NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Living Wheat Free

Living Wheat Free


          What food, grown extensively in the Great Plains, is a staple of many diets and is commonly used by food manufacturers in a wide range of food products?  Wheat! We can easily spot wheat, which is usually milled into flour, in bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries, puddings and pies but wheat can also be found in manufactured and processed foods where wheat flour is commonly used as a processing aid, a binder, a filler or as a carrier for flavorings and spices.  

          For most of us, that hearty and filling wheat flavor is something we enjoy.  But a small percentage of individuals have a true allergy to this valuable staple of the American diet.  Proper diagnosis should be done by a qualified physician as gluten intolerance or celiac disease is often confused with wheat allergy.  The difference between wheat allergy and wheat intolerance is how the body reacts to the ingestion of wheat. A true food allergy causes the immune system to recognize the offending-substance in the wheat as foreign and begin to produce antibodies to halt the invasion. Swelling of the lips, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and/or wheezing or breathing problems are the most common reactions.

          For those individuals with Coeliac Disease, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, reducing its ability to absorb adequate nutrients from food, resulting in illness which may resemble malnutrition. 

          Because wheat flour is so common in prepared foods, it is important to read labels. Amazingly enough, even some hot dogs, catsup, ice cream, and nutritional supplements may contain wheat!

          Look for the following terms listed in the ingredient label if you have a wheat allergy. These terms should be avoided: bran, bread crumbs, bulgur, cereal extract, couscous, cracker meal, durum, farina, gluten, graham flour, high gluten flour, high protein flour, semolina, spelt, vital gluten, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat gluten, wheat malt, wheat starch, and whole wheat or enriched flour.

          Other ingredients that may indicate the presence of wheat protein include: gelatinized starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, kamut, modified food starch, modified starch, natural flavoring, soy sauce, starch, vegetable gum, and vegetable starch.

          For the home baker, barley, buckwheat, rice, rye, oat, and potato starch flours or a mixture of these provides satisfactory substitutes. Some of these flours may only be available from specialty stores and may cost more than all-purpose flour. However, the nutritional content may be higher because these flours are less refined.

          Using a combination of other flours will allow you to make products more like wheat flour products. You will need to do some experimentation, so expect a few failures! In general, products made with other flours tend to be drier, coarser, and heavier. The gluten-free flours rise well, but adding one teaspoon of xanthum gum per cup of flour along with the amount of baking powder or soda called for in the recipe, may improve the texture.

          Try these flour substitutes in baking. One cup of wheat flour equals:

1 cup of rye meal

1 to 1¼ cups rye flour

1 cup potato flour

11/3 cups rolled oats or oat flour

½ cup potato flour + ½ cup rye flour

5/8 cup potato starch

7/8 cup rice flour

5/8 cup rice flour + 1/3 cup rye flour

1 cup soy + ¼ cup potato starch flour

1 cup corn flour



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