'More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It's estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed.'
With estimates like that, you think, why is it that suddenly people have increasingly become allergic or intolerant to gluten? Sangeeta Khanna, a food and nutrition consultant explains that it is not just gluten that's causing a haywire in your body but the amalgamation of several other refined and bleached ingredients combined with gluten that's making you malaise.
"Almost every packaged food that you get from the market – from bread, cookies to cake – is made from wheat. In fact, all the bakers that I have come across are trained to work only with wheat and also white all purpose flour, which is refined and bleached. All-purpose flour is the cheapest ingredient that one can find on the market for making packaged food, even cheaper than whole wheat. And even though it requires a little more processing than wheat, it is cheaper because it has a longer shelf life. Everything that could have been nutritious food has been stripped of all its nutrition due to the bleached and refined all-purpose flour," Khanna explained.
Further adding on the factors which are causing gluten intolerance among people, she said, "All the packaged food is manufactured by the industry so as to increase its shelf life. Ingredients are manipulated to stay longer in the storage. Even gluten's percentage index in packaged food has been increased to almost 30% for the same purpose. So, we don't know when the wheat for the biscuit that we are eating today was actually grown in the field".
Sangeeta Khanna was at the Imperial Hotel along with Executive Sous Chef Alok Verma for a live culinary session on one of the fascinating cookouts – Gluten free recipes. This exclusive session from The Imperial Culinary Club had Sangeeta Khanna lending her expertise on nutrition to Chef Alok Verma, who hand-crafted a Gluten Free menu for tea time eats. The cookout featured recipes by Chef Alok conjured from healthy alternate ingredients like buckwheat, ragi, quinoa, millets, water chestnut so on and so forth while Sangeeta gave an insightful talk on adapting a Gluten-free lifestyle, its relevance and benefits.
"The awareness and acceptance of gluten-free is gaining prominence in a big way as many of us are intolerant of this protein and are Celiac. I believe recipes like these will end the big dilemma of how to make fuss-free gluten-free snacks, especially for tea time which are delicious too. I have created this menu for those who are gluten intolerant and also who intend to try a gluten-free diet for an easy on stomach home-cooking. For instance, I have done alternations in samosa filling, added quinoa to crackers, water chestnut to panacotta, crafted a buckwheat sandwich and more. The idea is to make the menu not only healthy but to use easily available ingredients in a creative manner for some delectable bites" said Chef Alok Verma – Executive Sous Chef The Imperial during the live culinary session.
From Buckwheat blinis sandwich with beetroot and feta to Ragi Samosa filled cucumber, peas and cashew nut; Quinoa cumin and sesame crackers with orange hummus; Amaranth flour, carrot and raisin cookies and Freshwater chestnut panacotta with pecan nut and honeycomb, the menu was a treat to the senses filled with gluten-free delights.
A wheat allergy is an immune response to any of the proteins present in wheat, including but not limited to gluten. The symptoms of a wheat allergy can range from mild to life-threatening.
Being an acclaimed health and healing food writer, Sangeeta knows about the life-threatening symptoms of gluten allergy and says that although many people are affected by it, they are not aware of their condition.
"Gluten allergy can be a very serious disease which is mostly genetic but can also be due to several environmental factors. One has to stay away from wheat because even a fine dust of wheat can cause allergic reactions in them. Some people are intolerant to gluten and some are allergic to it. Intolerance can cause hormonal imbalances and some other autoimmune disorders which include rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain and unexplained body aches," she said in her speech at The Imperial Culinary Club.
She further added, "Gluten combined with many other bleaching agents becomes a much more complex thing. One doesn't know what's making them lethargic but one has to know that industrial bread is actually making people sick whether it is gluten or not. I suggest you include ingredients like buckwheat and millet in your everyday diet to tackle gluten intolerance. Food is the biggest change maker, not only for our individual self but also for the environment."