A simple guide to a gluten-free diet
Whether you live with a gluten insensitivity, hope to improve your digestive health or are simply curious about this trend – the words “gluten-free diet” may sound mysterious at first. What is gluten to begin with? What are the benefits of excluding it? What ingredients should you avoid and how can you replace them? This article provides the answers to these frequently asked questions.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein commonly found in cereals, wheat and a number of grains. It creates elasticity in the products and is the reason why baked goods have a “chewy” texture. The key grains containing it are all wheat varieties, barley, rye, triticale and oats. This means that regular pastry, breakfast cereals or pasta are all examples of the “offending” foods.
Why adhere to a gluten-free diet?
This compound is not dangerous or unhealthy for people with no intolerance. However, for about 1% of those suffering from celiac disease, it can irritate the lining of the small intestine and cause inflammation or autoimmune response. A gluten-free diet is essential for digestive health and maintaining energy levels in this case.
Yet, it has other benefits beyond managing insensitivities. Many highly processed foods such as donuts or breaded deep-fried dishes, contain high levels of gluten. Swapping them out of your nutrition plan can cause you to drop the amount of sugar, artificial flavorings and unhealthy oils you consume.
Do’s and don’ts of going gluten-free
The easiest way to make changes to your eating habits is to rely on foods that are naturally free of gluten: fresh fruits and veggies, meats and seafood, dairy and eggs, as well as unprocessed beans, nuts and legumes. Use these as the basis for your meals and you will be automatically enjoying a more balanced, nutrient-rich diet.
Eliminating gluten does not have to mean that you are saying goodbye to all the bread products, grains and pastry though! You can find substitutes from pasta to crackers and pizza to satisfy your cravings if you read the product labels closely. You can also count on grains that do not contain this protein, like rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet or quinoa to name but a few. Flours made from these grains are also a lifesaver for baking enthusiasts.
You also need to be careful with beers and stouts (since these are brewed with barley and malt), most oats and pre-packaged foods (such as sauces, dressings or soup mixes). When in doubt, you can always try gluten-free meal kit delivery services if you are looking for carefully selected recipes, hand-picked ingredients and cooking inspiration for a balanced diet to help get you started. Follow these simple guidelines to enjoy all the benefits of a gluten-free diet without bringing your nutrition out of balance or denying yourself the foods you love.