For many vegetarians and vegans, the first reaction they encounter when discussing their ethics and diet is some variation on the “But what do you eat?!?” tune. Add in “gluten free” and the responses you get will fall just short of fainting. Let’s bear in mind that, though this is a surprise to some, there is no single way to go about your plant-based diet; some people opt for foods that are soy-free, raw, locally produced, or without hydrogenated oils, just to name a few common approaches.
Outside of the obvious requirements of celiac disease or allergy, there are other great reasons to reduce or cut out gluten and wheat consumption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that breads and rolls lead the list of culprits for our country’s astronomically high sodium consumption—not because they’re high in salt, but because we eat so very much bread instead of more nutritious food options. (On a side note, the CDC very unsurprisingly advises us to eat more fruits and vegetables.)
For gluten free or gluten-free-curious folks who still want to enjoy familiar foods like cookies, cakes, breads, and so forth, there are plenty of amazing gluten-free baking flour options: top choices include buckwheat, almond, hazelnut, coconut, and brown rice—just to name a few. When baking, it’s best to use a mixture of different flours with a bit of added starch (such as corn, potato, or even the ever-popular Ener-G Egg Replacer, which is starch) and a gum (such as xantham or guar, found at health food stores) to give your final product rise and stretch.
Cooking and baking gluten-free is a trial-and-error process, similar to when you went vegetarian or vegan, or when you first moved out of your family home and realized that you had to convert groceries into dinner. With a little time and a desire to really play with your food, you can enjoy a more well-varied diet including flavorful, nutritionally dense gluten-free goodies.