Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Does Gluten-Free Have To Be Flavor-Free?

Generally speaking...ok, all-the-time-speaking, I don't do sugar-free, caffeine-free, fat-free, or "free" anything!  Why?  Well, lots of reasons, most of them having to do with taste.  However, it also has to do with the seriously unnatural chemicals and/or processes that go into making "free" foods. That being said, there are naturally "free" things that I do enjoy without trying to go "free":  such as caffeine-free teas, gluten-free fruits & veggies, fat-free Red Vine licorice (you know, natural things), etc.

What I would like to focus on today, is the topic of gluten-free, (even though I could talk about red licorice all day).  I have been anemic my entire life (which, as far as I know, has nothing to do with gluten, just hear me out).  I have good days and bad based on what I decide to eat/drink, as well as my mental and physical stress levels.  Lately, I've been feeling super fatigued on a regular basis.  But I'm taking my iron supplements every day, and I'm not drinking coffee (an iron succubus).  So what's the deal?  And then, JT asked me to look for some Chips Ahoy kind of cookies that might be gluten-free while on one of my hunting and gathering trips.  So, I went to the awesome Natural Grocers in town, and they had some cookies in the Chips Ahoy style, made by Kinnikinnick.

I thought about to my visit back home for Thanksgiving, and how my cousin told me that she was allergic to wheat gluten and how she was on a completely gluten-free eating regiment.  Now that I think about it, my family has always had bad digestive systems, but it's generally because we listen to our mouths instead of our bodies most of the time.  Anyway, my cousin talked about how eating gluten-free was sometimes really hard because some things that were made gluten-free tasted really awful.   Case in point, she had me try some gluten-free graham crackers, and they were truly off-putting.  However, I smothered them in melted Andes Mints, then they were not so bad at all!  But then again, that's not really fair because I could smother anything in Andes Mints and it would be epically awesome!  So I decided then and there that all things gluten-free tasted horrible and I would be going nowhere near such things!  Now I'm not talking about the naturally gluten-free foods that I don't even pay attention to what kind of "free" they are, mind you, just the kinds of foods that we enjoy with gluten, manufactured to be without.

That being said, remember the gluten-free NOT Chips Ahoy cookies I was telling you about?  FANTASTIC!!  Seriously, I could hardly tell the difference, and the difference I could tell, I thought was better in the Kinnikinnick gluten-free cookies!  But are things that are manufactured to be gluten-free actually good for you?  Or do they have the same kinds of chemicals and unhealthy processing practices as sugar-free foods?  After some light research, what I found so far was that gluten-free manufactured products are made with wheat flour substitutions like potato starch and corn starch, which can raise your blood sugar levels, which can lead to a whole other set of problems, but not any chemical crap.  So, look for gluten-free substitutions that either do not have these starches, or at least eat them with cautious moderation.  And remember, according to Cookie Monster, "cookies are a sometimes food," so guide your paunch. *Note to self*

Ok, back to what I was saying at the beginning about feeling bad on a regular basis.  Well, I always immediately think when I'm really fatigued that it has to be my low iron or stress, but this week, I kept thinking that I did't know if I felt like I'm lacking necessary nutrients, or if I'm slowly poisoning myself with something.  So I did some research, and I am pretty sure that I also have either a gluten allergy, or I am gluten intolerant.  But the more I am learning the more I want to seriously put this theory to the test.

See, I kept ignoring any symptoms or self-diagnosis that would lead me to have to stay far far away from gluten, because, when I think "gluten-free" I think "yuck!"  So, it was easy for me to just ignore it and keep poisoning my body slowly.  But now that I've had those awesome Kinnikinnick cookies, it has opened my mind to the possibility that eating a gluten-free diet may not only be doable, but that it might actually have the potential to be a tasty lifestyle!

So, I'm going to test the gluten-free waters to see if  A) I do in fact have a gluten allergy/intolerance, and  2) to challenge myself to make some tasty recipes using all gluten-free ingredients.  I will keep a journal of sorts of my progress and findings, and report back.  Hopefully, I will eventually have a whole new section up here for gluten-free dishes for you to try!