Many people have begun using gluten free products. For some it is considered a medical necessity, as they are doing it treat a medical condition related to a wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity / intolerance. Others are going “gluten free” in hopes of losing weight.
The abundance of products coming to our grocery stores has been amazing! It seems that every day there is at least one new gluten free food. Of course, that may include some foods that have always been gluten free that are adding that status to their label.
There are many restaurants that are offering gluten free options too. As you can see in the photo this is an actual menu from a kiosk at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, which currently offers its patrons – – large and small – – not only gluten free foods but other allergy options as well.
Do you really know what “gluten free” means and why it is important to so many people?
Gluten in Our Foods and Its Health Impacts
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and others grains, including barley, rye and spelt. These proteins perform the job of holding foods together, similar to glue, giving baked goods their elasticity.
A kernel of wheat has various layers. The endosperm is the portion which holds the gluten. Wheat bran and germ do not contain the protein gluten.
Gluten is getting a bad reputation but really does negatively affect those who have gluten intolerance or allergy to this protein. Gluten does not need to be avoided unless you have a medical issue that gives you physical symptoms of intolerance.
Gluten intolerance is known as celiac disease. A person with celiac disease who ingests any gluten will suffer an immune response that will cause damage to the small intestines. The damaged intestines then have difficulty absorbing essential nutrients leading to deficiencies and illness.
Celiac disease is a genetically induced food intolerance that affects about 1% of the population. Symptoms in people who are diagnosed with celiac disease include constipation, abdominal pain or bloating, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to a host of other medical problems and if untreated can lead to death.
A wheat allergy has similar symptoms as celiac disease however it does not cause intestinal damage.
If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms related to eating gluten containing foods, your doctor can perform tests including an intestinal biopsy to determine the cause of your problem. Once accurately diagnosed, a treatment plan can be created that might include a gluten free diet or medications.
What Foods Are Gluten Free?
If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is very important that you follow a gluten free diet for the rest of your life. If you have a wheat allergy or gluten insensitivity, you will do well to follow a gluten free diet but research indicates we don’t yet know if your body can overcome the allergy or insensitivity over time if you abstain from using gluten and your intestines can fully heal.
Many foods are naturally gluten free and others have been specifically manufactured to be gluten free.
There are labeling laws that were enacted in August 2013, with full compliance by August 2014, that cover claims of foods that are gluten free. If a food states it is gluten free it must be naturally gluten free, such as raw vegetables or 100% juice, does not contain an ingredient that has gluten, does not contain any ingredients from a grain with gluten that has not been processed to remove gluten, or contains a grain with gluten that has been processed to remove gluten with less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten.
A gluten free food must contain less than 20 ppm gluten. It can say it is gluten free, free of gluten or without gluten as long as it complies with this rule. This law only covers those foods that are regulated by the FDA, which does not include cosmetics, drugs, foods regulated by USDA such as eggs, poultry and meat, over the counter prescriptions and alcoholic beverages.
In addition to food, many medicines contain ingredients that could contain gluten so be aware.
Fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, dairy, beans, nuts, legumes, seafood are naturally gluten free. There are many grains that are gluten free, including rice, quinoa, millet, tapioca, soy, cassava, sorghum, arrowroot, yucca, flax, chia, amaranth, gluten free oats, and nut flour. Since wheat free does not mean gluten free, be sure to read any labels for ingredients.
If you are following a gluten free diet for medical necessity or out of personal preference, it is important to remember that gluten free grain products are usually not fortified as the normal grain or baked product would be. There is a potential for nutritional deficiencies when following a gluten free diet that you should be careful to manage. Fiber, B vitamins such as B12, folate and niacin, iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus may be in short supply on a gluten free diet.
Be aware that many gluten free products can have prices as much as three times those of the regular products they are replacing.
Gluten Free for Weight Loss
Many people who have no intolerance or sensitivity to gluten have begun using gluten free products to aid weight loss. While it is true that a gluten free diet is often a more healthy eating plan than the typical American diet, some gluten free foods are actually higher in fat, sugar and calories than the regular product.
Research studies are beginning to show that people who follow a gluten free diet for the purpose of weight loss actually gained weight when following this diet. The reasons could be that a person is selecting fresher foods, feels better and then eats more, selects higher calorie products, and eats larger portions than needed.
If you choose to try this program, you can be successful if you pay attention to your daily calorie intake based on what you actually need, read labels carefully to be sure you are eating correct portion sizes and are not expecting a food to be healthy or “diet” just because it says gluten free.
Gluten Free on Your Plate
There are many great recipes using gluten free products, including gluten free flour for baked goods, pasta, bread, quick breads, pies, waffles, biscuits and main entrees. Manufacturers of gluten free products are great resources for recipes.
If you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share for a Recipe Renovation, so I can show you how to make it gluten free, please send via our contact page today!
You can make your plate gluten free with careful planning whether you are doing it for your health or your waistline!