When it comes to following a gluten-free diet, navigating through it isn’t as obvious and straight forward since gluten comes in many types of foods. For those following a gluten-free diet, let this guide help you navigate a gluten-free life!
Do you need to go gluten-free?
Firstly, before following a gluten-free diet, know that it is a diet for people who are genuinely allergic to this protein. Going gluten-free isn’t meant to be followed for weightloss or to enhance one’s health if you’re not allergic or intolerant to gluten in any way.
For those who are allergic to gluten, following a gluten-free diet is to prevent chronic inflammation and prevent disease that can come from it such as leaky gut syndrome. Weightloss and better overall health are an added secondary benefit, often because inflammation levels are much lower from not being exposed to an allergen.
If you’re not allergic to gluten, there’s no need to cut out this protein from your life. Symptoms for a gluten intolerance can range from abdominal bloating, brain fog, to severe allergic reactions. If you’re uncertain, ask your doctor or dietician and be aware at how gluten containing foods make you feel.
Not All Grains are Off-Limits
With plenty of wheat varieties containing gluten are off the table, its common to just assume that all grains are off limits. Fortunately though this isn’t the case and people on a gluten free diet can still enjoy, bread, rice and pasta dishes, as long as the grain used to make them is gluten free.
While gluten containing wheat varieties like Spelt, Kamut, Farro, Barley, Rye, Semolina are off the table, there are plenty of alternatives that will not make a gluten-free diet feel so limited. Opt instead for Buckwheat, Quinoa, Gluten-Free Oats, Amaranth, Sorghum and Teff. These grains and pseudo grains can be made into bread and pasta accordingly and can help keep your grain needs satisfied. Bonus points that these naturally gluten-free grains are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals!
Beware of packaged proteins
Rounding up a well-balanced gluten-free diet is of course incorporating a form of protein into every meal.
The kinds of protein you can consume on a gluten-free diet are easy to remember mainly because plant and animal sources of protein are naturally gluten-free. Protein containing foods such as fish, beef, pork, chicken, seeds, nuts and eggs are likely to not trigger any gluten intolerance seeing as they’re naturally gluten-free foods.
With that said, protein in its fresh and unprocessed from are gluten free, but once processed, you’ll need to be wary and look at the label.
Buying goods such as canned beans, canned seafood, sausages, ground meat, meatballs, pre-marinated meat, deli meats etc. all have the potential to contain gluten unless otherwise stated. It’s common that flavorings, binders, and various additives contain gluten. It’s also common that packaged and processed foods were handled in a facility that also handles products that contain gluten, so if you’re especially sensitive to gluten, cross contamination is something you’ll need to be wary of when buying protein.
A general rule of thumb of course for any healthy diet is fresh is best and you should be avoiding packaged and processed food altogether.
Fruits and Vegetables
Like with your protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. If you’re following a gluten-free diet, there aren’t any restrictions on eating your fresh produce.
Again though, you’ll need to look at the label if you’re buying packaged fruits and vegetables. Dried fruit, baked vegetable chips, canned fruit or vegetables all have the potential to be cross contaminated with gluten or can contain an additive that has gluten.
Fresh produce should be the bulk of your diet but for the instances where you need a quick and convenient version of let’s say, kale chips, you’ll want to check for a gluten-free certified label, otherwise you’ll have to assume the product has been cross contaminated especially for individuals where trace amounts of gluten can cause a severe reaction.
Don’t Overcomplicate Matters
Fortunately, gluten-free diets are well recognized both by the health and medical world. Since reactions to gluten can be severe, companies and third-party certifying bodies take out plenty of the guesswork for people following a gluten free diet.
Essentially, if a food says it’s gluten-free, then it’s safe to consume. Most packaged products containing naturally gluten-free foods will state if their product was manufactured in a facility that contains gluten. Look out for this statement in packaged especially where condiments are concerned.
Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, plant and animal protein and read the label for packaged goods and you’re already well informed on what you can and can’t have while following a gluten-free diet.