Gluten-free products are gaining immense popularity across the globe as many people are realizing that their grogginess, upset stomach and other discomfort are due to their gluten sensitivity. Gluten per se is not harmful to human beings. But many people have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity which causes immense discomfort to carry on with their daily routine. For such people, gluten-free products are a boon.
Let us explore through this article what is gluten, why people are allergic to it, what gluten-free atta entails, how to make it at home and the popular ready-made gluten-free atta available online.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye, barley etc. Gluten comprises gliadins and glutenins. While gliadins control the viscosity of the dough, glutenins control the elasticity.
If you make a dough by mixing rice powder with water and pull it apart, it crumbles. But, if you pull apart dough made of wheat flour, it stretches. This is because of the presence of gluten. Gluten is what gives the dough a stretchy structure. It is also immensely helpful in baking as the carbon dioxide produced by yeast/baking soda gets trapped in the stretchy structure helping the baked good to rise.
Why Are People Allergic to Gluten?
People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity face adverse reactions when they consume wheat, rye, barley and anything that contains gluten. So what exactly happens in your gut that triggers the discomfort?
According to Science.org, in people with Celiac disease, a self-destructive immune response is triggered when gliadin penetrates the intestinal lining. This in turn sets off the inflammatory cells in the tissue below resulting in abdominal pain, belching, diarrhoea and other symptoms. People with wheat allergy release antibodies known as immunoglobulin E as a response to gluten. This causes vomiting, itching, shortness of breath and other allergic reactions.
But there is yet another class of people who do not have Celiac disease or wheat allergy, but a condition called Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity which doesn’t have any biological markers. Affected people face symptoms like bloating, pain, diarrhoea, itching, headache etc. when they consume food with gluten. However, they test negative for Celiac disease and wheat allergy. But, cutting off gluten incredibly improves the quality of their life. This group of people find it especially hard as their gluten-sensitivity is not taken seriously by people around them.
Is Gluten Harmful To Health?
Many people think that a gluten-free diet is just a fad and dismisses gluten sensitivity. But that is not the case. Those with celiac disease and wheat allergy have adverse reactions when they consume gluten. Yet another category of people faces similar issues even though they test negative for the above conditions. So, if you constantly face gut-related ailments, you may want to cut off gluten from your diet to check if you are sensitive to it.
But, if you do not have any such adverse reaction, you will be perfectly fine consuming food with gluten. Most people needn’t avoid gluten as it actually has health benefits like reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and decreasing the likelihood of heart disease and colorectal cancer.
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What is Gluten-Free Atta?
Conventionally, atta is made from wheat flour and is used to make chapati, roti, phulka etc, which is relished by Indians. Nowadays, you also get multi-grain atta which has ragi, oats, maize, jowar etc, which has improved nutritional content. But still, wheat flour makes up for the majority else, the dough will not bind together due to lack of gluten.
There are various grains that are gluten-free like amaranth, rice, arrowroot, corn, flax, millet, quinoa etc. But, you cannot make atta for chapati by powdering these grains because lack of gluten means they won’t come together and form a dough that can be rolled.
So, gluten-free atta should not only contain flours of gluten-free grains, but also something that can bind the powders together to form a dough when mixed with water.
The main ingredients used in gluten-free atta vary from brand to brand. They are usually Jowar, ragi, rice, chickpeas, urad, maize, Bengal gram, soya etc. Xanthum gum, psyllium husk, potato starch, guar gum, and sago are some such ingredients that help bind the dough together.
Xanthum gum is produced when sugar is fermented by a particular type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. According to research, Xanthum when ingested absorbs water to form a jelly-like substance that slows digestion. As the body is unable to digest it, you do not get any calories or nutrients from it. But consuming a large quantity of Xanthum gum may cause an upset stomach. 15-20 gm of Xanthum gum can be consumed a day safely.
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How To Make Gluten-Free Atta At Home?
Numerous recipes for gluten-free rotis are available on various platforms. However, they are often made using flour of a single grain. As a result, the roti would be thick and the texture wouldn’t be similar to the usual chapati and phulka we make.
If you want to make thin chapati using gluten-free atta, you may have to use flour from a mixture of grains and of course, need a binding agent too.
A popular recipe calls for mixing 1 cup each of sorghum ( jowar) powder and amaranth powder with 3/4 cup of corn starch and 1 teaspoon Xanthum gum to make gluten-free atta. The mixture can then be sieved for better uniformity.
A key point to note here is that all the powders used for the atta should be finely ground in the mill or you can buy them as powders itself. Grinding them at home in a mixer grinder may not suffice as the texture would be grainy, which may result in the dough crumbling and losing its elasticity. If you are giving the grains to a mill to powder, first give 1-2 Kg of cheap rice to grind in order to clean the milling machine and ensure the rest of your flour is not contaminated with any wheat processed in the facility.
Yet another recipe calls for using 1 cup of gluten-free oat flour, quinoa flour and 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum. You have to take care when buying oat flour because often they get contaminated with gluten as they are made in mills where wheat products are processed. Hence, ensure it is labeled gluten-free.
As you can see, you can mix different grains and nuts as you please to alter the flavour of the atta as you please. All you have to do is add a binding agent so that it all comes together to help you make thin chapatis.
Homemade gluten-free atta could be more nutritious and less expensive than store-bought ones. Most brands do not disclose the percentage of each ingredient in the mix. So, they may use rice as a bulk ingredient and lesser of amaranth, pulses and nuts to bring down the cost.
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Gluten-Free Atta Available In The Market
If making gluten-free atta from scratch is not your cup of tea, you can opt to buy readymade gluten-free atta available from different brands. Some of the most popular options are-
Aashirvaad Nature’s Gluten-Free Flour
Aashirvaad is a popular brand that sells wholegrain and multigrain atta. They also sell nutritious gluten-free flour.
The key ingredients of their gluten-free flour are powders of jowar, flaked rice, ragi, dehydrated potato, starch, milk solids, Xanthum gum ( INS415), Psyllium husk powder, iodized salt and INS471 ( GMS- Glyceryl monostereate) which is a stabilizer and anti-caking agent.
GMS is obtained from plant oils usually. But, they may also be obtained from animal fat. Aashirvaad’s flour is marked vegetarian and hence, this needn’t be a cause of concern.
100 gm of Aashirvaad gluten-free flour contains 9 gm of protein and 11.5 gm of dietary fibre.
The Better Flour Beetroot Atta
The flour is technically gluten-free as its ingredients do not have gluten in it. However, the label says that the product is processed in a facility that processes wheat and soya. Hence, it may not necessarily be a suitable option for those who are sensitive to gluten.
Its ingredients are white chickpeas, jowar, rice, urad dal, red lentils, dehydrated beetroot powder, tomato powder, Xanthum gum and salt.
It is comparatively more protein-rich than the former Aashirvaad atta as 100 gm of the atta has 15.46 gm of protein. Dietary fibre is marginally less at 9.69 gm.
Wheafree Gluten-Free Flour
Wheafree flour contains white rice, maize, jowar, black split gram, green split gram, pink lentils, brown rice and INS415 ( Xanthum gum). 100 gm of flour contains 10.68 gm of proteins, but just 3.11 gm of dietary fibre. The brand assures that the product is manufactured in a controlled environment to suit to the needs of gluten-sensitive individuals. Being free of soya, lactose, wheat and nut, it is a suitable option for those with other allergies/sensitivities too.
Jiwa Gluten-Free Atta
Jiwa sells not only gluten-free atta, but also probiotics, multigrain, soya, missi and thepla atta. Their gluten-free atta is made of brown rice, jowar, Bengal gram, guar gum and sea salt.
Compared to the options so far, it has a lower protein content of just 6.6 gm per 100 gm flour, but a higher dietary fibre of 10.9 gm.
Dr. Gluten Gluten-Free Atta
Dr. Gluten’s atta doesn’t use guar gum or Xanthan gum, but instead uses Sago as a binding agent. Its other ingredients are split moong bean, jowar, rice and almond. As it contains nuts and pulses, it has a higher protein content of 12 gm per 100 gm flour, but a low dietary fibre content of less than a gm.
Fidalgo Gluten Free Chappati Atta
Fidalgo assures that their products are made in a gluten-free environment thus avoiding any chances of contamination. Their atta contains rice, jowar, millet, channa dal, moong dal, amaranth, corn, tapioca and xanthan gum. 100 gm of the flour contains 11gm of protein and 9.4 gm of dietary fibre.
Nutroactive Keto Gluten-Free Atta
If weight loss is a priority, you could consider Nutroactive’s gluten-free atta which contains a whopping 27gm of protein and 10 gm of dietary fibre per 100 gm of flour. While all the former options had more than 70 gm of carbohydrates, Nutroactive has just 30 gm of carbs per 100 gm of flour. But, it is 3 times more expensive than regular gluten-free atta.
Its ingredients are peanut, coconut, flax seed, almond, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, soya protein, besan, isabgol ( psyllium husk) and guar gum.