First, let’s take a look at the basics of gluten.
Gluten is a binding agent that thickens sauces, allows baked good to be nice and fluffy, and gives a chewy texture...
Gluten is a protein found in many different grains, predominantly wheat, but also rye, barley, spelt, durum and kamut. In short, all gluten-free diets are also wheat-free, but not all wheat-free diets are gluten-free. Gluten is a binding agent that thickens sauces, allows baked goods to be nice and fluffy, and gives a chewy texture to many products. Although humans have been eating wheat for hundreds of years, the wheat we currently consume is very different than the wheat available even 50 years ago and contains a lot more gluten than it once did. We are also consuming a lot more than previously, both of which have caused many people to be sensitive to gluten.
Grains that do NOT contain gluten: Quinoa, rice (brown is preferred), potato, buckwheat, millet, and corn.
Celiac Disease Vs Gluten Sensitivity
Celiac disease is a very serious autoimmune condition whereby the consumption of gluten causes the body to actively destroy the lining of the intestines. As you can imagine, this leads to many symptoms, including digestive problems, malabsorption of nutrients, skin conditions, and increased risk of colon cancer. Celiac disease is diagnosed by blood tests and a small intestine biopsy. Luckily there is a cure: a 100% gluten free diet. This means that there can be absolutely NO gluten in any of the food and drink consumed, and contamination with gluten-containing products must be avoided. These people are not picky or high maintenance, so don’t make them feel that way.
Gluten sensitivity can cause diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, and skin problems.
The Gluten-Free Diet, Done Right
Gluten free diets can be helpful and healthy for people with sensitivities, if done correctly. I see way too many people who are buying gluten free brownies instead of regular brownies and thinking they are eating healthy. It doesn’t work like that. Here are some basic steps to navigate yourself through a gluten-free diet.
It will take a bit of time to figure out what has gluten and what does not. Some will be obvious such as those sandwich breads, croissants, crackers and pasta. Others will not be so obvious, such as deli meat, salad dressings and soya sauce. Start reading labels and identify if what you are eating has gluten in it. At the bottom of this blog I've attached a basic handout you can print, pin on your fridge, and refer to when needed.
Replace your regular gluten-containing products with more VEGETABLES and FRUITS, and healthy whole starches. This will take some time, and the first week is the hardest, but it WILL get easier.
Healthy gluten-free foods:
- Rice crackers with almond butter
- Rice cakes with avocado
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Smoothie with protein powder for breakfast
- Wheat-free oats for oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill)
- Lara Bars
Again, the focus of this step is replace wheat with other healthy fruits and vegetables, and some grains.
3) Gluten-Free Treats
Once you have mastered step 2, you can move on to looking for gluten-free treats.
This is usually the step that people start with, but should remain the final step of gluten-free diets. Gluten-free flours often have a HIGHER glycemic index (spikes your blood sugar) than wheat, and may have MORE sugar and preservatives than their gluten-full counterparts. These are TREATS, and should only be used as such.
- Brown rice pasta
- Udi’s brand – frozen breads, bagels
- Bob’s Red Mill Mixes – cinnamon raisin bread, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake (pre-mixed flours you can bake at home)
- Sweets From The Earth – frozen baked goods (not all are gluten-free, so check the label
A gluten-free diet is not simply replacing your morning bagel with a gluten-free muffin...
Here are some other great sources for gluten-free diets:
Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD.
Canadian Celiac Association
Delicious Detox, by Carol Morley, ND.
The Quinoa Revolution, by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming
Gluten-Free Ontario - website for restaurants and bakeries
Need help navigating the grocery store aisles? Click here.
Food Sensitivity Testing