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Independent health store advice on free-from flours

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health store can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This month we speak to John Grayson from Earth Natural Foods in London.

There are now so many people searching for gluten-free foods in North London. We find that a lot of our customers are keen to find out information about wheat-free ingredients, gluten-free food and gluten-free recipes. Free from flours are particularly popular as more and more people are becoming interested in baking their own bread.

Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats and products made from these grains. As some people need to avoid gluten, the presence of gluten in a food must be declared on the label. Ingredients such as rice, maize, corn, potato, tapioca, gram, buckwheat and xanthan are all naturally gluten-free. Here at Earth Natural Foods we stock a wide range of free from flours, from almond and buckwheat to gram and rice flour.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a medical condition which affects about one per cent of the population. In individuals with coeliac disease the lining of the intestine is damaged by gluten, preventing the absorption of essential nutrients. Gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, is assessed by analysis of antibodies in the blood and is a serious disorder of the small intestine. Diagnosis is confirmed by a biopsy of the gut wall, and any abnormalities or other symptoms tend to return to normal when the sufferer adopts a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is the treatment for coeliac disease and dermatitis hepiformis and should be followed with medical supervision.

There is evidence that some coeliacs can tolerate small amounts of the type of gluten found in oats. While research continues they should only be included in the coeliac diet under medical and dietary supervision.

Gluten-free ingredients

Here is just a small selection of some of the gluten-free ingredients you might find in free from flours.

Buckwheat: Having no relationship or connection with wheat, the triangular black or dark brown buckwheat seed is related to the rhubarb family. Buckwheat is sometimes called sarrasin and produces a sweet and speckled naturally gluten-free flour.

Gram: Gram, or chana dahl, is a member of the chickpea family. It is not a cereal although it mills into a fine yellow flour which is a good source of protein and dietary fibre.

Rice: Rice is grown on every continent in conditions ranging from flooded paddy fields to irrigated terraces. It is easily digested, making it suitable for those with a delicate digestion or on a special diet, and it is a popular type of free from flour.

Tapioca: Tapioca is a natural starch which is extracted from the inner part of the cassava root. Popular in paleo diets, it’s great for baking and cooking.

Finding free from ingredients isn’t always easy, but we are very happy to help and offer advice. Perhaps you can’t find that special item you’ve been looking for or need some guidance on how to prepare or use a particular foodstuff. Your local independent health food store is always here to help!

Earth Natural Foods

Earth Natural Foods is based at 200 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2AE. This whole food shop supplies a wide range of organic vegetarian food, vegan food, gluten-free and wheat-free food as well as biodynamic food and drink.

The partners in the business are John and Yannis. They established their reputations in building the well-known Bumblebee Foods business over a 20 year period before deciding in 2006 to establish Earth Natural Foods.

To contact the store visit the website: or call them on 020 7482 2211

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