What’s the Big Deal With Gluten Free Foods
You may have a family member or friend who is gluten-free — and there are quite a few reasons to eat this way! From having a real food allergy that causes intestinal damage, called Celiac Disease, to having gluten sensitivities, this way of eating is more than just a fad. It’s something that is so important to consider if you’re having digestive issues — and when you’re with people who eat this way, it’s essential to understand why they must avoid all gluten.
Here’s a little bit of the background of the gluten-free diet, what a gluten intolerance looks like, gluten-containing foods, and some simple recipes to have on hand when you’re entertaining someone with an allergy or sensitivity!
Gluten free is a way of life more than a diet. It’s not something you go into lightly! People who eat this way are doing so because they are either allergic or have terrible digestive or inflammatory side effects when they eat gluten sources (wheat, barley, triticale or rye).
Here are the three medical reasons to avoid gluten-containing grains —
Celiac disease. Celiac is an immune response that causes inflammation and damage in the GI tract and some skin issues. Another side effect is that the body cannot absorb nutrients as it should. Some of the symptoms are bloating, depression, diarrhea, and constipation.
Gluten sensitivity. A sensitivity causes some of the same symptoms as celiac, including skin issues. People with sensitivity may not have stomach damage when they eat it but feel better without gluten in their diets.
Gluten intolerance. Some people without a diagnosed issue still do not feel well when they eat gluten. Once they eliminate it from their diets, they experience less inflammation and better quality of life.
If you suspect you have an intolerance or allergy, getting a blood test and doing a food challenge, under the supervision of your doctor, is the best way to find out! You will have to follow a strict gluten-free diet for a few weeks and then slowly introduce them back into your diet to see if it affect you.
For someone living with an allergy, even a tiny amount of gluten protein can cause issues to flair up. Eating gluten-free requires you to check the ingredients and read food labels, avoid most processed foods, and even avoid cross-contamination at all costs.
Gluten Containing Foods
Gluten is everywhere in the American diet. From fast food to bread, alcohol to cereal, oatmeal to pasta, and more, there’s an abundance of wheat or rye flour that can impact people with celiac disease or intolerance.
If you’re wondering if you have a gluten issue or are going to be hosting people who avoid gluten, here are some of the foods that may fly under the radar or are hard to identify —
- Is rice gluten-free? Rice is gluten-free, but often pre-packaged or restaurant-prepared versions are not. The best bet is to look for rice that is labeled as gluten-free and be very cautious when eating a rice-based meal in a restaurant.
- Is quinoa gluten-free? Quinoa is a wonderfully healthy gluten-free alternative! It is high in phytonutrients which is anti-inflammatory, so it can help your health as well as provide omega-3 fatty acids!
- Is Oatmeal gluten-free? Not all oatmeal brands are. You will need to read the labels to ensure you are not getting something cross-contaminated.
- Are potatoes gluten-free? Yes, they are but be wary of boxed brands that may have fillers! Potatoes are actually a wonderful substitute for many of the foods you may be preparing for guests or your family! You can use it to thicken soup and stews and use gluten-free dry potatoes as a substitute for bread crumbs on baked dishes or as a base for some baked goods!
You may have more questions about what other foods contain this protein, but it may be better to focus on the things you can eat!
Naturally Gluten-free Food List
Here are some of the best foods to incorporate that are naturally gluten-free —
- Fruits and vegetables | This is the obvious place to start, but you can find freedom from a host of health issues if you keep the majority of your diet in the rainbow section of your food store!
- Gluten free flour (almond, coconut, and rice) | These flours have come a long way in the past 20 years and you can find replacement flours that taste wonderful and give you the freedom to bake what you love! But if you do have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you cannot use the same baking tins as you have with regular wheat. Unfortunately, the cross contamination is a huge factor when it comes to previously used cookery.
- Whole dairy-based foods | Be sure to check the labels, but for the most part, butter, cream, milk, and eggs are great sources of nutrition that you can enjoy.
- Some organic, minimally-processed foods labeled gluten free. There are quite a few companies that are dedicated to making gluten-free breads, treats, and other foods that you can enjoy! As part of a healthy diet, be sure to explore other options as you are changing your diet!
While this all may be a little overwhelming, if you know someone that needs to eat gluten-free for his or her health, you can help support them by —
- Asking them to choose a restaurant they trust when you go out.
- Making a point to have a gluten-free option when you host them.
- Understand that cross contamination is a huge factor.
- Make them know that they are not an inconvenience but that it’s a pleasure to help them take care of their health.
Great Gluten-Free Recipes
If you’re hosting someone with a gluten allergy, here are some wonderful recipes to give you a head start on planning! Remember to use disposable containers if you are preparing their food in a gluten kitchen.
We hope that this information helps understand what a gluten allergy is and how you can help support the people in your life!