Just a few years ago when I would say the word gluten my clients would look at me as if I was speaking a different language. Today, though, gluten and gluten-free have become so common that everyone seems to have an opinion about it. But very few people have a good understanding of what gluten is and what going gluten-free really means.
So here are 5 things that everyone should know about going gluten-free.
What is Gluten and In What Foods Can it Be Found?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and it’s responsible for nourishing the plant during germination. Gluten is also where the dough made from these grains gets its elasticity, which is why gluten foods tend to be so light and fluffy. There are some people who can’t tolerate this protein and they are said to be gluten intolerant.
The most common form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten it causes discomfort and symptoms typical of other food allergies, but it also sets off an immune response that damages their intestines and impacts their absorption of nutrients. More recently there has been a rise of non-celiac gluten intolerance, which results in food allergy symptoms when gluten is eaten but doesn’t necessarily damage their intestines.
Do I need a Food Allergy Test?
A food allergy test may not be the best way to figure out if you are gluten intolerant. From my experience, many people still test negative when their doctor tests them for a gluten allergy even though they have an obvious reaction to gluten whenever they eat it. If you feel you might have non-celiac gluten intolerance, try simply removing gluten from your diet for about 30 days and see if your symptoms alleviate. Don’t expect all of your symptoms to go away in a month but you should feel see difference. Which isn’t to say that everyone should go gluten free, but if you see improvements you should probably stick with it. Otherwise go grab yourself a beer and a slice of pizza!
Will I Have to Spend More on Food To be Gluten Free?
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gluten-free products in order to be gluten-free. The biggest mistake I see people make when they experiment with going gluten-free is that they go to the grocery store and spend a ton of money on gluten-free bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc. In the long term you may find that you enjoy some of these products, however in the short term I suggest sticking to food that is naturally gluten-free. Chicken, beef, pork, fish, potatoes, rice, quinoa, fruits, vegetables, dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs and corn (i.e. tortillas, chips, etc.) are all great examples of naturally gluten-free foods. There are also quite a bit of ancient grains like amaranth, buckwheat and millet that are increasing in popularity.
So instead of replacing your wheat products with gluten free versions, try building your meals on things that are naturally gluten-free. You will find that this is a much less expensive and much more enjoyable way to start experimenting with a gluten-free diet!
Will Going Gluten-Free Help Me Lose Weight?
Going gluten-free is not necessarily an effective way to lose weight, but it seems like the biggest reason many people go gluten-free is weight loss. In fact, many people use it as a sneaky way to restrict carbohydrates or make certain indulgent food off limits. Gluten itself doesn’t cause weight gain so taking it out won’t cause weight loss. Long-term weight changes are usually the result of adding higher-quality foods to your diet, not necessarily a lack of gluten.
Gluten can be sneaky.
Although sticking to basic foods is an excellent way to start experimenting with gluten-free, you may find that a few things sneak in here and there. Here are a few of the sneakiest places I find gluten and some alternatives:
Soy-sauce – Try tamari or other gluten-free options. Most Asian restaurants will have a gluten-free alternative.
Imitation Fish – Another tough part about eating sushi! Just ask for the real fish. It’s a bit more expensive but will taste even better.
Beer – There are some gluten free versions available but they tend to taste a little more like cider than beer. You can also try wine, potato vodkas and most rum.
Oats – Oats themselves are gluten-free but they are typically processed in plants that also process gluten. I recommend going with the gluten-free versions.
Lunchmeats – Some lunchmeats are made with wheat gluten or wheat flour. This just takes a little ingredient reading to make sure you pick the ones that are gluten free.
Article first appeared on TotalGymDirect.com.