Carol Wilder-Tamme, M.S., R.D.
The gluten-free craze
Popular diets come and go: Hollywood Diet, Paleo Diet, Atkins, Green Tea Diet, HCG Diet and the list goes on! Ideas about what’s good and bad for us also change. One of the current popular trends is to follow a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-free advocates believe that avoidance of gluten can improve health by reducing “toxins”, assisting with weight loss, or just providing an increased sense of general well-being. Celebrity endorsements of gluten-free diets have also helped to drive its popularity. Unfortunately, enthusiasm does not always equal science as these beliefs are not proven by research, and not equivalent to the sound information one can obtain from a registered dietitian.
Who really needs to follow a gluten-free diet?
People with Celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet all of their life. Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder where consumption of gluten causes severe small intestine damage. Now, gastroenterology specialists largely agree that “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” is also a reality for some patients who test negative for Celiac disease. It is recommended that you see your doctor and discuss your symptoms prior to eliminating gluten from your diet.
What is gluten? What is a gluten-free diet?
Gluten, a protein that provides texture and structure to bread and pasta is found in wheat, rye and barley. It is also used as a thickener and stabilizer in many processed foods. A gluten-free diet (avoidance of wheat, rye and barley) is not best for everyone, as it may needlessly lower ones intake of important nutrients. Oats, while gluten free as an ingredient, are often avoided on gluten-free diets because oats may come in contact with other gluten-containing grains when processed.
Some gluten-free alternatives & suggestions
Avoiding wheat, rye and barley can be made easier and healthier by experimenting with the so called ancient grains: amaranth, buckwheat, chia, millet and teff, quinoa and sorghum. Using unprocessed whole foods rather than depending on expensive, specially formulated products will provide the necessary variety of nutrients and fiber. Looking to try a new, yummy recipe? Check out these two gluten-free choices Flounder with Clams en Papillote or Balsamic Chicken.
For those who tolerate gluten
Grains such as whole wheat and barley provide fiber, B vitamins and vitamin E. Needlessly eliminating those grains and substituting specialty products can lower one’s intake of important nutrients. Check out this collection of delicious recipes for healthy eating. They all can help you meet the USDA My Plate recommendations. Enter your food intake into the “Super Tracker” to see how your daily food choices compare to the recommended food group targets. It is a fun activity for all ages!
Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance is real but not everyone has it or can benefit from a gluten-free regimen. A medical diagnosis is recommended before embarking on a gluten-free diet. Click here to see Campbell’s gluten-free product list.
Helpful websites include:
Carol Wilder-Tamme, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Carol is a registered dietitian, freelance writer and health blogger who specializes in gluten free, active lifestyle and fresh healthy eating options. Her Nutrition Fresh blog features fresh, natural options and streamlined food prep along with family and even a “dude food” section. Follow Carol on Facebook and Twitter.