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Gluten Free Snacks

August 13, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Thursday is the day of the week that I venture out to my local health food store. Today’s mission: To find a crunchy snack that’s all-natural, nutritious and delicious. It’s a tall order, but I think I’ve come up with three noteworthy items that fit the bill. There’s a little something for everyone: raw foodists, vegetarians and those of us on low-carb diets. I’m even throwing in a recipe from my own kitchen that is far more versatile and easy to prepare than any other chip or cracker I’ve ever made. Please join me on this brief tour to the land of healthy snacking.

Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Aroma and taste are of course the primary senses involved in the enjoyment of food. But there are other characteristics that also factor into our ability to relish the dining experience. Texture is one of the important elements that helps keep any menu plan interesting. That’s part of the reason why crackers, popcorn and potato chips are so popular. Taste is certainly part of the equation, but “mouth feel” is the unsung hero that beckons us back.

These days, many people are trying to cut back on the amount of refined foods they eat. Sometimes this goal has to do with digestive issues and/or food allergies. Others are directed by their doctors to keep a closer watch on blood sugar levels. The issue of weight loss or maintenance is yet another reason to avoid processed snacks. If you can do without these foods altogether and still enjoy your diet, that’s great. But if you feel deprived and genuinely miss the sensation of a salty, crunchy treat, then you may want to experiment with finding healthier alternatives to your old favorites.

I just picked up two new products in the “raw foods” isle of a natural health market that I frequent. They’re both made by the same manufacturer: Freeland Foods.

  • Go Raw “Sunflower” Flax Snax - This is essentially a savory cracker, except that it isn’t made with flour or grains. The ingredient list includes the following: sprouted organic flax seeds, sprouted organic sunflower seeds, sprouted organic sesame seeds, organic tomato powder, organic garlic powder, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (an organic soy extract) and organic lime juice.
  • Go Raw “Pizza” Flax Snax - The only difference here is that there’s no soy extract (Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) and they’ve added “organic spices” and “Celtic sea salt”.

Both products are certified gluten free, which makes them suitable for many of those with grain allergies. They’re all also nut free and contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or trans fats. The manufacturer claims that these are technically “raw foods” because they’re not processed at temperatures above 105 °F degrees. Temperatures beyond that point are believed, by many raw foodists, to destroy important enzymes contained in uncooked foods.

Sprouting many of the ingredients provides a more chewable texture. In addition, select research indicates that the germination process allows for greater digestibility of the seeds and better absorption of the nutrients contained therein. Some experiments have even demonstrated that sprouted grains, legumes and seeds possess enhanced nutrient content. (1,2,3,4,5,6)

A welcome feature on the packaging of these “flax snax” is that they list the macronutrient breakdown of each serving. In the case of the Sunflower Flax Snax, the composition is well balanced: 23% protein, 19.8% of omega-6 fatty acids and 11.4% of omega-3 fatty acids – the highly desirable fats that are typically in short supply in the common diet. The Pizza Flax Snax registers 21.7% protein, 17.1% omega-6 and 11.4% omega-3 content. A one ounce serving of each also yields a hefty 5 grams of dietary fiber.

As you might expect, the price tag for these “hand made”, organic products isn’t cheap. I paid $4.39 for a 3 oz bag of each flavor. On the upside, the generous amount of fat, fiber and protein can effectively help satisfy hunger. This may allow for consuming smaller quantities as compared to typical carb-laden counterparts. But the unavoidable truth is that plain old nuts or seeds would likely satisfy one’s appetite just as well. The real distinction here is the taste and texture of the Go Raw products. I felt like I was eating a real cracker, which is just not the same as eating nuts or seeds. In effect, it provided the desired consistency and flavor that I was hoping for.

If you’re looking for a different way to go, you might consider a homemade option. A staple in our home is a simple and satisfying “crisp” made of Parmesan cheese and dried or fresh herbs. The only ingredients you’ll require is shredded Parmesan cheese and any seasonings with which you’d like to experiment. Common options include combinations of “Italian herbs” or “picante/pepper blends”. Just remember that the more spices you use, the greater the antioxidant and textural boost you’ll get in the end product.

Here’s how you make them: Preheat your oven to 350°F while you prep the ingredients. Mix the Parmesan cheese with your herbs and spices in a bowl. Add some freshly cracked pepper, if you’d like. Apply some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place small circular mounds on the lined baking sheet and pat the cheese mixture down slightly so that it’s somewhat level. Make sure to leave some space between the mounds to allow spreading during the cooking process. Bake in the oven for about 6 – 8 minutes, depending on how crisp you’d like the crackers. Once out of the oven, allow the crackers to cool as they get harder and crisper as they do.

Note: When warm from the oven, the “crackers” can be easily molded into shapes (taco shells, cones, etc). We frequently mold larger crisps into taco shell shape and allow to cool, then fill with typical taco fillings: ground meat, chopped tomatoes, onions, salsa, etc. Some even use it as an alternative for pizza crust!

These aren’t your traditional crackers to be sure. But they are really flavorful and hearty. You can even experiment with using different kinds of cheeses. It’s a very versatile recipe and a great way to sneak some added low-carb nutrition into your daily routine.

A nutritious diet should never feel like a form of punishment. If you’re doing all the right things, but not enjoying the foods you’re eating, then please try to find alternatives that meet your dietary requirements and tantalize your taste buds. Experiment with new products at health food stores and on the Internet. Try adopting a more creative attitude in the kitchen. By approaching your diet in a fun and proactive way, you can revolutionize your view of what healthy food can be.

Be well!

JP

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5 Comments & Updates to “Gluten Free Snacks”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I learn something new from this article..nice info.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Alisha Says:

    Thanks for the post including us gluten free foodies, I appreciate it.

  4. JP Says:

    I’m glad you found it to be of interest, Alisha. Thanks for letting me know. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. JP Says:

    pdate: Flax oil may protect the brain from stroke damage and possibly promote recovery …

    http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/s12937-015-0012-5.pdf

    Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:20

    Oral consumption of α-linolenic acid increases serum BDNF levels in healthy adult humans

    Background aims Dietary omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have remarkable impacts on the levels of DHA in the brain and retina. Low levels of DHA in plasma and blood hamper visual and neural development in children and cause dementia and cognitive decline in adults. The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) changes with dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake. BDNF is known for its effects on promoting neurogenesis and neuronal survival. Methods In this study, we examined the effect of the oral consumption of α-Linolenic acid (ALA) on blood levels of BDNF and Malondialdehyde (MDA) in healthy adult humans. 30 healthy volunteers, 15 men and 15 women, were selected randomly. Each individual served as his or her own control. Before consuming the Flaxseed oil capsules, 5cc blood from each individual was sampled in order to measure the plasma levels of BDNF and MDA as baseline controls. During the experiment, each individual was given 3 oral capsules of flaxseed oil, containing 500mg of alpha linolenic acid, daily for one week. Then, plasma levels of BDNF and MDA were tested. Results The plasma levels of BDNF and MDA significantly (P < 0.05) increased in individuals who received the oral capsules of ALA. Plasma levels of BDNF increased more in the women in comparison with the men. Conclusion ALA treatment could be a feasible approach to reduce size of infarcts in stroke patients. Thus, ALA could be used in adjunction with routine stroke therapies to minimize brain lesions caused by stroke.

    Be well!

    JP

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