Have you recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease or found out that you are intolerant to gluten? Or have you simply noticed the gluten-free food section in the supermarket and wondered what gluten-free food is? If so, here is an explanation of gluten-free food and how to get started on a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in barley, kamut, semolina, rye, and wheat. For the majority of people this protein can be digested without any problems, but for the 1% of people with celiac disease, it cannot be tolerated, even in the minutest amount. This is because the immune system reacts to the gluten and starts to fight against it, causing the body to produce antibodies. These antibodies attack the villi in the small intestine causing stomach cramps, fatigue, headaches, nausea, bloating and all sorts of other symptoms related to vitamin and mineral deficiency.
At the moment there isn’t a cure for celiac disease and the only action is strictly sticking to a lifelong gluten-free diet throughout the lifetime.
So, what is gluten-free food?
To put it simply it is food that does not contain any wheat, barley or rye. However, it should also be food that is completely free from any cross contamination. A celiac patient can react to a tiny amount of gluten. The exact amount varies from patient to patient, but it can be as little as a one-hundredth of a breadcrumb. This is why it is very important that the food has not been manufactured on the same equipment as gluten-containing food.
Natural gluten-free foods include all meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, most dairy produce and certain grains such as rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and sorghum. In general, you can safely eat all of these foods, but if they have been processed in any way, you must check the label to ensure that there are no gluten-containing ingredients or possible cross contamination.
Baked gluten-free foods
As well as natural gluten-free foods, you may also find a selection of gluten-free baked goods at your local supermarket or health food store. These can include things like cakes, bread, rolls, biscuits, crackers and more. Gluten-free companies use other types of flour to replace wheat flour, e.g. corn flour, potato flour, rice flour and so on. This approach allows them to create the types of foods that you were used to eating before you went on a gluten-free diet. The main downside of these gluten-free foods is the cost – in general, they cost around two to three times more than regular gluten containing produce.
If you have embarked upon a gluten-free diet, you may well feel daunted at first. However, just study a gluten-free diet food list and be sure to check all the food labels double before you buy anything. It makes sense to eat plenty of healthy unprocessed foods, and this should give you the best chance of recovering well.