When to stay away from gluten
If you have celiac disease — a chronic genetic disorder that prevents you from properly digesting gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley and rye — you have to be particularly careful about the food you consume.
For an individual with celiac disease, consuming gluten causes damage in the small intestine and can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain, says Garrett Swisher, a registered dietitian with IU Health, based in Carmel, Indiana.
About 1% of the worldwide population have celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. In the U.S. about two million people have celiac disease, which is also known as celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases.
According to the NIDKD, celiac disease is associated with an array of long-term complications, including:
— Accelerated osteoporosis or bone softening, known as osteomalacia.
— Malnutrition, a condition in which you don’t get enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need to be healthy.
— Nervous system problems.
— Reproductive system problems.
People with an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten should also refrain from consuming foods with gluten, says Natalia Groat, a registered dietitian with UW Medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The center is managed by UW Medicine, the formal brand name of the University of Washington’s health care system.
Foods containing gluten may also exacerbate symptoms for people with irritable bowel syndrome.
How to identify gluten in food
It’s important to read food labels carefully and learn what different ingredients contain gluten, Groat says.
Typical foods and ingredients that contain gluten include:
— Bulgur, a form of wheat.
— Pasta made from wheat.
— Wheat barley or grass.
— Wheat germ oil or extract.
— Wheat starch.
“Look at food menus before you go to restaurants if possible,” Groat advises. “You want to make sure there are gluten-free choices that sound good to you.”
At home, it’s imperative that people with celiac disease or an allergy to gluten keep food on hand that’s gluten free.
Here are eight gluten-free staples to keep on hand:
1. Dairy products
Dairy products — milk, cheese and most yogurts — are gluten free, Swisher says. Check food labels to makes sure gluten hasn’t been added as an ingredient.
Many people enjoy yogurt in the morning for breakfast or as a snack, Groat says. You can also top yogurt with gluten-free ingredients, like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or apple or peach slices.
For people who can eat cheese, it’s a great addition to snacks and meals. “There’s cheese and crackers, cheese and apples, you can put cheese in sandwiches and include it in pasta dishes and tacos,” Groat says.
If you’re enjoying a gluten-free cereal or making oatmeal, “you want that creamy mouth feel that only milk or a milk product can provide,” she says.
2. Foods high in folate and iron
Many breads are fortified with folate and iron. “When you’re not eating bread, you might miss out on these nutrients,” Groat says.
Folate, or vitamin B9, is vital for red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth and function. It’s also crucial for women during early pregnancy, to decrease the risks of birth defects in the spine and brain.
Iron is a mineral needed by your body for growth and development, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron is used by your body to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Iron also helps make myoglobin, a protein that supplies oxygen to your muscles. Iron is also needed to make some hormones.
When it comes to folate, certain vegetables are good sources, including:
These non-gluten foods are high in iron:
Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, soybeans and spinach make for tasty and nutritional side dishes for lunch or dinner; you can use them in stir-fries or in grain bowls with quinoa, grains or beef, chicken or fish. Beef and chicken can be used in sandwiches for lunch or as the main dinner course. Eggs are great not only for breakfast but for an out-of-the-ordinary lunch or dinner.
3. Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and veggies are naturally gluten free. “Be careful though if you’re eating them in any mixed dishes or with sauces, as the other ingredients may not be gluten free,” Swisher says.
“You can have fruits and veggies for every single meal and every single snack,” Groat says. “For breakfast you can have fruit with yogurt or gluten-free cereal.” Fruits and veggies also make for a great bite between meals. “People love crunchy snacks, and what’s crunchier than a carrot or celery?”
“For dinner, you can incorporate vegetables into stews, soups and casseroles.” You can also add fruit into some dinner dishes; sliced apples can be part of a dinner salad, and many stews or braises incorporate prunes and raisins.
4. Meats, fowl and seafood
Meat, poultry and seafood are all also gluten free and include:
They’re perfect main dishes and can also be incorporated into salads, stews, casseroles and grain bowls, Groat says. You can use shrimp cocktails as appetizers or snacks.
Oats are a cost-effective, gluten-free replacement for wheat and bread products, Swisher says. Keep in mind, oats are sometimes processed in facilities that may also process foods containing gluten and are prone to cross-contamination, Swisher says.
“Oatmeal in the morning is a good breakfast,” Groat says. “You can also use oats to make cookies. Some people grind up oats and use it as a flour substitute to make different kinds of baked goods. I’ve seen oats used in vegetarian baked dishes as well.”
6. Rice, potatoes and corn
These foods are all affordable starchy replacements for wheat and bread products, Swisher says.
You can use these in main dishes or as side dishes, Groat says. “Potatoes are everybody’s favorite food. You have baked potatoes, fries, tater tots. You can use corn as a side dish or incorporate it into different kinds of foods, like succotash or taco bowls. Rice is one of the most used staples throughout the entire world. You can use it on its own or in grain bowls and in casseroles, in stews. Almost every culture uses rice in its cooking.”
7. Gluten-free bread and pasta
People still want to enjoy toast and sandwiches and must find alternatives to regular bread. “Gluten-free bread has come a long way from the dense and dry versions of the past,” Groat says.
Being on a gluten-free eating regimen also doesn’t mean you have to give up pasta and similar dishes. There are many nutritious pastas made from healthy ingredients, and you don’t have to be on a gluten-free diet to enjoy them.
Gluten-free pastas are made with an array of healthy ingredients, including:
— Black beans.
— Brown rice.
Gluten-free bread can be used for toast, sandwiches, French toast and for turkey stuffing. “Whatever you’d use regular bread for, you can use gluten-free bread for,” she says.
This gluten-free grain is gaining popularity in the food industry because of its versatility, says Kristin Gustashaw, an advanced clinical dietitian with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Similar to oats, it’s a terrific source of many nutrients,” she says. “It can be cooked up like other grains like quinoa and rice. You can also buy it in the form of flour and bake with it or even pop it like popcorn.” Sorghum is found in many cereals in stores.
8 gluten-free staples to keep on hand:
— Dairy products.
— Foods high in folate and iron.
— Fruits and vegetables.
— Meats, fowl and seafood.
— Rice, potatoes and corn.
— Gluten-free bread and pasta.
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