Today’s post is Part II of a two part series on gluten: Is gluten-free the way to be? Click here to read Part I.
What is gluten?
According to Gluten Intolerance Symptoms, gluten is not a protein itself but rather a protein composite, composed of the proteins glutenin and gliadin (in wheat), secalin (in rye) and hordein (in barley), which are elastic proteins in the protein family known as prolamins. Gluten exists in the grass-like grains wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. It provides an elasticity and glue-like capacity to hold its flour products together and provide them with a chewy texture.
If you suspect you might be gluten intolerant, the safest bet is to visit a physician and get tested – before you cut out gluten from your diet. Though there’s no fail-safe way to diagnose sensitivity, an intestinal biopsy can determine if you have celiac disease, a condition that requires immediate attention. If left untreated, celiac disease could lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis and other more serious health problems that can result in early death.
Gluten-free: making the change
If you cut gluten out of your diet, there will likely be an adjustment period. Not only may it be challenging to avoid foods you might have previously been eating, but Rob’s physician said he might actually feel worse than usual for a few weeks after restricting gluten intake.
Before making radical dietary changes – gluten-free or otherwise – it’s important to seek advice from a medical professional. A dietician, for example, can provide useful information on what to eat/not to eat, while maintaining a healthy balance of required nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Gluten-free diets: foods allowed
Fortunately, there are many gluten-free flours and pastas available to purchase today to help make the transition easier. Not to mention, many whole foods are naturally gluten-free, while being healthy and tasty, too. Below are general guidelines of foods can you eat, as provided by MayoClinic.com.
Naturally gluten-free foods include:
- Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
- Fresh eggs
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Most dairy products
Grains and starches which are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet are:
- Corn and cornmeal
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy (corn)
It’s important to make sure that these foods are not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, additives or preservatives.
Gluten-free diets: foods not allowed
If restricting gluten intake, you should avoid food and drinks containing:
- Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
Other wheat products to avoid include:
- Durum flour
- Graham flour
Though Rob was never told to remove oat products from his diet by a medical professional, many online sites recommend avoiding them. This is because oats are often harvested and processed alongside wheat and thus may be cross-contaminated.
Gluten-free diets: recipe ideas
Gluten-free dinners may be easier to prepare than you think. Gluten free websites include: Gluten-Free Goddess, Gluten-Free Girl, Gluten-Free Mama and Elana’s Pantry. There is also a myriad of cookbooks available.
Here are a few recipe ideas that I have recently made – and I’m not even gluten-free!
Dinner salads – Not only are these easy to make and good for you, but they don’t contain gluten either.
- Asian Chicken Salad – Be sure to omit the Raman noodles from this great recipe.
- Grilled Steak and Potato Kabobs with Mint Chimichurri over Tomato Watercress Salad – This is a Cuisine at Home original, reprinted here.
- Garlic shrimp salad with mango toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette
Tuna with pasta and capers – I shared this recipe on Tuesday. Simply use gluten-free pasta when preparing.
Pork Verde – This is my favorite, easiest recipe to make. Serve the pork with corn tortillas for a gluten-free treat.
Chili-Rubbed Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Salsa – I found this in Real Simple Magazine years ago and it has been a family favorite ever since. We use mango in place of the pineapple.
Shepherd’s Pie – For gluten free comfort food, try this Shepherd’s Pie dish and use corn starch in place of flour to thicken the gravy.
Gluten-free diets: Halfway there
As I have mentioned numerous times, I believe in balance and moderation as a way to eat, live and be! Since my husband’s ordeal, we have made several changes to reduce rather than restrict gluten in both our diets. Here are a few suggestions, just in case “cutting back” is as far as you’d like to go.
Reduce bread intake – Not only does bread contain gluten, but it was recently found to be the #1 source of sodium in our diets. It’s a filler that provides little nutritional value. So why not cut back?
– Don’t serve bread with dinner
– Use tortilla wraps in place of bread for lunch sandwiches
– Use tortilla wraps in place of toast for morning eggs
– Or eat oatmeal / cereal instead, and reduce the temptation for that English muffin
Use less flour – Though we haven’t removed flour from our diets, we try to substitute other ingredients for flour, at least partially.
– When making pancakes, substitute part of the flour with cornmeal or ground oats
– Same with homemade breads and pizza dough
Think corn – When possible, substitute flour-based products with corn-based ones.
– Tortillas – As mentioned, use corn instead of flour ones.
– Snacks – Use corn-based chips and crackers, if you really must eat them at all.
Eat more veggies and fruits – Especially when it’s snack time and your first instinct is to eat a bagel, chips or something else floury! Of course, this is a good habit even if you are not watching gluten intake at all.
Go whole – And as always, the more whole foods you eat, the better off you’ll be.