Going Gluten Free?
What is gluten anyway?
Gluten is found in all varieties of wheat, barley, tritical and rye. It gives dough its elasticity and bread its soft and fluffy texture. Gluten can sometimes be found in other products as a result of cross-contamination, this is why people with celiac disease (medically diagnosed allergy to gluten) must be mindful of the “may contain” ingredients on food labels.
Why do folks go gluten-free?
People stop eating gluten for a variety of reasons. It is very important that anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease remove this protein from their diets. Celiacs that continue to eat gluten are at a higher risk of developing other serious health issues including cancer.
Some individuals may experience negative symptoms when they consume gluten, and decide to eliminate it from their diet. Non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity is when a person experiences symptoms of celiac disease like digestive upset, fatigue etc. without testing positive for the disease. Many people simply feel better when they stop consuming gluten. There are als some people who choose to go gluten-free as a weight loss strategy.
So, is gluten bad?
The short answer - no. There are very few foods that are inherently “bad” (except maybe Cheez Whiz, what is in that stuff?). It’s really about choosing foods that make you feel nourished and energized. Whole grains like spelt and barley are filled with important minerals and satiating fibre along with gluten. On the other hand, cheez whiz is gluten-free and has very few redeeming qualities.
Where do I start if I want to go gluten-free?
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or you are gluten-sensitive, there are some things to keep in mind when eliminating gluten.
Just because the label says ‘gluten-free’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Like Cheez Whiz, there are plenty of cookies, chips and even sodas that contain absolutely zero gluten. What these food do contain however is sugar, preservative, colours and other non-so-healthy ingredients. Choose naturally gluten-free products like fruits, vegetables quinoa and eggs. Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to start eating processed, packaged foods. It could mean that you incorporate more fresh veggies, locally-made products like Zengarry cashew cheese, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Gluten free doesn’t mean you have start eating dense, heavy breads made with rice flour and starch either. Brands like Little Northern Bakehouse make breads that taste and feel like their glutenous counterparts. Maybe you don’t eat bread at all? Whole grain rice cakes and baked sweet potato slices can easily replace toast.
If you are struggling to fill lunch boxes or find gluten-free treats for special occasions like birthday parties and holiday celebrations, then there are plenty of great brands like Enjoy Life and Daiya that have you covered.
Want to learn more? Ask the gluten-free expert, Kathy Smart!