How To Cut Out Gluten From Your Diet
Next Health Staff | | 0 comments
These days, gluten has become something of a buzzword. People with and without celiac disease now pursue gluten-free diets for a variety of reasons, ranging from weight loss efforts to environmental effects to issues with bloating or constipation and more.
However, the only real reason to cut gluten from your diet is if it makes you feel bad and/or your body can’t digest it properly.
Fortunately, gluten-free diets have become more common and accessible than ever before. Now individuals with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or stomach aches after eating bread have lots of ways to reduce or remove gluten from their diets.
Not sure where to start, or want to make sure that your diet is a success without having to backtrack? Let’s break down how to cut gluten from your diet with a handful of smart strategies.
Before you can learn how to start eating gluten-free meals only, you need to know what gluten is and why you should avoid it. In a nutshell, gluten is a natural substance composed of several proteins. These proteins are oftentimes found in green products like wheat, rye, and barley.
Specifically, the two proteins are glutenin and gliadin. These gluten proteins give foods their elasticity or spongy textures. Ever wondered why bread stretches a little bit before breaking in your hand? It’s because of gluten. Gluten is also responsible for why bread looks the way it does and how it forms into different shapes when baked properly.
Normally, gluten isn’t harmful. The majority of humans can digest gluten without any issues. However, some people may have difficulty digesting gluten, similar to those who have difficulty digesting lactose: the primary protein found in dairy products.
For example, celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. It causes the body to recognize gluten as an invader or foreign substance. As a result, it acts out against gluten, sometimes destroying the healthy cells that line the walls of the small intestine. This is bad because the small intestine is partially responsible for helping your body absorb nutrients from food.
Alternatively, some individuals are affected by wheat allergies. While wheat allergies can be triggered by gluten and other proteins, the result is essentially the same: an autoimmune attack against the apparently foreign substance. The body's immune system creates immunoglobulin E antibodies, sometimes causing collateral damage to healthy tissues in the process.
Regardless, people who have gluten sensitivity or allergies often experience unpleasant symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Stomachaches or nausea
- Itchy rashes
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen tongue or lip tissue
As the world has become more aware of gluten sensitivity and conditions like celiac disease, gluten-free diets have become more common and well understood.
Why Get Rid of Gluten in Your Diet?
If you don’t have any gluten sensitivity or negative reaction to gluten-containing foods, you don’t need to cut gluten out of your diet. However, if eating a bread product made from whole wheat or similar ingredients gives you a stomachache, you might have mild sensitivity and may benefit from trying gluten-free products.
Alternatively, you may wish to get rid of gluten if you discover you have celiac disease or more intense versions of gluten sensitivity, sometimes called gluten intolerance. It's a good idea to get rid of gluten if it makes you feel bad! Removing stressful foods from your diet may also help you eliminate stress in your day-to-day life.
Luckily, easier than ever to maintain a healthy, delicious gluten-free diet.
Some individuals may wish to cut gluten out of their diets for other reasons. For example, if they are trying to get rid of unhealthy carbs, gluten might be removed from their diets as a side effect. However, note that gluten alone is not responsible for weight gain. It’s a compound often found in food products that can lead to weight gain if they are eaten too often.
So, how can you get rid of most or all of the gluten from your diet? Starting and maintaining a gluten-free diet means doing some research and following the strategies below.
Look for the Right Foods for a Gluten-Free Diet
Firstly, you’ll need to identify the right foods for a stellar, nutritionally complete gluten-free diet. You should also know how to avoid foods that are likely to have lots of gluten. These foods include:
- Cookies and crackers
- Many types of flour
- Pizza crust
- Soy sauce
- Malt liquor
- Salad dressings
As you can see, many foods are chock-full of gluten and that you should avoid at all costs. However, there are also plenty of gluten-free foods you can use to put together a tasty and healthy diet. Some of the best gluten-free foods to eat include:
- Rice of all varieties, including white rice or brown rice, the latter of which is a whole grain
- Most fruits and vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Fish and seafood
- Meat products
- Coconut products, like coconut milk or coconut flour
- Almonds and many types of nuts
- Dairy products
Of course, maintaining a gluten-free diet does take a little extra effort on your part. To make sure you don't accidentally eat any gluten, you should check the ingredient list for any purchased food products. Sometimes, gluten can be "sneaky" or hidden in a food product you may not expect it to be in.
The only way to ensure that gluten isn't present in a food product is to check for yourself. You'll also need to know how to identify the different names of gluten and gluten-related products (see more below).
Are There Gluten-Free Grains?
Yes! Although gluten is a core component for many grains, some grain products do not include gluten by default. Therefore, you can eat bread-related products made from these grains without worrying about upsetting your stomach.
Gluten-free grains include:
- Brown rice
Even though buckwheat sounds like wheat, it’s not related to “regular” wheat like you may think. In fact, it is naturally gluten-free. Thus, buckwheat and the above grain products can be enjoyed in your cereal or as the core ingredients in baked goods like cookies, bread, and much more.
That said, you do have to make sure that these grain products are not accidentally contaminated with gluten at any point. This is more common than you may think because many grain products or baked products are created and shared environments. Thus, the possibility of cross-contamination is always somewhat high.
Only certified gluten-free grain products, baked goods, and other foods are 100% good for your diet. Fortunately, determining whether a food product is gluten-free certified is quick and easy, thanks to dedicated labels.
Check for Gluten-Free Certification Labels
The next good step to cutting gluten out of your diet is to check for gluten-free certification labels on food packaging. For any product to legally claim to be gluten-free, it has to comply with the Food and Drug Administration or FDA gluten-free definition.
This definition is that the food product contains less than 20 ppm or ppm of gluten
On top of that, lots of third-party organizations and dietary companies have their own gluten-free certifications for different food products and manufacturers. The more certifications a product has, the better it generally is.
For example, the Gluten Intolerance Group offers a Certified Gluten-Free label for all food products that include 10 ppm or less gluten. Most certification labels require annual inspections and regular testing of food products before they're awarded.
If you want to be doubly sure you aren’t accidentally consuming gluten, look for a label each time. That way, if an ingredient on the back ingredient list confuses you, you can still be sure you are maintaining your gluten-free diet.
While the above list of foods is a great place to start, you should also try to prioritize fruits and vegetables if you want to stick with your gluten-free diet in the long term. Unfortunately, many basic gluten-free diets don't have as many micronutrients as they should. These key micronutrients include magnesium and folate, both of which people can get from gluten-based products.
However, many types of fresh produce can give you these nutrients and more. Some of the best types of produce to replace your gluten with include:
- Lettuce, which can be used in place of bread to make a lettuce wrap
- Spiralized veggie noodles instead of pasta noodles
- Salads instead of sandwiches
- Fresh fruit or roasted vegetables instead of crackers or cookies
- Roasted potatoes and butternut squash
- Sweet potato slices instead of bread
All of these vegetables and more provide your body with lots of micronutrients and fiber, which will also bolster your gut microbiome and digestive system.
However, note that many processed fruits and veggies, especially those frozen or canned, might use gluten as a thickening agent. Therefore, get used to checking food labels to ensure you don’t accidentally ingest gluten when you think you are eating healthy veggies.
Munch on Seeds and Nuts
You can also bolster your gluten-free diet and ensure it is nutritionally complete by eating more nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are always gluten-free, and they are fantastic sources of key nutrients like fiber, calcium, and zinc. Some of the best nuts to add to your diet as snacks include:
- Macadamia nuts
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
In some cases, you can add seeds or nuts to any gluten-free oats, giving yourself extra nutrients with your breakfast cereal. Alternatively, you can grind up your nuts and use them instead of wheat flour. The sky’s the limit.
Watch for Hidden Gluten
Gluten can be hidden in places you don't expect. For example, many people trying gluten-free diets for the first time accidentally consume gluten through beverages, especially those with alcohol.
Beer, for instance, is a very common source of gluten. You make beer by fermenting various gluten-based grains like barley or wheat. Of course, there are gluten-free beers on the market now, but you have to seek them out specifically. Other beverages with hidden gluten include coffee drinks or milkshakes and premade smoothies.
In addition, gluten can be hidden in ostensibly non-gluten-related products. For instance, many oats are contaminated with gluten since they are made in locations with barley and wheat. Therefore, some gluten particles can enter oats packages, such as those for oatmeal or breakfast cereal.
Those looking to cut out gluten should avoid flavored nuts and chips, creamy soups, energy bars, soy sauce, marinades, candy, and many other preserved or processed items. If you’re a vegetarian, try to avoid fake meats made with seitan, which is made from wheat gluten.
Unfortunately, companies aren’t required to list gluten as a food allergen. Therefore, it’s up to you to determine whether a food has gluten or is likely to have hidden gluten in some form or fashion.
Learn About Wheat Types
Gluten can be hidden partially due to the many names of this compound. Because there are lots of different types of wheat, newcomers to gluten-free diets can find it tough to know whether a food product has gluten or not.
Some other names for wheat varieties that probably contain gluten include:
- Kamut or Khorasan
- Graham flour
On top of this, some food additives can contain hidden wheat and, by proxy, gluten. Watch out for these ingredients when shopping for new foods:
- Modified food starch Caramel color
Again, the easiest way for many gluten-free dieters to make sure they avoid gluten is to check for gluten-free labels verified by the FDA.
Avoid Processed Foods
To cut out gluten even more completely, do your best to avoid eating processed foods. Processed foods are those made with preservatives to ensure they last for longer. Many food manufacturers add gluten to processed foods to boost their shelf life, mouthfeel, and texture.
Processed foods can include baked goods, French fries, lunch meat, and much more. These and other foods may have hidden gluten you don’t expect. Many processed foods aren’t very healthy since they have lots of extra fat, sugar, and sodium.
It’s much better to eat whole foods, ranging from eggs to nuts to seeds to vegetables to fruits and more. All of these foods are naturally gluten-free and aren’t processed by food manufacturers.
Cook at Home More Often
Lastly, make it a habit to cook at home more often. This is the best way to ensure that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body for many dieters. If you cook at home, you’re in charge of the ingredients, how long they cook, and what you mix with what.
Cooking at home takes a little extra time and effort, but it’s well worth it in terms of the digestive health you’ll see and the security and peace of mind you’ll feel knowing you aren’t eating gluten. Cooking meals at home allows you to eliminate gluten more directly, plus keep track of your weight and caloric intake.
As a final benefit, cooking at home means trying out new foods and seeing whether they agree with your digestive system. If they don’t, swap them out for a similar ingredient or meal and continue to refine your food options until you have a great spread of ingredients for gluten-free eating for years to come.
Order Your Wheat Sensitivity Test Today
Overall, many people could likely benefit from cutting gluten out of their diets. If you want to know if a gluten free diet is right for you, consider taking our Wheat Sensitivity At-Home Test. As a peptide-level test, our Wheat Sensitivity Test is the most robust panel available for the detection of intestinal permeability, gluten- and wheat-sensitivity, celiac disease, and gluten-mediated autoimmunity.
What is Gluten? | Celiac Disease Foundation
Gluten-Free Means What It Says | FDA.gov
Gluten: A Benefit or Harm to the Body? | Harvard Health