September 22, 2018 7:28 am Leave your thoughts
How many students in the UK are gluten-free? It turns out there are no firm statistics yet (though I expect there’s a PhD student gathering data as I write). Anecdotally, it’s clear there are a fair few. You’d struggle to find a student corridor, hall of residence or house-share without someone in it living a gluten-free lifestyle.
The trend mirrors that in wider society. It’s estimated by the Coeliac Society that 1 in 100 people suffer from full-blown coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition affecting the small intestine and the proper absorption of food). Many more people choose to follow a gluten-free (or low-gluten) diet too, believing that this benefits their health in all kinds of ways, including helping them to avoid viruses and infections.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It’s the element that makes our bread (and similar products) stretchy and springy. It gives elasticity, while binding ingredients together – in processed food, it sometimes serves as a thickener. For those suffering from coeliac disease, however, gluten is the enemy. Here’s every student’s online best friend, Wikipedia, on what happens next:
‘Upon exposure to gluten, an abnormal immune response may lead to the production of several different autoantibodies that can affect a number of different organs. In the small bowel, this causes an inflammatory reaction and may produce shortening of the villi lining the small intestine (villous atrophy). This affects the absorption of nutrients, frequently leading to anaemia.’
If you’re coeliac and eat gluten, you’re likely to experience diarrhoea (and constipation), vomiting and stomach cramps, mouth ulcers and fatigue as well.
The gluten-free Life of Riley?
The student life is no longer the Life of Riley! Huge debts, mounting living costs, the probability of having to work part-time throughout your degree, the difficulty of finding a proper job afterwards….add a difficult diet into the mix and you might well feel overwhelmed.
If you’re in catered accommodation, your hall will no doubt provide gluten-free food (of varying quality). If you’re self-catering, you’ll have to do it all yourself.
But what’s the problem? The supermarket aisles are packed with gluten-free food!
Unfortunately, that in itself is the problem. Mass-produced ‘convenience’ gluten-free food is simply not very good for you. Like any heavily processed food, it contains numerous additives and preservatives. You’re likely to find a high concentration of fats, salt and sugar. What you won’t find much of is protein and fibre.
An awful lot of students eat an awful diet – and this can be significantly worse for those on gluten-free diets, relying on an ad hoc selection of whatever they can find on the late-night supermarket’s single gluten-free shelf. But having removed a source of protein from your diet, you do need to replace it with other protein-rich ingredients. You also need to make sure you ‘keep everything moving down below’ with plenty of fibre-rich food.
Am I sounding like your Mum? Well, here’s how to do it easily, so that she doesn’t need to worry.
Eat proper, naturally gluten-free food
This is the easiest way to eat a healthy gluten-free diet. Fruit and vegetables are all naturally gluten-free – and that includes the wonderful potato. Meat, fish, cheese, eggs, pulses and milk are all naturally gluten-free, as are rice and quinoa. Make the main part of your meals ‘proper’ ingredients like this and you’ll be eating remarkably well, without the need for any weird or expensive concoctions.
Make your own gluten-free products
There are huge numbers of recipes online and in books that helpful relatives will buy you at Christmas. Making your own gluten-free bread, cakes, biscuits and so on means that you know exactly what’s going into them: no more strange additives or preservatives; no more excessive fat, salt and sugar. You’ll need some specialist ingredients, of course, but that’s where we come in, at Naturally Good Food! We’ve got:
- Gluten-free flour (blends of various naturally gluten-free flours, such as brown rice flour and tapioca flour, as well as individual flours)
- Ground almonds (a useful form of speciality gluten-free ‘flour’)
- Psyllium husk (this binds your food together and adds fibre)
- Ground linseed (great for fibre and frequently recommended in gluten-free cooking)
- Guar gum and xanthan gums (binders often used in gluten-free cooking)
Buy only high-quality gluten-free ready-made food
Step away from the supermarket shelves. When you need ready-made gluten-free food (and what student can survive without pasta?), make sure you’re buying the best quality. By this, we don’t mean ‘the most expensive’. We mean food that’s made from wholegrains, with a carefully thought-through mix of protein- and fibre-rich ingredients.
At Naturally Good Food we stock gluten-free food from specialist suppliers, who work tirelessly to ensure their products are top-notch nutritionally. We stock the full Orgran range, for instance, which includes things such as falafel and pizza mixes. We’ve got an unbeatable range of gluten-free pasta, made from grains including brown rice, millet and red lentils.
Back to work, now
You can see Naturally Good Food’s full gluten-free range here. Now: share this post with your friends on a variety of social media – and get back to that essay.brown rice, brown rice flour, Coeliac Society, gluten free flour, Gluten Free Pasta, gluten-free baking powder, gluten-free food, gluten-free oats, gluten-free student, gluten-free vegetable suet, ground almonds, ground linseed, guar gum, millet, Orgran, psyllium husk, quinoa, Rice, tapioca flour, university, xanthan gum
This post was written by Yzanne