While about 1% of the population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, more than 10% of adults now report suffering from a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and avoid gluten to address their symptoms. These individuals often feel better when avoiding gluten, but with the large amount of gluten-free products available, it can be easy to mistake “gluten free” for “healthy”.
Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include: bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea/constipation, nausea, reflux, headache, brain fog, anxiety, joint pain and skin rashes. Often, these symptoms occur hours to days after ingestion and therefore it can be difficult to make the association with the food eaten. The best way to determine if gluten is affecting you is to try an elimination diet for a minimum of 2 weeks. If symptoms disappear, and then reoccur when gluten is reintroduced, that’s a good indication you should avoid gluten in your diet.
We can’t just look to the marketing label “gluten free” as a green light to include the product in our healthy diet since many of these products are just as processed as their gluten-containing counterparts. In addition, many gluten free formulations are more expensive. So, if you want a gluten free diet, that is also healthy and affordable, follow these tips the next time you are out food shopping...
Focus on Foods That Are Naturally Gluten Free
This is my top recommendation as there are so many fantastic and delicious foods that never contained gluten to begin with! Vegetables and fruits, organic/antibiotic free poultry, and wild fish to name a few. There are many resources available to help you create full gluten free meal plans without having to buy any specialty gluten free products.
Buy Produce In Season
Buying local produce in season has multiple benefits. Since these foods do not have high transport costs to reach the end user, they are both less expensive and have a lower environmental impact. The short distance from farm to table also allows the produce to be picked ripe and avoid prolonged storage that reduces nutrient levels (vitamin C levels are particularly affected by this). Attending your community’s weekly farmers market, or ordering from a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) provider are great ways to get local produce at a reasonable price.
Avoid Packaged Goods with Unrecognizable Ingredients
It’s a great idea to become one of those people that reads labels. This arms you with the knowledge of what you’re eating and also helps you avoid accidental exposure to gluten. If there are ingredients on the label that you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, I suggest you put the product back on the shelf! Here are a few common products to watch out for when trying to avoid gluten...
Foods that often contain gluten
Brown rice syrup
Grains containing gluten
Bonnie Flemington is a passionate nutrition consultant and educator, and student at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Bonnie coaches clients on nutritional strategies for disease prevention and weight loss, and has motivated numerous others through corporate and educational workshops. She is committed to empowering people with knowledge to help them take control of their health.
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