This December I am celebrating four years of gluten-free living. Since going gluten-free I have regularly been asked, "What is gluten! What foods is it in? Does that mean you can't eat tortilla chips or rice? I am here to clear the air in regards to just what exactly gluten is. It's really quite simple, i promise!
Gluten is a family of proteins that is found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Within this family, gliadin is the main protein that causes adverse health reactions. The name glu-ten is derived from its glue like property. A good example of a food item containing gluten is flour. When flour's added to water, the gluten protein gives it a sticky & wet doughy texture this is why bread is so chewy and satisfying!
Some examples of foods that contain gluten include:
Pastas (Raviolis, dumplings, couscous, gnocchi)
Noodles (Spaghetti, ramen, chow mein, udon)
Breads & Pastries (Rolls, bagels, flatbread, muffins, donuts, pita)
Crackers (Pretzels, graham crackers)
Croutons (stuffings, dressings)
Baked Goods (Cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies)
Breakfast Foods (Pancakes, waffles, french toast, crepes, biscuits)
Sauces & Gravy (Traditional soy sauce, wheat flour thickener)
These are the basics, it is commonly hidden discreetly in many other things. Eating at outside restaurants or sharing food with co-workers can sometimes feel like a booby trap. Restaurants have gotten better about accommodating but its still not uncommon to hear, "I think so" when asking if something is gluten- free. Unfortunately, I think so, is not a sufficient answer, and I will share why below. People who suffer from gluten-intolerance or celiacs disease are not just sporting a health fad, they are suffering from either an allergic reaction or an autoimmune reaction. However, let me let you in on a little secret, due to glutens highly inflammatory properties, you may be experiencing similar symptoms regardless of allergy or celiacs! What do some of these symptoms include:
Low energy (thought i was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, had to take naps daily)
Skin problems: Acne, psoriasis, chronic itching
Unexplained weight loss (before going gluten free I couldn't gain beyond 100 pounds, it looked like I had an eating disorder, when all i really wanted was to gain weight!)
Iron- deficiency anemia
Joint and muscle pain (I regularly felt like an 85 year old with chronic arthritis)
Leg and arm numbness
Brain fog (I was forgetting things I was told five minutes prior and felt like I was living with alzheimer's disease. In fact this is what pushed me to find a solution, had i not gone gluten free I would have failed nursing school. To this day when i accidently ingest gluten I will forget your name at times whether I have known you 5 days or 5 years. #scary)
So what CAN you eat?
Going gluten-free seems challenging but can actually create a positive change in your lifestyle, it encourages healthy eating and almost always supports the weight gain or weight loss you have been struggling with. Be advised I wouldn't cut gluten just for weight loss, and if your not intolerant i wouldn't suggest quitting 100 percent because you want to still keep your ability to digest the protein. But here is a list of the healthy options you can substitute:
Rice (brown rice, wild rice, white rice)
All proteins (make sure they are not fried or breaded unless specified gluten-free & no soy sauce)
Dairy products (milk, butter, ice cream, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream)
Healthy fats (olives, avocado, coconut oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, peanut butter, almond oil, nuts)
Gluten free pizza
Gluten free bagels, bread, pastas
The bottom line, if you are trying to avoid gluten there are plenty of food options to choose from, not only can i guarantee you will have more energy, you will likely be choosing healthier substitutes encouraging cleansing of the mind, body and soul.