Gluten free diets

What was once an almost unknown way of eating, followed only by those with medical conditions such as coeliac disease has now become very popular for all sorts of people who are looking for a healthier diet.  As gluten free diets become more common, it is vital for people to understand more about what a gluten free diet is and how to follow a gluten free diet in a healthy, nutritious way.

What does “Go Gluten Free” Means?

The first step in following a gluten free diet is understanding what gluten is. Gluten is a specific protein found in several grains. Health and nutrition experts believe that the gluten protein is hard for virtually everyone to properly digest. Though it is often used synonymously with wheat, gluten is also found in rye and barley along with many others listed at the end of this article. Additionally, because of growing practices, conventionally grown oats are often contaminated with gluten.Still, specially grown gluten free oats are available.

What Are the Benefits to Going Gluten Free?

For some people, an intolerance, a medical condition such as coeliac disease or an allergy necessitates a gluten free diet.  Its consumption is linked with symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, weight gain, internal inflammation, joint pain and more. People who strictly adhere to a gluten free diet often experience relief from these symptoms as well as improved feelings of health and well-being.

Modern day gluten is difficult for most people to digest and although the exact cause of gluten intolerance is unknown, most theories revolve around changes in the way that wheat is now grown and processed. One theory states that wheat is higher in gluten than it once was because it makes bread “springier” and easier to slice.  Another possible cause is the way wheat is grown at a higher rate — bred to produce higher yields or to make it disease-resistant.

What Can Be Included in a Gluten Free Diet?

Following a gluten free diet means not only avoiding the more obvious gluten containing foods like bread, cereal, and pasta, but also any foods that contain even small amounts of gluten containing grains – see list at the end of article. Traces of gluten can pop up in surprising places such as sauces, dressings, broths, and beverages. So, those on gluten free diets must be diligent to check the ingredients in anything and everything they eat. Eating fresh, natural, unprocessed single ingredient foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat, seafood and dairy is an easy way to know that foods are gluten free.

Secret to a Healthy Gluten Free Diet

Though following a gluten free diet receives a great deal of credit for being a healthy way of eating, cutting gluten out is only part of the equation.  The foods that then replace gluten containing foods are also tremendously important.  Rather than replacing gluten with processed, packaged foods, aim for a diet filled with fresh and natural options.  Many packaged gluten free alternatives contain high quantities of sugars, salts and other highly processed and refined grains.

Gluten containing grains;

In addition to pure wheat, all of its forms are also off-limits. This includes:

  • wheat starch
  • wheat bran
  • wheat germ
  • couscous
  • cracked wheat
  • durum
  • einkorn
  • emmer
  • farina
  • faro
  • fu (common in Asian foods)
  • gliadin
  • graham flour
  • kamut
  • matzo
  • semolina
  • spelt

Other offenders are:

  • barley
  • bulgur
  • oats (oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but are often processed in plants that produce gluten-containing grains and may be contaminated)
  • rye
  • seitan
  • triticale and Mir (a cross between wheat and rye)

Gluten may also show up as ingredients in barley malt, chicken broth, malt vinegar, some salad dressings, veggie burgers (if not specified gluten-free), stock cubes and soy sauce.