Gluten Free (GF) is everywhere these days. Labels on restaurant menus, packages of meat and cereal boxes all compete for attention with the “Gluten Free” logo. Why should you eat gluten free? How do you eat gluten free? These are common questions that arise.
Gluten is a component of wheat, barley and rye. It means “glue”. It’s a protein that gives elasticity to bread and pasta. It’s why we love the chewy, doughy texture of these foods! Some people don’t digest it properly and it causes a reaction in the body.
Why Eat Gluten Free?
Some people have an allergy or intolerance to gluten because they eat too much of it. Common symptoms are feeling sleepy, cranky and foggy headed after ingesting gluten. People also report sticky eyes and excessive clear gooey fluid in their throat.
Others have Celiac Disease, which is more serious than an allergy. It’s an intolerance, meaning the body cannot digest gluten and as a result causes problems in the gut.
Many people have jumped on the gluten free trend because it’s supposedly “healthy”. It can be. It seems to have substantial benefit for most people. When people eliminate gluten they often report thinking more clearly and having higher energy levels.
Some people lose weight when cutting out gluten, unless they add in too many “gluten free” breads and pastas. Too much sugar and carbohydrate is often the reason for this. Even though a food is gluten free, it still might be calorically dense.
How To Eat Gluten Free
Cutting out wheat, rye and barley which are found in a surprising number of foods is the path to a gluten free diet. Gluten is found in pasta, bread, gravy, desserts and sometimes in meat. Wheat (which contains gluten) is used to thicken foods and as a filler.
Gluten free doesn’t mean healthy. Gluten free means there isn’t wheat, rye or barley in a product. It’s not regulated perfectly, so you have to be cautious if you do have an allergy. There could be an abundance of sugar, corn, rice or oil in your gluten free substitute. GF on a package or menu item at a restaurant doesn’t get you off the hook from checking the other ingredients.
Two Approaches to Eating Gluten Free
#1 – Eat gluten free foods that have a substitute such as rice, corn, quinoa, etc. Read the label and check that there isn’t excessive sugar in the product. Eat these products sparingly. Think of them as a “treat”, not as the norm – you could land up with a rice or corn allergy. Or worse, diabetes.
#2 – Eat gluten free foods that are naturally gluten and grain free. Corn and rice are gluten free also, but still a grain. People stop eating gluten and start eating an abundance of rice or corn and wonder why they haven’t lost weight or develop an allergy to those foods. Fruits, vegetables, meat and beans are gluten free and don’t require a substitute ingredient.
If you’re not satiated without grains, try yams, sweet potatoes, beans and quinoa as substitutes for pasta. They will help you feel satiated. Bread can be replaced by putting your meal on a salad or wrapping it in lettuce, collard greens or kale. You’ll get used to this, as long as you don’t cheat. The sugar in many processed products is addictive and sometimes having just a little is all it takes to fall back into old habits. You’ll be surprised how little you miss gluten if you give it a good chance for a week or two.
What about Paleo and Atkins?
These eating options seem similar when considering bread and pasta as it’s own food group.
Paleo – Restricted to fruits, vegetables, meat and healthy oils/fats. Paleo is exactly what it sounds like, “caveman”, If it’s processed, don’t eat it.
Atkins – Carbohydrate control. Every food has carbohydrates. Atkins requires monitoring the amount of intake for each type of food and restricts you on how much carbohydrate is consumed. It works similar to Weight Watchers with it’s own line of products and points.
Give it a try and let us know how you do! Leave questions and comments below.