How To Navigate Your Way Through A Gluten-Free Diet

Anthia Koullouros

Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert

Once you know the facts about gluten intolerance, navigating your way through the many foods containing gluten and finding those that are truly gluten free can be tricky.

gluten-freeimage via pinterest

Gluten is found hidden in many foods – watch out for the following:

– Pasta, most cereals, muesli, breads, biscuits, cakes, batters, crumbs & flours (unless specified), farina; thickeners, malt, soba & udon noodles, pumpernickel bread, pastry, pizza, pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, wafers, cones, rusk
– Commercial soups and vegetables e.g. baked beans
– Sauces (eg. soy sauce – use tamari instead)
– Thickeners found in ice cream, custards, cheeses, creams, yoghurts
– Tapioca starch, icing sugar
–  Tock cubes, gravy mixes
– Sausages, burgers, rissoles, frozen dinners, imitation seafood
– Fish, meat and yeasted spreads
– Commercial condiments e.g. chutney, relishes, pickles, mustard
– Coffee substitutes, drinking chocolate
– Alcohol: beer, ale, lager, porter, stout,
– Licorice, flavouring essences, filled chocolates

Go Grain Free with Coeliac Disease

If you have Coeliac disease, it is wise to go grain free. Consuming gluten (and in some cases other constituents of wheat and grains) can:

– Produce toxins that damage the lining of the gut, leading to a wider gap than normal between cells and allowing big particles to pass through and cause an immune reaction (known as ‘leaky gut’).
– Produce toxins that bind essential minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium, making them unavailable to the body.
– Produce toxins that inhibit digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients, including protein.
– Be cross-contaminated with wheat in production at the factory and therefore contain gluten.

Consider the Alternatives Carefully When Going Gluten Free

There are a number of other considerations when going gluten free, including:

– Sourcing concerns – alternative grains may be genetically modified and from monoculture farming, which produces unhealthy grains like refined white rice, corn and the legume soybean.
– Processing concerns – what do they do to the grain? For example, how long ago was the flour milled? The longer flour is exposed to air the more it ‘oxidizes’ (gets damaged and loses its nutritional qualities).
– High sugar – Gluten free products are often high in starch and sugars.
– Anti-nutrients – Gluten free products may be high in anti-nutrients such as phytic acids or trypsin inhibitors that interfere with digestion.
– Highly processed – Many other processed ingredients may be included to create a product that has similar properties to those that are gluten-based.

Cross-reactions with other foods that have a similar ‘molecular signature’ to gluten and its components

There are a number of other foods that tend to go hand-in-hand with gluten intolerance and cause reactions. Some of the more common include:

• Casein
• All dairy
• Coffee
• Chocolate
• Pseudocereals
• Corn
• Rice
• Tapioca
• Potatoes
• Soy

A Note on Soy and Soy Products

One of the popular choices for food production these days, particularly for those gluten and dairy free, is soy. Soy has been a controversial topic and many do not know what to think of this legume and the products that are made from it. Some of the concerns in consuming soy include:

– Soybeans contain high levels of phytic acid, which can bind with key minerals and prevent their absorption into the body
– Soy contains Trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion
– Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function
– Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents
– The Vitamin B12 in soy is not absorbed and actually increases the body’s requirement for B12
– Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for Vitamin D
– Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing of soy products, which reduces the nutritional value of soy and can cause inflammation in the body
– The processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines
– Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods
– Soy contains high levels of aluminum, which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys

There are also some ethical and environmental concerns around soy, including:

– Soy is produced as a Monoculture – which is unsustainable, unhealthy farming
– The expansion of soy plantations into forests is contributing to climate change. Deforestation is responsible for about 15% of all the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by people.
– Soil erosion and environmental impacts from the ever-increasing use of pesticides is a growing problem where soybeans are grown.
– Lucrative soybean production has had negative social impacts in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
– Concentration of farmland in the hands of a few has pushed small farmers and communities off the land and  encouraged exploitation of workers.

If you are going to consume soy products, make sure you choose fermented ones (such as miso and tempeh) in small amounts, rather than as alternative to meat or dairy protein.

Alternatives to Gluten-Containing Grains

In going gluten free – don’t forget to eat whole foods rather than simply choosing gluten free alternatives. That said, in addition to lots of organic vegetables and fruit, grass-fed meat, wild fish and pastured eggs – there are some gluten-free grain alternatives:


These are broadleaf plants (non-grasses) that are used in much the same way as cereals or gluten containing grains. Pseudocereals are also a great substitute for gluten free grains (millet, corn and rice). They can be used to make meals like porridge, bircher muesli and risotto – however they should be prepared carefully, by pre-soaking, sprouting and or/cooking to reduce the anti-nutrients such as phytates that accompany them.

Gluten Free Grain: Rice

Rice is very versatile but is quite high in carbohydrate and also needs to be prepared well to reduce the anti-
nutrients like phytic acid. We recommend you double soak brown rice and avoid consumption of white rice if you are trying to lose weight or have an auto-immune disease.

Gluten Free Grain: Millet

Beware of too much millet – it is rich in’ goitrogens’ which are substances that can suppress thyroid activity and lead to goiter, an enlargement of this very important gland which resides in the throat (low iodine intake can also lead to goiter).

Gluten Free Grain: Corn

A small amount of corn can be beneficial, but choose organic to avoid genetic modification. Corn undergoes a process called Nixtamalization – in which it is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. These conditions convert corn’s bound niacin (Vitamin B3) to free niacin, making it available for absorption into the body, and helping to prevent deficiency or a condition called Pellagra.

Nuts and Gluten Free Nut Flours

Nut flours can be very useful but once again, prepare them well by pre-soaking or fermenting – or choose blanched almonds, raw macadamias or activated nuts and seeds.

Gluten Free Coconut

Coconut is tasty, satisfying and full of healthy fats and other nutrients. Choose whole coconuts, and desiccated coconut over coconut flour as it is less processed (but more moist).

Make your own – Vegetable pasta/noodles

You can imitate pasta and noodles using a lot of different vegetables – try strips of zucchini, squash, spinach, eggplant and so on. A Gefu Spirelli Spiral Vegetable Cutter may be of assistance in making these.

Other non-gluten substitutes are available, but these tend to be very processed and high in starch. Consider the source and processing of these, along with your current health status before purchasing:

– Tapioca – a starch extracted from cassava
– Potato
– Corn starch
– Arrowroot
– Guar gum
– Xanthum gum

Gluten free Meal plan

See our meal plan to help choose some alternatives to traditional grain-based meals:

Breakfast: Try eggs (poached, scrambled, omelet or frittata – with or without vegetables or fruit), buckwheat or quinoa porridge (recipe below), grain free Bircher muesli or an old-fashioned egg flip or smoothie.

Lunch: left over dinner is always a handy option for lunch – or try chicken legs/thighs and salad, smoked salmon and salad or vegetables, meatballs or patties with steamed vegetables and homemade sauce, or a warm quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and meat.

Dinner: try roasting pastured chicken, lamb or beef with vegetables, a slow-cooked casserole or soup, sautéed or pan fried fish served with steamed vegetables, greens or salads, or a Mexican-style chicken with salad.

Snacks: Once again, whole foods are best – try 1 finger length of cheese, or ¼ cup of yoghurt together with 1 piece of fruit, or sliced vegetables with homemade dressings/dips. You can even simply boil and egg and take it along with you. Activated nuts and seeds, raw blanched almonds or raw macadamias are also handy options in small amounts.

Gluten-free Recipes

The following recipes will help you make some delicious meals from the grain alternatives:

Organic Quinoa

This light and wholesome grain may be prepared quickly and easily with this basic method.

Ingredients: 2 cups water, 1 cup Organic Quinoa


– Place quinoa and water together with ¼ teaspoon of salt in a saucepan and bring to boil.
– Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
– You will know that the Quinoa is cooked when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated.

Makes 3 cups.

Organic Buckwheat

Roasted buckwheat (kasha) and raw, hulled buckwheat (buckwheat groats) are both very easy to cook. Expect the buckwheat to expand to about double its size as it absorbs the water during cooking. After cooking, there are many ways to use buckwheat and kasha in main and side dishes as well as in baking and desserts.

Ingredients: 2 cups of water for each cup of buckwheat.

Directions for Cooking Kasha:

– Place two cups of water in a pot and heat on medium high.
– Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and bring water to the boil. Add kasha to water and stir well with a fork.
– Reduce temperature to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes with the lid on until the kasha absorbs the water and is softened. NB: It is important not to overcook buckwheat or it can become mushy.

Directions for Cooking Buckwheat Groats:

– Add 2 cups of water and ¼ teaspoon of salt to a pot. Heat to boiling point.
– Stir in 1 cup of buckwheat groats. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until water is fully absorbed, stirring occasionally.

Organic Amaranth

Ingredients: 1 cup amaranth and 2 ½ cups water


Boil 1 cup of amaranth in 2½ cups liquid such as water, until seeds are tender (about 18-20 minutes).

Organic Breakfast porridge

Make a wholesome porridge by preparing these non-grains well, to further enhance digestion, improve nutrition and speed up cooking time.


2 cups water
½ cup quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth
Pinch of natural salt
An acid medium – choose either 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of yoghurt, 2 tbsp of whey or 3 tbsp of lemon juice


– Soak pseudo grain overnight in water with natural salt and acid medium. The next day add more water or milk and cook through gently on the stovetop.
– Keep adding more fluid until pseudo grains are fully cooked and soft.
– Serve warm with more milk, cream or yoghurt and some freshly grated green apples or berries, nuts and seeds. You may also soak the nuts and seeds overnight with your pseudo grain.
– Flavour with natural organic Vanilla Bean Powder, Cinnamon Powder or Stevia Green Leaf Powder and add a tablespoon of coconut oil for some good quality fats.

Eat what we have evolved to eat – real, whole food

Humans are Omnivores – our anatomy and physiology dictates that we are designed to eat plants and meat. A modern hunter-gatherer, which is what we are, is meant to eat a diet rich in fresh, whole foods. Vegetables (both fresh and cultured), whole fats and proteins from healthy pastured animals, non-farmed seafood, some well prepared nuts and seeds, small amounts of seasonal fruit and whole unprocessed cultured dairy makes a delicious and healthy diet whether you are gluten free or not.


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