Gluten Free Granola | The Daily Glow

Gluten Free Granola

I have discussed giving up wheat before, but this granola is gluten free by accident.  I was looking to make something that was going to fill me up until lunch time (not always possible from a breakfast on the go – I’m really an “eggs, toast, avocado and sides” girl at heart, even at 6am) and experimented with nuts in the hope that their high protein content would keep me going for the entire morning.  Like the porridge bread recipe, this is very simple and pretty hard to mess up – although chopping the nuts makes for a noisy preparation, so maybe no midnight baking with this one.

Gluten free granola | The Daily Glow

Makes 2 baking trays worth/3-4 jars depending on size:

  • A large bowl of a selection of nuts: brazil, pecan, walnuts, almonds, cashews (Lidl is great for cheap bags of them)
  • Sunflower seeds/Pumpkin seeds/Flaxseeds
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp maple syrup/sweetener of choice
  • Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Melt the coconut oil and mix together with the vanilla essence, maple syrup and cinnamon – I am a big cinnamon fan, so tend to be pretty heavy handed with this.  Cinnamon is reputedly good for reducing insulin resistance and stabilising your blood sugar – and although the research to date isn’t the most robust, it is definitely a better alternative to sugar in your porridge, granola etc (and yes I know there’s maple syrup in this recipe too – cinnamon isn’t that appetising all by itself, but I find it reduces the amount of sugar/honey/maple syrup required).

Roughly chop whichever nuts and seeds you fancy – a sealed sandwich bag and a rolling pin are your best friends for this (and I did warn you it can be noisy, I think my neighbours either side of my tiny apartment must hate me, as my favourite time to bake this is a Saturday morning and then eat it warm).

Gluten free granola | The Daily Glow

Mix nuts with the maple glaze, ensuring everything gets covered. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spread a a thin layer of the granola on it. Bake for about 20minutes, or until golden brown – this can go from “gently toasted” to “burnt to cr*p” pretty fast so be careful!

Leave to cool on the baking paper and store in an airtight jar or tin for up to two weeks (it may last longer than that, but I’ve never had the chance to check).

Gluten Free Granola | The Daily Glow

I usually take this to work with me in a glass jar (save the planet!), but it doesn’t make for a bad lazy Saturday brunch, if you top it with poached blackberries and vanilla yoghurt.  Let me know if you try it!

wheat free bread: porridge bread

A recipe for wheat free bread

I started 2017 by sleeping through midnight and dosing myself up with cough syrup and paracetamol, due to being the 7th person I know to go under with the flu…not exactly hitting the ground running like I had planned.  So while I’m eating all the chocolate that’s left in the house (how else is it going to disappear so I can start this “new year, new me” sh*te?), I decided to bake some porridge bread to keep me on the somewhat straight and narrow for the rest of the week.

There are numerous “porridge bread” recipes out there, as a quick Google search will show, however this is the one my dad uses (the aforementioned super-baker) and as I’ve had a few requests for a recipe, here is his.

porridge bread - oats

  • 2 teaspoons soda bicarbonate (bread soda)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 500g natural yoghurt
  • 1L ish porridge oats (and obviously make sure these are gluten free if you’re coeliac etc) – I use an old 500g yoghurt tub to measure the oats and then adjust the consistency by adding more. You want a dryish consistency, so depending on the type of yoghurt you use (low fat, full fat, greek etc – I use full fat, or whatever Super Value has in stock when I need it) you will need to keep adding oats until you have a texture similar to this:

porridge bread

  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds or whatever else you like

Mix the yoghurt and the bread soda in a large bowl and let them “work” while you preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. The yoghurt will start to swell and air bubbles will appear. I tend to do this while unpacking the shopping/making dinner/cleaning the house etc as the longer you leave it the better a rise you’ll get out of the bread.

yoghurt porridge bread

Grease a baking tin with butter or coconut oil.  When the oven is hot, mix in oats as described above, followed by the salt, and any other seeds you fancy.  If it gets too dry, you can always use a little bit of water to adjust the consistency further, and pop it all in the bread tin.

porridge bread

The lower shelf of the oven is better, otherwise you can end up with a burnt  top and undercooked centre.  50 minutes is a general guideline, but I always check it after 40-45 minutes and if your oven is fan assisted it might be done at this stage.

You can slice this and freeze it, as it does go off pretty quickly (but if you’re anything like me when it comes to bread, this won’t be an issue).  Typically, this is made with dairy yoghurt, but a vegan friend of mine has made it with soy yoghurt and achieved a general bread-like consistency – so feel free to experiment with it if you want a dairy-free option.  Let me know how you get on!

porridge bread: the benefits of giving up gluten

3 things that happened when I gave up wheat

Gluten-free is everywhere these days, and has been credited with curing almost any ailment you can find – ranging from controversial claims to downright crazy things.  Wheat is our primary source of gluten, as many people do not really consume extensive amounts of other gluten-containing grains like barley or rye.  A gluten-free diet is essential for anyone with coeliac disease or a true allergy to gluten and wheat, and it really is wonderful how awareness has grown over the last 10 years, improving the quality of life for many people.  However, it has also become fashionable to denounce this naturally occurring protein, and many of those jumping on the bandwagon don’t actually even know gluten is a protein (gluten is the storage protein of the wheat plant and is what makes bread rise, dough stretchable and rollable, and gives the final product a chewy texture).

So while the the concurrent increased availability of gluten- and wheat-free products has been fantastic for those that require them, this causes two issues in my opinion – firstly, you have a number of people jumping on said bandwagon, mindlessly condemning gluten-containing-anything because Khloe Kardashian apparently lost stones of weight doing the same, and secondly, people with a serious intolerance, are in danger of being brushed off by blasé wait staff, sick to death of gluten-free requests from every Tom, Dick and Harry.  Accidental consumption of gluten by those that are genuinely allergic or sensitive to it is very serious and can result in hospitalisation, even if it is a tiny amount – and making these events more widespread is not exactly what the gluten-free community is aiming for I’m sure.

the benefits of giving up gluten: gluten free pancakes
I am not a dietician, but due to numerous skin and medical problems over the years I take a keen interest in what I put into my body.  I was previously vegetarian for 16 years, and have cut out sugar, caffeine and dairy at different stages to observe the results (full disclosure: these were experiments, I am not consistently sugar and dairy free, and I am not trying to be – although I have greatly reduced my consumption of both, and I have a vaguely obsessive relationship with coffee) so I have learned a lot about what works for me, and what most certainly does not.

A few months ago I was quite run down, and my G.P. suggested, among other things, cutting out wheat.  I already had what I would have thought was a “low-wheat” diet – I tend to only buy pitta bread, not regular bread (simply because I prefer it!) and wouldn’t have thought I ate an excessive amount of pasta, bread, pastries etc.  However, I find it hard to resist an experiment – particularly if clearer skin, a healthier body and more focused mind were potentially up for grabs – so I checked Wheat Belly out of the library (which I would seriously recommend for anyone interested in finding out more about gluten, wheat and the effects it can have on you body – it’s written by an American cardiologist, and therefore more reliable than say, The Daily Mail) and set about clearing out my kitchen cupboards.

gluten free breakfast: the benefits of giving up gluten

The results?  Mixed.  It was difficult to stick to a strict wheat-free diet while on holidays (my dad’s baking is hard to beat) and eschewing my daily pitta bread was tough at the start.  I did learn how to make the currently popular “porridge bread”, and really only fell off the bandwagon a few weeks ago.  I’ll eat bread, etc when I’m out for dinner sometimes, and the very occasional pizza but in general my gluten/wheat intake has hugely reduced – so you can clearly disregard all my talk about already being on a low-wheat diet, I was not at all!  The considerable amount of gluten/wheat in the typical western diet was something that really surprised me – particularly as I’d always thought I didn’t eat that much.  I noticed 3 big changes (and quite clearly the reverse of these changes in the last few weeks since slacking off), which I’ve outlined below.

Less sugar cravings or blood sugar crashes
Low glycemic index, or low GI, foods do not spike your blood sugar.  Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is important for controlling food cravings, mood swings and mental focus – diabetics have trouble with this, and experience numerous health complications due to wildly uncontrolled blood sugar that can affect their heart, kidneys and sight.

The higher the GI rating of a specific food, that the greater it tends to spike your blood sugar, which is then followed some time later by a crash – leaving you feeling tired, hungry and/or unable to focus.   That mid-afternoon chocolate or coffee craving is not just habit, but usually a dip in your blood sugar that sends your body looking for something to bring it back up again.  Much has been publicised about the benefits of low-GI diet (where a steady blood sugar is maintained, with foods that release sugar/glucose over a longer time and therefore avoid extreme highs or lows), especially for overweight and diabetic people.  Carbohydrates, and starchy carbohydrates in particular, tend to have a higher GI rating.  Dr Lancer (dermatologist to the stars, including Queen Bey and Kim K)even promotes a lower-carb diet to improve skin quality,   something that can apparently be negatively impacted by the blood sugar and related insulin spikes.

What is not so well-known is the capacity of wheat, even the organic “healthy whole grain” variety to seriously cause a serious spike in blood sugar.  The GI of glucose is 100, and this is what everything else is measured against.  Fats and protein have a negligible effect on blood sugar, and effectively have a GI of 0.  By comparison, the GI of a Mars bar is 68.  White bread has a GI of 69 – very marginally worse than a Mars bar, but whole-wheat bread shockingly has a GI of 72 – a worse effect than a bar of chocolate…and I know which one I’d enjoy more with my mid afternoon cup of Barry’s!

giving up wheat
Not surprisingly, after the first few days, I found myself more able to concentrate at work and experienced less sugar cravings.  I stuck to protein and fat based snacks like nuts and seeds and my 6 hour work shifts were much more manageable – previously I had been ready to eat my own arm or fit for nothing but bed by the end of them.

Less bloating
This may be in part due to a reduction in processed carbs, although I have increased my intake of oats, rice and others grains so I doubt it is the complete explanation.  My stomach became flatter than it had been in months – and I had not changed my gym/exercise routine at all.  What I have reduced by cutting out wheat is the above mentioned daily blood sugar repeating rollercoaster – and as a result the insulin surge that follows blood sugar wherever it goes. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your cells to take in glucose (sugar) and use it for energy or convert it to fat – thereby reducing blood sugar levels.  If high blood sugar is triggered repeatedly, fat accumulation can increase, and it seems to affect abdominal fat in particular.

I ate more vegetables
This was an indirect effect of course, but, I suspect, one of the major reasons people feel so much better when they give gluten, wheat etc – and a nutritionist friend of mine agrees.  You cut out pasta, bread, sandwiches etc, what do you replace it with? Salads, stir-frys, soup, lean protein, while likely also reducing your sugar intake – of course you’re going to feel better.  I think for me this was quite an eye-opener – the extent to which we rely on bread and wheat based foods is alarming when you consider the above effects it can have.  I think the enforced creativity in cooking when you cut out such a central ingredient is no bad thing either – and the more varied diet that results is more likely to include nutrients, vitamins etc that you might be currently missing out on.

the benefits of giving up gluten - eating more vegetables

Last week was noticeably tougher, and I don’t think that was purely due to the previous long weekend – I definitely struggled through the afternoons more than usual, and fell asleep before 8pm on Friday (yes, I am that cool).  After experiencing the clear-headedness and lack of cravings for so long, I am eager for them to return – and for now I think restricting wheat to nights/dinners out is the way forward for me.  The realisation of exactly how much of my diet was composed of starchy carbohydrates really amazed me, and I’d say most of us could benefit cutting back in this regard.  Have you ever given up wheat, or considered it?