Although the question whether gluten has a detrimental effect on the human body still causes controversy among health experts, they do agree that eliminating gluten from your daily menu can be beneficial if you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, or other similar health issues.
If you decide to avoid gluten in your diet there is no reason to worry! You can find a lot of healthy and tasty groceries that are naturally gluten-free, so going down that route doesn’t have to be a total bummer.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a common name for a protein family that can be found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley. There is usually no gluten in oats, but oats can be contaminated with gluten, so they should be avoided in a strict gluten-free diet regime. The two main proteins from this protein family are the soluble gliadin and the insoluble glutenin. It is believed that the gliadin is the one responsible for harmful effects in human body.
When wheat flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins create an intertwined net-like structure that makes the dough sticky and cohesive.
The very name gluten irresistibly reminds one of the word “glue”, and it is no wonder since the term originates from Latin word gluten meaning “a sticky substance”. Anyone who has ever had a chance to hold fresh dough in their hands will certainly understand the connection.
Gluten is also the ingredient that makes dough elastic and enables it to rise when you make bread. Additionally, gluten tastes good, gives the bread a good structure, helps it to keep its shape and gives it the characteristic chewy texture we all love.
Many people are gluten sensitive and they don’t even know it. Of course, there are a lot of different cases of gluten sensitivity and the symptoms may also vary depending on the general state of somebody’s organism. However, we can differentiate between two cases of gluten sensitivity: celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
The first case, celiac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is the most serious condition of gluten intolerance. It is estimated that between 0.7% and 1% of the global population suffer from this health issue. This serious disease is, in fact, a consequence of the body’s autoimmune reaction when the protein gliadin gets into the digestive system.
Once it reaches the digestive system, gliadin causes changes to the interior walls of the intestine, nutritive disorders and many other alarming symptoms that are usually difficult to connect with this kind of disorder. Unfortunately, many people suffering from celiac disease aren’t even aware of their condition.
The other type of gluten sensitivity is non-celiac gluten intolerance. People who suffer from it don’t have celiac disease, but their organism does not react well to gluten.
In this case, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of affected people, but it is guessed that the numbers are between 0.5% and 13% of the world’s population. Gluten sensitivity can cause an array of different symptoms, but some of the most common ones are: gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, nausea, vomiting, heartburn and acid reflux) fatigue, headaches (including migraines as well), losing or gaining weight, respiratory disorders, fertility problems, inability to concentrate, depression, joint, bone and muscle pain.
It is also claimed that the majority of the global population loses their tolerance to gluten as they age and that they will experience some kind of reaction to gluten sooner or later. It has been proven that a gluten-free diet can be effective when treating some types of schizophrenia, autism and cerebellar ataxia.
But, even though the scientists know all of this, there is still very few pieces of evidence that gluten is harmful to everybody. Another factor that makes gluten sensitivity difficult to diagnose is that many people who think they have it, actually don’t tolerate FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols), short-chain carbohydrates that can’t be properly digested in the small intestine. These people should not avoid gluten, they should try some kind of low FODMAP diet instead.
Foods to Avoid
Although it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to find out whether certain groceries contain gluten or not, there are also some you can’t make a mistake with.
Food that always contains gluten and should be avoided:
- Flour (including whole-wheat flour, white flour, graham flour, durum flour, wheat germ and bran)
- Khorasan wheat
Some other groceries contain gluten; in most cases and they should not be consumed unless they are labeled as gluten-free. The following are examples of those types of groceries:
- Soy sauce
Remember that gluten can be found in any kind of processed food. In order to avoid it in this form is to eat fresh, whole and unprocessed foods as much as possible.
Another thing you should pay attention to is oat. Natural, unprocessed oat does not contain gluten, and people suffering from celiac disease have no problems when digesting it. However, the problem lies in the fact that it is often handled in the same facilities and machines that are used for wheat, so it can get contaminated with gluten. So, it would be wise to avoid eating it, unless it is specifically labeled as gluten-free.
It is also very important to remember that some food supplements and medications can contain gluten, so you should always ask your doctor or a pharmacist about it.
One thing that you absolutely must remember is to always read labels carefully. Flour and other gluten-rich ingredients can often be found in some other kinds of food. Sometimes, when the label is not clear enough, you can also get in touch with the manufacturer in order to find out whether their product is suitable for your diet or not.
However, everything doesn’t have to look so grim. Nowadays, because of the rise in awareness for gluten sensitivity, you can find a tasty, gluten-free substitute for almost any kind of food you can imagine.
Food You Can Eat!
Now, the part everybody loves: allowed food. Here are some of the healthy and delicious groceries that don’t contain gluten:
- Meat (chicken meat, beef, veal, lamb and mutton)
- Fish and seafood (salmon, trout, cod, shrimp)
- Eggs (any kind of eggs are allowed, but free-range eggs are preferred)
- Milk and dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Vegetables (broccoli, kale, carrot, onion, garlic)
- Fruits (apples, avocado, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, blueberries)
- Legumes (lentil, peanuts, beans)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamia, hazelnuts)
- Root vegetables (potato, sweet potato)
- Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, butter, coconut oil, etc.)
- Herbs and spices (salt, pepper, vinegar, mustard)
- Gluten-free grains (quinoa, rice, corn, flax, tapioca, millet, buckwheat- only if it’s labeled as gluten-free)
- Dark chocolate
Processed Gluten-Free Food
Gluten-free food can be very healthy and beneficial for the overall state of your organism, but you should pay attention and pick fresh groceries.
As for the processed gluten-free food, the market offers a lot of replacements for our favorite groceries that contain gluten, for example, different types of bread, pasta or sweets. However, in most cases, this processed food is high in refined carbs and added sugar. Those are so-called “empty” calories that can cause a sudden rise in blood sugar.
On the other hand, if you don’t care much about a healthy diet and just want to avoid gluten, you can eat processed gluten-free food as well. But, bear in mind: gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
When it comes to drinks, water, coffee and tea can be consumed without any limitations. Processed juice and sweetened non-alcoholic beverages don’t contain gluten, but they are full of sugar. The majority of alcoholic drinks, like wine and liquor, don’t contain gluten, but you should avoid beer unless it is labeled as gluten-free.
If you are eating out, always skip bread and opt for food rich in proteins (meat or fish) and vegetables as a side dish. Some restaurants also offer gluten-free variations of the menu items.
Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
Even if they are not allergic to gluten or suffering from Celiac disease, people can benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet. Gluten-free dieting encourages followers to eat more fresh ingredients, fruits, and vegetables, which has a beneficial effect for the human health. Positive effects of a gluten-free diet include:
- Stronger immune system
- Better digestion
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers
- Healthy weight-loss
- More energy
- Reduced headaches
- Healthier and better-looking skin
Of course, this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Each and every one of us is different and will probably react to changes in their diet in their own way.
If you decided to try a gluten-free diet, but you don’t have any idea what to cook, you can take a look at around at our site, where you will find a bunch of recipes and amazing tips about the world of food.
We've got you started with 11 great gluten-free recipes!
Gluten-Free Box Bread
Gluten-free baked goods have come a long way in recent years. There's now no need to give up your favorite breads or pastries if you can't have gluten! This tasty bread recipe utilizes gluten-free flour mix and garbanzo bean flour for a loaf that manages to hold its form, but still be light and airy inside. The texture is reminiscent of brioche, thanks to eggs and milk, and it has just a hint of sweetness from the added honey. Baking the dough in a loaf pan helps maintain the box-like shape. It's about to become your new favorite sandwich bread.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake In A Mug
Satisfy your chocolate cravings and stay true to your gluten-free diet with this easy chocolate cake. All you need is a microwave-safe mug, a fork, a microwave oven, and about ten minutes to get a personal serving of delicious chocolate cake without a mess! Instead of all-purpose flour, this recipe uses almond and coconut flour for a mildly nutty taste and added texture. Raw cocoa powder has many health benefits, the batter is lightly sweetened with maple syrup, so it's low in refined sugar while still feeling like a decadent treat. If you like, serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.
Gluten-Free Parmesan-Crusted Fish
You knew cauliflower could stand in for rice in your favorite dishes, but did you know it also makes an incredible swap for breading? In this recipe, roasted cauliflower makes a killer gluten-free and paleo-friendly breading. It is perked up with the addition of Parmesan cheese and jalapeño peppers. Try this with any white fish fillet for an easy and fun meal. Serve with a simple side salad to make this a healthy Mediterranean meal any day of the week!
Quick Pan-Fried Tarragon Chicken
This tarragon chicken is super juicy and tender—and ready in 30 minutes, making it an ideal weeknight meal! Tarragon pairs well with chicken and this dish highlights its slightly bittersweet anise flavor and aroma. It has a distinct, elegant flavor. The secret to tender and juicy chicken in this recipe lies in briefly poaching the chicken. Olive oil, garlic, shallots and tarragon make up the basic sauce for the chicken as it first sears in the hot pan. Then, cooking the breasts the rest of the way in a bit of chicken stock makes every bite mouth-watering. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
This nourishing breakfast bowl is the perfect substitute for the usual sugar-loaded cereal or oatmeal that you normally have. It's high in protein and healthy fats while being low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat this bowl in the morning and you'll feel energized through lunch!
Honey Mustard and Onion Roasted Nuts
These savory roasted nuts are the perfect snack to hold you over until lunch or dinner. Although these might remind of you of the honey mustard and onion pretzels you snacked on as a kid, they’re much healthier and more satisfying! Start with a flavorful blend of cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. These nuts and seeds are tossed with a delicious blend of honey, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper. You won't be able to stop snacking!
Chilled Cucumber Soup
It's a hot summer day and you're starving, but there's no way you can even think about turning on the oven. This refreshing, cooling soup only requires a blender and 15 minutes of prep time! A creamy blend of cucumbers, tangy Greek yogurt, shallots and fresh herbs, it makes for an ideal light dinner or first course for a summer dinner party. If you can, make the soup the night before you plan to serve it and chill overnight for maximum flavor. Left to sit in the refrigerator, the herbs seasonings will mellow and blend together. Serving with a little olive oil, balsamic syrup and fresh shallots and herbs provides flavor and texture contrast.
Mini Asparagus Frittata
These mini frittata are loaded with goat cheese and asparagus. They make a perfectly filling and protein-heavy breakfast. Eggs are whisked with milk, salt and pepper, and then poured into individual ramekins that have been filled with asparagus pieces and crumbled goat cheese. To keep the ramekins level in the oven, it is recommended to place them on a baking sheet before cooking. Make a batch of mini frittatas at the beginning of the week and enjoy them as a quick on-the-go breakfast all week long. You will love having these quick and easy, high-protein meals ready to enjoy at a moments notice. </p>
Gluten-Free Grilled Pizza Crust
There's no need to deprive yourself of pizza just because you can't have gluten. This gluten-free dough is surprisingly simple, and a real treat for summertime barbecues. Let the entire family pick their own toppings for personalized pizza fun! The dough works well as a base for all kinds of topping combinations, whether it's a classic margharita pie, white sauce with fresh clams, or pesto and sausage. The dough needs to rest for at least 12 hours, so be sure to start this recipe at least a day before you plan to grill the pizzas. No grill? Cook the pizza rounds over a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat.