten from our diet, and I can't believe I'm saying this - I don't miss it at all. Not even a tiny bit. And I really, really, love bread.  

So what gives? I think the trick is to make the alternative so delicious that it doesn't feel like deprivation. But let me back-track a bit to the why, because based on the shelf-space and marketing claims devoted to gluten-free products these days, it seems like everyone's doing it.

The deal with gluten 
Consumption of gluten grains wheat (in particular), barley, rye and spelt (and oats) increase the production of zonulin, a protein that opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal wall. This allows nutrients and other molecules to enter the intestines, however if someone has a 'leaky gut' the spaces open up too much and this allows larger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream where an immunologic reaction can take place. Basically, gluten is strongly linked to poor gut health and autoimmune conditions. I have PCOS which is autoimmune in nature, and gut issues, so cutting out gluten is a no-brainer. Gut flora is passed onto babies via the birth canal, so the odds are good that Hugo's gut health isn't fantastic either, so he's on board too. And my husband? He's along for the ride, but still has bread here and there. 

So what are we eating?
Real food, much to the disappointment of food marketers keen for our gluten-free dollar. Nothing much has changed, we've just had to be a bit more organised and creative in the kitchen. For many of us, coming up with different breakfast options is a challenge when toast or cereal is just so easy, so here's a roundup of what's been on the menu instead.

(From left to right)

1. Bone broth -  As I'm working on healing my gut, this is becoming a staple in my diet (the gelatin helps to restore the lining of the digestive tract for better nutrient absorption). Served here with poached eggs, parsley and Pink salt.

2. Buckwheat Bircher muesli - buckwheat is a great substitute for oats if you're looking for breakfast cereal of sorts. I buy this one in bulk which also includes goji berries and sultanas. It's made with activated (soaked) buckwheat which is easier on the digestive system because the phytic acid in the grain has been broken down. I serve it with organic natural yoghurt, but if dairy doesn't sit well with you, coconut yoghurt/milk or almond milk (with no added sugar) are good alternatives.

3. Coconut apple crunch -This quick recipe is from an ebook called 'Rise and Shine' written by Georgia, a naturopath and blogger at Well Nourished. The book is my regular go-to, so many delicious recipes with lots of tips for substitutes for intolerances (and incidentally, empty cupboards!). This brekky features apple, almonds, shredded coconut, cinnamon and carrot. Served with natural yogurt and a choc-coconut granola also from the ebook. 

4. Kale and mushroom omelette - an omelette is a brilliant way to get some veggies in at breakfast time and provide sustained energy throughout the morning. I chop up onion and garlic and fry in coconut oil before adding some chopped kale, steamed pumpkin or sweet potato and/or sliced mushrooms. About five eggs whisked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and poured onto the veggies that are simmering away and it's nearly done. I serve with some sauerkraut, fermented cucumber or fermented carrot.

5. Breakfast salsa - This one is a twist on a recipe from the Well Nourished 'Rise and Shine' ebook that involved pulling together what was in the fridge; eggs, coriander, tomatoes, pecans, mushrooms and fermented cucumber. Have fun and experiment!  
6. Asparagus and chicken with poached eggs - it's dishes like this that remind me why I married a chef. He might not cook much anymore, but when he does it's a taste sensation! The chicken breast was sliced thinly and the asparagus lightly blanched before being added to to chicken and coated in coconut oil and chicken-y goodness.  

7. Quinoa and chia porridge - this light and warming porridge made in the Thermomix is so good. As is everything created by the amazing Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking fame. Recipe here.

8. Poached eggs with mushroom, avocado and sauerkraut - pretty self explanatory, really

9. Green (purple) smoothie - we've recently started boosting the goodness of our standard green smoothie (kale or spinach, banana, blueberries, maca powder, ice, water) by adding almonds and The Healthy Chef's organic super food and whey protein. It's a richer, smoother taste and keeps us full for ages, making it a good breakfast option, especially if you need to run out the door. 

Have you considered giving up gluten and if so, what are the biggest challenges for you?


  1. Great post - thanks for sharing! I've been gluten free for awhile, but have struggled to give up all grains. I'm really keen to really reduce breads (even homemade gluten free) but my biggest challenge is that I can't have eggs or dairy either.. and sooo many other options contain one or both of these. So thanks for sharing your ideas here - I do make chia porriage & green smoothies but now there's some more ideas to try too! thanks!

  2. great post! I'm not 100% gf but have definitely cut way back in gluten and grains over the last few years. My biggest challenge is also a love of bread - sourdough, wraps, flatbreads, bagels. Especially bagels. Sadly none of those love me, with the exception of the occasional piece of proper sourdough. Not the fake sourdough a cafe served me the other day. I was SO DISAPPOINTED *sigh*

    My regular breakfast is eggs with veggies (always mushrooms and whatever else is leftover), sometimes bacon. I love the sound of the coconut apple crunch. Going to add that to the rotation. Thanks!

  3. Such a great post and I've got some breakie ideas from it too. My daughter is gf and I don't eat much. I was eating so much and feel much better without it :)

  4. Gluten free diet aint bad! I am a huge fans of the breakfast foods with extra veggies :)
    Bec x

  5. Thanks Jules, glad you liked the post. Going grain-free with
    an egg and dairy intolerance would be a challenge! You’re probably already onto
    this, but ‘vegan paleo’ is a growing movement which should yield some useful
    recipes and support with a quick Google. In addition to Quirky Cooking,
    Wholefood Simply is another great blog doing lots of yummy, allergy friendly
    stuff. Good luck!

  6. Hi Mel, the bread addiction is all-powerful, isn’t it?! I hear your disappointment at the fake sourdough, there’s an art to it! Your brekky sounds yum, and yep the coconut apple crunch is a pretty good one to add into the rotation as there’s lots of options to mix it up and keep things interesting.