If you visit supermarkets or even browse grocery websites, you would inevitably come across a new rack of food products- Gluten-free products! Wondering what it is? Going gluten-free is the latest buzz amongst people crazy about eating healthy! Today many people are adopting it as a lifestyle statement! For those who are unaware of it or have partial information, we go ahead and enlighten you all about it in this article. Stay hooked!
What is Gluten Free Diet?
Foremost, we must understand what exactly gluten is. It is basically a composite protein found in foods like wheat, rye, barley and food made from these substances like bread, cereals, baked goods etc. This protein is responsible for giving elasticity to dough, in helping them rise as well as giving it a shape and a chewy texture. Unlike other proteins, this protein is considered not so good for the body. It is also a protein that is completely indigestible. Gluten free diet means consuming those foods which do not have this protein gluten. This diet was primarily designed to treat the celiac disease where the gluten protein sometimes slips through the intestinal lining and causes inflammation in the intestines. Today, the diet plan is also adopted by many people as a healthy way of living.
Reasons to choose Gluten free diet plan
There could be several reasons for any of you to opt for a gluten-free diet. Few of them are:-
- Celiac disease- This is the basic reason gluten free diet plan was formulated. Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition where the gluten triggers a response from the body’s immunity system and causes damage to the intestines. It also blocks the absorption of various nutrients and vitamins into the body.
- Gluten sensitivity- few people may not suffer from celiac disease but still, show sensitivity and even allergy to gluten. They often face stomach issues post eating foods containing gluten. Thus, it is beneficial for them to opt for a gluten-free diet plan.
- Paleo Diet– This extremely popular diet plan strongly advocates eliminating all grains and gluten containing food from the diet for a healthy lifestyle. Fans of this diet plan love to go gluten free.
- Personal choice- Few people simply feel better with a gluten free diet plan instead of diet with glutens added. Thus, it is simply a matter of choice.
Common FAQs and Myths About Gluten Diet
While a gluten-free diet is a big rage these days, you would be surprised how unaware people actually about it are. They often believe eliminating gluten is same as eliminating carbohydrates. To help you get the facts right, we discuss below some of the common queries as well as misconceptions about this diet plan.
- Does everyone need to go gluten free?
No, everyone need not go gluten free. Some cases like people suffering from celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have no other option but to go gluten free. However, other can go gluten free for a limited period of time or throughout life as a personal choice. There is no evidence that eating gluten causes any disorders or ill-effects in normal individuals.
- Does a gluten free diet cause weight loss?
Most people believe that going gluten free means that you lose weight. However, it is not so. Gluten is just a nutrient that you choose to omit from your diet plans. In fact, studies have shown that it is quite common for people on gluten free food to actually gain weight! Not all gluten free foods are healthy. You would experience weight loss if you are opting for healthy foods, checking on the calories consumed and exercising regularly. Today there are numerous gluten-free junk foods like cookies, chips, cakes etc. are easily available. Eating larger portions and gorging on them will only lead to weight gain. Thus, only a healthy lifestyle will help you lose weight.
- Is gluten free good for diabetic diet?
Gluten is a protein that is often found in high carb foods as they are grain based. High carb food tends to spike blood level sugars as well as make you feel hungry faster. Thus, it would get eliminated if you are eliminating high carb food. In contrast, many gluten-free foods available in various packaging today are lower in nutrient and higher in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. This does not spell healthy and good for a diabetic patient. On the other hand, studies have shown that both Celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes have a similar genetic base. This implies that the possibility of people suffering from diabetes also suffering from the celiac disease is quite high.
- Is gluten free diet a no-carb diet?
This is perhaps the biggest misconception. Gluten free diet is not a no-carb program. For instance, foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams etc are carbohydrate rich food but still gluten free. This is the reason that many people gain weight on gluten-free diet plans. Gluten is mostly found in wheat, barley and rye and thus these grains and all its products must be avoided.
Gluten-Free Diet Benefits
Adopting a healthy gluten-free diet for a limited period of time or as a lifestyle does have its own fair share of benefits. Few of the major benefits are:-
- Helpful in many Medical Conditions
A gluten-free diet is not only helpful in celiac disease but also in conditions like placebo effect and for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder, A gluten free diet is also believed to be helpful in alleviating the signs of autism in children though this still requires a concrete scientific evidence.
- Helps you avoid processed foods
It is a ubiquitous truth that processed foods are essentially unhealthy for you. Since these foods also tend to contain a significant amount of gluten, you are able to easily avoid its harmful effects like chemicals, artificial flavors, and even gluten by opting for a gluten-free diet. You are also able to eliminate many unhealthy oils as well as unhealthy carbohydrates like bread products, cakes, pastries etc. This can help you reduce of many diseases like heart conditions, diabetes and even certain cancers. Your digestion system is certainly boosted by a gluten-free diet and you can reduce chances of ailments like cramping, gas, bloating, stomach upsets, diarrhea etc.
- If cautious, gluten free diet can be healthy
If you are cautious enough to eat a well balanced and healthy gluten free food, you are likely to feed you body with plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Thus, there is a great possibility that you would not only lose weight but would also feel more energetic and healthier. You might be skipping on wheat, barley, and rye but you become open to mindless healthy options like brown rice, quinoa, and many other ancient grains! Today, you find plenty of gluten free flours from which you can cook, bake and even prepare mind blowing tasty recipes and even lip smacking desserts. A gluten-free diet also leads to a healthier skin and stronger hair as it facilitates better absorption of nutrients from the intestine.
Gluten-Free Diet Risks
Today, there is no dearth of people who eat gluten-free diet not because of any medical condition but as a fad diet. However, being gluten free does not necessarily make any food healthy. It can actually increase your chances of missing out on a healthy well-balanced diet. Many gluten free products like waffles, crackers, pretzels, pancakes etc made from white rice flour, tapioca flour etc. can be just as unhealthy as their counterparts prepared from wheat flour. Again many food grains are refined and processed to make them gluten free. The process makes them lose the critical nutrients like the fiber, iron, zinc, calcium, riboflavin, vitamins etc. Thus, it is better to eat a gluten-containing diet if there are no medical restrictions and concentrate on eating healthy foods.
What Does a Healthy Gluten- Free Diet Look Like?
A typical gluten-free meal is very similar to a traditionally healthy diet. Your plate would typically have lean proteins like meat, fish, and poultry, a serving of healthy fat like avocado, nuts or seeds and a generous amount of vegetables, fruits and some dairy products like milk, cheese or yogurt.
Gluten Free Food List
If you are now embarking on a gluten free diet, you would definitely need to revamp your kitchen shelves as well as your refrigerator. As you get your shopping bag ready, it’s important to get your food list of various categories ready so that you can shop right. Read on:
Naturally Gluten free grains and starches
There are plenty of whole grains and their flour and starches which are naturally gluten free and thus can be easily consumed in various recipes. Few of them are:
- Oats ( Check for gluten free label since they can be cross-contaminated as they are mostly processed in facilities which process wheat)
- Cassava/ Yuca
- Potatoes and potato flour
Today you can easily find bread, pasta, crackers and various other grain-based products which are gluten free. While you look for a label, you can look at the ingredients list and avoid food items which have wheat and its varieties like Kamut, durum, whole wheat, semolina, barley, rye, malt, triticale( a cross of rye and wheat) etc.
Gluten free Vegetables and Fruits
You can have all natural fruits and vegetables without any worries. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as fibers. However, you need to avoid most processed vegetables and fruits as the ingredients used in their preservation may contain gluten. The plain frozen ones or those canned with water or natural juices are normally gluten free. While going for processed fruits and vegetables, avoid those that have
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Malt of any kind
- Modified food starch as this is most likely a wheat derivative
- Gluten stabilizer
- Maltodextrin if it is made from wheat.
Gluten free Proteins
There is plenty of naturally occurring gluten free proteins. Some of its varieties are:
- Red meat like pork, lamb, fresh beef, goat, bison, duck, etc.
- Seafood like fresh fish, lobster, scallops, clams etc.
- Tofu ( check to see no gluten based products are used on it)
- Nuts and seeds
Proteins like processed meats, cold cuts and ground meat and even burgers should be looked into to ensure no gluten based ingredient has been used on them or they have not become cross-contaminated. One should completely avoid the vegetarian protein Seitan as it is predominantly gluten.
- Sauces, spices, and condiments
Most of the dry spices, mayonnaise as well as mustard are generally gluten free but one must look into its ingredients to ensure no gluten dressing or preservative has been added or any cross-contamination have happened. Beware of readymade sauces as most of them like ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, malt vinegar etc. have gluten in them and thus should be avoided.
- Desserts and sweets
Most of desserts and sweets are typically made from wheat products. However, with the gluten- free wave, many bakeries and confectionaries have started preparing cakes, puddings etc from gluten free ingredients. Most chocolates are gluten free though one must exercise caution and read liable before consuming. The same holds true for hard candy and gummies, ice creams, gelato, frozen yogurt, sherbet etc. For all grain-based desserts like cakes, pies, pastries etc, one must exercise utmost caution and ensure that it is made from gluten free flour. However, one must remember that not all gluten free desserts are healthy.
- Drinks and beverages
There are plenty of gluten-free drinks and beverages available. Most of the tea, coffee, juices, sodas and sports drinks are gluten free but they should be nevertheless checked for cross contamination. Beer is definitely a drink having plenty of gluten. There are some alcohols which are gluten free and some have gluten. Thus, one should confirm before consuming any type of alcohol.
Final Thoughts on Gluten Free Diet
Going on a gluten-free diet is no mean feat. It means giving up your staples like bread, pasta, cereals etc. However, today, there is an increasing ease of finding plenty of gluten free alternatives. Thus, life is easier for people who have no choice but to eat gluten free diet due to medical requirements. For others, it’s best to have a well-balanced diet and even go gluten free for short span of time to find the zone that best fits them and read related posts.
Have you ever been on a gluten-free diet? What has been your experience? Weigh in below! We would love to hear your opinion and experiences on this absolutely popular diet plan!