April 4, 2021

Nutrition and Special Diet / Gluten-Free Diet

Taub, B., 2019. Gluten-Free Diet 101: A Complete Scientific Guide. [image] Available at: <https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/gluten-free-diet/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Gluten-Free Diet 

It is a diet that excludes food that containing gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. The main purpose of a gluten-free diet is for people who have celiac disease. It helps to ease digestive symptoms, reduce chronic inflammation, boost energy and promote weight loss. In recent days, it has also become popular among people who haven't been diagnosed with gluten-related medical conditions because of its health benefits. 

Apart from Celiac disease, people follow a gluten-free diet for many reasons like gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, etc but need careful attention while selecting food and ingredients. Gluten is present in most foods. Fruits and vegetables, non-processed meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and dairy products are naturally gluten-free products. And grains like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, cornmeal, millet, and rice are safe to consume as long they do not come in boxed with seasoning. There are many gluten-free products available in the market which are usually made with rice and gluten-free flours. But they are not healthy because of their high sugar content and also, they are low in fiber than the foods they replace. Few gluten-free flours are rice, soy, corn, potato, and bean flours. 

Packaged gluten-free foods. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that occurs when you eat gluten foods. It is also known as Celiac sprue, Nontropical sprue, or Gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Gluten is nothing but a protein that is available in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains. Gluten is what makes the dough elastic and gives bread its chewy texture. When People who have celiac disease eat something with gluten, their body reacts to the protein and damages their Villi, small finger-like projections found along with a wall of the small intestine. When villi get damaged, the small intestine cannot absorb nutrients from food which leads to malnourishment, loss of bone density, infertility, and neurological diseases. 

Most people will never know that they have celiac disease. Because the damage of the intestine is very slow and symptoms are so varied that it can take years to get a diagnosis. People with celiac disease often experience stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, rashes, bloating, anemia, weight loss, depression, etc. Though the person who has gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity shares some same symptoms, they don't show an immune response or damage to the small intestine. If they are allergic to wheat and consume it, symptoms like itchy or watery eyes or breathing difficulties occur. If the celiac disease doesn't get better after a year without gluten, then it is called refractory or non-responsive celiac disease. 

Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity people do not test positive for Celiac disease and wheat allergy. But when they consume gluten-rich foods, will feel uncomfortable and experience stomach-related issues. 

Macmillan, C., 2019. Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right for You?. [image] Available at <https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/gluten-sensitive-or-intolerant> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

There is a myth that a gluten-free diet is healthier but it is not true except for people who experience celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Few problems that occur when switching to a gluten-free diet without any medical symptoms are lack of fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. The popularity of the gluten-free diet is increasing because of the health benefits, availability of gluten-free products in the stores, and self-diagnosed gluten sensitivity. 

Completely avoiding gluten is challenging. Also, the gluten-free diet is not budget-friendly. Eating in restaurants will become challenging. Though many restaurants provide gluten-free recipes on their menu, there is a chance of food being contaminated with traces of gluten. A person with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should check for the ingredients and talk to the chef before ordering in the restaurant. There is a chance of adding flour in soup and gravies for thickening, meat might have dusted or breaded with flour, breaded foods might have fried in the same oil as other fried foods, etc. 

Common food allergies in Canada: 

    Food allergies. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. https://quest.eb.com/search/132_1252729/1/132_1252729/cite

People often get confused with food allergies and food intolerance. A food allergy is an immune system that reacts to specific foods. The substance that people are allergic to is called an allergen. When the allergen is consumed, it causes an allergic reaction in the digestive or respiratory systems. Common symptoms are wheezing, breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, or hives. When the body cannot properly digest that food that is eaten or that a particular food irritates the digestive system, it is called food intolerance. And the common symptoms are nausea, gas, cramps, diarrhea, headaches, or nervousness. 

According to Food allergy Canada, certain food is listed as a priority food allergens as these lists are associated with 90% of allergic reactions in Canada. Eggs, Milk, Mustard, Peanuts, Seafoods, sesame seeds, soy, sulfites, tree nuts, and wheat are some of the priority allergens. People can be allergic to many foods but these are the common ones. According to Health Canada's food labeling regulations, the food industry should mention the top priority allergens as well as gluten sources and sulfites on the food label. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is very severe and may cause death. People who have such allergic reactions should carry an epinephrine auto-injector, e.g Epipen which contains life-saving medication to treat the reaction. 

People who have such types of allergies should be cautious in choosing food.  People are much more aware of food allergies and their risks than before. Many schools have basic guidelines about what students can bring in their lunches. Even in restaurants, allergens are mentioned clearly in the menu card or on food labels. Cross-contamination is one of the reasons cause food allergies in the kitchen.
Cross-contamination can happen by mistake when a small amount of food allergen accidentally gets mixed with the other food. 

In my past work experience, I had no experience in dealing with people with food allergies but we had given the training to prevent food allergens from getting mixed up in the food or while packing food. If ever I have to deal with a client who has one or more allergies, I will follow the following measures.
  • Make sure to clean and sanitize the area after each use to prevent allergen residues. 
  • Make sure to store the allergens in separate places. 
  • Make sure that is proper communication between the front and backend staff. 
  • Make sure to use the ingredients properly. 
For example, if the person has both priority allergy and celiac disease, I will try to spend time with the customer to understand the allergens that trigger and prepare food based on the customer's health condition. 

Preparing a gluten-free diet avoiding the top allergens is not an easy task as most of the recipes contain gluten and the ingredients listed on the priority listing. For this assignment, I decided to take a regular roti and convert it into gluten-free roti without losing its nutritional value. I have replaced the wheat flour using Rice flour. In order to compensate for the loss of fiber, I have included apples in the recipe. The addition of Moong dal gives sufficient protein to the dish. 

Apple & Zucchini Rice Roti is a delicious savory roti prepared using rice flour, moong dal, apple, zucchini, and herbs. This roti is quite easy to prepare and pairs perfectly with chutney and sambhar. 

Ingredients used in the recipe: 

Flour: I have used rice flour in this recipe instead of wheat flour. Millet flour-like little millet, barnyard can also be used. 

Proteins: Moong dal is added as protein in the recipe. It is washed, soaked for 2-3 hours, and then ground coarsely to add to the flour. 

Vegetables & Fruits: Apple and zucchini are added to the recipe. Any vegetables like carrot, green leaves, cabbage can be included. 

Herbs: Coriander leaves and curry leaves are included in the recipe which enhances the flavor of the dish. 

Fat: Oil is used in this recipe to cook roti. Canola or olive oil can be used. 

Spices: Cumin is used in this recipe. Dry red chili flakes are used for spiciness. Adjust the quantity according to taste bud. 


1/4 cup Moong dal 
1 Cups Rice flour 
1 Apple, grated 
1 Zucchini, grated 
1 Tsp Cumin seeds 
1/2 Tsp Dry red chili flakes
Few fresh coriander leaves 
Fresh Curry leaves 
Salt to taste 
Water as needed 


Wash and soak Moong dal for 2-3 hrs. 

Drain the water,  grind it coarsely and add it to a bowl.


Add rice flour followed by apple, zucchini, cumin seeds, fresh coriander leaves, curry leaves, and salt. 


Add water to the flour and knead it to a soft dough. 

Divide the prepared dough into equal-sized balls. 

Take one dough ball and flatten it to a thin round. 

Heat a tbsp of oil on a griddle pan on medium heat and place the flattened roti on it. 

Cook both sides until it gets cooked. 

Repeat the process for the remaining dough. Serve hot. 

Apple & Zucchini Steamed Rice balls 

The same dough can be steamed and made more healthy. No oil is needed for this recipe. Make small balls out of the prepared dough and steam it for 7-8 mins. 


Serving Options: 

Serve hot with Chutney or Sambhar. 


Preparing a gluten-free recipe avoiding top allergens was a great challenge. During this research, I noticed that I have been using mustard a lot in our regular cooking for tempering. Mustard is one of the allergens. Also, noticed that dairy is used a lot in many forms of cooking. Ghee is used a lot in cooking for tempering and preparing roti/dosa. Peanut is also used in cooking for tempering and chutneys. The above recipe is usually prepared using wheat flour. Since wheat has gluten, I substituted it with rice flour. The addition of vegetables and moong dal increased the nutritious value and also, the taste. The changes I made did not disappoint me. In fact, the change enhanced the flavor and made it more delicious than regular roti. I am planning to prepare this recipe in the future too with the addition of more vegetables like carrot tops(greens), green leaves, grated carrot, grated cabbage, etc. 

Some gluten-free recipes...


Topper, A. (2014, November 21). Non-celiacs drive gluten-free market growth. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from http://www.mintel.com/blog/food-market-news/gluten-free-consumption-trends.

Ratini, M. (2020, July 7). Celiac disease: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/celiac-disease

Waldbieser, J. (2018, August 31). 12 things that happen to your body when you give up gluten. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.thehealthy.com/food/how-body-changes-when-gluten-free

Clinic, M. (2021, March 18). The good news is that you don't have to go grain-free. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

Food Allergy Canada, A. (2020, July 17). Priority food allergens. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://foodallergycanada.ca/food-allergy-basics/food-allergies-101/what-are-food-allergies/priority-food-allergens

Food safety, I. (2019, April 09). Preventing allergic reactions in your food business. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.foodsafety.com.au/blog/preventing-allergic-reactions-your-food-business

Food Allergy Canada, A. (2021, January 15). Avoiding cross-contamination. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://foodallergycanada.ca/living-with-allergies/day-to-day-management/avoiding-cross-contamination/

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