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What is a Gluten-Free Diet?

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten can also be found in medicine, vitamins, cosmetics, and lip balms.  

A gluten-free diet is used to treat an auto-immune disorder known as celiac disease. Some people have no signs of the disease but symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Abdominal cramping/bloating
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Energy loss
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility
  • Irritable bowel
  • Joint Pain
  • Mouth sores or cracks in the corners
  • Tooth enamel defects
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease by damaging or destroying the tiny finger-like structures lining the intestine known as villi. In a healthy person, villi allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. In a person that suffers from celiac disease, these villi do not allow the nutrients to be absorbed therefore resulting in malabsorption. Additionally, celiac disease is the result of an abnormal immune reaction to gluten and gluten containing products. Celiac disease is genetic and can run in families especially if other auto-immune disorders are present. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation reports that 1 in 10 people diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) will develop celiac disease. Celiac disease can develop at any age.

Following a gluten free diet can be frustrating and disappointing at times. Luckily food manufacturers have come a long way and are now increasing their offerings to accomodate those living on a gluten free diet.

Naturally Gluten Free Foods List - Allowed foods
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:

  • Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products
  • Rice (unseasoned)
  • Potato, yams

Grains and Starches - Grains and starches are an extremely important part of a healthy diet! Don't forget to include these:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn and cornmeal
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Hominy (corn)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa (recent studies show some brands may not be well tolerated so do your research!)
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

Foods to Avoid on a Gluten Free Diet

Always avoid
Avoid all food and drinks containing:

  • Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley..this includes beer!)
  • Rye
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Wheat
  • **Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. For this reason, doctors and dietitians generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free.

Avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:

  • Bulgur
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt

Avoid unless labeled "gluten-free"
In general, avoid the following foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:

  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies (Did you know Twizzlers contain gluten?)
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries (unless fried in a designated gluten free fryer)
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meat or seafood
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats (All Boars Head meats and cheeses are gluten free! Thumann's meats and cheeses are gluten free as well but not their hot dogs.)
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips (For example, Doritos Cool Ranch are gluten free but not the Nacho flavored. Read labels carefully!)
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups and soup bases
  • Vegetables in sauce

You should also be alert for other products that you eat or that could come in contact with your mouth that may contain gluten. These include:

  • Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others
  • Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
  • Play dough

Be Careful of Cross Contamination - Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten. It can happen during the manufacturing process, for example, if the same equipment is used to make a variety of products. Some food labels include a "may contain" statement if this is the case. But be aware that this type of statement is voluntary. You still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you're not sure whether a food contains gluten, don't buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it contains.

Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren't thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. Using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination, for example. Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.

It is strongly suggested that someone diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consult with a dietitian to ensure they are getting a balanced diet full of vital nutrients such as :

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Fiber
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

  • Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K
  • Folic Acid

It is very important to realize that even the smallest amount of gluten ingested may be damaging even without any symptoms present although many will experience abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Initially, following a gluten-free diet may be frustrating. But with time, patience and creativity, you'll find there are many foods that you already eat that are gluten-free and you will find substitutes for gluten-containing foods that you can enjoy. Gluten Free Delivers is a great way to shop as we cater to those living on a strictly gluten free diet. We take the guess work out of shopping and simplify the entire process by delivering nationwide direct to your door.