Mar 1, 2010
Gluten Awareness and Alternatives
Could the secret to eating your cake and being healthy too be making that cake gluten-free?
According to Eucalyptus guest speakers Dr. Vicki Peterson and chef Amanda Macdessi, quite possibly. Peterson shared her research on gluten sensitivity and Macdessi provided tips for gluten-free baking at Eucalyptus’ networking event on Feb. 9.
It is well known that those with celiac disease should avoid grains with gluten in them, including wheat, rye and barley. However, when Dr. Vicki Peterson began studying the effects of gluten on patients without celiac disease, she found that many more people stand to benefit from cutting gluten out of their diets.
She saw the damage gluten does to many people’s small intestines, and concluded that a large portion of the population – in her estimate, 30 to 40 percent – is sensitive to gluten, even though not all those people have celiac disease. People who are gluten-sensitive may experience depression, fatigue, headaches or bloating when they eat grains with gluten in them. Peterson explained these findings in her book “The Gluten Effect,” which spearheaded awareness of gluten sensitivity.
“Within months of the book being published, big researchers acknowledged gluten sensitivity,” said Peterson.
On Tuesday evening, after Dr. Peterson shed some light on the prevalence of gluten allergies, pastry chef Amanda Macdessi shared her tips for ensuring food allergies don’t spoil the party. Macdessi has been cooking specialty foods for more than a decade, because her husband has food allergies. When the chefs at her culinary school said it was impossible to bake without dairy and eggs, Macdessi decided to set out on her own.
“I started bringing stuff to the chef (without dairy, eggs, and wheat) and he couldn’t tell the difference,” she laughed.
Now Macdessi and her husband own a specialized bakery in Milpitas. At Let Them Eat Cake Bakery, Macdessi makes treats without nuts, soy, and/or gluten. Her advice to those starting to cook and eat without gluten? Keep a sense of adventure, and a sense of humor. Changing one’s diet can be an opportunity to discover new foods instead of mourning old favorites.
Macdessi receives a lot of positive feedback for her treats from customers, and many have told her of their frustration in seeking tasty baked goods that are also allergen-free. She originally sold cakes without nuts, eggs or milk, but so many people approached her about making gluten-free goodies that Macdessi decided to expand her repertoire.
“[Food allergies] are becoming a major health issue,” she said.
The two speakers drew a crowd of more than 60 people to the Sonya Paz Fine Art Gallery in downtown Campbell, where allergen-free cornbread muffins were served.
“When people first hear that the muffins are vegan and gluten-free they kind of get a suspicious look – and then they bite down into them and looked surprised at how good they are,” laughed Macdessi.
Check out Let Them Eat Cake’s unique offerings, ranging from vegan pan dulce to coconut and banana cake at www.allergyfriendlypastries.com/.
To learn more about Dr. Vicki Peterson’s Health Now clinics, go to www.healthnowmedical.com, or read about her gluten sensitivity research at www.thegluteneffect.com.