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Wheat-free foods are designed for people with wheat allergies or gluten sensitivity. They can also be great alternatives for those simply looking to cut down on wheat in their diet. For many years, the choices for wheat-free foods were somewhat limited, but a marketing boom in health and specialty foods has lead to wider availability and a many more options for delicious wheat-free foods.
Many foods are naturally wheat-free, such as vegetables, fruits, and other cereal grains. Most people with wheat or gluten allergies need to rely on these staples to make up a large part of their diet. It is possible to create a balanced and healthy diet while avoiding wheat and wheat products, as long as care is taken to ensure that appropriate substitutes are made. There are many excellent websites and books that list foods that are naturally wheat-free.
Where people with wheat allergies frequently run into trouble is with packaged or processed foods. Many times, wheat can show up in unusual places, such as in cereals or products that claim to be made from other grains. It is always important to study ingredient lists to determine if wheat is an ingredient or if the product is made on equipment shared with wheat. Some countries, including the United States, now require all commercial food products to list any potential allergens in the product, including wheat.
Since so many commercial products are made with wheat, many specialty food makers have taken up the gauntlet to create tasty, wheat-free substitutes for favorite foods. Wheat-free cereals, crackers, and cookies are now common at most specialty food stores and even chain grocery stores. Some companies even make wheat-free cakes, pastries, and pie shells.
To bake different types of wheat-free foods at home, it is important to find a good substitute for wheat-based flour. White rice flour, buckwheat flour, and quinoa flour are all commonly used substitute varieties that may not contain wheat. Some companies now market blended flours that are meant to closely mimic the properties of wheat flour but are wheat and even gluten free. Many natural food stores carry a wide stock of alternative flours, but remember that not all are equal substitutes for all baking needs.
Whole grains are extremely healthy, and should not be eliminated from the diet if possible. Quinoa, brown or wild rice, and oats can be excellent sources of protein and nutrients that substitute for wheat. There is even a thriving market for rice or quinoa-based pasta, for those who miss their penne alfredo.
Switching to wheat-free foods may be a life-changing event for those with allergies. Wheat intolerant people may suffer digestive problems, severe stomachaches, constant bloating, and even weight gain for years before realizing that wheat may be the culprit. No longer a life sentence of rice cereal and the end of a love affair with cookies, switching to wheat-free foods may broaden culinary horizons as well as create a healthier diet.
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