From Gluten to Gluten-Free – Things You Should Do
A gluten free diet is frequently talked and written about for some time now. However most people are unaware of why gluten plays such an integral role in their diets, and unfortunately, a whole host of misinformed people have tried to adopt going gluten free in an effort to help with their weight loss. As expected, this is a complete misnomer and there is no evidence yet to suggest that gluten actually adds to your weight or helps with your weight loss in a significant manner.
Having said this, it’s only fair that we start right at the top and help you understand what gluten actually is apart from a popular word that you see at least a few times a day on social media.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is not a fancy scientific phenomenon. In fact it is nothing but a type of protein that is found mainly in foods like wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It gets its name from the word ‘Glue’ because of its sticky consistency when mixed with any liquid, especially water. The word glue originally comes from ancient Latin. Bet you didn’t know that! It is this glue-like property that helps gluten create a sticky network that gives bread the ability to rise when baked. It is this property that also gives bread the chewy and satisfying texture we know, and love.
Gluten like any other food group may not affect everyone adversely in the same manner and proportion. In fact most people have no problem with its consumption at all. And many have minor intolerances which may go unnoticed. However, it does negatively affect the gut health of many people and there are several symptoms to show that gluten is not your best friend.
A major outcome of gluten not agreeing with you is Celiac Disease. Medline describes Celiac Disease as an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because of the damage it may cause to their small intestine. In a nutshell, if you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system responds by damaging the small intestine and causing a host of uncomfortable symptoms as a by product.
Symptoms and Other Conditions
According to HealthLine, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, skin conditions, iron deficiencies, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, brain fog, leg and arm numbness, unexplained loss of weight and even depression have all been linked to gluten and its ill effects of the body.
From Gluten to Gluten Free
Now that you are all up to speed on what Gluten is and what it can do to you if it does not agree with you, we are also going to help you with steps that will ease your journey from gluten to gluten free with as little discomfort as possible.
- Balanced Diet
Creating a balanced and wholesome diet is the first step towards fitness and health whether it includes gluten or not. This really is a mandate and your diet needs to contain a solid base around a mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, fish, and lean meats. To further complement this, you can add gluten free pasta and gluten free baked goods to add a little variety. Here is a recipe that you can try.
- Know Your Grain
Not all grains carry gluten which means that there is no need to completely eliminate grains, pulses and legumes from your diet. The top three to avoid of course would be wheat, rye, and barley. Grains like rice, quinoa, oatmeal and amaranth (and their flours) however are few among a host of gluten free grains. They are also a ready source of nutrients for your body so contrary to belief, skipping grains altogether is not required on a gluten free diet. Just read up and do a little research to avoid the ones that are not good for you.
- Tour The Pantry
Take a walk around the kitchen, pantry, store cabinet and more to check which of your stored products and ingredients at home could be carriers of gluten. If you were not much of a label reader, then the time to start would be now. Most gluten-free foods are either marketed accordingly and are easy to identify once you get the hang of reading the labels correctly.
Further reading: Worst Ingredients Hiding in Your Kitchen
- Buy Gluten Free Foods
Make a conscious effort when at the supermarket to pick up products that are marketed as gluten free only. Most major supermarkets today have gluten free sections demarcated and the labels on the food items proclaim the same loud and clear which means it’s not that hard for you to be able to pick and choose exactly what you want and need. However, be vary of foods that compensate for the eliminated gluten by adding other harmful ingredients like refined cornflour and refined sugar.
- Eat Gluten Free Out
Eating out can become a challenge which means you would either be consuming things that are not easy for you to tolerate or risk being the noob of the party. However, restaurants and cafes are consciously including a few gluten free dishes on their menu, or are happy to take requests to prepare them. It isn’t easy but it most definitely isn’t impossible either.
- Snoop on the Gluten
Most packaging and labels on food items are easy to identify as gluten free or gluten carriers. However, there may be certain foods that are gluten carriers but will pass under your radar. Look out for malts, malt vinegars, soups, cold cuts and sausages, mayo, ketchup, soy sauce, non-dairy creamers, ice cream, energy bars, flavoured coffees and teas, oats, roasted nuts and a few types of cheese with a wary eye. You will almost always find traces of gluten in all of these. Alternative Daily has a complete list of the things best avoided.
- Love the Cook
Any new food choice that you make or diet that you follow needs to have a certain amount of effort going into it. Learning and loving to cook your own meals is one of those efforts that will help you in good stead while going gluten free. Make the effort of researching on gluten free ingredients and recipes and then plan for the week so that you are never caught out when it comes to meal times. That’s right, like life, there are no shortcuts over here as well. Here is a delicious recipe for High Protein Gluten Free Pancakes.
Having said all of the above, going gluten free these days is not as much of a task as it was even 3 or 4 years ago. Food product manufacturers are more sensitive to gluten free consumers. A prime example is the gluten free nut butters that you can pick up in droves from The Butternut Co where you can choose from an assortment of delicious creamy and chunky nut spreads that add flavour to your food as well as your life.