Going gluten-free has health benefits for people who are sensitive to gluten. It can also be a good way of avoiding a lot of highly processed foods. But it all depends on how you put your gluten-free diet together. Let’s look at what you need to know to set up a healthful gluten-free diet.
Know where to find gluten
The main three sources of gluten are wheat, rye, and barley but it’s not enough to know that if you want to successfully navigate a gluten-free diet today. For example, there are different varieties of wheat that all contain gluten here are their commonly used names: Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Kamut, Farina, Farro, Graham, Semolina, and Spelt. There’s also Triticale, which is a hybrid grain made from wheat and rye, and of course, contains gluten too. And all of these types of grains are still just the base ingredients.
Read food labels
It would be easiest to just eat wholesome, single-ingredient foods and only worry about wheat, rye, and barley. But that’s not likely to happen in the real world. Unfortunately, refined grains, wheat especially, are used in production of a shockingly high percentage of all foods and beverages available in stores today. Thankfully, all foods that contain any of the above mentioned gluten sources must have that information on the label. So get in the habit of reading food labels.
Know what to choose instead
Now that you know how to avoid gluten let’s look at some worthy replacements.
Swap pasta for zucchini
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to pasta then learn a recipe for zucchini noodles, they feel surprisingly similar and contain less carbs and calories as a bonus! You can also go with pasta made with tapioca, rice starch, or corn starch but with those you’re just replacing one processed food for another.
Swap bread for potatoes
There’s not really a good replacement for bread. Any of those gluten free options are highly processed and lacking in nutrients. If you want to improve your diet start thinking about your meals differently. Have some potatoes or plantains with a piece of ham instead of a ham sandwich.
Swap couscous for rice
If you’re looking for something that looks and feels like couscous then you have plenty of great naturally gluten-free options like rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, or amaranth just to name a few.
Swap beer for wine
Most beers and some types of whisky too, are made with malted barley or wheat flour that contains gluten. But don’t worry there’s always wine. Most clear unflavoured alcohol should be fine too.
Swap wheat flour for tapioca
Tapioca has very similar characteristics for baking as wheat flour. But there are many other naturally gluten-free flours like corn, arrowroot, chickpea, almond, or coconut flour. Just remember that flours are highly processed foods, the less you eat of them in general, the better.
And of course there’s an endless list of pastries, pizzas, baked cereals, cookies, muffins, crackers, pretzels, and cakes that all have their gluten-free counterparts. The food industry made sure you will never have trouble finding a wide selection of these. But they don’t belong to a healthy diet, regardless of gluten content.
Get enough fibre
Avoiding gluten means avoiding good sources of fibre like bread, pasta, or couscous. The problem is not all replacements contain as much fibre as the original. For example, a cup of rice flour has 4 g of fibre compared to wheat flour that has 12 g per cup. Make sure to keep high fibre foods like beans, lentils, peas, almonds, and plenty of veggies in your diet to compensate for the differences.
If you keep your eye on gluten and use the opportunity to replace processed gluten containing foods for wholesome naturally gluten-free foods, you will have a superior diet.