I was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease when I was eighteen years old. Cue the familiar “I don’t know how you do it, if I couldn’t eat bread I would die” exclamations that usually follow. However, in reality being diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease changed my life for the better. I mean sure, I do miss the ease of eating food without inspecting every ingredient listed, but overall I have much more energy and feel a whole lot better. In fact, learning and adapting to my diagnosis led me to change my major in college to dietetics and I have been working in the health and nutrition field ever since.
A little background for those who may not know about Celiac’s Disease ( or think it’s a fad diet). Celiac’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder where your body views gluten as a foreign invader. Gluten is a major protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is composed of two elements called gliadin and glutenin. They contribute to the elasticity and extensibility of bread, making gluten a near-perfect starch…except for those of us living with Celiac’s Disease.
When gluten is ingested it causes physical damage to the villi that line the small intestine. Villi are little hair-like extensions responsible for nutrient absorption. Meaning, when damage to the villi occurs the ability to absorb nutrients is significantly impaired. In addition to the damage, you get all the fun GI side effects that no one ever wants to talk about.
The only way to not feel the effects of Celiac’s Disease is avoidance of all things gluten. Luckily, nowadays it’s easier to do. Overall understanding of Celiac’s Disease, and its effect on the body, is rising. Restaurants are getting better at labeling gluten-free menu items, grocery stores are designating aisles to gluten-free products, and efforts to minimize cross contamination has improved.
As I bake and cook I try to incorporate different gluten-free flours to see which ones I enjoy the most. To my surprise, when it comes to gluten-free flours there are a lot of options. Here are some to look out for!
- Chickpea Flour: Also goes by garbanzo flour, cici flour, gram flour, and besan. It’s an amazing source of protein and fiber. Want to try it? I highly recommend trying Banza Pasta.
- Buckwheat Flour: Despite it’s name it contains no gluten. Also…makes for amazing pancakes, just saying.
- Coconut Flour: Was surprised to learn that it doesn’t have an overly strong coconut taste. Heads up! It soaks up a lot of liquid, so make sure to plan accordingly (buy extra water and eggs).
- Almond Flour: Also goes by almond meal. This type of flour is powdery, so don’t use this flour alone if you’re making homemade bread.
- Amaranth Flour: Contains lysine, a protein missing in many other grains. Also, it’s an ancient grain, which makes it seem magical in a way. Just me? Okay…moving on.
- Corn Flour: Made from cornmeal, which is milled from the whole kernel. Comes from both yellow and white corn. I cannot pass on this flour without mentioning the use of precooked cornmeal to make the most wonderful food in the world: Arepas
- Oat Flour: Made from grounded whole oats, oat flour is sweet in taste and an amazing source of fiber. I personally substitute oats in for many of my favorite recipes such as pancakes, cookies, brownies, and muffins.
- Quinoa Flour: Quinoa flour is a complete protein-meaning it’s made up of all amino acids. When baking, it is best to mix quinoa flour with other types of flour since it does get pretty dry.
- Rice Flour: Rice flour is a good substitute for pastas, crackers, and additions to soups or sauces. It can be made from with both white and brown rice (although brown rice flour is higher in fiber).
- Tapioca Flour: Also known as tapioca starch or cassava flour. Tapioca flour is made from starch taken from the cassava (yuca) plant. It goes well with baked goods, sauces, and might I add my newest obsession cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s. I am not joking- go get it.
There are many more gluten-free flours out there, however these are the ones I have tried. I am always on the lookout for new types of gluten-free flours to try. So please share with me any ones I have missed and even some awesome recipes to use them with!