Contributed by B. E. Conrad
Some men and women are genetically unable to digest wheat products. They must constantly watch what they eat and avoid anything that contains wheat. If they slip up, upset stomach, intestinal discomfort and other problems are sure to occur.
For sufferers from this condition known as Celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a health and nutritional necessity. For others, avoiding gluten is a matter of choice. While they are not allergic to gluten, they find that they feel better when they avoid products that contain wheat and similar ingredients.
Going gluten-free is easier than ever before, but there are still challenges.
The growing popularity of a gluten-free diet has led to an explosion in the number of wheat-free items at the local grocery store. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean that those gluten-free products are healthy. The absence of wheat is not the only consideration when shopping. It is just as important to avoid other potentially unhealthy food items.
One of the biggest problems men and women face when going gluten-free is that some gluten-free products are loaded with salt, sugar and fat. Manufacturers add these unhealthy ingredients to their gluten-free groceries to make them taste better and be more visually appealing, but these additions can defeat the purpose and wreck your diet.
Always read the ingredients carefully as you shop.
Compare the sodium, sugar and fat content of the gluten-free and non gluten-free products. A few extra grams of salt, sugar and fat is fine, but it is important to avoid high levels of these unhealthy ingredients.
While gluten-free processed foods are convenient, it is best to build your new diet around foods that are naturally free of gluten. These naturally gluten-free foods include fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, eggs and dairy products and nuts, seeds and beans. These wholesome foods can form the base of your gluten-free pyramid and help you live a healthier lifestyle.
You can further improve your gluten-free diet by cooking from scratch as much as possible. Not only will you enjoy healthier and more flavorful meals — you will save a lot of money as well. Gluten-free processed foods are often much more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Cooking from scratch is as goof for your wallet as it is for your body.
Use caution when adding bread and cereal to your gluten-free diet.
Most breads and cereals use wheat as a base, and the ones that do not are often low in fiber. If you love bread but hate gluten, you can make up for the lack of fiber by adding fiber-rich foods like quinoa and brown rice to your diet.
If you prefer, you can minimize your use of bread altogether. Get creative with your sandwiches by making wraps out of kale leaves or romaine lettuce. Just add your favorite lean meats and vegetables for a delicious bread-free sandwich.
Look for hidden gluten as you shop. Wheat can show up in the most unexpected of places, including prepared gravies, sauces and condiments. When you are cooking from scratch, you can thicken gravy naturally by substituting cornstarch or tapioca flour for traditional wheat-based flour.
Going gluten-free is not easy, but the health benefits can be well worth the effort. Whether you are sensitive to gluten or just trying to live a healthier lifestyle, the tips above can help you go gluten-free and love it.