A gluten-free diet is one that excludes most grains, and it is recommended for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. For other people, however, going gluten-free can be unhealthy. The benefits and risks of a gluten-free diet should be carefully weighed, especially if the person starting the new diet doesn’t really need to restrict gluten intake.
What Is Gluten?
You have to know what gluten is so you can avoid it if you’re sensitive to it or have celiac disease. The only problem is that the definition is pretty convoluted. Gluten is a group of proteins that technically comes from wheat and only wheat.
Gluten is what scientists call a storage protein, what bakers call the dough-forming elastic ingredient in wheat, and what some newbies to the gluten-free diet pine away for.
At some point someone made the association between wheat (specifically gluten) and celiac disease. People widely accepted that gluten makes celiacs sick, which is true. And because barley and rye make celiacs sick, too, people started thinking that wheat, barley, and rye all have gluten, which isn’t strictly true.
What Is Celiac Disease?
When people with Celiac Disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. The tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine are damaged or destroyed. Called villi, they normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity or quality of food eaten.
Recognizing Celiac Disease can be difficult because some of its symptoms mirror those of other diseases. In fact, sometimes Celiac Disease is confused with irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, andchronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, Celiac Disease is commonly misdiagnosed.
What Is A Gluten-Free Diet?
You might be asking, “Should I avoid gluten?” Going gluten free and following a gluten-free diet plan can be tough, but many companies now follow strict guidelines for those on gluten-free diets. What does gluten free mean, though? To be gluten free, you must eliminate all wheat, barley, and rye products from your diet.
Should I Go Gluten-Free?
Of course, eating gluten-free makes sense for anyone with Celiac Disease or a significant sensitivity to gluten. But for the majority of us who are not bothered by gluten, are there real benefits to the diet overhaul? Not really, although some people report feeling better after reducing their intake of products with gluten. But take note: A food billed as “gluten-free” isn’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, and some people who go gluten-free actually gain weight. That said, so long as you continue to eat a balanced diet, cutting gluten probably won’t cause any harm.
What Can You Eat On A Gluten-Free Diet?
Eating a gluten-free diet may seem challenging, but it just takes some added attention to labels. Just because it says wheat-free does not mean that it’s gluten-free! Malt flavoring or extract is sometimes found in cereals and is also not gluten-free. It’s safest to purchase products that have a gluten-free label.
Gluten Free Food List
- All fresh fruits and vegetables
- Beans – Dried or canned. Most are safe but check labels for additives
- Beef – Fresh, with no seasonings
- Butter – Check for additives
- Cheese – Most but check for additives
- Coconut – shredded, water, oil
- Dairy – Fresh, plain dairy, check labels for flavorings
- Nuts – Raw, any types, check labels
- Pork – fresh, with no seasonings
- Potatoes – all types, fresh with no seasonings
- Poultry – Fresh, with no seasonings
- Rice – Brown, white and wild
- Seafood – fresh, with no seasonings-not battered
- Seeds – Sesame, Sunflower, Pine
- Spices – pure, check for additives
- Sugars – Granulated, Brown, Turbinado (Raw), Powdered
- Vinegars – Balsamic, Rice Wine, Apple Cider. Malt Vinegar is said to be gluten free due to the distillation process, but I avoid anything with Malt.