Gluten-free products have made their way onto the shelves in grocery stores and are slowly claiming more space in every aisle. These products are made without gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. The question is: who opts for these products?
A gluten-free diet is a necessity for those diagnosed with Celiac or gluten sensitivity. For people with Celiac disease, gluten ingestion can damage the small intestine which can lead to diminished nutrient absorption. Long-term nutrient deprivation can lead to other autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis or diabetes. Celiac is hereditary, and according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, if you have a first-degree relative who has Celiac, there is a 1 in 10 chance you could have Celiac, too.
To accommodate the growing number of people who are diagnosed with Celiac, food companies and restaurants are making strides toward providing products and options that cater to this dietary need. Since most baked goods and pastas contain gluten, many companies are focusing on offering gluten-free varieties in these areas. There are, however, many foods that are naturally gluten-free.
Raw foods are the easiest route to a gluten-free diet. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free, as are meats and nuts. Anything that has been processed might contain gluten, so close label reading is a must. Be aware that something labeled “wheat-free” might not actually be “gluten-free.” In fact, there are some products that surprisingly contain gluten.
Don’t try to deduce what logically should have gluten in it. Always read the label. Some products that surprisingly can contain gluten include: salsas and dips, ice cream, salad dressings, soy sauce, candy, and yogurt. When eating out, always ask if any items on the menu could be contaminated (that is, cooked in the same vessel as other foods that contain gluten). Be especially wary of chips or anything fried, as these are at high risk for contamination. It’s even worth asking if the items in the gluten-free section of a menu will risk contamination.
Gluten-free eating might be challenging at first, but careful habits can make this dietary change easier. Visit www.celiac.org for more information and guidance.
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