Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and a cross-breed of wheat and rye– triticale. Those with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, as it exacerbates their condition. Celiac disease is an inflammation of the lower intestine. It can be painful. But by avoiding certain foods it can also be controlled, and the effects minimized. Others avoid gluten because they believe it can cause allergies, digestive problems, and have other negative effects on the body. Some people, even though they don’t have celiac disease, are still sensitive to gluten. Luckily, there are already lots of foods we eat all the time that are gluten-free. Other favorites have gluten-free substitutes on the market. Though we don’t realize it, gluten is in a lot of products. Eating a gluten-free diet means reading a lot of labels and carefully monitoring what you eat, or what goes into a dish. So many manufactured and processed foods contain gluten. It takes getting used to. But those who eat a gluten-free diet report feeling healthier and better.
First, let’s focus on the foods you can eat. Nuts, beans, and seeds in their natural state are certainly allowed. Soy, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry are fine, as long as they don’t come breaded. Fruits and vegetables and most dairy products are gluten-free. There are also lots of grains that do not contain gluten. Buckwheat, corn and cornmeal, quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff, tapioca, rice, and amaranth are all good choices where this diet is concerned. Avoid wheat, barley, and rye. Some products go by many different names. Here is where it gets tricky. Pay careful attention to labels that say self-rising, enriched, bromated, plain, or phosphated. Don’t purchase or eat them if you see any of those on the label. Avoid the following grains as well as they contain gluten: durum flour, farina, kamut, bulgur, spelt, graham flour, and semolina. So many other foods such as breads, cakes, pies, cereals, crackers, cookies, candies, beer, French fries, croutons, sauces, soy sauce, salad dressings, processed meats, soups and soup bases, and many, many others contain gluten, unless otherwise stated. Cross-contamination is also a problem. This can happen when foods are processed near other foods that contain gluten. Look out for the “may contain” warning on the label. Cross-contamination also occurs when foods are prepared with a knife or cutting board at home that has touched food which contains gluten. Being vigilant can help you stay healthy and gluten-free.