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Solving the “gluten free” mystery

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By Jamie Mok
CSULB Dietetic Intern

What is gluten? Is gluten-free the new fad diet? You may be asking yourself the same questions as gluten-free foods continue to pop up on the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store. The growth of gluten-free food products reflects the rising prevalence of gluten-intolerant individuals, young and old alike. Those who can tolerate gluten choose to adopt gluten-free diets for various reasons. A gluten-free diet largely eliminates processed foods, ultimately boosting your energy. An overall healthy, balanced diet composed of whole, minimally processed foods (gluten-free or not) is optimal and always better for your mind and body.
As defined by the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune digestive disorder that results in gluten intolerance. Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. When CD patients ingest gluten, the body attacks itself, causing damage to the lining of the small intestines and, furthermore, increasing the risk of severe gut complications. Gluten ingestion also causes poor absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, common symptoms include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, irritability, and fatigue. Removing gluten from an individual’s diet will relieve symptoms and improve small bowel health. To date, the only treatment for CD is a gluten-free diet, according to Niewinski’s 2008 article “Advances in Celiac Disease and Gluten-free Diet” in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. If you think you may have CD, the Celiac Disease Foundation recommends taking a blood test to determine your risk. Further tests to confirm your diagnosis require a biopsy of the small intestines. To learn more about CD, you can refer to the Celiac Disease Foundation website (
It is important for newly diagnosed individuals to meet with a registered dietitian to learn about CD, ways to incorporate a gluten-free diet into their lifestyle, and to improve their overall nutritional status. Gluten-free diets are rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, most dairy products, and gluten-free grains. The major gluten-free grains are corn, potato (flour, starch), and rice (flour). As mentioned on the Mayo Clinic website, gluten-free grains like buckwheat, oats, and quinoa are processed alongside gluten grains and are at risk for contamination. Wheat, rye, barley, or any derivatives of these grains contain gluten and should be avoided. Niewinski recognizes that there is hidden gluten found in malt, malt flavoring, modified food starch, bran, and soy sauce among a variety of other sauces. Next time you browse the bread or cracker aisle, take a glance at gluten-free food labels. Visit the Celiac Sprue Association website ( for a complete list of gluten-free grains and flours.
Whole Foods Market provides customers with a gluten-free shopping list at their customer service desk. In 2004, they began to offer gluten-free baked goods made from their very own bakeshop. Trader Joe’s labels their products with customer-friendly symbols to make grocery shopping convenient for gluten-free clients. Fresh&Easy Neighborhood Markets offer a variety of gluten-free alternatives, such as baking mixes and frozen entrees. The Diet & Lifestyle section of the Celiac Disease Foundation website provides a great deal of handy tips and resources for gluten-free food products.
If you or someone you know has to follow a gluten-free diet and dislikes, to say the least, dry, bland gluten-free foods, then throw out yesterday’s cookies and try Pamela’s Products. Since 1988, Pamela’s Products offers an enticing selection of cookies, biscotti and baking mixes to make pancakes, waffles, cornbread, cakes, cupcakes, and frosting from scratch. The baking mixes are so versatile, you can experiment to create your own recipe or use any recipe from On the website you will find recipes for pizza and pie crust, cheesecake, scones, pretzels!. the options are endless! You can find Pamela’s Products at your local natural food and grocery stores or online.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake provided by
The filling:
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup currents or raisins OPTIONAL— (soak in a cup of hot water for a couple minutes, drain)

The cake:
2 cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix
2/3 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream

Glazes: (add additional water if needed for pourable consistency)

Lemon or Orange Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons orange juice, lemon juice or water pinch of salt zest of 1 orange or lemon
Mix together until creamy


Vanilla Glaze:
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
1-1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together until creamy.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place all the filling ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the nuts are medium pieces. Set aside.
To make the cake, soften butter, add sugar, then cream together on medium for about 4 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend in vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed and alternately add Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix and sour cream three times each. Mix just enough to incorporate.
Butter or grease a 9-inch bundt or spring pan. Spoon 1/3 of the cake batter into pan, completely covering the pan bottom. Save two tablespoons of filling for the top. Sprinkle half of the remaining filling over batter evenly, cover with half of the remaining batter, cover with the remaining half of the filling spread evenly over the batter layer. Top with a layer of the remaining batter. Sprinkle the saved two tablespoons of filling over the top for looks. Insert knife straight down into batter and, using a sawing motion, move up and down around the pan in a zig-zag motion in 1-inch intervals to marbleize the cake. Do not smooth out the batter.
For a pretty cake, add some full-size pecans, or walnut halves on top.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and while still warm, run a knife around the edges of the pan (and center if using a bundt pan). Let cool and remove from pan. Glaze by pouring a thin stream of icing back and forth over the cake for a pretty touch.

Mok is a graduate student and dietetic intern at California State University, Long Beach, working towards her master’s degree in Nutrition Sciences.

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Solving the “gluten free” mystery