Will Going Gluten Free Benefit You?

Will Going Gluten Free Benefit You?

Gluten is the current diet demon trending in America. In the 70’s it was sugar, the 80’s it was fat, the 90’s it was carbohydrates, and now, gluten. Everyone from celebrities to your next-door-neighbor seems to be touting the benefits of going gluten free. More energy, less bloating, weight loss, happiness….you name it and people claim gluten-free helps it. More than a 3rd of Americans are currently trying to cut gluten from their diets and sales of gluten free products are expected to reach $3 billion by 2015. This is a 3-fold increase since 2005!! So what is this “demon” food? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats due to contamination. This little protein is responsible for the spongy texture of breads and often used to thicken soups and sauces.

There is an important distinction to be made among this gluten free frenzy. There are those who MUST avoid gluten and those who WANT to avoid gluten. May is Celiac Awareness Month, highlighting an autoimmune disease that causes over 300 symptoms associated with the consumption of gluten. Even a crumb of bread initiates intestinal atrophy and makes Celiac suffers extremely sick. Rachel Begun, MS, RD stresses that it is extremely important to know the warning signs, as 83% of people with Celiac are undiagnosed. Prevalence is increasing and estimates now stand at 1 in 100 Americans.

But could people without Celiac disease also benefit from going gluten-free? What about the spectrum of “gluten intolerance?” The latest research weighs in on these issues.

Weight Loss

Often, when people lose weight after going gluten-free, it is because they have cut out processed junk food. Everything from cakes, cookies, brownies, snack mixes, heavily processed sauces, and frozen meals contain gluten. If you eliminated these foods from your diet anyways, you would lose weight.  Additionally, cutting out gluten severely limits options when eating at restaurants or parties, which decreases the likelihood of overeating. It is also important to point out that there are plenty of gluten-free junk foods on the market now and these typically have even more calories and fat than traditional versions. When you remove gluten, you often have to add in extra fat and sugar to compensate for textural differences.  For instance, gluten-free pretzels pack 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving compared to 110 calories and 0 grams of fat in regular pretzels. The lesson? Gluten-free foods are not a magic bullet for weight loss. Successes are likely linked to a forced focus on whole, unprocessed foods and more limited options. And don’t forget that it is all too easy to overindulge in gluten-free goodies too.


No studies currently exist to specifically link going gluten-free to having more energy. That being said, anecdotal stories suggest that people who remove gluten from their diets are suddenly balls of fire. First, removing gluten containing foods removes a lot of processed carbohydrates that are conclusively known to drain you of energy. Additionally, it is hard to tell whether extra energy is due to what was removed (gluten) or what was added (likely more unprocessed foods). Evidence does exist that shows incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet will impact your energy levels.  If you aren’t eating gluten, are you eating more fruits and veggies? Hopefully, but not necessarily. There is no guarantee that removing gluten will improve your energy, but focusing on unprocessed foods will.

What about gluten sensitivity?

More and more people are being diagnosed as “gluten sensitive.” This means that they did not test positive for Celiac disease, but still experience adverse effects related to gluten consumption such as bloating, intestinal distress, or headaches. This is becoming a more legit issue in the medical community. Celiac tests only test for two specific types of gluten proteins, while there are several other types of gluten proteins not classically considered for a Celiac diagnosis, that people can react to. As understanding of the complexities of gluten reactions continues to grow, I suspect a medically recognized gluten spectrum will be established. Stay tuned…

Bottom Line: There is no medical need to avoid gluten unless you have Celiac disease. If you remove gluten and find you feel better, great! Whether or not the reason is related specifically to gluten is up for debate, but finding what makes you feel good is of greater importance. If you do believe that you have a gluten allergy though, be sure to get tested first before you start experimenting. Limiting your gluten intake before doing so can result in inaccurate test results. Plus, if its not a gluten allergy that ails you, it could be something else entirely. Knowing what is going on in your body and what foods are safe and why is essential to having as full a diet as possible.

If you do end up experimenting with gluten free foods, try to stick with those that are naturally gluten-free versus those that are processed. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, milk, plain yogurt, and gluten-free grains like sprouted grains, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and teff are just a few foods that tend to be naturally gluten-free and can all be great healthy additions to any diet.

Tell Us: Do you try to avoid gluten? What are you favorite gluten-free foods?

The Gluten Free RD is a blog written and maintained byRachel Begun, MS, RD. Rachel is one of Around the Plate’s Nutrition Experts and a member of thePlate Community. As a Nutrition Expert, Rachel makes eating healthy simple. Find other healthy eating champions, nutrition experts, and recipe gurus on our community blog network.

Gluten-Free Holiday Peppermint Thins

As the holiday season rolls around, many of us jump into the kitchen and bake holiday sweets to share with family, friends and coworkers. Although our intentions may be filled with holiday cheer, we may need to stop and ask ourselves, “is this gluten-free?” Unfortunately, it’s difficult to provide a gluten-free sweet treat for our loved ones. Despite the growing gluten-free selection at the grocery stores, homemade gluten-free recipes can be hard to come by, especially when it comes to sweets! Therefore, to keep with the holiday spirit and allow everyone to enjoy their holiday sugar-buzz, I want to share a gluten-free recipe for a tasty treat.

For years, chocolate and peppermint have been a classic duo. There is just something refreshing and delightful about the combination of this sweet treat. Of course, this is also a personal favorite of mine too! So when I came across this gluten-free peppermint thin recipe, I just knew it would be a hit at all the holiday parties!

Gluten-Free Holiday Peppermint Thins 

1 ¾ cups gluten-free flour (see directions for combining below)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ¼ teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
¾ butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

15 ounces vanilla or chocolate-flavored candy coating (almond bark)

Hard peppermint candies, crushed

1. Combine gluten-free flour blend, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl until mixed; set aside.
2. Combine powdered sugar and butter. Beat until smooth. Add egg and peppermint extract; continue beating until well mixed. Slowly incorporate flour mixture.   3. Continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.
4. Divide dough evenly into thirds. Shape each into a ball; flatten slightly. Wrap each in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm (approximately 2 hours or overnight).
5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness using the gluten-free flour blend on surface to prevent sticking. Work on one of the thirds at a time and keep remaining dough refrigerated. Cut dough with a 2-inch round cookie cutter, place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely.
6. Place candy coating in microwave-safe bowl; microwave on HIGH and stir often for 60 to 90 seconds.
7. Place waxed paper onto flat surface. Dip each cookie into warm coating; shake off excess. Allow cookies to set on waxed paper. Immediately decorate as desired. 8. Let stand until coating is set.
9. Store between layers of waxed paper in loosely covered container. Cookies may also be frozen for a cool treat or crushed and added to some gluten-free ice cream, yum!

Gluten-Free Flour Blend:
2 cups rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Use appropriate amount for recipe; store remainder in container with tight-fitting lid. Stir before using.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cookie
Calories: 100
Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 10mg
Sodium: 45mg
Carbohydrates: 13g
Dietary Fiber: 0g
Protein: 0g

*This recipe was originated from Land O Lakes Company. The original recipe recommends using Land O Lakes butter and egg products and therefore the following statement is provided by the company regarding their products used in this recipe.

This recipe was developed using alternative flours and other products labeled as “gluten-free”. To date, the FDA and USDA have not defined the term “gluten-free.” Therefore, to the best of our knowledge, the ingredients in our Process Cheese (example: American Process Cheese) and our natural dairy products (examples: natural cheese and butter) do not contain gluten.

For more of your favorite holiday recipes, check out Spice for the Holidays and keep your foods full of flavor all season long!

An Intern Behind the Plate,

Celebrating Summer with Fiesta Pasta Salad


Source: The Healthy Apple

I miss being in the kitchen. A lot. My summer so far has been spent away from home at a 10-week summer research program and, as rewarding and beneficial as it was, I am very excited to go home this weekend, put on the cute little apron that the “Easter Bunny” left for me this past spring, and celebrate my summer accomplishments by mixing up something yummy. For me, cooking is not simply an action through which I feed myself; it is an enjoyable time during which I am able to release the stress accumulated over the course of the day (or 10 weeks) and, in the process, create beautiful, tasty, and nutritious dishes.

Of course, let’s be real, as a sometimes stereotypical college student, I do go for the quick and easy meal at times instead. But what if someone like me could make a beautiful, tasty, and wholesome meal quickly? In a recent post, Amie from The Healthy Apple introduces a recipe that is just that. Her Gluten-Free Vegan Fiesta Pasta Salad takes a total of 20 minutes to make, is packed with veggie-goodness, and is absolutely gorgeous!! (Honestly, Amie, share some of those photo-taking skills with the rest of us.) The best part, though, is how fun this recipe would be to make: I don’t know about you, but chopping, slicing, grating, and whisking ingredients together is what makes cooking, well… cooking, and this recipe has no shortage of such prep work. No worries though, you can easily get all that prep-work done while the pasta is boiling and complete the meal in no time.

Another great aspect of this recipe is that it can be served at room temperature or chilled. This is great for two reasons: It can be prepared in advance and be a ready-to-eat meal on those days when meetings, work, or a copious amount of homework keep you out of the kitchen, OR it can be served chilled, which makes for a perfectly refreshing meal just right for the ridiculously hot summer days we have been having.

Whether or not you are kitchen-deprived and looking to celebrate like I am, this recipe is a great option for any individual looking to make a refreshing summer meal that will no doubt be admired and enjoyed by all that you choose to share it with (of course, that is if you choose to share such a pretty dish at all… ;) ).

Is cooking something you do for stress-relief? If not, how do you relax after a long day? I’m always looking for new ways to decompress, so I’d love to hear from you!

The Intern behind the Plate,

the Healthy Apple Screenshotthe Healthy Apple is a blog written and maintained by Amie Valpone, HHC, AADPAmie is one of Around the Plate’s Recipe Gurus and is a member of thePlate Community. As a recipe guru, Amie shares creative dishes and healthy recipes that anyone on a budget can enjoy. Find other nutrition experts, recipe gurus, and healthy eating champions on our community blog network.

Vegan & Gluten-Free Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

If you don’t know already, I have a MAJOR sweet tooth! Unfortunately, that often its often harder for me to keep my sweets in check. And since cookies, cakes, and brownies literally call to me (okay, maybe not literally), I am always so happy to find healthified versions that can not only help keep my sweet tooth in check, but make it a little bit easier for me to not go completely off the deep end in a pool of unhealthy ingredients.

Thankfully, Recipe Guru Shelby Suzuki from Everyday Vegan Girl can read minds! She must have known I was looking for something sweet, delicious, and loaded with good-for-you ingredients! Not only will these help satisfy my sweet tooth, they can help satisfy yours as well! And as an added bonus, these cookies are vegan and gluten-free; they are also void of any added sugars! Now that’s something I can raise a cookie to.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies (vegan, gluten-free, and added sugar free)

PB & J Cookies
credit: photo by Shelby Suzuki from EveryDayVeganGirl.com

1 cup peanut flour
1/2 cup rolled oats*
1/4 cup oat flour*
10 medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup water or unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Jam or jelly of choice

*although oats do not contain gluten, cross-contamination with gluten-containing products can occur in the facility in which they were produced. To ensure that your oats are truly gluten-free, look for certified gluten-free products. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a small food processor, grind the dates with 2 Tbsp water or non-dairy milk until paste forms
3. In a large bowl, mix peanut flour, oats, oat flour, baking powder, guar gum and xanthan gum just until combined.
4.  Add water and dates, and mix until all dough forms.
5. Divide and roll dough into 12 balls.
6. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten each ball. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the middle of each cookie.
7. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies are lightly browned. The cookies may feel soft and underdone, but they will be firm as they cool.
8. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Spoon about 1 tsp of jam or jelly onto each cookie just before serving. If not serving right away, keep cookies in the refrigerator. When ready to serve remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.

These cookies are also a great treat for kids too! I know my boys would love them! And if you really want to boost the healthiness of this recipe, try this added tip from Shelby: skip the jam or jelly and make your own fruit filling instead. What a fabulous idea!

How do you satisfy your sweet tooth? 

The Girl Behind the Plate,

Miley Cyrus Goes Gluten-Free: Should You?

Miley Cyrus
source: pinterest.com via nichole gogatz

by Jessica Serdikoff 

It seems as though Miley Cyrus once again is “just being Miley,” and it’s got people talking. In defense of a recent, alleged weight loss, Cyrus has admitted to following a gluten- and lactose-free diet. She has even tweeted sentiments that everyone should try going gluten free for a week, stating “the change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing! U won’t go back!”

If Miley is gluten-sensitive as she claims to be, there’s nothing wrong with her decision to go gluten-free. In fact, she would be sorry not to. Gluten intolerance, officially diagnosed as Celiac disease (though most people have been experiencing milder discomforts that don’t qualify as full-blow Celiac), is a genetically-based immune response that occurs in certain individuals when they consume gluten – a protein often found in wheat, barley, and rye. When consumed, these foods can trigger a cascade of inflammatory and immunological responses that ultimately leads to damaged intestinal lining. Without a healthy intestinal wall, nutrients aren’t properly absorbed. Instead, it becomes exceptionally difficult – if not impossible – for the individual to remain well nourished. Untreated, this disease can also cause other complications, including infertility.

By eliminating gluten-containing foods from the diet, an individual with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease will notice that their symptoms go away and there intestines can begin to heal. Unfortunately, this is not a dose-response condition – that is, even a trace amount of gluten can cause a very serious immune reaction.

On the other hand, more and more people are turning to gluten-free for health and weight loss regardless of whether or not they actually have Celiac Disease or any type of sensitivity to gluten. Currently, there is no research to support this diet as a weight loss method. More than that, it poses its own health problems for people who choose to follow it. Gluten-containing foods are major sources of many nutrients in the US diet, including B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin) and iron. By eliminating these foods, an individual runs the risk of becoming deficient in these nutrients. It also should be noted that replacing gluten-containing foods with highly processed or refined gluten-free alternatives, which are becoming increasingly popular and available, are equally risky, even if you do have Celiac disease.

The bottom line: gluten-free foods exist for a reason. They help those with Celiac disease live a normal, healthy life. Yet they are not meant to help the average person lose weight. Not only does this pose direct health risks for the person who adopts this diet unnecessarily, but it also makes it more challenging for people with legitimate Celiac disease to be taken seriously – if a waiter thinks that a guest is asking about gluten because she wants to shed a few pounds via the “latest fad” and not because it can seriously damage her body, he may be less vigilant about contamination of that person’s order.

It isn’t really any of our businesses whether Miley does or does not have a genuine intolerance to gluten; however, with open communication we have with celebrities and average Joes alike thanks to social media, it’s imperative for the public to understand the importance of being wary of dietary advice given from anyone other than a trained professional.

What are your thoughts on how vocal celebrities have been recently about food, nutrition and health? 

If you are gluten intolerant or know someone who is, here are some fantastic resources to read through:

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Celiac Page
The Celiac Foundation
The Celiac Sprue Association

And of course, if you suspect a gluten intolerance or allergy, please speak with your personal care provider first before trying to eliminate gluten from your diet on your own.


Jessica Serdikoff is the chief blogger behind Floptimisma blog where Jessica shares deliciously inspiring recipes and tales of life as a nutrition student. Follow Floptimism on Facebook and Twitter