Low Gluten or No Gluten?
Today, about three million Americans are gluten free, 72 per cent of whom are classified as PWAGs: people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. Aside from celiac disease, there are other conditions impacted by gluten in the diet–rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and other autoimmune disorders.
Gluten is a mixture of two different proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, rye, and barley. For those with sensitivities, gluten causes inflammation and damage in the intestinal tracts and other parts of the body. One in 133 people have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the gut lining when gluten is ingested, destroying the integrity of the digestive tract.
New information about gluten suggests that going entirely gluten free, unless you have celiac disease, may not be necessary. When healthy PWAGs eat a low-gluten and fiber-rich diet compared with a high-gluten diet, they experience less intestinal discomfort including less bloating. In comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fiber-rich diet induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria in our bodies.
Limiting gluten in your diet will increase the nutritional quality of your food choices. The most common gluten-containing foods in our diets are: pasta, crackers, pretzels, cookies, pastries, cakes, and other high-sugar items. These foods do provide carbohydrates—an ever-important nutrient for exercise—but that’s about it. These foods are low in antioxidants, minerals, protein and fiber. They are often empty-calorie foods with unnecessary and unhealthy added fats, sugar, salt and preservatives.
Eating a low-gluten diet is easy, because there are plenty of gluten-free, but carbohydrate-rich, foods you can incorporate into your diet. These include:
- Beans, lentils, and hummus
- Brown rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat (and breads, pastas and crackers made from these grains)
- Sweet potatoes, winter squash and corn
A diet full of these nutrient dense foods promotes muscle building, lean body composition, a strong immune system and stable blood sugar levels.
Cooking Light magazine has more information about gluten in your diet as well as delicious and easy recipes for a low-gluten lifestyle.