Gluten is found in anything made using barley, rye or wheat. The popularity of eating “gluten-free” has increased in the past few years, but how much do you really know about this grain-be-gone lifestyle?
While some people remove gluten from their diets for weight loss or overall health purposes, experts estimate that between 30-40% of Americans have a form of gluten sensitivity, and some may be suffering from celiac disease—a more serious form of intolerance. Today, cutting down on gluten intake is easier (and often much tastier!) than ever. Living gluten-free doesn’t have to be a sacrifice or even a compromise. There are healthy, delicious, whole-food options for meals, snacks…and even desserts!
How much wheat do you really eat?
Some of the more obvious sources of gluten are wheat-based products, such as pasta, breads, cakes, cookies, crackers and cereals. But did you know gravy, dressings and sauces are also prepared using gluten-laden ingredients?
The list of sneaky gluten culprits doesn’t end there. Lunch meats and hot dogs, candy, soy sauce, imitation fish and many soup broths are also guilty of hiding some form of wheat. If you’re sensitive to vinegar derived from gluten grains, you should watch out for the rice used in Japanese restaurants to prepare sushi—it almost always contains a grain-based vinegar. Even self-basting turkey can be dangerous to those with gluten sensitivities!
Process of elimination
If you have reason to suspect that gluten may be causing some issues for you, you might want to try a gluten elimination diet for a period of time. Don’t worry about nutritional deficiencies—eliminating gluten-containing products will not rob you of needed vitamins or minerals if you conduct your experiment properly. Monitoring your reactions to the diet is key in determining whether you need to make a permanent lifestyle change.
More “grist for the mill”
- Americans are now almost five times more likely to suffer from gluten sensitivities than they were in the 1950s. In fact, the strains of wheat that are grown today are entirely different than those that were grown during that time. Modern high-yield dwarf wheat strains contain more gliadin, a protein that increases the appetite.
- A gluten sensitivity can take on many forms; minor digestive issues are just the beginning. Inflammation caused by a negative reaction to gluten is thought to be a contributing cause of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Even behavioral problems and mental health issues can have roots in your body’s reaction to foods containing wheat and other gluten-bearing foods.
- Experts have long advised those on gluten-restricted diets to avoid oats because they are processed near wheat products. Some manufacturers keep their oats uncontaminated and “pure” by segregating their grains during processing. By purchasing certified gluten-free oats, you can enjoy your fiber-rich oatmeal while minimizing the harm to your tummy.
Making it Work: Gluten-free, but still delicious
Try some of these substitutes for tasty, satisfying meals that let you beat the wheat!
- Whole fruit is a nutrient-packed alternative to heavy carbs. Try substituting a juice or green smoothie for your normal carb-loaded routine.
- DIY granola or museli means you can avoid offending ingredients and have your meal just the way you like it!
- Salads aren’t just rabbit food. Skip the croutons and add sprouted lentils or nut paté for protein to keep you full without the blood sugar crash from the typical mid-day meal.
- Make a sandwich using a romaine or cabbage leaf as the “carrier” for your filling of choice, for a gluten-free—and less calorie-dense—lunch on the run!
- Who says you need grains to make a great pasta dish? Spiralized zucchini with pesto makes for a filling meal, minus the grains.
- Prepared rice mixes often contain gluten in the ingredients. Skip the risk and make “rice” out of cauliflower. Simply grate fresh cauliflower until it is the size of rice, either using the plain steel blade or the shredder blade of a food processor. Add a little olive oil or toss in some macadamia nuts for a richer, “sticky” style of faux rice.
…and, of course, let’s not go without
- Satisfy your post-dinner sweet tooth with sliced fruit, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chopped nuts.
Send us your favorite gluten-free recipe. We just may publish it in the future!