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Going Without Gluten

When it comes to going against the grain, those with gluten allergies must take the saying to a whole new level. People allergic to gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—suffer from abdominal pain and digestive symptoms that can range from minor to severe. And celiac disease, the most serious form of gluten allergy, is a genetic intolerance to gluten that causes the immune system to attack the intestines.

So what exactly does a gluten-free diet mean? Besides avoiding wheat, barley, and rye in their whole forms, people allergic to gluten should look out for products derived from these grains. That includes vegetable proteins, malt and malt flavorings, starches (except cornstarch), even various flavorings and emulsifiers found in processed foods.

But the list of “safe” foods is longer and more diverse than you might think:

  • Meats
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Rice

Carb fanatics and those with a sweet tooth need not panic, though. Food co-ops offer a variety of breads, breakfast cereals, pastas, desserts, and other typically “off-limits” foods made with alternative flours (rice, soy, potato, tapioca, arrowroot), and most of the time, they’ll be labeled as “gluten-free.” Experiment with using gluten-free products in recipes that show off local seasonal produce. While switching to gluten-free cooking will likely require some adjustments, there are plenty of delicious dishes to be had.

Eating out doesn't have to be an ordeal, either; as more and more restaurants begin to incorporate local, seasonal ingredients into their menus, they’re also adding menu items for diners with common allergies or other special diets (like vegan or vegetarian diets). Many restaurants have a “gluten-free” menu, or will be happy to modify your chosen dish with gluten-free substitutions. Ask your co-op staff to recommend gluten-free-friendly restaurants in your area, and encourage your favorite spots to incorporate gluten-free foods into their menus (just send them to the co-op to stock their kitchens!).

Be sure to check out our gluten-free recipes.