This weekend, I attended the annual Gluten Free Expo in Pasadena. I had to dig through a mountain of GMO corn-based product samples to find a few “gems” to share with you. I was especially impressed with some of the small family-run businesses, who despite an agricultural system set up to make their jobs very very difficult…have been able to stay true to creating honest, clean products. For the small time business owner, the food industry is not an easy one to break into. The mega-giants like Frito Lay, General Mills and Dole (all of which sponsored the event) have virtually cornered the market by providing heavily processed snack foods using subsidized grains like soy and corn (it was in almost every label I checked) at rock bottom prices. Many people still operate under the premise that if it’s gluten free, it must be good for you—wrong!
This is why it’s more important than ever that we support these risk-takers. Many of them are passionate about the products they create, and view this as a labor of love. I found their personal stories of how Celiac disease has affected their lives heart-warming. These are people who are interested in producing a quality product that they themselves would eat, or feed to their loved ones without hesitation—a product they can take pride in!
Now, let’s get to some of my favorite products…
- I picked up a bag of Gluten-Free Prairie’s Oat Groats. I have been talking a lot lately about choosing slow-cooking grains to keep blood sugar levels steady. An oat groat is a steel cut oat before it’s been cut. I soaked some in water overnight and cooked a pot in the morning. The groats were delicious, wholesome, chewy and filling with a tablespoon of almond butter, strawberries, unsweetened cacao powder, cinnamon and a little coconut oil! Oatmeal is naturally gluten free, but oftentimes is contaminated by neighboring wheat fields. This Montana based, family run operation maintains a gluten free facility (wheat free land for a minimum of 4 years). They are not certified organic, but claim to use a natural syrup to keep pests away. These oats are uniquely hull-less, have an 18 month shelf life, are non-GMO, high in fiber, and have a higher protein content compared to other varieties.
- I was given a generous sample of Casa de Mesquite’s (CDM) organic mesquite powder, along with an impassioned one-on-one chat session with Dr. Peter Felker, general partner and plant scientist! His interest in discovering new sustainable food forms led him to the mesquite tree; known for growing in arid environments with little to no water. CDM pulverize the mesquite pod to make flour meal, which can be used as an additive to other GF flours to add flavor and fiber to baked goods. The flour is naturally sweet, with a smoky maple syrup flavor.
This product is currently available online at: http://www.casadefruta.com/mesquite.php
Mesquite is high in protein, low-on-the-glycemic-index, and a good source of calcium, lysine, manganese, potassium, and zinc. It is also high in fiber, tannins, inulin and polysaccharides which help flush the body of excess sugars and lipids. Thus, it can be a useful addition to the diets of diabetics, the overweight and obese, and those with high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Anyone with malabsorption issues and nutrient deficiencies should use this and other fiber-rich products sparingly.
- I sampled Beau Monde Bakery’s (LV, Nevada) egg-free artisanal bread. They substitute flax seeds for the egg component, and the results are quite delicious. The small amount of corn in this particular variety is from xantham gum that is used as a stabilizer and binder. Other than that, they use a proprietary blend of white rice flours in most of their items, which makes for a hearty, chewy bread that closely resembles gluten-containing breads when toasted. They also make a whole range of flavored breads with egg, as well as a variety of baked goods. I found their prices to be a bit high at $10 per loaf (even for GF bread) given the size, and the conventional ingredients used. Their products can be found at the Four Seasons LV, Caesars Palace, Wynn Resort and other high-end local resorts.
Order online at:
- As a certified chocoholic, and purist to boot… I was excited to find a company dedicated to providing a combination of both these things. Pascha’s certified organic 85% dark chocolate is totally free from peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat and gluten (the 8 major allergens). Made with just 5 simple ingredients—all organic: Cocoa mass, natural cocoa powder, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla. 85% Pascha is super smooth, with a different flavor and mouth-feel compared to chocolates that use emulsifiers like soy lecithin. As a person who can easily devour half a bar of chocolate in one sitting, I am especially excited for Pascha’s launch of an 85% dark chocolate chips product which make portion control easier. They also make a 70% version, and several 55% versions; some with added ingredients like cacao nibs and golden berries. Founder Simon Lester began his chocolate career in England, and the concept for Pascha was sparked by his and his two daughter’s varying food allergies. Read more about the company’s holistic philosophy at: http://paschachocolate.com/our-chocolate-philosophy/
In Los Angeles, Pascha Chocolates can be purchased at Lassens Los Feliz or online at:
- Breads from Anna is a homegrown (Iowa) company that uses bean and chia flours to make a variety of bread mixes (no breadmaker required!) from a Classic Herb flavor to Pumpkin bread and many other flavors in between. They also have a line of pancake, pizza, and brownie mixes. I sampled the yeast free bread, and it was delicious! It reminded me of a soft textured scone, or a homemade soda bread– crumbly and moist. In my short chat with Anna, she shared that her fellow Iowans can’t understand not using corn when you’re in the middle of nothing but corn fields. But like many of the others, her story is a personal one. BFA grew out of Anna’s own diagnosis of Celiac disease eight years ago. Being a Type 1 diabetic as well, she wanted to create a product that contained fiber (sorely lacking in many gluten free products). The resulting product is non GMO, free of wheat, gluten, soy, rice, fish, shellfish, nuts, refined sugar, artificial ingredients, and excess salt and sweeteners. Some mixes are also yeast and potato free.
Bread mixes can be purchased online at:
- Most of us have heard of Food for Life (their vegan breads can usually be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, and weigh a ton). I have tried their brown rice tortillas and English muffins, and found them to be dense, tough, dry and lacking in flavor. At the Expo, I noticed a bread item I hadn’t seen before made with black rice. I sampled a toasted piece, and was pleasantly surprised– it was tasty and chewy! Delicious as it may sound, I found the rice almond bread to be bland and not as successful overall. FFL make a variety of breads, English muffins, and tortillas using whole grains, some organic ingredients, and no GMO items. Their products are also kosher.
- Doctor-approved Kirkman Nutritional Supplements (since 1949) have been raising the bar for purity by testing their supplements for over 950 contaminants. Not to be confused with Costco’s Kirkland brand of vitamins (whom I am told swiped the logo and look from Kirkman), this trusted company also makes a line of casein and gluten free items.
- For purchasing info, click on the following link:http://kirkmandocs.com/
All written contents are copyright 2014 by Vivian Kanchian, Certified Alternative Nutrition Expert. No reuse or re-publication without permission. Please note that the information provided on this site is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein is intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure any illness or medical condition. Consult a doctor before beginning any diet or exercise regimen or before taking vitamins or supplements. Statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.