While a gluten-free diet is a choice for some, it is an absolute necessity for others. However, regardless of the reasons for adopting this diet, the thought of eliminating wheat may feel overwhelming and challenging especially in the initial stages. Wheat is the most common ingredient used in the preparation of commercially baked foods, cereals, and pasta and can be difficult to avoid.
Here is more information on gluten and the five foods you need to avoid.
Understanding Gluten and the People at Risk
Gluten is a protein present in wheat, triticale (the hybrid of wheat and rye), barley, and rye and binds the food together. Gluten is a hot topic because celiac disease affects about three million Americans and about 95% of celiacs go undiagnosed. For adults, symptoms of celiac disease can occur at any point in their lives but are most common in their 20s-40s. Some people who have celiac disease may not have any symptoms, but may still damage their small intestine by consuming gluten.
Celiac Disease in Children
Celiac disease for children can be very serious as their bodies may not absorb crucial nutrients they need for growth if gluten is eaten regularly. This can also cause an imbalance of vitamins and minerals.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
General celiac disease symptoms include diarrhea, gas, fatigue, low blood count, osteoporosis, pain in the abdomen or joints, malnutrition, delayed puberty, and slow growth. Cramping, skin rash, weight loss, and itching are also common symptoms. However, many people don’t experience any symptoms.
You should speak to your doctor to determine if you have celiac disease or suffer from gluten sensitivity. You can also try eliminating gluten from your diet, to see if your symptoms go away and if you feel better in general.
Here are the five foods where gluten may be secretly lurking.
The Top 5 Gluten Foods to Eliminate
The “Golden Rule” in achieving a gluten-free diet is avoiding three main grains – wheat, barley, and rye. These grains may be hiding in cakes, cookies and other baked goods, cereals, pasta, bread and bread products, waffles, pretzels, pancake mixes, dumplings, wheat germ, bran, ice cream cones, tortillas, battered foods, bread crumbs, and croutons.
Note there are a lot of gluten-free options now available for these foods. Be sure to read labels to make sure there are no wheat by-products.
11 Grains That Contain Gluten
12 Gluten-Free Grains
2. Processed Meats
For gluten-free diets, you should eliminate all processed meats as echoed by Celiac Disease (Sprue) studies.
Sprue is a debilitating type of arthritis, which comes along with digestive symptoms due to excessive gluten intake. Processed meats are discouraged because of their dangerous preservatives. Meats such as salami, pepperoni, bologna, sausages, hot dogs, liverwurst, and cold cuts should be avoided as processed meat may use gluten flour as a binding agent.
Alternative gluten-free protein sources recommended include unprocessed meats like turkey and chicken or gluten-free brands that don't use preservatives.
3. Sweets and Treats
If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to listen up. The majority of sweet treats in the store contain gluten. Be aware of all chocolate, root beer, commercial cake frosting, sherbets, cereal, candies, ice cream, and malt-containing chocolate candy products. And as far as bakeries go, unless it’s a gluten-free one, forget it.
Before purchasing any of these food products, it is recommended that you check on the labels and to make sure they are labeled gluten-free.
However, don’t fear, there are still many healthy and gluten-free desserts out there that you can have. Fresh fruit is an excellent example. As a bonus, you'll be able to reduce your sugar intake and eat healthier too.
4. Seasonings and Condiments
Several seasonings and condiments contain gluten, thereby triggering gluten-intolerance related problems. Healthy eating demands that you choose gluten-free soy sauce and eliminate barley malt, malt products, modified starch foods, MSG, and Worcestershire sauce.
Also, it is noteworthy that many salad dressings and gravies use gluten grains and flours for thickening. Tomato sauces are mostly gluten-free or make your own homemade sauce using butter, salt, olive oil, herbs, and spices. Liquid amino and Tamari are effective replacements as well. [Editor's note: We like our sponsors San-J's Tamari and Gluten-free cooking sauces.] You can use potato starch, arrowroot, or cornflour for thickening homemade condiments.
5. Alcoholic Beverages
With the knowledge that a lot of alcoholic drinks are made from grains, malted beverages including wine coolers and beer ought to be on top of your list of drinks to avoid. It is recommended that if you have to drink alcoholic beverages, proceed with caution in your consumption of alternative grain-based alcoholic beverages like gin, specific vodkas, whiskey, cider, tequila, and rum.
Healthy Eating Tips for Gluten Effects Prevention
If you master the recommended healthy tips given here, then you can significantly prevent the undesirable health effects of gluten.
- Beware that gluten-free foods might come into contact with gluten-containing foods thereby causing cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is common in manufacturing industries, which utilize similar machinery in the processing of gluten-free and regular products. In domestic kitchens, one may use the same surfaces and tools when preparing meals. You should be extremely careful and be in possession of a backup chopping board and tools for gluten-free foods as a healthy tip towards avoiding cross-contamination.
- Extreme caution is advised if you have to eat out. Most restaurants have the tendency to lack adequate measures to ensure minimal cross-contamination as they prepare and serve foods.
Going gluten-free is much easier than you think, so don’t get discouraged. Your health depends on it. As we have stressed, natural and unprocessed foods are likely to be gluten-free. Using the guide above and just using common sense, you can easily restructure your diet into something more healthy and delicious!
Just remember to never assume that a product is gluten-free. You need to go through the ingredients of a product or seek help from store staff in identifying gluten-free foods. Gluten-free foods can equally be as delicious if you follow these helpful tips. Finally, just because something is labeled gluten-free, it does not mean the product is healthy. It simply means it doesn’t contain those specific grains. Whole foods in their original form are the best choice.