Gluten Free: A Guide to What to Cut Out and What to Leave in.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats (although for oats gluten usually occurs by cross contamination). Gluten may also be found in spelt, durum wheat, cous-cous, kamut, malt, bran, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), dextrin (a combination of starches which may contain gluten) and oats, so always read the label.

Am I coeliac?

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition where the body initiates an immune response to the presence of gluten. Those with coeliac disease should avoid wheat, barley, rye and oats as well as buckwheat and millet grain. It is possible to be sensitive to gluten without being coeliac. In this situation, the gluten causes gut irritation and potentially poor nutrient status due to malabsorption. As the body does not have a specific enzyme to break down gluten, for the majority of individuals, the presence of gluten will initiate some form of immune response. For those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, buckwheat and millet may be consumed.

Foods to avoid:

Anything labeled with gluten or containing wheat, barley, rye and oats and circumstantially, buckwheat or millet grain. Ensure to scrutinise all pre-packaged food labels for the presence of any of these. Wheat should be highlighted in bold.

Bread and flours- Gluten free bread is widely available but specifically gluten free marketed products should be consumed in moderation as these are quite heavily processed and not the most nutritious. At most, these should be consumed no more than once a week and, as always food that comes without an ingredient list is preferable.

Gluten free flour contains a mix of flours to be used in baking but alternatives include:

  • Almond flour,
  • Chickpea (gram) flour,
  • Coconut flour,
  • Buckwheat flour is an excellent alternative for those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

Pasta- Pasta can easily be replaced as gluten free alternatives become more available. Look out for lentil and chickpea pasta, brown rice pasta and brown rice noodles and buckwheat noodles.

Limitless fruit and vegetables- fruit and vegetables are naturally gluten free so fill up on these, particularly sweet potatoes as these are a nutritious starchy alternative to gluten containing carbohydrates.

 

Avoid Replacements
White flour bread and pasta Brown rice pasta, buckwheat noodles, lentil pasta, quinoa pasta.

Gluten free bread occasionally but buckwheat pancakes and flatbreads, chickpea flour pancakes, coconut flour pancakes.

Cookies, biscuits, cakes, donuts Gluten free alternatives are available and like their gluten containing rival, should be consumed occasionally as a treat due to the amount of sugar.
Stock cubes and gravy Check labels for gluten. Bouillon is usually gluten free as are freshly made stocks and gravies rather than dried powder forms such as Bisto.
Table Sauces Always read the label for gluten containing ingredients or try making your own alternatives.
Breakfast cereals Even those you wouldn’t expect might contain gluten from barley. Instead, go for gluten free oats, quinoa porridge, millet porridge, plain puffed rice which are much more nutritious and lower in sugar.
Sausages Often these contain gluten as a binder so look for gluten free alternatives, which taste great and are just as available at all supermarkets.
Take-aways Sauces used in take-aways such as Chinese soy sauce will contain gluten. It is possible to buy gluten free alternatives (such as Tamari) but your local take away may struggle to accommodate this requirement for dishes other than vegetables and rice.

 

 

 

References:
Matlejan, G. (2015) ‘The World’s Healthiest Foods’ GMF Publishing.
https://www.coeliac.org.uk/document-library/126-gluten-free-checklist/?return=/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/gf-diet/ (Accessed 16th October 2016)