Gluten and Grains

Gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat grain, has caused quite a stir in the health and food industries.  Gluten free is now more mainstream than ever, but not many understand why gluten causes problems, or what those problems are, and research sound bytes can be convoluted and confusing.

Most grains are eaten refined without the bran and hulls (think white flour – a pulverized and sifted powder product from wheat). This fine flour, while delicious, breaks down quite easily to sugar (glucose) and contributes very little vitamins and minerals.  I call this a low nutrient dense food.  If you think of calories as dollars, you do not get a good value when buying wheat flour.  
In fact, I think this of most grains and generally eliminate grains from my regular routine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a great piece of bread or fresh pasta, but I do so sparingly, and well informed.  Many wheat crops are currently genetically modified, and if you purchase something in a package that contains wheat that does not boldly display Non-GMO, consider the product to be from a genetically modified source, pasta included.  You should avoid most genetically modified crops.
I’ve recently been drawn to the Ethiopian cuisine that serves injera, a sourdough bread made from the teff grain.  The grain is touted as healthier than wheat so I thought I would investigate.  First, we discovered that the lactobacillus cultures (the compound that makes it “sour”) neutralize certain acids and that allows us to digest and absorb more nutrients from the grains reducing bloating and bellyaches.  Second, in the case of the gluten free teff, we found that the protein and nutrient content, specifically iron, calcium, potassium and fiber, was much higher than other grains.  Injera dough typically sits for three days as it ferments, but if you are looking for a satisfying quick snack and are willing to give up a few, but not all, of the health benefits, try the quick recipe below.
1 cup teff flour1 egg1 cup water1 T turmeric powder¼ tsp black pepper¼ tsp chipotle pepper (optional)1 T Coconut OilSea Salt
Preheat oven to 350.Place 1 T coconut oil on a cookie/baking sheet and place in preheating oven for a minute to melt oil.Remove sheet and make sure entire pan is coated with coconut oil.Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.Pour on to sheet and place on middle rack of oven.Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Edges may peel up slightly.Remove from oven and dust with sea salt.Cut into 8 servings.
Use as a “tortilla” to encompass other foods or simply top with ghee, coconut oil, avocado or nut butter.
Fermented foods have additional health benefits, so if the teff flour is too course, try a sourdough bread that is closer to traditional white bread.

Leave a Reply