Sometimes it's hard to keep track of fad diets. One day celebrities are swearing off fat and the next, they've ditched gluten. Gluten is a protein that gives bread and other grain products their chewy texture. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about gluten for most people. However, some individuals have a gluten allergy called celiac disease, which left untreated can do serious damage to the gastrointestinal system. If you are simply trying to minimize the amount of gluten in your diet, cut out white bread and pasta, cakes, cookies and other carbohydrates that have limited nutritional benefit. Don't eliminate whole grains from your diet without your doctor's permission.
Read food labels carefully. Most grains contain gluten including khorasan wheat, semolina, farina, triticale, einkorn, bulgur, couscous, wheat starch, wheat germ, wheat bran, spelt, whole wheat, cracked wheat, rye, barley, cake flour, matzo flour, graham and matzo meal. Avoid anything that has the word "wheat" in bold letters on the package. To minimize the amount of gluten you consume, look at where the gluten-containing grains fall on the ingredients list. If the grain is far down on the list, the food does not contain much gluten.
Bake and cook with gluten-free grains including rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, soy, montina, buckwheat, teff and amaranth. You'll be able to find most gluten-free grains in flour form at a whole-foods store. Other gluten-free flours are made from potato starch, nuts and beans.
Invest in a gluten-free cookbook. All of the "safe" grains have their own specific chemical properties, and you won't be able to substitute them for wheat flour with good results. Peruse the diet cookbooks at your local bookstore to pick up tips on baking with specialty grains and flours.
Stock your refrigerator with all the foods you can eat. Although a gluten-free diet may seem restrictive at first, you actually have lots of healthy options. Meat, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, corn, fish, rice, eggs, nuts, beans, oil and most beverages are all good choices. Read labels carefully to ensure that your food hasn't been breaded, seasoned, marinated or coated with a gluten-containing grain.
Explore the gluten-free market. Many companies have expanded their stock to include foods that are gluten-free. You don't have to give up pasta. Pick a brand made with buckwheat, corn, rice and other safe flours instead. Check the baking section at your grocery store. You should be able to find gluten-free muffin, cake, cookie and brownie mixes.
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