Ask Beth

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Can I use vinegar on a gluten-free diet?

All forms of vinegar except malt vinegar are gluten-free even those processed with grain alcohol as the gluten molecule is removed in the process.

What do you mean by, “Substitute boldly and eat well?”

People often approach the gluten-free diet feeling that all their food choices have been taken away.  I’ve been on this diet long enough to know that’s simply not true.  Once a person
looks at all the gluten-free possibilities, they will realize that replacing what you can’t have with what you can eat is an empowering exercise and leads to some delicious food, thus eating well.

Plus, I’ve found that nearly every recipe can be made over to be gluten-free.

What are the easiest things to substitute to make a favorite meal gluten free?

Pasta dishes are easy to make by replacing regular pasta with corn or rice pasta.  No other alterations are usually needed.

The same holds true with stuffing where simply substituting gluten-free prepared bread cubes will not change the taste of a favorite recipe.

Commercially-made gluten-free pizza shells lead to great homemade pizza.

Sauces can be thickened with a mixture of cornstarch and water or a paste made from butter and brown rice flour and whisked into a gravy.  Rice flour does a fine job replacing regular flour when you need to dredge meats or fish or add a bit of flour to browned meat in a stew.

By the way, I serve these gluten-free versions to friends and family and the “special diet” factor does not register until they notice I am eating, too.

What is recipe DNA and how does it apply to a makeover?

It sounds complicated but it’s really not.  Baking recipes are based on the ratio or balance of wet to dry ingredients.  Unless you are making over a bread recipe, the substitutions are quite simple.

Just count the quantity of flour in a recipe and replace it with the same amount of a good gluten-free blend.  Then use the same amount of baking powder, baking soda, spices, sugar, butter, eggs and such that are in the original recipe.  The important thing is to preserve the integrity of the recipe – – the balance of fat and liquid and the quantity of flour.  It’s much like
cutting a recipe in half.  When you do, you must cut everything by the same amount or the DNA will be altered.  And heaven knows, we don’t need any more mutant scones and cookies in the world!

The other trick when replacing flour with a gluten-free blend is to add enough gum to replace the gluten.  A cake needs about ½ teaspoon per cup of gluten-free blend while a yeast bread needs 1 teaspoon per cup.  The gum acts as both a stabilizer and a binder so that the end result comes close to the gluten-filled version.

I do a lot of this homework for the reader in Gluten-Free Makeovers, but the principles apply to any makeover.  I hope you will try your hand at making over your own recipes.

What’s the benefit of whole-grain flours in gluten-free recipes?

The whole grain flours like amaranth, sorghum, quinoa and chickpea are nutritionally dense.  That means they contain more protein and fiber than the white flours like white rice or cornstarch.  The white flours create an empty carbohydrate load that stresses the blood sugar levels in our bodies.  The whole grain flours are friendly and also contain fiber which we all know is good for digestion, cholesterol and blood sugar.

From a baker’s standpoint, these are also excellent choices.  These flours are more finely ground so that the texture of baked goods is closer to that of wheat flour.  In addition, the protein in the flour adds elasticity and elasticity is tough to come by in gluten-free baking.  It’s the gluten protein that creates the wonderful stretchiness that allows bakers to knead dough and twirl pizza.  In short, these flours are our friends and we should welcome them into our kitchens.

When would you use high protein flour as opposed to high fiber flour?

Generally a high fiber flour is also high in protein so, to some extent they are interchangeable.  However, some of the high fiber flours like Montina and teff have distinctive flavors that should not be used to prepare delicate cookie recipes, cakes and cupcakes.
They should be reserved for bread baking and recipes that call for molasses, honey or brown sugar and warm spices.  The high protein flours such as sorghum and chickpea flour are great as part of a blend for pizza and pie crust where the dough is rolled out thin and
the structure needs to hold together.

Why does gluten free dough require different handling than wheat dough?

Gluten-free dough is very sticky owing to the starches and gums used.  It behaves like Velcro in that once you get some on your fingers,  more dough will stick to them and it’s difficult to get the stuff off.

I have a few notes in the book about handling dough.  My tips include using ice cream scoops of various sizes to scoop out portions of dough for muffins, cookies, or breads.  I also suggest spraying plastic wrap with vegetable spray such as PAM and handling gluten-free dough through the plastic wrap so that fingers never touch it.  That also creates a smooth surface on the dough and an attractive finished product.

What are the best ways to store gluten free flours and foods?

Gluten-free flours can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months or in the freezer for many months.  Just be sure to bring them to room temperature before cooking with them.

As for storing finished products, I have my best luck freezing most as the refrigerator tends
to dry them out and make them brittle.  (Think leftover rice from the Chinese restaurant.)  Most baked goods can be wrapped and left on the counter for a couple of days to enjoy fresh.  Then wrap remaining baked goods in portion sizes in plastic wrap and place several in a zip lock bag before freezing.  To revive, wrap a portion in moist paper towel and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds or just until slightly warm.  Then toast, bake or eat as is.

The exceptions are cream and pudding based pies, cheesecakes, and anything with fresh fruit in the center or on the topping.  Fruits baked into pies will freeze well.

Is Brown Rice Hazardous to Our Health?

Dear Beth,

I read an article recently that mentioned arsenic can appear in foods that are made from brown rice.  It stated that for the most part, it is a low amount and not harmful.  My question is – how does this affect people with celiac who consume more products made from brown rice than the average person?

Dear Reader,

That’s a great question, especially since gluten-free folks eat so much rice.  I don’t believe we’ve ever addressed this topic here.   In doing some research for you and our readers, here’s what I found.

In March, researchers at Dartmouth College reported that they found high levels of arsenic in rice. The primary concern was organic brown rice used primarily in baby food and energy bars.  The baby food product had arsenic concentrations six times the federal limit of 10 parts per billion for arsenic in drinking water.  Cereal bars that contained rice products like brown rice syrup and rice flour had arsenic levels ranging from 23 to 128 parts per billion, according to the researchers who tested the products.  The problem with baby food is that toddlers are growing quickly no one knows how arsenic might affect their development.

The problem with energy bars is that there may be three or four different rice products in it – the brown rice syrup, rice flour, and so on – and those foods seem to have more arsenic in them. It wasn’t concentrated so much as there’s just more rice in them.

Surprisingly, there are no federal limits for the amount of arsenic that’s acceptable in food. So it’s impossible to know if eating arsenic at these levels is a problem.  “For people who occasionally eat cereal bars, I don’t see a problem,” says Brian Jackson, the analytical chemist who led the study, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.   “But for the toddler formula, until we know what a safe arsenic concentration is, I’d recommend discontinuing that formula,” Jackson said.

The scientists say they are not terrified, but cautious.  They advise consumers to steer away from some of the foods that might have four or five different rice ingredients. And, for folks who eat a lot of rice, like those on a gluten-free diet, they say it’s okay to eat rice. But just vary your diet.  They also say that there is possibly a slightly higher amount of arsenic in brown rice than in white rice, probably due to the fact that the outside layer is still on it.  In addition, arsenic levels vary greatly depending on where and when rice is grown, and there’s, as of yet, no measure of what types of rice are more likely to have low levels.

So why is arsenic in rice?  The plant apparently has an affinity for arsenic, a toxic element that occurs naturally in soil and groundwater. “It turns out that rice needs to take up silica,” Jackson explained, “and in paddy conditions, arsenic is chemically very similar to silica.”

Arsenic in drinking water has been studied for a long time; it’s a big problem in Bangladesh, and also can be an issue in the United States. Arsenic also shows up in apple and grape juice, according to tests conducted by Consumer Reports.

Currently the FDA is sampling rice around the United States and doing a study as a result of those tests.  In coming months, hopefully, they will establish a food safety standard for arsenic in food.  Meanwhile, based on this research, it might be wise to limit the amount of brown rice we consume.

~Beth

What common nutrient deficiencies might an adult experience prior to diagnosis with celiac disease?

From the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center:

Iron, calcium and Vitamin D are the most common deficiencies, but some present with deficiencies in B12, copper, folate, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin and/or zinc.  Nutrient deficiencies associated with celiac disease are due to intestinal damage.  In most cases, nutrient deficiencies that were caused by damage from celiac disease will naturally resolve as your intestine heals.  However, many gluten-free foods aren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals like their gluten-containing counterparts. Thus, we suggest a general multivitamin to prevent against nutritional deficiencies.

Are migraines more likely if you have celiac disease?

If you have celiac disease or irritable bowel disease, and also suffer from migraines, you might be part of a growing group of people who suffer migraine headaches along with their celiac disease or irritable bowel condition.

A recent study found that people who are sensitive to gluten have higher rates of migraine headaches. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, held in April.  A research team led by Alexandra Dimitrova, M.D., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, conducted a survey of 502 individuals. The survey group included 188 people with celiac disease, 111 with IBD, 25 with gluten sensitivity, and 178 controls.

The results indicated that 30 percent of people with celiac disease, 56 percent of those with gluten sensitivity, 23 percent of those with IBD, and 14 percent of control patients reported chronic headache.

“Our findings suggest that migraine is a common neurologic manifestation in celiac disease, GS, and IBD,” the authors write. “Future interventional studies should screen migraine patients for celiac disease, particularly those with treatment-resistant headaches.”

Source: http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/pb/28608  and Celiac.com

Are oats a safe addition to gluten-free eating and baking?

Dear Beth,

I have been placed on a gluten and dairy free diet due to an intolerance of both and since then have been virtually pain free.  Being that fresh fruit is so plentiful now, I have been eating it for breakfast and know when the weather cools off in the Fall I will go back to cereals.  I just read that oats is a no-no for gluten intolerance.  Is that so?  Please advise.

Dear Reader,

The answer is “yes” and “no.”  The problem is that some oats are grown in fields that are rotated with wheat and thus some amount of contamination occurs in the fields and in the harvesting and milling process. In the last few years, scientists and physicians have reported that the amino chain in oats is different than that in wheat and therefore does not produce the same adverse reaction in celiac patients if they eat pure oats.  Following that news, several companies began growing and harvest oats in fields where no wheat is grown.  These are pure and safe for most celiac patients.  While a small segment of the celiac population may have an additional reaction to oats, these should be okay for most.   But, according to your note, you are gluten intolerant.  Before you get started, discuss this with your doctor as only he or she understands these intolerances and if they might make you more or less sensitive to oats.  There are several brands of gluten-free oats on the market, including some instants and flavored ones!   Enjoy!  Beth