Five Steps to Intelligent Gluten-Free Eating

Squash Pasta with Ricotta

The last several years we’ve been bombarded with gluten-free products, touting claims for better health to weight loss to lowering risk of disease.

What is the truth in these claims?  Is it just another fad? And if you decide to be gluten-free how do you do it in a way that truly honors your health?

Those with Celiac Disease must maintain a gluten-free diet for their health and well-being.  Even small amounts of gluten are damaging to their guts, which lowers absorption of important nutrients, leading to adverse health consequences.

For others avoidance of gluten is helpful for sensitivities with their systems, which can be related to autoimmune diseases, inflammation, insulin resistance and/or gastrointestinal issues. The technical term is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

If you suspect you have NCGS, it might be worth doing a 30-day experiment.  Take all gluten out of your diet to see if you notice a difference in your system.  If there are no significant changes, gluten may not be problematic for you.  Although testing is challenging, there are some laboratories to determine NCGS.

Since the amount of gluten in our food supply has increased in products from chewing gum to ice cream, researchers are wondering whether this contributes to the increase in sensitivity.

Whether you are required to follow a gluten-free diet or need to due to a medical concern, it is essential to do so in an intelligent manner.

To consume a healthful gluten-free diet requires navigating all the gluten-free products so that you actually achieve a diet for the health you desire.

 Here are a few tips to get you started:

Watch your ingredients.  Many gluten-free products contain multiple names for starch – potato, rice, tapioca, etc. which actually contain higher amounts of carbohydrate than the products they are trying to replace.  Higher levels of starch can actually increase insulin resistance and inflammation, triggering symptoms related to autoimmune disorders, thus reversing what one is trying to achieve.

Check the total carbohydrates.  Think that gluten-free pasta is healthier than the regular?  Think again.  It can contain more carbs than the regular clocking in at 45-55 grams per cup or 3-4 slices of bread in that little cup of pasta.

Substitute real foods.  Rather than choosing a packaged “gluten-free product” substitute nuts for crackers, yellow and zucchini squash for pasta, and nut flours for wheat. Squash pasta is easily made with a spiralizer or mandolin. Top with your favorite sauce for a fabulous real food gluten-free option.  Multiple recipes exist for cauliflower crust pizzas, and the market is flooded with various nut flours that work well in recipes.

Ask the hard questions. When you are eating out, ask your server what is in the desired food item and how it is prepared.  Is there any flour or starch in the dish you desire, and/or soy sauce or other gluten-containing item?  Better to be able to enjoy your meal sooner, rather than having to send it back when received.

Stay the course.  Being gluten-free is not easy by any stretch and challenging in how many foods you have to avoid and change.  If you’ve determined being gluten-free helps your health and are committed to the path, there are now many ways to substitute different veggies, cheese, nuts, etc. in combinations to allow for real food gluten-free real tasty cuisine.

Being committed to gluten-free eating may require some research to find the recipes that work for you, your tastes and lifestyle but it can be done with intelligent choices.