Gluten is a mixture of several proteins found in the seeds of various grains like wheat, barley, rye, and spelt, but there are several other foods that have it.
Its name is derived from the Latin word for “glue” because it structures or binds flour when mixed with water, giving it a sticky consistency.
This is so for baked products like breads, pasta, and others, giving them a chewy and satisfying texture.
Although it is difficult to avoid gluten, you can find several stores, especially natural food stores, with gluten-free food sections where they display foods that don’t have the protein.
In fact, statistics from a study by Mayo Clinic revealed that the number of Americans who have gone gluten-free has tripled since 2009, to some 3.1 million.
This is for the sake of people who feel uncomfortable after eating foods with gluten, but you still need to check the nutrition labels for any additives that contain it. Watch for terms like malt and hydrolyzed vegetable protein on food labels.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, most grain products and bread would be forbidden, so you need to ensure you get ample vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
You can also take supplements that will compensate for the lack of such nutrients where foods with gluten are eliminated.
This is because they may get serious intestinal inflammation after eating it; but it’s possible to have a healthy, nutritious and gluten-free diet.
We’ve rounded up a list of the gluten-free foods that are known for their nutritious properties so you can know what to add to your diet if you fall in this category.
1. Lean proteins
Generally, fresh meat and fish are safe on the gluten-free diet, so lean fresh cuts of beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken and fish from your local butcher or grocery store are okay.
However, you need to be cautious of poultry and meats with added ingredients that make them into ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook dishes.
Most of these aren’t safe to consume on a gluten-free diet because the store may be using unsafe breadcrumbs or sauces.
Furthermore, some turkeys or chickens may include a liquid or broth that’s meant to plump it up, and this may or may not be safe.
Check the label for any information on the presence of such broth, or contact the manufacturer to check if it has gluten or not.
The best thing to do is pick lean meats that aren’t packed with additional liquid or broth, and avoid choosing meats that don’t have plastic wrap covering them while on display.
Most of the display cases may contain food with gluten ingredients, like bread crumbs.
2. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds have several benefits for the mind and heart, and are a good choice for a gluten-free diet.
These are used in various recipes. You can sprinkle these on foods, ground into protein powder and make into milk, or even press for oil.
They don’t contain THC, the active drug contained in the hemp leaf, but are loaded with protein, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and essential nutrients for a healthy diet.
Most Hemp seed products contain all essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source like fish, chicken or beef.
They also contain a rich source of several essential minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Gluten-free diets need a lot of fiber, and whole hemp seeds comprise 10 to 15 percent of it, which improves bowel function and helps prevent constipation.
3. Fruits and vegetables
If you love fresh veggies and fruits, you’ll be happy to know that most, if not all, of them are gluten-free, with a few exceptions. We know what they bring to table in terms of nutrition.
You can therefore indulge with fruits, berries, veggies and greens from your local grocery store. However, be cautious with processed fruit sold in jars that could contain other ingredients that may be suspect.
Some stores even sell cut-up fruit packed in containers, so before purchasing, check where the fruit is cut up as the risk of cross-contamination is likely especially where deli counters are used.
Some fresh fruits and veggies may cause symptoms especially if you’re sensitive to trace gluten, and this is due to gluten cross-contamination from the farm itself.
4. Whole grains
Whole grains like sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and tapioca are gluten-free and rich in several nutrients.
Sorghum is rich in iron and fiber, while buckwheat, which is popular in hot or cold cereals, can be used as a grain substitute, and is gluten-free. It also contains the fiber you need as a supplement in a gluten-free diet.
Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava plant root that is fat and protein-free, with some fiber.
Quinoa recipes are very popular. They are rich in iron, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, with plenty of calcium, fiber, and magnesium.
You can also try millet, teff, and different types of corn and rice.
5. Beans, peas, and lentils
Legumes are another great choice in your gluten-free diet and you can cook up hundreds of great gluten-free recipes with beans, peas, or lentils for appetizing gluten-free vegetarian dishes.
Lentils and kidney beans are rich in protein, but you need to check for possible gluten cross-contamination in beans as most farmers grow them in rotation with gluten grains. They also use similar equipment when harvesting gluten grains and beans together.
However, there are safe gluten-free options and all three make incredibly versatile food even when you’re not following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, it may seem like a daunting task following through with it especially if you just learned that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
This means you have to overhaul your pantry quickly. Similarly, it has a steep learning curve, but over time it becomes easier as you’ll know what to pick or drop.
Today, manufacturers label gluten-free products prominently, while grocery stores use special tags to call out safe products on their shelves. With this list and the labels at the store, you can make an easy transition into the gluten-free life.
Jenny Travens -
Jenny Travens is a creative writer who has many passions and interests. Health and wellness is one area where she likes to contribute as much as she can. She has long been associated with Superfoodsliving. You can also find her on Twitter.