Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gluten-free diet: What's allowed, what's not


A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
What is gluten? Gluten is the protein found in wheat. It's what gives bread its shape and pizza dough its elasticity. Vital wheat gluten (a commercial product) is just the protein (gluten) in a powdered form. Seitan, meanwhile, is gluten that has been mixed with water to form a "dough" and then steamed, boiled or baked to have a meat-like texture.
Why are people gluten-free? Individuals who have an allergy or sensitivity to wheat, or are Celiac, must abstain from gluten and foods containing gluten such as rye and barley. Some foods that are inherently gluten-free, like oats, can also become cross-contaminated with wheat or gluten, so those who are GF should take care to always by certified "gluten-free" brands.
From Mayo Clinic, Nutrition and healthy eating

Allowed foods
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:
  • Beans, seeds, 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 make sure that 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:
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn and cornmeal
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Hominy (corn)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff
Always avoid
Avoid all food and drinks containing:
  • Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
  • Rye
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Wheat
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:
  • Bulgur
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
Avoid unless labeled 'gluten-free'
In general, avoid the following foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meat or seafood
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • 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 growing and processing stages of production. For this reason, doctors and dietitians generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free.
You should also be alert for other products that you eat or that could come in contact with your mouth that may contain gluten. These include:
  • Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others
  • Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
  • Play dough
More detail:
Gluten is shorthand for a family of storage proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten proteins are found in the mature seed of these cereal grasses, which is what we refer to as the grain. Close relatives of wheat, such as spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn, also contain gluten and must be avoided on a gluten-free diet. While you may hear the term "gluten" used to refer to rice (e.g., glutinous rice), rice protein is not actually a gluten and need not be avoided on a gluten-free diet. Conversely, while oats don't technically contain gluten, they're almost always cross-contaminated with wheat gluten due to processing methods in this country. As a result, unless an oat-containing product is specifically labeled "gluten-free," one should assume it contains gluten.

Since gluten is a storage protein found in cereal grass seeds, it's not found in the young, green grasses that sprout from these seeds. For this reason, wheatgrass and barley grass are technically gluten-free. However, to ensure that wheatgrass or barley grass juices are safe to consume on a gluten-free diet, you need to make sure that no seeds accidentally make their way into the juicer.

People with an immune-mediated wheat allergy and those with Celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet, as gluten triggers harmful reactions. Others who have tested negative for wheat allergy or Celiac disease but still find that eating wheat causes unpleasant side effects may have a non-immune gluten intolerance or a wheat/gluten sensitivity. 

If you're following a gluten-free diet, either by necessity or choice, your best bet is to choose minimally-processed foods that are naturally gluten-free. Gluten-free oats, brown or wild rice, millet, buckwheat (kasha), and quinoa are nutritious, high-fiber whole grains that can replace wheat-based staples like pasta, wheat bran, couscous, bread, and cereal on a gluten-free diet. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and the flours made from them are important, nutritious staples in a gluten-free pantry, as are nuts and nut flours. And, as is the case in any healthy diet, loads of fruits and vegetables make sure your gluten-free diet delivers essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

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