Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat. Gluten gives bread dough its shape and elasticity, allowing it to rise when heated. In recent years, gluten has made headlines because of the increased rate at which people are being diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that damages or destroys the villi of the small intestine when foods containing gluten are consumed. In the long term, celiac sufferers are at risk for vitamin deficiency or malnourishment because their bodies are not absorbing nutrients from the gluten products they are consuming. As a consequence, people with celiac are recommended by their doctors to eat a gluten-free diet. The gluten-free diet is no longer just for celiac sufferers, however. Dieters and fitness-conscious individuals believe that adopting a gluten-free diet will allow them to lose weight and live healthier.
Diet Details of Gluten-Free Diet
A gluten-free diet is one that excludes all foods with gluten in them. Gluten-rich foods are grains like wheat, barley, triticale, and rye. Fitness-conscious eaters will be happy to know, though, that there are many healthy foods and recipes you can eat and prepare while on a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free foods include beans, seeds, and nuts, so long as they are natural and unprocessed. Fresh eggs are another gluten-free option, as are fresh meats, fresh fish, and poultry. Fruits and vegetables are allowed for gluten-free eaters.
Most dairy products are fine, too, but examine the ingredients list before eating or drinking something to be sure. There are many starches and grains you can eat as part of a gluten-free diet, too. Arrowroot, buckwheat, corn and cornmeal, flax, rice, soy, quinoa, millet, and tapioca can all be safely consumed if you are gluten-free. To capitalize on the gluten-free diet craze, many companies now offer gluten-free cereals, breads, pastas, snacks, and desserts.
Gluten-Free Diet Health Benefits
At the time of this writing, there are no published health studies that indicate that gluten-free diets provide additional health benefits for people without celiac disease. And, just because a food is gluten-free does not make it necessarily a healthier food. Many gluten-free foods are high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. People with celiac who adhere to a gluten-free diet, though, experience fewer symptoms – diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, gas, and vomiting – from the disease.
Possible Gluten-Free Complications
Certain complications can arise from eating a gluten-free diet. Cross-contamination, when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that have gluten, can occur during manufacturing or food preparation. At home, make sure surfaces and utensils are properly cleaned, wiped, and washed before using them to make gluten-free meals. Using a toaster for both gluten-rich and gluten-free bread is a common contamination source most do not think about.
The bigger risk for those sticking to a gluten-free lifestyle is vitamin deficiencies are possible. Gluten products are packed with various vitamins, and replacing that source when you go without gluten needs to be accounted for. Consult your physician or dietary expert before going gluten-free to ensure that you are getting enough iron, calcium, fiber, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and folate in your diet.