You can get a gluten-free version of almost everything these days: cereal, pasta, bread, brownies, you name it. But as we load up our trollies with these items, dissect restaurant menus and shun anyone who dares to butter a croissant in public, we have to look deep within ourselves and ask the question: do we actually know what gluten is?
No need to feel embarassed, or naive, we’re all friends here. That’s why we’ve done a little gluten digging to bring you the facts.
First things first: what is it?
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Its stickiness is what gives baked goods a fluffy texture and helps them rise in the oven.
How do I know if I’m gluten intolerant or not?
A wheat-free diet is vital to those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
If you’re gluten intolerant, your immune system cross-reacts with intestinal tissue, causing inflammation and interfering with nutrient absorption, which then leads to malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, fatigue, stunted growth and even intestinal or bowel cancer.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
But even if you aren’t experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be gluten sensitive. And because gluten intolerance has the potential to cause a lot of damage, testing out a gluten-free diet can be extremely beneficial to your overall health.
So, does it have to go?
If you aren’t gluten intolerant or suffering from a specific disease, eliminating wheat may actually deprive your body of important vitamins, minerals and quality carbohydrates.
Plus, many gluten-free products are just as unhealthy as those that contain wheat, so don’t be fooled into thinking you can live on gluten-free brownies and lose weight.
Cutting out gluten does, however, help you make more mindful food choices and carefully consider everything you eat. You just need to make sure you aren’t eliminating any important nutrients from your diet.
All in all, unless you have a specific gluten intolerance, a holistic diet with nutrient-dense foods is the key to health and longterm weight management.
What doesn’t have gluten?
Other than those already wearing their gluten-free label like a badge of honour, the following foods are naturally gluten-free:
Healthy fats: good quality olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, grass-fed/organic/pasture-fed butter, ghee, almond milk, avocado, coconut, olives, nuts, nut butters, cheese (except for blue cheese), seeds.
Protein: whole eggs, most fish, grass-fed meat, poultry, pork and wild game.
Vegetables: leafy greens and lettuces, collards, spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, sauerkraut, artichoke, green beans, celery, bok choy, watercress, asparagus, garlic, leek, fennel, shallots and scallions.
Low-sugar fruit: berries, bell peppers, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, eggplant, lemons and limes. (Be cautious of sugary fruits like apricot, mango, melon, papaya, prunes and pineapple).
Non-gluten grains: buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa, and teff. (A note about oats: although oats do not naturally contain gluten, they are frequently contaminated with gluten because they are processed at mills that also handle wheat; so look for the gluten-free label.)
Limit dairy, rich cheese, legumes, alcohol and most sweeteners (natural stevia is fine in moderation).
So there you go, you’re a gluten guru now. You’re welcome.