A gluten-free diet is not just a trend for many people. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, almost 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from celiac disease. If you have this incurable and lifelong condition, the good news is that you can treat it by only eating gluten-free foods.
It is easier to find bread made from wheat and other gluten-containing grains because this protein helps the flour stick together and gives it the right consistency. However, you can find bread that is made specifically gluten free at your local bakery or a specialty health food store. This includes millet, rice flour and salba seed breads. The Canadian Celiac Association also recommends making your own gluten-free flour by mixing rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour. You can substitute this flour for wheat in bread, pizza dough and other baked goods.
You can find a variety of gluten-free pastas that are made from rice, corn, amaranth and quinoa flours. These grain flours may be combined with potato starch to help give the pasta the right texture and consistency. Check your local grocery and health food stores for gluten-free pasta brands. Be sure to read the instructions carefully; overcooking gluten-free pasta can make it break down and become soft and sticky.
Foods to Avoid
If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you must strictly avoid all grains that contain this protein. This includes all-purpose, white, graham and durum flours, barley, malt, malt vinegar, rye, triticale and beer. You must also avoid food products made from these flours including cereals, breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, crackers, pizzas, croutons and pancake mixes. Gluten is a thickening agent and might be found in a surprising number of other foods including soups, gravy, salad dresses, sauces, marinades, sausages and potato chips. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends looking for gluten-free varieties and using clean and separate utensils while making gluten-free foods at home to avoid cross-contamination.
Although you might feel that avoiding gluten has limited your culinary experiences, there are plenty of foods that are naturally free of this protein. These include fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, lentils, nuts, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk and most types of cheese and yogurt. There is more awareness about gluten allergies and intolerance, and many food stores and restaurants offer alternatives for bread, pasta and other grain staples. Ensure that you read the food label carefully, as some products can contain hidden sources of gluten.
- The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: Celiac Disease Facts and Figures
- MayoClinic.com: Gluten-free Diet: What's Allowed, What's Not
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Celiac Disease - Nutritional Considerations
- Canadian Celiac Association: In The Kitchen
- Celiac.com: Gluten-Free Pastas and Noodles
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.