Gluten free diets are discussed daily in the media and are a necessity for some people. But, do you really know what gluten is and why some people can’t have it in their daily diet?
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Of these grains, wheat is by far the most commonly consumed. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. They are a specific type of protein, but one you won’t find in meat or eggs. Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. This diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies or celiac disease, a condition which causes intestinal damage when gluten is eaten.
Gluten Free: Be Careful, Read Labels
People on a gluten-free diet need a sharp eye for labels. Some ingredient red flags are obvious, like wheat, wheat gluten, barley, or rye. But some foods have hidden gluten. Two terms to watch for are malt (which is made from barley) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (it often contains wheat). And while oats do not contain gluten, they may also increase symptoms, including severe abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
Gluten Free: Bread Is A No-No
The most difficult step in a gluten-free diet is deleting bread from your daily menu. This includes white, wheat, marble, and rye. Also off limits are bagels, muffins, croissants, hamburger buns, and scones. And of course, everyone’s favorite-also pizza, Yes, even pizza.
Traditional breakfast cereals are another casualty for people on a gluten-free diet. Cream of Wheat is obviously out, but so are many other favorites. Cheerios contains wheat starch, while Frosted Flakes uses malt flavoring. Read the list of ingredients and avoid any cereal containing wheat, barley, rye, or malt.
Today, many health foods stores and some major supermarkets now carry gluten-free products, including an assortment of breads. These are often made with rice or potato flour instead of wheat products. Just check the label to make sure it says “100% gluten-free.”
Gluten Free: Can You Eat Cereals?
Corn and rice-based cereals are good breakfast alternatives, but it’s crucial to read labels carefully, as some may also contain malt. You may want to check your supermarket’s health-food section for gluten-free products.
Gluten Free: What About Pasta?
Of course, most pasta is made out of wheat. So you will need to avoid regular spaghetti, macaroni, shells, and spirals when you’re on a gluten-free diet. Instead, look for pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa.
Gluten Free: Rice And Potatoes, Instead
Say hello to filling, flexible rice and potatoes. You can top them with just about anything, mix them into meals, or enjoy them on their own. Still mourning the loss of your favorite pasta? Here’s a secret: When you’re really craving a bowl of spaghetti, try rice noodles.
Gluten Free: Breaded Foods
Check the ingredients, but the crunchy coating on most chicken nuggets and fish sticks is generally made from wheat flour.
Gluten Free: Excellent Substitutes
Go for lean meat without any additives and you’ll be eating right for a gluten-free diet. Keep in mind that hot dogs and deli meats are processed, so check the ingredients for additives that might contain gluten.
Gluten Free: Beer Is Not Gluten Free
Unfortunately for beer fans, most beers are made with barley malt. While there are some gluten-free beers, it’s best to check with your doctor or dietitian about whether these are safe for you.
Gluten Free: Wines
Wine and liquors are okay, so you can still raise a glass and offer a toast.
Gluten Free: Tasty, Nutritious Substitutes
Along with wine, potatoes, and rice, there are even more delicious foods and drinks that are safe to enjoy on a gluten-free diet, such as eggs, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and milk products.
Be careful when considering frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. First, check for additives that might contain gluten. The same goes for processed cheese spreads and flavored yogurts.
Gluten Free: Know The Gluten Symptoms
For most people with celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, changes in bowel movements, weight loss, fatigue, and weakness.
Gluten Free: Maintaining The Diet Is Hard Work
The gluten-free diet isn’t always easy. People who benefit generally need to stick with the diet for life. That means giving up many staples, such as bread and pasta, and treats like cake and cookies. But it’s getting ever easier to find gluten-free alternatives, and careful planning can help you stay gluten-free long-term. Good Luck!