16 Apr Gluten

Welcome to my weekly blog! I’m so excited to bring you some of my thoughts about different food types, recipes and my whole ethos around food. So many blogs and so-called ‘diet-gurus’ are out there preaching about the latest super food or way to eat that I felt it was time for a little bit of old fashioned rationale. I believe in eating fresh, in season food with the occasional indulgence, nothing should be forbidden as this can only lead to other troubles. Life is for living and that is why my ethos is: food….with added life!

I thought I would get the ball rolling on my blog with a post about that little devil we know as gluten….”EEEK! GLUTEN!” I can hear you cry, yes gluten….it’s not the great big evil that mainstream media would have you believe, it is a natural part of everyday food but, unfortunately, there are many people who are intolerant of or, in more extreme cases, cannot digest gluten at all. I’d like to decry a few of the myths surrounding gluten here, so let’s start with intolerances shall we?

Gluten intolerance is something that I am really familiar with, not only as a nutritionist, but as a mother. My little girl, Midge was diagnosed very early on with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), something I am sure you have all heard of. As a result we have been, and continue to be on, a huge journey of investigating what it is that she can and cannot eat, included the dreaded gluten.

It doesn’t help that gluten seems to be the latest in a LONG line of foods that people have decide are ‘bad’ for you, causing the greater population to jump on the “Gluten-Free” bandwagon . You only have to walk down your local supermarket aisles to see that gluten free products have exploded onto our supermarket shelves. 2 years ago, when my little Midge was first taken off gluten, there was only a couple of brands of bread readily available. Now, you are spoilt for choice, with new products seeming to appear every day. Does this mean more and more people are becoming intolerant? Or are they simply choosing to eat gluten free as a health choice? 

 What exactly is “Gluten Intolerance”?

I find the term gluten intolerance can be a bit ambiguous, as it is more of an umbrella term that includes many things. So I like to break it down… and use the following terms:

Coeliac disease

Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

Wheat sensitivity

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, where an individual’s immune system reacts badly to the protein (gluten) found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. This reaction causes damage to the small bowel, and can have a host of symptoms as a result

Coeliac disease can initially be diagnosed via blood test and at the time you are tested, you MUST be eating a diet containing gluten. If that is positive, the next step is a biopsy of the bowel and this is the only way to get a true diagnosis. Coeliac is a serious disease, with the only present cure being the avoidance of all foods containing gluten for life. If you think you may have Coeliac disease, it is essential that you do not self-diagnose, and go see your health professional and get properly assessed. More information can also be found at the national Coeliac Disease website:

Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

Non Coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a term used to describe a set of symptoms (like Coeliac disease) that people link to the consumption of gluten containing foods. They either do not test positively to Coeliac or perhaps have not been tested, but find relief for various gastrointestinal/health issues from avoiding/removing gluten from their diet. There is still substantial debate as to the actual prevalence of NCGS, especially as it is often self-diagnosed.

Wheat Sensitivity

Wheat sensitivity, like NCGS, is a term used to describe symptoms linked to the consumption of foods containing wheat, but in contrast they can tolerate oats, rye and barley…. and some can even tolerate the ancient varieties of wheat such as Spelt and/or Kamut. Like NCGS, there is no medical test for wheat sensitivity.

So, why the massive increase in the popularity of following a gluten free diet? It seems to be a combination of factors. Firstly, more people are being correctly diagnosed with Coeliac disease, who previously simply suffered symptoms in silence. Secondly, many ‘Gluten Free Diets’ are really carbohydrate avoidance style diets where the belief is they may lose weight, but not necessarily very healthily.  As a nutritionist, I’m not supportive of any diet that excludes an entire food group and, as you will see, there are ways to decrease ‘bad’ carbs in your diet and introduce better ones that will complement your weight loss program. Thirdly, and possibly more significantly, is the emergence of NCGS amongst the population, for reasons unknown. So, if adopting a gluten free diet, whether by necessity, or by choice, is something you are interested in, what grains (and pseudo grains, that is an edible seed, used as a grain) can you eat on a gluten free diet?

Gluten free grains

Amaranth (pseudo grain)

Buckwheat (pseudo grain)

Chia seeds (pseudo grain)



Rice in all its varieties – brown, white, black, red and wild (although not really rice!)


Quinoa (pseudo grain)


The Great Oat Debate

Whether oats are gluten free, has been a topic of debate for years. Oat protein is not the same as the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. However oats are generally grown in fields that are next to or rotated with crops of wheat. They are then processed on the same machinery, and therefore considered contaminated and not suitable. Some producers are now growing oats in a non-contaminated environment, so are considered safe to consume on a gluten-free diet.

Today’s Feature Grain and Recipe

Quinoa, the ancient grain of the Andes, is considered one of the most nutritious grains due to its high levels of protein, balanced essential amino acid profile, rich nutrient content and gluten free qualities. To top it off, it is wonderfully versatile to cook with, does not require pre-soaking, and cooks in only 12 minutes. Try my quinoa salad below for a super healthy vegetarian salad, not only is it a good source of plant protein, it is packed with dietary fibre, linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. It is also high in manganese, and a good source of phosphorous, magnesium and folate.

Thanks for reading! – Chrissy

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