Gluten-free diets are vital to the health of individuals with Celiac disease, a chronic digestive and immune disorder. When people with celiac disease eat or drink anything containing gluten, the body triggers an immune reaction causing inflammation, digestive distress, and damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Celiac disease is different from gluten intolerance. With gluten intolerance some people find they are sensitive to gluten and experience some digestive distress and inflammation without intestinal damage. While those with Celiac disease must avoid all gluten to avoid long-term intestinal damage, people experiencing gluten intolerance may benefit from avoiding or limiting gluten as well. Your physician can administer a test to determine whether you have Celiac disease.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein present in the grains wheat, rye and barley, as well as triticale, malt and brewer’s yeast. Because people with celiac disease must eliminate all gluten from their diets, they must be careful of hidden sources in processed foods, condiments, restaurant cross-contamination, vitamins, beer, beauty and healthcare products, and even Playdough.
In general, read labels for wheat (in all its forms), rye and barley. A dietitian can help you identify all the sources of gluten and create a healthful and balanced eating plan using alternative grains.
Here is a list of some gluten-free grain alternatives:
Amaranth – High in protein, calcium, iron, and fiber, toast this tiny grain before cooking it to bring out its nutty flavor.
Rice – Brown, black, purple, brown, and red are colorful, un-refined rice options that contain more nutrients than refined white rice. Wild rice – though an unrelated plant — is another delicious option. Try brown rice cakes.
Buckwheat – Roasted buckwheat is called kasha. Buckwheat has an earthy, nutty, slightly bitter taste. Buckwheat is high in B vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc.
Cornmeal, Polenta, Grits, Hominy – These foods are derived from corn. Use cooked, cooled, firmed-up polenta in place of lasagna noodles. Try corn tortillas.
Millet – high in B vitamins, phosphorous, magnesium, and higher in protein than corn and rice. Cooked millet makes an appealing side dish with a fluffy texture and mild flavor.
Quinoa – high in protein, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, copper, and zinc. Quinoa can be used much like rice. Always rinse quinoa before cooking to remove the “saponins,” a natural, bitter-tasting coating.
Sorghum – a substitute for couscous and has an appealing chewy texture and nutty flavor.
Teff – high in protein, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc. Teff has a sweet flavor and is traditionally used as flour but can also be cooked whole and used as a side dish.
Oats – The safest oat products are ones that have been certified gluten-free.
TIP: Make your own muesli by mixing oat flakes with your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (limit nuts and dried fruits to avoid excess calories) Muesli traditionally uses raw oats, but you may want to toast your oats first. Muesli options: add milk the night before or right before eating for different textures. Eat it hot or cold.