Clarifying Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet.
May is Celiac awareness month so I thought I’d clarify some misconceptions about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
First of all, celiac disease is a medical condition in which the small intestine is damaged by eating foods that contain gluten. Those with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet for life. Whether you experience symptoms or not, any amount of gluten will cause damage to your small intestine.
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye, and any foods that contain these grains – and there are many. Therefore, simply eliminating bread from your diet does not mean you are following a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet. Simply eliminating gluten does not equate a healthy diet. Your diet can still be excessive in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. It is no different than if someone eliminates nuts from their diet due to a nut allergy, or lactose due to lactose intolerance.
Gluten-free products are not healthier. If you plan to substitute regular breads, cookies, crackers, etc. with gluten free products, your overall diet may actually be less healthy than it was previously. Many of these gluten-free products have more added sugar and fat for flavour.
And finally, I saved the best for last! A gluten-free diet may not be nearly as restrictive as you think. A wide variety of foods are naturally gluten-free. These include:
Fruits and Vegetables – all fresh, plain frozen (without sauce or seasoning), plain canned (without sauce or seasoning)
Grains and Starches – quinoa, millet, flax, corn, buckwheat, potato, sweet potato, yams, plain rice, corn tortilla or taco shells, and flours made from any of these grains and starches as well as those made from beans and legumes
Milk and Dairy Products – milk, plain cheese, cottage cheese, plain ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, yogurt
Meat and Alternatives – plain and unprocessed beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, etc.; fish and seafood (except artificial crab), beans and legumes, eggs, tofu, nut butters
Beverages – water, coffee, tea, fruit juice, soft drinks
Other – cooking oil, butter, margarine, individual spices and herbs, oil and vinegar salad dressing
So if you do have to eliminate gluten from your diet, stay positive by focusing on all of the delicious and nutritious foods that you CAN eat.