Gluten is a protein found in food products derived from wheat, barley and rye. It is well established that consumption of gluten triggers the onset of the digestive disorder, celiac disease. Maintaining a gluten-free diet is the only way to effectively manage the symptoms associated with celiac disease. It is also necessary for those suffering from a food allergy with wheat and wheat products. However, today many people, besides those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy, are also opting for a gluten free diet. Many believe that eating a gluten free diet may help them lose weight, increase their energy, ameliorate their headaches or make them feel healthier.
However, the evidence for these associations is mostly anecdotal. In fact Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center does not recommend following a gluten free diet unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or have a gluten sensitivity (wheat allergy). Maintaining a gluten-free diet can often be difficult and may result in a deficiency in certain vitamins and nutrients. However, if you must be on a gluten-free diet plan, below is a list that provides some helpful tips on eliminating gluten from your diet.
Beverages And Foods To Avoid
In order to eliminate gluten from your diet, you must avoid foods and drinks containing the following:
- Graham flour
- Matzo meal
Gluten may also be found in many prepared foods such as croutons, salad dressings, and candies. When consuming these foods it is important to look for a label that indicates that they are gluten-free or made from a gluten-free grain such as corn, rich or soy. Some other common prepared foods and beverages that may contain gluten include:
- Cakes and pies
- Imitation meats or seafood
- Processed luncheon meats
Gluten is not only found in edible products. It may also be found in the following the products that are commonly found in your home. These include:
- Shampoo, conditioner, and styling products
- Lipstick and lip balms
- Medications and vitamins
- Play dough
Basic Foods For A Gluten Free Diet
The following is a list of grains and starches recommended for a gluten-free diet:
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
Other gluten-free foods include:
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry
- Milk and most dairy products
- Wine and distilled liquors
An increasing number of gluten-free products, such as bread, pasta, beer or brownies are becoming available with gluten-free substitutes. These are often available at specialty grocery stores or on-line.
Pitfalls Of Gluten Free Diet
Many grains are enriched with vitamins and therefore following a gluten free diet may result in low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients. Some common deficiencies associated with a gluten free diet include:
Your doctor or dietician may recommend supplements to increase your levels of these vitamins and nutrients.
Tips For Maintaining A Gluten-Free Diet
- Plan your menu: It is important to make naturally gluten-free foods such as vegetables and fresh meat an integral component of your diet. Some meal options include omelets, tacos, salads, as well as the traditional meat and potatoes meal.
- Shopping gluten-free: While in the grocery store, stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables; fresh meat, poultry, and seafood; eggs and dairy products; beans, nuts, and seeds; and gluten-free condiments such as herbs, peanut butter, mayonnaise, and cooking oils. Additionally, choose corn tortillas and chips, rice cakes, and corn or rice pasta. Additionally, some grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joes, and Wegmans publish a list of all of the gluten-free products they offer.
- Check your medications for gluten: Gluten is often utilized in medications to bind pills together. Ask your pharmacist or call the drug manufacturer directly to check if any of the medications you are taking contain gluten.
- Maintain a gluten free zone in the kitchen: Cross-contamination may occur anywhere ingredients come together, such as on a cutting board or a grill surface. You may also be exposed to gluten by using the same utensils as others or by sharing the same condiment containers — the condiment bottle may touch the bun, or a knife with bread crumbs may contaminate a margarine stick or mustard jar.
- When Dining Out: Some restaurants today may offer a gluten-free menu. If this is not the case be sure to ask which items are gluten-free.