Ever asked yourself “is psyllium husk gluten free?” I did many times when I first started out on my gluten free journey.
If you’re on a gluten free diet and want to know if you can safely consume psyllium husk - the short answer is YES. It is naturally gluten free!
Let’s take a deeper look at what psyllium husk is and how it can benefit a gluten free diet…
What is psyllium husk?
Psyllium husk is the outer portion of the seed which comes from the - wait for it - psyllium plant, also called Plantago ovata. You can purchase it at the grocery store in either as the full husk or a powdered version.
Is it gluten free?
As previously mentioned, psyllium husk is naturally gluten free. It’s the outer portion of the psyllium seed, and all seeds are naturally gluten free.
As always, check the labels on the particular psyllium husk product you want to purchase for any cross-contamination warnings. I haven’t ever come across a bag of psyllium husk that’s not safe for someone on a strict gluten free diet - but there’s always a first time for everything!
Is it healthy?
Yes, psyllium husk is healthy! It’s an excellent source of fiber and can help with regular bowel movements, controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
When it comes to fiber there are two types:
- Soluble fiber: dissolves and forms a gel in the intestinal tract when combined with water. It slows down food in your gut and gives you a feeling of fullness and satiety. Soluble fibers are helpful for blood sugar levels, as it slows down glucose (sugar) release in the body.
- Insoluble fiber: this is what is commonly referred to as “roughage.” Plant cell walls (from fruits and vegetables) can’t be broken down by the body, so they pass through the intestinal tract without dissolving. This causes bowel movements to be softer and increases their bulk. (Cool, right?)
Here’s the great news - psyllium husk acts like both a soluble AND insoluble fiber!
What is it used for?
Psyllium husk has a lot of uses, especially when it comes to a gluten free diet.
Some individuals consume psyllium to help keep their bowel movements regular if they suffer from constipation or diarrhea (think Metamucil), control blood sugar levels or deal with cholesterol. I’ve even seen it advertised as a “colon broom” to cleanse your gut of any unwanted irritants and junk. (I’m so sorry if you’re eating something right now…)
When it comes to a gluten free diet, psyllium husk is ESSENTIAL for baking - especially breads. It’s the binder that holds things together in the absence of gluten and it’s one of my favourite ingredients to use.
Why it's so fantastic for gluten free breads
Gluten free baking can be tricky without the gluten. The gluten protein forms a structural “network” in baked goods that gluten free flours just can’t mimic. That’s why extra binders are needed to hold things together.
The two main binders that I use in gluten free baking are xanthan gum and psyllium husk. Here’s why psyllium husk is my choice for bread baking:
- It adds moisture to the loaf. The biggest complaint with gluten free bread is that it can be dry. Since psyllium husk is a soluble fiber, it can absorb loads of moisture and keep it trapped in there. No dry slices of bread for you!
- It creates a beautifully soft crumb. Psyllium husk binds the ingredients together - something that individual gluten free flours can’t do. Gluten free breads baked with psyllium husk have an open, airy crumb that can get extremely close to resembling gluten-y versions!
- It stops your gluten free baked goods from crumbling. Since it holds everything together, the psyllium husk prevents your recipes from crumbling apart the moment they are baked (another big complaint with gluten free baking).
How to use it in gluten free baking
Using psyllium husk in gluten free baking is super simple. I like to add the dry husks right into the bowl with dry ingredients. Once the moisture (water, milk or any other wet ingredient) is introduced, it will immediately start to absorb the moisture and form the gel.
I have seen some recipes that call for the gel to be made beforehand by combining the psyllium husk with water, but I like to keep things simple. So right in the dry ingredients it goes!
Husk or powder - which one to choose?
There are two types of psyllium products on the market: whole husk and powder.
Both are essentially the same, except that the powder is ground finer than whole husks, so it will absorb much, much more water. If a recipe calls for psyllium husks and not powder, be sure to use the version that is specified or your baked goods may differ drastically.
I prefer to use the whole husks simply because it’s readily available at my local grocery store.
Recipes that use psyllium husk
Ready to start baking with psyllium husk now that you know it’s naturally gluten free and good for you?!