Gluten is a type of protein found in certain grains like wheat, barley, rye, their products and their combinations, along with brewer's yeast and malt. In certain medical conditions, gluten may cause undesirable effects or discomfort. In such circumstances, where removing gluten from a person's diet may be helpful, a gluten-free diet is recommended.
When Is A Gluten-Free Diet Advised?
Sometimes, digestion and absorption of gluten becomes difficult in some conditions, for example in celiac disease, which is a digestive disorder. In this case, consumption of gluten causes inflammation of the small intestines and may cause abdominal pain or discomfort.
There are some other conditions like gluten intolerance or sensitivity, wheat allergies, autism, behavioral challenges in children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in which gluten may not be well tolerated by the body. While in some cases the results are well established; in some, the studies are still ongoing.
However, gluten may be considered as one of the triggering factors and restricting its intake may seem promising in most of these conditions. Hence, in such cases, apart from other dietary restrictions, a gluten free diet may be planned.
What Is A Gluten-Free Diet?
The main idea of gluten-free diet is to consume foods that do not contain gluten and avoid all foods which contain gluten. When choosing packed foods, it is important to understand that the product is not processed or packed with any gluten containing grains or foods. It is also advisable to avoid foods containing preservative and other additives.
Foods Allowed In Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten-free diet allows you to consume grains and food made from grains like rice, corn, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, soy, buckwheat, flax, tapioca and teff. Flours that are gluten-free and you can easily use in your preparations include rice, corn, soy, bean and potato starch. In case of grains and flours, gluten-free processing and packing should be ensured.
Foods which are naturally obtained as gluten free like fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and poultry are allowed as a part of gluten-free diet. These should be prepared plain without adding bread and without any coating or stuffing with flour or wheat products.
- Natural and unprocessed beans, legumes, seeds and nuts
- Fresh eggs, meats, fish poultry and most dairy products
- Milk and milk products can be included, provided they are not restricted as a part of any other special diet.
Foods To Avoid In Gluten-Free Diet
You need to avoid all foods and drinks that contain wheat, barley or its malt, rye and triticale, which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. There are many types of wheat flour and most of the breads and bakery products are made of wheat, so you need to avoid all those. Other wheat products that are not allowed include durum and graham flour, bulgur, farina, kamut, semolina and spelt.
Check and avoid for products that are fermented using barley like beer, licorice and crab meat. Sauces and marinades contain gluten; so vegetables, poultry, fish or meats which are breaded, flour coated, marinated or cooked in sauces should be avoided.
Foods To Be Considered In Gluten-Free Diet
Some foods may not be always gluten free and would require thoughtful considerations while shopping and consuming. For some foods reading labels is essential before making a decision. Ideally all wheat products should be labeled but in rare cases, some specifications may not be clearly mentioned. You need to be careful with foods like dextrin, flavorings, seasonings, spice mixes, processed cheese, soy sauce and some forms of oats.
The contents and presence of wheat in such products may vary with different manufacturers. So, read labels, check with the product manufacturers, if required. Some brands also offer varieties specially made for people on gluten-free diet; you can choose from those too.
How To Follow A Gluten-Free Diet?
For those who are new to this diet, it is important to follow medical advice and plan their special diet with the help of a nutritional expert. While this diet excludes some grains, it is important to ensure that your special diet provides you with all the essential nutrients.
Once you have the list of foods to be included and those to be avoided, plan to make gradual changes. The thought of not being able to have many foods can be annoying but being reasonable and slowly modifying the diet can help. You need to stay focused on your mission and believe that you can do it. Have regular follow-ups with your nutritional expert to discuss your progress, preferences and possible modifications.
You can make your diet more interesting by removing the regular ingredients like wheat from your favorite recipes and replacing them with those that do not contain gluten and are allowed in your diet. For example, wheat and its gluten are used to make cakes, but you can try using gum, psyllium husks or gelatin instead. Try making your own multigrain flour for your cooking. Instead of wheat, you can mix rice flour, corn flour and potato starch, all of which are free of gluten.