Thursday, 14 November 2013

Product Review: Foods Of Athenry Gluten Free Cereals

The wonderful Lawless family who are the people behind The Foods Of Athenry sent me an email inviting me to try out their new gluten free range of cereals Well, being a fan of The Foods Of Athenry gluten free products for a long time, how could I say no? 

They sent me three types:

Nutty Crunch Granola
Strawberry & Vanilla Granola
Sunshine Porridge

As you can see from the picture, the boxes are marked with the cross grain symbol and have clearly written 'gluten and wheat free' on the front. I love the new packaging.

The boxes are smallish in size, but the contents are filling. You don't need to eat a lot to feel full. My personal favourite is the Sunshine Porridge. Absolutely delicious. Easy to cook and I felt that it really set me up for the day. It has raisins, apricots and sunflower seeds. A great porridge.

The granolas are great tasting and they don't lose their crunch when served with milk. However, it would be unfair of me not to mention that there is rapeseed oil in both of the granolas I tested and though I do not agree with the use of this oil, its effects are more or less nullified when consumed with whole milk.

I know in my previous post I've encouraged everyone to be aware of what you buy from the free from aisle, but I can honestly say that The Foods Of Athenry are meticulous about their food and what goes into it. They never include artificial additives to their bakes. I've met both Paul & Siobhan Lawless personally and I know that they are genuinely passionate about what they do. You can read about their 'clean label' philosophy and more of their story here 

It's worth mentioning that the Nutty Crunch Granola won Gold in the Irish Food Awards - a granola that is gluten, wheat and refined sugar free. Brilliant that a gluten free product can win the top of a 'regular' category. The Strawberry and Vanilla Granola won the bronze.  

Find The Foods Of Athenry on Facebook:
Find The Foods Of Athenry on Twitter:

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Devil Is In The Detail

WARNING: This is a wordy installment! I know I don't blog often, but when I do, I sometimes try to make it worthwhile. So be prepared for a lot of text and links to other articles online.

Recently all my social network feeds and general online chatter is full of praise for gluten free food suppliers. It's a long way from the moaning and complaining of the lack of gluten free food availability that used to be the norm. Now that gluten free food is considered a trend, courtesy of random celebrities, the food industry has jumped fully on board with this and you can almost get anything in gluten free form. Bagels, check. Bread, check, Pasta, check. Pizza, check. Pastry, check. An endless variety of baked goods, check. All good, right? I mean variety galore, it's all gluten free, there's a green light to indulge in all those foods the gluten free community has been 'missing out' on, right?

There has been this niggling in the back of my brain since the food industry has embraced gluten free and what it really means for me. Now my hands are up, I'm super guilty of being over-the-top enthusiastic for new gluten free products that hit the supermarket shelves. I've even been given the opportunity to review and blog about some of them. Go me. My enthusiasm stems from the not-so-long ago past when gluten free foods were far from edible, available and a serious lack of variety. I think I'm a bit scarred at having been inflicted with terrible gluten free food. However, being gluten free is not just about having to eat everything that's labelled gluten free. Just to reiterate, just because it says gluten free on the label, doesn't mean you should go ahead and eat it. Though the natural instinct is to immediately think, 'Ooooh, check this *insert new gluten free product here* out! Gluten free too. I MUST buy it and try it.'

Step away from the gluten free aisle for a moment. Just to be clear before I carry on, there are some genuinely great gluten free companies out there producing some genuinely great gluten free food. I think with the current market being flooded, it's a little harder to sort the good, from the bad and the really ugly.

When I first started my necessary gluten free diet, there was such a quick improvement to my health that I felt like a miracle had occurred. Brain fog, mouth ulcers, depression, anger, illness, anaemia, nausea and so much more, all these symptoms fled. It was like coming out of the storm. As a result, my hunt for gluten free food began in earnest. I mean apart from the fact that a large majority of foods are naturally gluten free, I thought that I needed to supplement the gluten foods with their gluten free equivalent.

I've been living on a gluten free diet for almost 8 years now. It's only been in the past few years I've been starting to feel not as healthy as I used to feel. I couldn't place it. I've been very careful about the food I've been eating and apart from the odd accidental glutening, I've been good.

So why was I feeling so unhealthy? I went through my diet and I think the answer lies in all the processed gluten free food that I have been consuming. 

I recently came across this interesting read from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: It pretty much sums up a lot of what I want to say. In summary, majority of gluten free processed food = junk food, causing inflammation and illness.

There definitely seems to be a lawlessness in some, not all, of the gluten free food industry. I think it really is a case of caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

Here's an example of unwanted ingredients: there is a prevalence of rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil in gluten free foods. This is a real bugbear of mine. This oil is insidious. I have a very good friend who works in the world of organic chemistry and rapeseed oil (cold pressed, processed, GM, not GM, in all its forms), is considered a toxic organic and causes inflammation, amongst other complications. Toxic. The rapeseed/canola industry spin it as an 'healthy' oil. There is a lot of talk about canola's qualities - its unsaturated structure (Omega 3, 6, 12), its excellent digestibility and fatty acid makeup. It turns the consumer against naturally saturated oils and fats.

Marks Daily Apple has a great read clearing up a lot of misinformation about saturated fat:

There really is nothing wrong with saturated fat, if it is the right type of fat. Have a read of Dr. Briffa's fantastic article debunking the myth concerning saturated fats. Click here to view

UPDATE 24/03/14: Great article in The Guardian outlining everything I want to say about food these days!

Our bodies recognise and understand saturated fats. They know how to break them down and digest them properly. Toxic substances in canola oil cannot be broken down by our bodies once they have formed. Interestingly, to counteract any effect when ingesting rapeseed/canola oil, you should consume a natural saturated fat as it will bond with the molecules and prevent them from being absorbed by the body and doing any further harm.

There are pages and pages of links online that explain why rapeseed/canola is something to be avoided. Nonetheless, there is such a massive industry behind the canola/rapeseed machine that it is almost impossible to be heard against them. 

Here are a couple of more links to Mark's Daily Apple that are worth exploring regarding healthy oils & fats:

I fully encourage you to really start reading up and researching further about the food you're eating. It's so important.

It amazes me that this oil is found in a large majority of gluten free foods found on the shelves. A lot of my favourite brands actively use this insipid ingredient in the production of their foods and I'm disappointed, because they don't need to. It also means that I can't indulge in their food, as it just makes me feel unwell. A simple change in the oils they use and their products will be even healthier for those who are on a gluten free diet and not cause further inflammation and harm. Before I really started to understand food and its effects, I never thought to look beyond the 'Gluten Free' labelling. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has had this dawning realisation about some aspects of the gluten free food industry.

So the next time you see gluten free doughnuts, gluten free bagels, gluten free cereals, gluten free anything, have a good hard look at what exactly is going into these gluten free products. Too much sugar, unhealthy oils, unnecessary preservatives, over-processed, possible GM ingredients...? It is worth making an informed choice when shopping. Seeing as the gluten free community are so careful about making sure they don't get sick with hidden gluten, we all should be making an effort to make sure that we don't continue to poison ourselves with other hidden harmful ingredients that cause nothing but inflammation and lead to further unwellness. I think this stands for all foods to be honest.

I also want to say that I'm not intent on demonising the gluten free food industry. There really is some fabulous gluten free food producers out there and long may they continue. I just think in some instances, before buying it's worth reading the small print.

UPDATE: GlutenDude put up a post about what he thinks of processed gluten free foods and how they affected him, back in October of last year Worth reading. Clearly, I'm late to the party!