Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy…

When most people think about a gluten-free diet, they immediately think it’s for weight loss.  I myself lost 8 pounds when I first eliminated wheat products from my diet.  But, after about a year, I started to notice that the 8 pounds returned…in “new” places (Grrrrr!).  It all started when I got really hungry and needed something quick.  Needless to say, I ate potato chips and prepackaged gluten-free product (hence the 8 pounds around my middle).  Matter of fact, most people on a gluten-free diet gain an average of 22 pounds.  Probably because gluten-free products contain an average of 1/3 more calories and fat than regular products and their portion size is much smaller.

Thankfully, for flavors sake, gluten-free manufacturers are on a “mission”  to produce products that replace or at least come close to those familiar tastes of what sufferers used to eat.  I’ve met so many small gluten-free business owners that started because they were diagnosed with celiac and wanted to make a product that tasted like what they missed.  More fats and sugars usually help consumers get past new textures and unfamiliar flavors.

Gluten-free grains are not required to be fortified like standard bread products in America.  This add’s to problems for gluten intolerance sufferers who are already vitamin deficient.  Gluten protein causes the tiny villi that line the intestines to lay flat in celiac patients.  The villi are there to aid in nutrition absorption, so without healthy villi, celiac sufferers starve nutritionally from the inside out.  No healthy villi, no vitamin absorption.  This is what causes the multitude of symptoms for sufferers.  For example, vitamin B is necessary for red blood cells (to prevent anemia), healthy skin, hair and muscles.  That’s just one common vitamin deficiency, sadly there are lots more.

What the answer?  SUBSTITUTION!  Newly diagnosed suffers usually consume the three most recognizable ingredients;  rice, potato and corn.  This works great until they get used to what is safe to eat.  But, by switching to alternative grains, the protein, fiber, iron and vitamins go up…naturally.

Here’s some alternative grains to choose from…

  • Amaranth – Protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, B vitamins
  • Buckwheat – Protein, fiber, B6, niacin, thiamin, iron, zinc
  • Millet – Protein, fiber
  • Oats – Fiber, B vitamins
  • Quinoa – High quality protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins
  • Teff – Protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins
  • Wild rice – If enriched B vitamins
  • Wild rice – Protein, fiber, potassium, zinc

The key to staying healthy on a gluten-free diet is to incorporate a wide variety of grains, watch portion sizes of prepackaged gluten-free products and exercise.  Lord knows, I need to work on that 3rd one if I want to get these 8 pounds off!!!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk with a registered dietitian to help you on your way.

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