Let's try and answer some of the common questions around gluten-free we hear all the time:
- What is gluten?
- Why do people look for gluten-free food products?
- Can anyone eat gluten-free?
- Is gluten-free healthy for you?
What is gluten?
Most grain and flour contain gluten, whereas most seeds, nuts and some grains are gluten-free. The gluten in flour is helpful in baking, for making the baked goods light and helping bread, cakes, muffins, and cookies rise. However, the western diet is very high in gluten, as wheat is the most common flour used, and wheat has a high gluten content. Increasing numbers of people find that they are sensitive to gluten, or even intolerant of it. Some develop celiac disease, which means they react adversely to even the tiniest bit of gluten. But fortunately, there are more gluten-free alternatives available these days.
Can anyone eat gluten-free?
Gluten-free products can be eaten by anyone, regardless of their sensitivity to gluten. Gluten-free grains and flours are gaining in popularity today, as more people become sensitive to gluten, or simply realise it is not so healthy to base their diets mainly on wheat, so want to restrict the gluten in their diets and increase the varieties of grain they eat. Spelt is another great alternative to wheat. Although it does contain gluten, the molecular structure of the gluten is very different, making it quite fragile and water soluble, so that it breaks down easily and is readily digestible. As a result, many people who cannot digest wheat very well have no problems with spelt. (See our article on spelt.)
What do people look for in gluten-free? Is it healthy for you?
But there is gluten-free and gluten-free… not all gluten-free products are equally healthy. Many are made with refined grain or flour. Only those made with whole-grain gluten-free flour or grain contain all the original nutriments. Once the bran and germ are stripped from the grain, in the refining process, there is basically only the starch or carbohydrate of the endosperm left. Most of the protein, essential minerals and vitamins are lost. So, at Organic Flour Mills we use only grain that hasn’t been modified in any way, so as to produce only whole-grain flour.
Our gluten-free flour and grain
We stock two organic gluten-free grains, buckwheat and rice, and we mill four gluten-free flours: buckwheat, rice, and our two new additions: millet and sorghum. The millet we use is the larger foxtail millet, and the rice we use is organic long-grain brown rice, which may be replaced by medium-grain if long-grain is unavailable. Our gluten-free flours can be substituted for the gluten ones in most recipes, with chickpea flour often
added for lightness, and sometimes also ground linseed/flaxseed. We separate our gluten products from our gluten-free ones at Organic Flour Mills, with separate mill rooms for our gluten Zentrofan mills, and our gluten-free Zentrofan mill.