Gluten free baking with sulfite intolerance
You have finally realized that your health issues, or some of them were due to the added sulfites and you have cut those out from your diet. But you have also noticed that you get some reactions from gluten containing grains and you want to try if going gluten free would be helpful in your case. Be aware ! First of all you are going to notice that most ready made gluten free products contain added sulfites and/or hidden sulfites, actually a lot of them and many gluten free products have more added sulfites than regular organic products.
Really? Yes. This was one of the hard lessons I learnt pretty early when I thought that I had figured out my own personal food issues, but no I wasn’t even close of that.
Starches are used in the gluten free baking much more often than in regular baking, and since every starch can actually contain sulfites, you really need to check with the manufacturer how the starches are made. Corn starch is one the starches which is used widely around the world and it is made pretty cheaply. Sulfites get into the processing of the corn when sulfur dioxide is added to the soaked corn to improve fermentation and at the same time to suppress the growth of harmful bacteria, mold, fungi and yeast. This phase of the production can last up to 48 hours. The corn starch as a final product can contain easily more than 50 ppm of sulfites, and the corn starch can also be used to make some other products like various corn based sugars and citric acid. So the soaking of the corn cobs is where the sulfites will get into the various corn-derived ingredients. Most of us who are sensitive to sulfites, react to the processed corn products, but those who are not allergic to corn, can eat organic corn without issues. So remember than when any food item, like a vegetable is processed it can contain sulfites. Same goes with potatoes. Organic potatoes (not treated with anything) are safe even for me, but potato starch even just inhaled can give me a reaction. Various starches are also added into the supplements so be careful when choosing the right supplements for you.
So when you buy a ready made gluten free muffins from a freezer sections, you might not find the word sulfites in the label, but if you start to look closely the ingredients you might find a lot of common ingredients which are known to contain added sulfites, in this case hidden sulfites. Let’s imagine we are reading the ingredient list of a gluten free Lemon-muffins:
White sugar- yes, more sulfites if it is beet sugar, but even certain cane sugars will always have sulfites if those are bleached.
EGGS- these are safe sulfite-wise, just that those are high in organic sulfur so could be also an issue.
Rice flour- yes, if white in color and refined. Might contain sulfites.
Potato starch-yes almost always.
Vegetable oil- it should say which oil, but in many cases you can assume that it is a mix of different vegetable oils , which will create the right texture. Sulfite wise should be safe, but you should know the whole processing method.
Lemon juice concentrate- yes. Hard to find lemon juice concentrate without added sulfites.
Baking powder – yes, in most cases contain trace amounts of added sulfites in the starch, which in most case is corn derived.
Xanthan gum – yes, corn-derived product in most cases, so yes hidden sulfites.
Natural flavors- yes. Funny when they use a word natural which make you think that this is something healthy and good when in the end this can be just a chemically mixed flavor which comes directly out from the lab.
So can you see now what I am trying to tell you? Hidden sulfites are hiding in the gluten free baked products in most cases. You could easily make these muffins at home also with all oragnic, good quality ingredients where you subsitute these ingredients with sulfite safe ingredients. When you add up all these ingredients and the amounts of hidden sulfites they might contain you can be sure that if you react to added sulfites you will react to these muffins. It is then a different thing when an adult who weights around 60 kg eats one of these muffins than a kid who weights around 10 kg.
The worst offenders in gluten free baking in my option are the starches and sugar. There are many food starches used in baking today: arrowroot corn-maize, potato, rice, sweet potato, tapioca, wheat etc. Luckily you can find some of the starches without no added sulfites used during the processing, or in the end product, but unfortunately not many companies will label the products which contain sulfites or which are safe sulfite wise. Many companies keep the sulfite levels below 10 ppm in the final product, and as we all know those amounts are enough to give serious symptoms. So unfortunately the only way to know for sure is to contact to the manufacturer.
Sugar then. Sugar is a highly inflammatory and might just be an other trigger for various allergic symptoms and it does not have any nutrients if it is highly processed like the sugars which are often used in commercially baked goods. Beet sugar is often also GMO and even though brown sugar might sound like a healthy alternative it is often just white sugar which is colored and some molasses might have been added to it. There are many good unrefined sugar alternatives available today, and I am not talking about artificial sweeteners. Various coconut based sugars, sulfite free maple syrup and molasses, stevia, various fruit syrups, real honey etc.
If you go gluten free learn to look for healthier options and read always the labels. Learn to bake as well ! You might need to do initially a lot of research to find the safe sulfite free ingredients. But your body will thank you eventually!