Do you know what is considered to be good gluten-free food? Gluten-free foods are becoming increasingly popular. What makes them special? Are they really healthier than regular ones?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. People who suffer from celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten because their bodies react negatively to it. Celiac disease affects around 0.5% of the population worldwide.
Gluten-free food has become very popular over the last decade. The reason behind its popularity lies in the fact that it is easier to digest and contains fewer calories compared to other types of food. There are many different reasons why people choose to go gluten-free:
For example, if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or are going through an elimination diet, then you will need to avoid all forms of gluten. Some people also choose to eat this way due to allergies such as lactose intolerance. Other people just prefer not to eat any grains at all and may include gluten-free meals in their diets.
The term ‘gluten-free’ does not mean healthy. It only means that these items do not contain gluten, which is a harmless substance that can cause serious health problems. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, oats and rye.
So what exactly happens when someone consumes gluten? When we consume gluten our body produces antibodies against it, which causes inflammation in the small intestine. This means that the gut lining becomes damaged, causing damage to the intestinal walls.
With time, this leads to villi atrophy (loss of tiny fingerlike projections on the surface of the intestines). As a result, the absorption of nutrients is reduced, leading to malnutrition.
Gluten-Free foods are extremely important for those suffering from celiac disease, but some people think they’re unhealthy for everyone else too.
How do you know whether the gluten-free diet is right for you?
If your doctor recommends that you go gluten-free, there’s no denying that it can lead to weight loss. This is partly because gluten-free grains contain high levels of carbohydrates, which are digested quickly. Because gluten is harder to break down in the digestive system, however, it takes longer to release energy into the bloodstream. This effect is even worse than eating refined carbs like white rice and potatoes.
According to recent studies, people who follow a gluten-free diet tend to lose a significant amount of weight within one month. Of course, losing weight is not always a bad thing, especially since it can increase your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight. However, there are cases where being overweight can actually contribute to a person becoming more susceptible to certain health issues later on.
How much should I eat each day?
In general, experts recommend that people limit themselves to 20 grams of sugar per meal. If you want to lose weight, try consuming fewer than 10 teaspoons of added sugar per day. You can achieve this goal by enjoying fresh fruits instead of processed food.
If the thought of eliminating wheat makes you uneasy, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternatives that taste great and keep you full without the risk of triggering an autoimmune reaction in sensitive individuals. Instead of using traditional flour mixes, consider making your own baked goods or finding recipes online.
Baking can be tricky if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Luckily, alternative flours have come a long way since the first edition of Betty Crocker’s cookbook came out.
Today, bakers use almond flour, coconut flour, hazelnut flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, whey protein powder and many other products to create delicious, gluten-free treats. Many grocery stores also stock shelves full of gluten-free baking mixes and flour. For example, Bob’s Red Mill offers several options, including coconut flour and sweet potato flour.
Some people mistakenly think that gluten-free foods will make them sick. In reality, most people thrive on gluten-free diets. The reason why so many people suffer from gluten intolerance is that the proteins in wheat and barley are highly immunogenic.
When these proteins enter the body, the immune system responds by triggering inflammation and causing damage to the intestines. That’s why people who have celiac disease need to avoid all forms of gliadin — the name scientists give to the protein portion of these gluten-containing grains.
While the benefits of following a gluten-free diet are obvious, it’s also important to understand what it means to eliminate specific foods completely. Gluten-free salad dressing is found primarily in grains, such as wheat, rye and barley.
It’s also present in oats, corn, buckwheat and spelt. Celiac disease occurs when an individual has an abnormal response to the protein fraction of gliadin, which is known as endomysium. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal pain. These symptoms usually occur after eating foods containing gluten for at least two weeks.
Different types of celiac disease
People with type 1
often experience stomach pain and diarrhea right away. They also may develop joint pain and fatigue and become short of breath when they exercise.
People with type 2
do not experience any gastrointestinal symptoms (but some still experience joint pain). The condition is diagnosed through biopsy results showing damaged intestinal villi. People with type 2 generally feel well until they eat something with gluten; then their symptoms appear.
The best thing to do if you believe you might be suffering from celiac disease is to visit a doctor or gastroenterologist who specializes in digestive disorders. If you go to your primary care physician, he or she will probably refer you to a specialist.
In addition to following a gluten-free lifestyle, patients with celiac disease must take certain medications daily. These drugs help prevent any problems associated with malabsorption and promote healing. Patients are usually instructed to follow a special diet that consists mostly of whole unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and lean meats. They should consume no more than 20 grams of dietary fibre each day.
In general, there are fewer health risks associated with being on a gluten-free diet compared to a typical Western diet. But there are a few exceptions, says David Arad, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director of the department of nutrition and metabolism at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. One of those exceptions is the possibility of nutritional deficiencies, especially iron deficiency anemia.
“Because we don’t absorb much iron from plant sources, it’s very difficult to get enough iron without consuming meat. If someone follows a vegan diet, they could have difficulty getting adequate amounts.”
Most people find that sticking to a gluten-free diet is easier said than done. Many restaurants use hidden gluten when preparing dishes, so it’s hard to know exactly what you’re ingesting. And because so many products are labelled gluten-free, consumers sometimes assume everything on store shelves is safe.
What foods contain gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It gives dough its elasticity and helps hold the gluten-free bread together. Gluten is used to make pizza crust, bread crumbs, crackers, noodles, beer and soy sauce.
When it comes to gluten-free diets, labels can be deceiving. For example, products made with cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca flour, arrowroot powder and carrageenan are technically gluten-free, but these starches and flours give baked goods a rubbery texture.
Many manufacturers add xantham gum, guar gum, agar, locust bean gum, konjac glucomannan or gellan gum to gluten-free products to replace some of the gluten. This may sound great, but these additives aren’t always approved by the FDA for use in foods.
Some companies also label their products as “natural” or “organic.” The term “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean a product has been tested for gluten content. Organic foods are grown using practices that protect the environment and soil while promoting healthy plants and animals. However, organic certification does not guarantee that a product isn’t contaminated with gluten.
Does gluten cause health issues?
The jury is still out on whether eating gluten causes any health problems. Some studies suggest that people who eat gluten are more likely to develop celiac disease, which affects about 1% of Americans (about 3 million). Celiac gluten sensitivity is a condition in which your body reacts negatively to gluten, causing damage to your small intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
Other research suggests that people who consume gluten might experience symptoms similar to those seen in irritable bowel syndrome. These patients often suffer from bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.
People who suspect they have celiac disease should consult a doctor for testing. A blood test will detect antibodies against certain proteins present in gluten. If the test shows positive results, doctors usually recommend following a strict gluten-free diet for six months. After this time, if no improvement occurs, additional tests may be needed to rule out other conditions, including coeliac disease.
What are the benefits of a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet can help reduce inflammation and improve overall digestion. In addition, it can help prevent or control diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. People who follow a gluten-free diet tend to lose weight, feel better and have more energy.