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What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein that gives dough its elasticity. The word “gluten” actually means “glue” in Latin.
What Foods Have Gluten?
Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, contaminated oats, triticale and any of their derivatives. People often ask “are oats gluten free?”. Oats are often contaminated with gluten because of the high risk of contamination in the fields where they are grown. There are certified gluten free oats available, however.
Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity & Wheat Allergy
Wheat free diets are important for those with wheat allergy but gluten from other sources does not need to be excluded.
However, a gluten free diet is essential for anyone diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
Many people have gluten allergy symptoms due to gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. They would also benefit from going gluten free.
However, gluten free living may be lacking in iron, B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc and fiber because many gluten free grains are not fortified with these vitamins and minerals.
Also, some gluten free products may have higher fat content to hold the baked goods together compared to foods with gluten.
Luckily, with a little balance, gluten free living can be a very healthy lifestyle.
Here are some suggestions for healthy gluten free living.
Sources of Fiber
Many gluten free grains such as white rice do not have fiber. Therefore, it is important to focus on gluten free grains that do have fiber.
- Brown Rice
- Pure, certified gluten free oats
Also aim for at least 5 servings per day of fruits and vegetables to provide a naturally gluten free source of fiber into your diet.
Choose low fat dairy products and lean proteins such as beans, poultry and fish most often to limit your intake of saturated fat. When going gluten free, try to keep the total fat for most products at 5 grams or less and 3 grams saturated fat or less for healthy options.
Iron Rich Foods
Pump up your iron intake. The easiest way to do this is from animal sources.
Animal Sources of Foods High in Iron:
- Lean beef
These provide the most efficient iron absorption.
Iron rich foods that come from plants may not be as easy for your body to absorb, but they can be important sources of iron especially if you do not eat animal products.
Plant Sources of Foods High in Iron:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried fruits such as apricots, dates, raisins and prunes
B vitamins are essential for a healthy metabolism. Unfortunately, many gluten free grains are not fortified with B vitamins. It is, therefore, very important to make sure that B vitamin rich foods are included when going gluten free. Here are some examples:
- Fortified gluten free products
- Lean meats
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
Nutrition labels should always be read for sources of gluten and its derivatives. The easiest word to identify as a source of gluten is “wheat” as this is one of the top 8 food allergens included under the 2006 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Since wheat falls under the FALCPA, it must be clearly stated on any packaged foods in theU.S. It will either be displayed next to the allergen ingredient such as “wheat” or underneath the ingredient list such as “contains wheat”.
If wheat is not identified, read the nutrition label further for the following words: barley, malt extract or flavoring, brown rice syrup (may contain barley), natural flavoring if made from malt, rye, oats (unless stated as certified gluten free), Brewers yeast, beer, ale, lager, triticale or soy sauce (typically made with wheat). This is just a brief review of reading food labels for gluten; if you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease it is highly recommended that you see a registered dietitian for education on the diet.