By Guest Blogger Marie Feldman
The gluten-free (GF) diet is a hot topic these days. Some embrace it as one of the hot new fad diets to lose weight or to follow in the footsteps of popular celebrities. But for others, namely those with Celiac disease (a condition that affects about 1% of Americans), it’s an absolute medical necessity and the only means of treating their condition.
What exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), and can be found in cross-contaminated oats as well.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder whereby the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the intestine. Those with this condition also must be on a lifelong gluten-free diet. Symptoms can range from GI issues to skin problems or even mood disturbances, among others. But some with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. The condition is diagnosed by measuring levels of a certain antibody in the blood and is confirmed with an intestinal biopsy.
Another condition that exists, and that is gaining more recognition, is gluten sensitivity, also referred to as “gluten-intolerance”. Individuals with Gluten Sensitivity (which is estimated to be 6% of those living in the U.S.) test negative for celiac disease, yet still experience many of the same symptoms as those with celiac. These individuals simply feel better when they avoid gluten. This would be the case with me, and I have been on a gluten-free diet for more than three years!
If you think you may have celiac or gluten sensitivity, it is important to get tested but do so BEFORE starting a gluten-free diet, otherwise the results can be inaccurate because you are not eating gluten while getting worked up. And again, even those who test negative for celiac, but are having IBS-like symptoms (bloating, diarrhea, constipation) may find that they are gluten sensitive and a GF diet helps their symptoms.
In addition, there is emerging research pointing to gluten-free diets helping other conditions such as endometriosis. This diet is also being investigated with respect to improving rheumatoid arthritis, skin issues, diabetes and mood disorders.
So if you have decided to go gluten-free, how should you go about it?
Well, going gluten-free is becoming popular and more and more GF products come out on the market everyday. However, just because a product is GF does not mean it’s healthy, low carb or calorie free. In fact, some of the products, especially processed foods like baked goods or packaged meals actually have decent amounts of carbs, fats, sodium, and fillers and gums added to them for taste and texture. Therefore, the healthiest way to go gluten free is to eat foods that are naturally free of gluten and to include the processed man-made GF products (like breads, baked good, etc.) only occasionally.
To be GF, first and foremost you need to avoid gluten in all forms. Remember, gluten includes- wheat, rye, barley and oats (unless you buy specifically gluten-free oats). At the end of this post is a very nice comprehensive table created by registered dietician, Rachel Rhodes that gives great guidance on what you should eat and avoid in your efforts to go gluten free.
As you will notice when going through the table, it is very important to read labels as there can be trace sources of gluten in soy sauce, thickeners and flavorings. Fortunately, the FDA now requires that all products labeled GF must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is equivalent to one crumb of wheat bread.
That said, I like to have my patients focus on naturally gluten free and healthy high fiber carb sources, such as sweet potatoes, corn/corn tortillas, polenta, brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat.
Oats can be tolerable if they are certified GF, meaning they are not cross contaminated during harvesting and processing; however, there is some controversy with respect to those with celiac disease consuming them because of another protein they contain called avenin, which may cause problems in some cases. Often it’s advised that those with true celiac avoid oats or limit to 50 g/day.
Most whole food types of protein are gluten free like chicken, turkey, lean red meat, eggs, lentils/beans, nuts, tofu and cottage cheese/cheeses that do not have any added ingredients/fillers. Fruits and veggies are gluten-free by themselves with nothing added to them.
And healthy fats like plain nuts, avocado and oil also are all GF.
The bottom line is the cleaner, less processed and more natural/whole foods you include in your diet, the easier it is to be gluten-free and practice healthful eating at the same time.
And when it comes to eating out, it’s getting easier to do so gluten free as many restaurants are more conscious about this dietary restriction and offer GF menus. However, whenever there is any question about ingredients/preparation it’s always good to ask. Many menus, though claiming to be “gluten free”, are not certified and may thus contain small traces of gluten, which may be okay with gluten sensitive individuals, but pose a more serious issue to those with celiac disease.
I began a gluten free diet over three years ago due to gluen sensitivity, and since then have developed over 200 gluten free recipes on my blog. Check it out if you’re on a GF diet or plan to try it in the future.
If you have any questions/comments about the info in this blog, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section!
Gluten-Free Diet Overview
|Contains Gluten (AVOID!)|
|Flour:||Rice Flour, pure maize cornflour, cornmeal/polenta, soy flour, potato flour, arrowroot, buckwheat, sorghum, millet, sago, tapioca, lentil flour, baby rice cereal, amaranth, lupin||Wheat flour, wheat starch, wheat based cornflour, semolina, rye flour, barley flour, triticale flour and oat flour, couscous, wheat germ, wheat bran, oat bran|
Malt, malt extract
|Bread:||Rice cakes, corn cakes, some rice crackers*, gluten-free bread, biscuits-pastries-rolls-breadcrumbs-cakes-desserts made from allowed flours; gluten-free bread-biscuit-cake mixes||All bread including wheat, rye and sourdough bread, biscuits, pastries, buns, muffins, croissants, breadcrumbs (unless labeled gluten-free), pies, tarts, batter, crumbs, wheat based tortillas, burritos, flat breads|
|Cereals:||Rice, corn, and soy breakfast cereals*, rice flakes, rice bran, gluten-free muesli, homemade muesli using allowed ingredients||Breakfast cereals containing wheat, oat, semolina, barley, rye, malt extract, wheatbran, oatbran, cornflakes, rice bubbles|
|Pasta and Grains:||Rice-corn-cornmeal-tapioca-buckwheat and gluten-free pastas, rice noodles, rice vermicelli, mungbean noodles, buckwheat, polenta||Wheat noodles-pasta-spaghetti-vermicelli, Instant pasta meals, Triticale, couscous, bulgur, semolina|
|Fruit:||Fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit, fruit juices||Commercial thickened fruit pie filling|
|Vegetables:||Fresh, frozen, dehydrated, or canned vegetables without sauces, vegetable juices||Canned or frozen vegetables in sauce, commercially prepared vegetable and potato salad (unless dressing checked), vegetarian products containing textured vegetable protein, baked beans, tofu burgers|
|Meat, Fish & Poultry:||Fresh, smokes, cured, frozen without sauces, crumbs or batters. Canned meat or fish without sauce or cereal. Ham off the bone*, bacon, gluten-free sausages||Foods prepared or thickened with flour, batter or crumbs, sausages, most processed meats and fish, corned beef, meat pies, frozen dinners, canned or frozen meats, fish, poultry|
|Food:||Gluten-Free (Eat These!)||Contains Gluten (Avoid!)|
|Dairy Products:||Block, processed, cream, cottage, or ricotta cheese. Fresh, UHT, evaporated, powdered or condensed milk, yogurt, buttermilk, fresh cream, plain or flavored ice cream*||Cheese mixtures, pastes, and spreads, grated cheese, malted milks, ice cream with cone or crumbs, soy drinks containing malt, thickened cream, products containing thickeners|
|Legumes and nuts:||Dried or fresh beans, nuts, seeds, gluten-free canned baked beans, canned beans or legumes*||Processed varieties of legumes if thickened *, textured vegetable protein products, creamed corn, some nut mixes, beer nuts|
|Take out food:||Steamed rice, grilled fish and chicken (no stuffing), steak, Asian dishes without flour or soy sauce, steamed vegetables, baked potato||Hamburgers, pizza, battered food (e.g. fried fish), pies, pastries, rolls|
|Beverages:||Water, tea, coffee, milk, soft drinks, soda water, mineral water, fruit and vegetable juices, wine, most spirits and liqueurs, cider||Cereal-based coffee substitutes, malted cocoa beverages (e.g Ovaltine), milk flavorings*, beer, soft drinks containing malt extract|
|Miscellaneous:||Tomato sauce*, gluten-free soy sauce, most vinegars, sugar, honey, golden syrup, jam, peanut butter, salad dressings* (not thickened), gluten-free stock cubes, gelatin, gluten-free baking powder, herbs, salt, pepper||Malt vinegar, soy sauce containing wheat, mixed seasonings, communion wafers, spices*|
- Indicates that some brands contain gluten, others are gluten-free. Ingredient lists of all food products should be checked.
- Gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other foods are available from supermarkets and health food stores.
About Marie: Marie works at a private medical group in Los Angeles as a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes educator and the manager of the clinical research department. She has been fortunate to have received top education at UC Berkeley and training at New York Hospital and UCLA, all leading to a career path that has built upon itself and which allowed her to obtain her multi-faceted, exciting and diverse job today. In addition, she is a fitness enthusiast, loves food and cooking, and has done nutrition consulting work, namely writing and research support for dietary cookbooks and newsletters. Marie enjoys developing new, original and healthy recipes to nourish her family and friends, which she posts on her blog: Nourish you Delicious.