Food & Health

Gluten-Free Foods

Pulses and the Gluten-Free Diet

This unique recipe book provides 26 gluten-free recipes using pea, bean, lentil and chickpea ingredients. Pulses are inherently gluten-free, and can boost the nutritional profile of gluten-free baked goods and foods, including fibre, protein and key minerals such as iron and potassium.

Developed by Pulse Canada in collaboration with Shelley Case, RD, dietician and author and Carol Fenster, PhD, consultant and author of several gluten-free cookbooks, Pulses and the Gluten-Free Diet: Cooking with Beans, Peas, Lentils and Chickpeas offers new recipes that are tasty, nutritious and easy to make at home. Download your copy today!

What is Gluten?

Gluten is comprised of proteins (e.g. gliadin, glutenin) predominantly found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten proteins have unique characteristics which make them well suited for use in certain foods particularly breads and baked goods as well as pasta. But wheat, rye and barley are used widely in food products including cereals, soups, prepared meats, sauces, salad dressings, seasonings, snack and confectionary foods for a variety of functional, texture and taste characteristics.

However, consumption of foods with gluten can pose health problems for those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivities. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the small intestine lining can become damaged by the gluten proteins leading to mal-absorption of important nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin D and folate. Symptoms of celiac disease are variable but can include nausea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, lactose intolerance, weight loss, ulcers, fatigue, headaches and skin conditions. Aside from these symptoms, nutritional deficiencies can lead to a series of other health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis and intestinal cancer. Treatment for celiac disease involves strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free Foods and Product Development

With greater awareness of celiac disease and gluten-sensitive individuals, the demand for gluten-free products is on the rise. Many foods are naturally gluten-free including plain meat, poultry, fish, egg, nuts, seeds, pulses, milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables and fruits. Moreover, a variety of gluten-free grains, flours and starches can be substituted for wheat, rye and barley in product formulations.

However, replacement of grains with gluten-free alternatives in food products may not be so simple. Given that gluten proteins can cross-link with each other to form an elastic network, they are key to achieving the visco-elastic texture and structural stability in pasta noodles, sauces, breads and other baked goods. Replacement of wheat in leavened breads with a gluten-free alternative, has generally shown to be more dense and crumbly and in the case of pasta, less elastic and more hard. For these reasons, commercialization of gluten-free food products can be limited.

In order to develop quality food products for this growing market, retailers and manufacturers need to understand who gluten-free consumers are, and identify what gluten-free ingredients are available, as well as overcome challenges in formulating these types of products in a food processing and regulatory context. On July 19, 2010, Pulse Canada and ConAgra Foods sponsored the Symposium, Gluten-free Foods: Opportunities and Challenges, at the 2010 Institute of Food Technology (IFT) convention in Chicago, IL. 

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