Gluten-Free Diet (Foods, Diet Plan & Tips)
We have heard many people opting for a gluten-free diet, but we are rarely aware of what it is. So let’s start with knowing about gluten. Gluten is a particular type of protein found abundantly in grains. A gluten-free diet means avoiding the consumption of foods that are rich in Gluten proteins. People pursuing a Gluten-free diet plan not only avoid eating the gluten-rich grains, but they also keep a safe hand distance from food items made from them.
The primary sources of gluten are wheat, barley, critical, and rye. It is also found in the derivative products of these grains like brewer’s yeast and malt. In spite of being a protein, it is not found in common sources like eggs, meat, etc. Gluten is also present in other grains like quinoa, corn, and rice, but their intake is not prohibited in a Gluten-Free Diet.
What is a Gluten-free Diet?
A gluten-free diet involves removing the grains and food products from your daily diet that are rich in gluten. A gluten-free diet is considered as the only treatment option for people suffering from celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a medical condition where an autoimmune response is generated towards the lining of the small intestine. The response is triggered by Gluten, and the intestinal damage prevents nutrient absorption from food (1).
Apart from celiac disease, the conditions that demand a strict gluten-free diet are as follows:
1. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
In this medical condition, there is no damage to the intestinal linings, but the symptoms are similar to that of celiac disease like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, rashes, headache, and confusion. Although the root cause is not known studies show that the immune system has a role to play in it (2).
2. Wheat Allergy
It is the condition where the immune system mistakes the gluten or other protein in wheat as a foreign agent like bacteria and viruses. In response to this, the immune system creates an antibody to ward off the wheat proteins resulting in symptoms like respiratory difficulties and congestion.
3. Gluten Ataxia
It is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the presence of gluten in the system. It primarily affects the nerve tissues and hampers the muscle control as well as voluntary muscle movement and coordination
Research results reveal that around three million population of America is suffering from celiac disease, and about eighteen million are prey to non-celiac gluten sensitivity. To date, there is no therapy or pill for the management of celiac disease. It renders a strict 100% Gluten-Free diet, the only option to keep the condition in control.
Gluten-Free Diet and Weight Loss Connection
The gluten-free diet has become a popular trend that is being adopted by people without medical conditions like celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to shed those extra pounds.
A gluten-free diet has some claimed benefits like improved health conditions, faster weight loss, and increased levels of energy. Let’s shed some light on how it aids weight loss.
Why Gluten-Free Diet?
When a person switches to a gluten-free diet, they have to forego the consumption of any food products that contain gluten. Apart from gluten-rich grains, the foods that are prohibited are muffins, cakes, bagels, cookies, crackers, bread, etc.
In short, the gluten-free diet reduces the intake of any junk and calorie, less processed food. All this sums up to the desired effect of losing weight. It is also due to the fact that people on a gluten-free diet are restricted to fewer choices, and not much is left for them to eat. It prevents them from binge eating that plays a great role in weight loss (3).
How Does Gluten-Free Diet Help in Weight Loss?
People who embark on a gluten-free diet journey have to give up wheat and any product made up of wheat as it is the major source of gluten.
Dieticians and Obstetricians are of the opinion that including wheat in our daily diet can lead to increased levels of insulin. Wheat stimulates insulin production, which in turn deposits fat around the abdominal area. The increased level of insulin circulating throughout the body metabolic the sugar fast and leads to frequent hunger pangs.
This gives birth to the urge of snacking and munching on carbohydrate items like cookies, cakes, muffins, chips, etc. Switching to a gluten-free diet helps to break this cycle, and the intake of fewer calories results in weight loss.
The first and foremost thing one should do to attain a reduced waist size with a gluten-free diet is to swap high-calorie food with grain-based products. One should make a wise choice as even gluten-free foods can be high in calories with no significant nutritional value.
Thus, while you go grocery shopping, make sure to check the label whether they are gluten-free and nutritious or not. It is a healthy habit to inculcate label reading while buying food products to keep you from eating unhealthy food.
Besides, keep a tab on the portions you eat. A gluten-Free diet is not a green flag for you to stuff yourself with food. One should eat small portions of food at frequent intervals to help weight loss.
It is a myth that people following a gluten-free diet are not able to enjoy yummy delicacies. Instead, the diet is more healthy as it comprises of gluten-free fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy products, and meats. Here we have sorted some foods that are safe and healthy to eat while on a gluten-free diet.
Rice is the best option in the grain section when you are barred from eating wheat. It is gluten-free, but one should keep an eye on the cross-contact of gluten, additional components, and arsenic present in it. Brown rice and wild rice are preferred for a gluten-free diet. A variety of rice-based snacks are also available to munch on (4).
Millet is a small-seeded grain that is gluten-free with low calories and high nutritional value. It acts as a substitute to wheat for making flatbreads, porridges, cookies, and cakes. The whole grain millet is good for health as compared to the refined substitutes (5) (6).
Sorghum is considered to be the best source of essential vitamins and minerals while you are in a gluten-free diet. The gluten-free whole grain flour is nutritionally dense with proteins, minerals, iron, and vitamins. It is called a wonder grain and is an excellent substitute for wheat for preparing baked goods (7).
Corn is considered gluten-free when taken in its pure form. It is a rich source of protein for people on a gluten-free diet. Corn can be taken in other forms like cornstarch, cornflour, cornmeal, popcorn, and hominy. One should make sure to read the labels for a gluten-free indication as some of the processed ingredients may contain gluten (8).
Buckwheat is safe for people who are on a gluten-free diet. However, the products made from it might contain gluten. The natural form is a substitute for wheat. Buckwheat is originally a seed rather than an actual grain like wheat (9).
Arrowroot is a starch obtained from the rhizomes of the plant. It is gluten-free and easy to digest for celiac patients. It is a substitute for wheat in cooking and baking purposes (10).
7. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges and lemon are beneficial for people on a gluten-free diet. They are a rich source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Citrus Fruits also contain a high amount of folate and Vitamin A. They help to strengthen immunity and improves the absorption of minerals in the body.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and flavonoids. The phytochemicals present in berries shield the body from inflammation, cardiac disorders, and cancer. Some gluten-free berries are raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry.
Kiwis are good for digestive health and thus are the choice of fruits for celiac patients. These little fruits are low in calorie and packed with fiber, and Vitamin A, B, C, E, and K. Kiwis should be treated along with their outer skin as it contains fiber.
Papaya is beneficial for celiac patients as they contain the enzyme called papain. Papain helps to treat indigestion, gas, and other gastric ailments. Papaya is abundant in Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
11. Red Grapefruit
Peaches are gluten-free and an excellent source of natural sugar. You can use the fruit to make a peach pie, cakes, and other delicacies. It is rich in vital minerals essential for good digestion.
Bananas are gluten-free and are a great fruit for celiac patients. Banana is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. Use them as a part of your fruit diet or for cooking purposes.
14. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables carve an essential part of the gluten-free diet. They are full of nutritional elements having the potential cancer-fighting ability, and it also improves the overall health of celiac patients. Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens are the choice of veggies.
15. Green Vegetables
Green vegetables are a rich source of iron and other minerals. Being on a gluten-free diet, it is important to eat a good portion of green leafy vegetables to compensate for the loss of wheat and mineral-rich products. Veggies like spinach, kale, lettuce, green beans, Brussels, etc. should be included in the diet.
16. Starchy Vegetables
Vegetables that are rich in starch like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, etc. are good gluten-free options to dig in. They are easy to digest and fulfills the body’s carbohydrate requirement.
17. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a gluten-free vegetable with high mineral content. It is rich in capsaicin that has cancer-fighting properties. You can eat bell peppers raw or in the form of delightful preparations.
18. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. They are excellent munching snacks to curb down the hunger pangs. Some of the gluten-free nuts and seeds you can include in your diet are chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, macadamia, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.
19. Lean Meat
It is a misconception that people on a gluten-free diet cannot enjoy meat. People should opt for lean red meat as they are gluten-free. The only thing one should avoid is the consumption of processed meat as they have additives with gluten.
20. Poultry Foods
All poultry foods that are fresh are devoid of gluten. Chicken, eggs, and turkey are the preferred poultry items for people on a gluten-free diet. You can enjoy a decent portion of poultry items once in a while as they contain proteins and nutrients.
Seafood like fresh fishes, tuna, scallops, salmon, shellfish, and shrimps are gluten-free. They are a rich source of Vitamin D, minerals, fatty acids, and proteins making them a good choice to treat your taste buds.
22. Dairy Products
23. Fats and Oils
Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, ghee, and butter are gluten-free fats and oils. They are safe for use in cooking while on a gluten-free diet.
Some gluten-free beverages like pure fruit juice, coffee, tea, lemonade, and alcoholic drinks like wine, hard cider are gluten-free. One should make sure they are free of additives as it may contain gluten.
Spices contain a significant amount of gluten. Tamarind, coconut amino, Apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar are some of the spices and condiments that are gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Diet Benefits
There are surprising benefits of a gluten-free diet on the overall health of the body. Some of the are:
1. Good Digestive Health
The absence of gluten refrains from triggering the immune system in celiac patients, and thus the digestive system remains sound. It also improved irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Weight Loss
A gluten-free diet helps in shedding those extra kilos. It also helps to switch onto healthier food alternatives
3. Eliminates Unhealthy Food Habits
A gluten-free diet contains fresh fruits and vegetables which prevents unhealthy snacking habits. It improves the immune system and increases the energy levels in the body.
Gluten-Free Diet Chart
A gluten-free fee diet plan should contain a perfect mix of all the essential veggies, grains, fruits, and dairy products to survive you throughout the day.
- For breakfast, omelet with veggies, cereals with berries and fruits, boiled eggs, nuts are good options.
- A portion of fresh meat, salad, seafood, or cornbread can be eaten for lunch.
- In between meals, you can sip on smoothies or munch on nachos, popcorn, fruits.
- For dinner, you can help your tummy with mashed vegetables, lean meat or poultry, gluten-free grain pasta, seafood, etc.
It is advisable to consult your dietician before starting a gluten-free diet.