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A gluten-free diet for gluten intolerant people does not contain gluten, a protein mostly found in grains like wheat. Gluten is found in most pastries, oven-baked products, processed meats, fast-food snacks, and most alcoholic beverages.
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains. It is found in rye, barley, wheat, and spoilt grains, but wheat contains the most. Gluten consists of gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is responsible for most of gluten’s health effects. It forms a glue-like network when flour is mixed with water, giving flour the elastic property to rise when baking. The most common sources of gluten are grains. Other gluten-containing foods are bread, pasta, cereals, and bakery items such as cakes, biscuits, cookies, and pastries. Beer also contains gluten as it is made using wheat.
Most people have no issues with gluten, but some cannot tolerate it due to pre-existing health conditions. The most severe form of gluten intolerance is celiac (coeliac) disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the patient’s body resists gluten, damaging the gut wall and putting them at risk of anemia, digestive difficulties, and other diseases. Its symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, intestinal tissue damage, headache, fatigue, constipation, and digestive discomfort.
Non-celiac gluten intolerance is when people react negatively to gluten but test negative for celiac disease. The precise number of people suffering from this condition has not been established yet. Some symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, depression, stomach pain, and fatigue.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. It is manageable with lifestyle changes, proper diet, and stress management. Some people have a wheat allergy but can still consume other foods containing gluten without any major reaction.
Gluten-free drinks and beverages
Pure water is the healthiest drink in the world. 100% fresh fruit juice is a nice alternative to fresh fruit and does not contain gluten. Other gluten-free drinks are tea and coffee. Gluten-free chocolate includes Nespresso hot chocolate pods to try out as well. Check out alcoholic beverages like hard ciders, wine, and beer made from buckwheat or sorghum. Other gluten-free drinks are soda, sports drinks, lemonade, and energy drinks.
Gluten-free foods are lean meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Also, look for plant foods like legumes, nuts, and tubers in their unprocessed raw forms. Fats, oils, and butter also don’t contain gluten.
Gluten-free grains, starches, and flours
Gluten-free grains include rice, sorghum, millet, tapioca, buckwheat, quinoa, and oats. Oats, however, can be susceptible to cross-contamination if the facility producing them also processes wheat and other gluten-rich grains. The easiest way to be safe is only buying oats with a “gluten-free” label.
Gluten-free flour includes corn, rice, soy, bean, and potato flour. Corn is also a nice gluten-free option, and its derivatives such as cornmeal, polenta, grit are labeled gluten-free. The healthiest gluten-free seeds include hemp seeds, chia seeds, amaranth, millet, and flax seeds. The best nuts are peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, and Brazilian nuts in their unprocessed form.
Gluten is found in the most unpredictable foods. People who suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity should look out for the “gluten-free” labels in foods, snacks, and drinks. A gluten-free diet may be difficult to stick to, but it is a healthy option, even for people without gluten intolerance. If you want to start a gluten-free diet, it is generally healthier to go for natural, wholemeal foods rather than processed foods with little nutrients and high sugar content. All fruits and vegetables do not contain gluten and are vital for a stronger immune system.
Gluten-free condiments, spices, and sauces
Most spices and sauces are naturally gluten-free, but they may contain gluten-rich ingredients like emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, food starch, maltodextrin, stabilizers, and sometimes wheat flour. Gluten-free spices include tamari and coconut aminos. Distilled vinegar, white vinegar, and apple cider vinegar don’t contain gluten.
If you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle with a cleaner diet, you should start a gluten-free diet. Eat unprocessed foods and be on the lookout for the “gluten-free” label in your products.