Gluten free everything has consumed a great deal of my thoughts over the last two weeks, as I am preparing for my Gluten Free 101 class; and as I prepare my lesson plan, I know that it is ever so important to stress that just because something is gluten free, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. For some of us, gluten free living is mandatory for health reasons and for others it’s simply to lighten up, because the less cookies, cakes, pasta and bread that we eat the less calories, sugar and sodium we consume; but it is essential to be an informed buyer so you don’t get duped by this health craze a la mode.
Today’s guest author Samantha is going to dispel some myths, and show you how to be gluten free, healthy and fabulous!
Take it away Samantha:)
Going gluten free is quite the food trend. It’s true that the genetically processed, chemically altered wheat produced today is nowhere near the same wheat our ancestors harvested to make their daily bread. I’m all for the gluten free food trend, especially with the array of gluten free options today, going gluten free isn’t as difficult as we may think it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthier.
Read Your Labels!
As with any food we buy packaged, we should be conscious of the ingredients. There are tons of gluten free products on the market, some of which are loaded with unnatural preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners, and high amounts of sodium. Gluten free cookies, donuts, crackers, granola bars are popping up at every grocery store. This doesn’t mean it’s ok to eat copious amounts of these foods, thinking that it’s a ‘healthier’ option. Gluten free simply means that the gluten protein has been removed from wheat. Almost all processed food contains gluten as it is commonly used as a thickening agent, binder or for flavoring (as a malt). If you have celiac and are allergic to gluten it can be somewhat difficult to find completely gluten free condiments and pre packaged products. However, many companies are launching completely gluten free products, making it easier to stock your fridge and pantry.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to grains, stick to brown rice, quinoa, millet or buckwheat. You can even find gluten free/wheat free oats for a quick and healthy breakfast option. All the above grains are great as savory or sweet dishes, making them versatile for any meal throughout the day. A great way to remember which grains contain gluten is by using the acronym B.R.O.W.S. Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat and Spelt. This will come handy when cruising the grocery aisle!
What About Bread?
This is a question I get asked often! There are many gluten free bread options at the grocery store, but again you must read the labels! Many gluten free breads contain corn (potentially GMO and a high allergen for most people) and other starchy like ingredients such as potato. Choose a brand with minimal ingredients, low sugar or no sugar at all.
What If I’m Not Celiac?
Many people have adopted a gluten free diet even though they’re not celiac. Personally, I cut out gluten years ago to optimize digestion as I have a difficult time breaking it down. It definitely gives me funny tummy! The best way to check if you have gluten intolerance is to do an elimination diet. Cut out gluten (along with any other suspected food culprits) for 3 weeks. Then slowly re-introduce those foods one at a time over a 2-3 week period. Monitor how you react to each food. Most people find they have issues with digestion, break outs, headaches, and commonly experience increased joint pain.
Going gluten free doesn’t need to be over whelming. Stick to gluten free grains, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, choose organic meats/tofu/tempeh and sustainably harvested fish. This will ensure that you will not only avoid gluten, but that your diet will provide you with an array of nutrients for optimal health and longevity.