You’ll see the term “gluten-free” nearly everywhere nowadays. If you’re not following a gluten-free diet, you probably know someone who is.
But what is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in types of wheat, rye, barley. It can be added to food to add protein and more flavor. It helps foods maintain their shape by acting as a glue that binds food together.
Some people need to avoid gluten for serious health reasons, but others avoid gluten to experience some of the most common benefits. You don’t need to go fully gluten-free, as it’s ok to have gluten every now and then if you don’t have celiac disease. It’s good to explore, to experiment and to see how your body feels without it.
Here are eight benefits you can experience if you want to approach a gluten-free diet:
- Improves your cholesterol levels
- Promotes better digestion
- Increases energy levels
- Eliminates processed and unhealthy foods from your diet, such as fried food, cakes, desserts, bread, and sauces that contain gluten
- Promotes better food choices, as you will tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, proteins, because they are all gluten-free
- Reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and possibly cancer
- Promotes healthy weight loss as you will tend to eat less processed foods
- Improves irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis
Don’t get me wrong here, as I am not saying that gluten-free foods are always healthier — it’s easy to find gluten-free cakes or biscuits that are packed with the same amount of sugar, or even more sugar than the quantity you would have found in the regular version. Therefore, you need to make smart choices and always be a detective when you do your food shopping.
Here are a few tips for you if you want to start to experiment with gluten-free products:
Read the food labels
To ensure you are buying a gluten-free product, you need to make sure that on the label there isn’t any mention of wheat, rye, or barley. The ingredients list will note if the product might have been contaminated by gluten, so be aware of this.
Also, to be healthy, you want to check if it contains sugar or any artificial sugar. If it does contain sugar, keep looking, as you might find a product that contains no sugar.
If wheat, rye, and barley are out of the equation, we can still enjoy our carbohydrates and grain. If you love pasta and bread, you can still have them and find a gluten-free substitute, they are delicious. Also, you can experiment with new gluten-free grains you might never have tried before.
Below a list of gluten-free grains with some recipes, I made in collaboration with Soup Della Mamma with my favorite grains.
- Wild rice/brown rice (you can swap white rice for brown, wild, or basmati)
If you want to enjoy a gluten-free drink, the best choices are cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port, and liqueurs.
Be careful of sauces
Pasta sauces, gravies, stocks and condiments contain wheat flour (and therefore gluten), so ensure you read the label before buying it. If you make your own sauce, you can use cornflour, arrowroot, or potato starch as a gluten-free thickener.
Try these gluten-free foods
Feeling overwhelmed? To make a gluten-free transition easier, try adding more of the following foods to your diet:
Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, so experiment with them and make delicious meals. For vegetable ideas, please check Soup Della Mamma or check the Soup Della Mamma book, which includes many tasty soup and vegetable recipes.
Proteins too are gluten-free, you can have a variety of them, including into your diet:
- Meat (red or white)
- Legumes (chickpea, beans, peas, lentils)
You can have all the grains listed previously. The good news is that you don’t need to avoid pasta, bread, or pizza — try the gluten-free option and see if you like it.
I understand that change can feel scary, but you simply need to be aware of what you can swap. This will make it easier for you. If you notice any benefits in your body and mind, you will get the motivation to keep going. Your pizza can still be on the menu, don’t worry — we don’t want to follow a restrictive diet, but to have a healthy approach to some kinds of foods.
Knowledge is powerful in helping us make better food choices for ourselves and for our loved ones.
You can contact me via email and book a 1:1 Nutrition Health consultation if you want extra support. Check my service and approach to nutrition .