Guidelines For Successfully Following A Gluten-Free Diet
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains.
A gluten-free diet treats celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other auto-immune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s Disease and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease.
A gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
Initially, following a gluten-free diet may be frustrating.
But with time, patience and creativity, you’ll find many gluten-free foods you already eat, and you will discover substitutes for gluten-containing foods you can enjoy.
Read on to learn some easy-to-follow guidelines on following a gluten-free diet, including what foods are allowed, foods to avoid and what to do about cross-contamination.
Gluten-Free Diet Guidelines
Switching to a gluten-free diet is a significant change; like anything new, it takes some getting used to it. You may initially feel deprived by the diet’s restrictions, especially if you weren’t having troubling symptoms before your diagnosis.
However, it may help to try to focus on all the foods you can eat instead.
While a wide variety of gluten-free products are available now, many of them are full of unhealthy ingredients and have been shown by research to be contaminated with gluten.
A healthy approach to following a gluten-free diet is to avoid eating too many processed foods and, where practical, try to cook your meals from scratch.
Suppose you’re starting with a gluten-free diet and are feeling overwhelmed. In that case, it’s a good idea to consult a holistic nutritionist who can answer your questions and offer advice about avoiding gluten while still eating a healthy, balanced whole-food diet.
Allowed foods on a Gluten-Free Diet
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:
- Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
- Fresh eggs
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Most dairy products
It’s important to ensure they are not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, additives or preservatives. Many grains and starches can be part of a gluten-free diet, such as:
- Corn and cornmeal
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy (corn)
Foods to avoid on a Gluten-Free Diet
Avoid all food and drinks containing:
- Barley (malt, malt flavouring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
Avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:
- Durum Flour
- Graham flour
Avoid unless labelled ‘gluten-free.’
In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labelled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
- Cakes and pies
- Communion wafers
- Cookies and crackers
- French fries
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Processed luncheon meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, including soy sauce
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
- Self-basting poultry
- Soups and soup bases
- Vegetables in sauce
Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during the growing and processing stages of production.
For this reason, I recommend avoiding oats unless they are explicitly labelled gluten-free.
You should also be alert for other products you eat that could come in contact with your mouth containing gluten.
- Food additives, such as malt flavouring, modified food starch and others
- Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
Watch for cross-contamination
Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten.
It can happen during manufacturing, for example, if the same equipment is used to make various products.
Some food labels include a “may contain” statement if cross-contamination is likely. But be aware that this type of declaration is voluntary.
Foods may also be labelled as “gluten-free.”
If a product made in the US carries a gluten-free label, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Be aware that products labelled “wheat-free” may still contain gluten.
You still need to check the actual ingredient list.
If you’re unsure whether the food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it includes.
Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used for cooking gluten-containing foods.
Using a common toaster for gluten-free and regular bread is a major source of contamination, for example.
Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.
Be careful about eating out at restaurants.
Ask restaurant staff members if they have gluten-free choices, including being prepared to avoid cross-contamination.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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