Gluten-free diet: which foods to eat?

 Gluten-free diet: which foods to eat?


Also called gluten intolerance, celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease. Adopting dietary measures and a gluten-free diet can greatly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the troublesome symptoms of the disease.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found only in certain cereals, in particular, wheat and its derivatives (wheat, spelled), rye, and barley. This protein provides elasticity, softness, and resistance to the dough and is therefore widely used in bakeries, but also in the preparation of pasta, in a delicatessen, or in industrial prepared meals.

Why adopt a gluten-free diet?

Gluten has no nutritional value and can therefore be avoided without any risk of deficiency. Adopting a gluten-free diet, on the other hand, has no influence on the health of persons who do not have a gluten intolerance.

Although there is no drug treatment for this digestive disorder yet, eliminating gluten-containing foods is an effective form of treatment for celiac disease. Some alternative treatments are being evaluated in order to improve the management and monitoring of patients: gluten is very present in our diet, and implementing a gluten-free diet can be restrictive on a daily basis.

What foods should I eat on a gluten-free diet?

Foods with gluten-free versions

Bread, cookies, pastries, pasta… Yesterday reserved for specialized stores, gluten-free industrial products are now present even on supermarket shelves. But beware: just like low-sugar products, these new products can compensate for the lack of flavor and texture with more additives or chemicals. The best thing to do is to read labels carefully and cook raw foods rather than buy ready-to-eat meals.

Naturally gluten-free foods

The good news is that many foods are naturally gluten-free if they are not prepared in an industrial way:

  • all fruits and vegetables without exception ;
  • Meat, fish, seafood, and eggs are examples of animal 
  • dairy products, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and fissile.

Gluten-free starches

Although their use is less widespread in our diet, there are fortunately many naturally gluten-free carbohydrate sources

  • cereals: corn, rice, millet, flax, oats;
  • pseudo-cereals: quinoa, buckwheat, sesame;
  • tubers and roots: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, manioc, parsnips
  • legumes: chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, broad beans;
  • certain fruits: banana, chestnut, pumpkin.

What foods should be avoided?

In order to ensure the effectiveness of this change of diet, it is necessary to exclude all foods with gluten from the daily diet. But where is gluten found?

In some cereals

  • proteins, as are all wheat kinds (durum wheat, spelled, Kamut)
  • barley
  • Rye;
  • hybrid cereals such as triticale, a cross between wheat and rye.

Therefore, bread, pastries, pasta, and cookies (sweet and savory) made with wheat flour, as well as most breakfast cereals, should be replaced or avoided.

In ready meals

These cereals are very commonly used in the food industry, so it is best to eliminate :

  • breadcrumbs and breaded foods;
  • meat and fish loaves containing flour;
  • canned or bagged soups
  • desserts and sauces thickened with wheat flour, such as béchamel, custard, or soy sauce;
  • beers and some spirits.

In some unsuspected foods

Gluten is also often hidden in :

  • cold cuts ;
  • Powdered sugar;
  • ground peppers, spice mixtures, and certain seasonings, such as garlic powder;
  • some medications, specially coated capsules, and tablets.

In order to avoid gluten, it is important to read food labels carefully and to know how to recognize its different names.

How do I know if a dish contains gluten?

Gluten is nowadays clearly visible on the packaging, although the names may vary. Regular checks are carried out at food manufacturers by the health authorities to ensure that the facilities and the composition of the products comply with existing standards.

However, be careful: products labeled “gluten-free” can sometimes contain traces of gluten. Here are the different existing legal mentions and what they mean.

  • The “crossed out ear” logo: this logo is affixed to the packaging of certified gluten-free products. It is therefore safe for people suffering from celiac disease.
  • The “gluten-free” label: means that the product may contain a maximum of 20 mg/kg of residual gluten, an amount that is normally undetectable by the body. A product marked “gluten-free” can therefore be consumed by people suffering from celiac disease and those with a gluten allergy.
  • The label “Low gluten” or “Very low gluten”: is found on products that may contain gluten in small quantities, a maximum of 100 mg/kg. This gluten content is too high for people with celiac disease and people with allergies.
  • Naturally gluten-free”: This means that these foods may contain traces of gluten. They can still be eaten, but people with gluten intolerance or allergy should make sure that they do not contain any traces of gluten.

Fortunately, allergens are nowadays highlighted in the list of ingredients and can usually be identified quickly.

There are many gluten-free alternatives available in supermarkets today. However, in order to have a healthy and varied diet, it is preferable to diversify the places where you do your shopping and to frequent specialized grocery stores and boutiques.

How can I get help?

The amount of time it takes for the body to rid itself of gluten varies from person to person. Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, which speed up transit, to assist your body to eliminate ingested gluten.

The gluten-free diet remains the only effective measure against celiac disease, but it can be a burden for some people: it must be continued for life and can be a hindrance to social life, such as eating out with friends or in a restaurant. Adolescence is a particularly difficult time for children with gluten intolerance, who may have difficulty complying with the prescribed measures and experience frustration.

If you are gluten intolerant, the doctors at Livi recommend that you consult a nutrition specialist, such as a dietitian. This health professional will inform you about the rules to follow for your diet and can help you adapt your recipes according to your needs and lifestyle.

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