A gluten-free diet is crucial for someone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but you may want to try a gluten-free diet once a week for other health benefits. As you walk through the grocery store, you probably notice the gluten-free labels that now glisten the covers of many foods. These are helpful for people who have celiac disease which is an inability to process gluten correctly and often leads to intestinal damage. Other people have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity and may respond with symptoms such as stomach bloating or cramping, loose stools, headaches or bone and joint pain. Even if you do not have a gluten intolerance, a gluten-free diet is also useful for people suffering from inflammation. For example, those with fibromyalgia often find a decrease in pain when they follow a gluten-free diet.
If you are trying to decide if a gluten-free Friday is for you, keep in mind the following:
- Gluten is not only in bread. Gluten can also be found in cereals, cookies, soy sauce, salad dressings, vitamins, toothpastes and lotions. If you are new to a gluten-free diet, begin with eliminating the easy to spot gluten sources such as breads, pastas and cereals and center your meals around vegetables. Aim to fill your plate with vegetables or a salad and then add small portions of lean meats such as chicken and fish for a fulfilling gluten-free meal.
- Make fiber substitutions. Whole grains from breads and pastas provide the body with fiber, so when you eliminate these, choose gluten-free substitutions. For instance, rice and quinoa make delicious sides to your meals. You can easily add vegetables to rice or quinoa for a gluten-free stir-fry- just remember to avoid the soy sauce. Instead, tamari sauce offers a simple gluten-free flavor option.
- Avoid beer. Beer is often made from wheat or barley and both of these contain gluten. Most wine is gluten-free, but some producers use a gluten paste to seal the bottle. Always read labels if you are seeking a strict gluten-free beverage.
- Eat a variety of natural foods. Choosing a gluten-free diet does not have to be overwhelming or boring. All fruits, vegetables and meats are gluten free so you can combine these for a variety of meals. For example, eggs and fruit for breakfast are tasty and fast to make. A small chicken salad for lunch with gluten-free salad dressing is filling for the afternoon. Gluten-free dinners include chicken kabobs, fish, open-faced burgers (without the bun), or a vegetable stir-fry.
A gluten-free diet helps to lower your cholesterol and encourages the consumption of more fruits and vegetables which can improve your intake of vitamins and minerals. You may also experience less bloating and stomach discomfort. In addition, you may feel an energy increase after dinner instead of wanting to curl up on the couch and fall asleep. Even though a gluten-free diet has many benefits, always check with your doctor before changing your eating habits so that you are able to maintain and improve your health.