What is Gluten? Foods to Avoid, Gluten Free Alternatives
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). If you have just been told by a doctor that you can no longer consume gluten you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings toward the diagnosis. Like how bad can it be if I just eat gluten once a week and suffer through a food hangover for a few days. Hey, if giving yourself a weekly beat down is your thing then go ahead and down that next beer with your friends or enjoy some gluten ridden mall food with your kids, but you should first understand how it ultimately destroys you in the end.
Continuing to regularly consume gluten will result in long-term damage to your intestinal lining. In other words, your intestinal wall becomes leaky and weakens which allows antigens to move into your bloodstream.
What’s an antigen? In a nutshell, it’s a foreign substance, in our case gluten, that induces an immune response in the body. This causes the body to produce more antibodies to fight the antigens. Blood work will test for the elevated presence of these antibodies. Consistent exposure leads to inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, scarring, and impaired digestion. Every time you consume gluten it’s like you’re taking a chainsaw to the precious intestinal villi that help your body absorb all those disease fighting nutrients. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Studies prove that ignoring your symptoms will make them worse or lead to other diseases. There has been research proving that gluten consumption leads to certain endocrine disorders or gluten intolerance symptoms can mimic other autoimmune disorders.
So now you know, if you didn’t already, gluten is evil. So now what? Time to learn what to avoid and what can be eaten. This part is essential to your recovery. Below is a list of grains with gluten and because I’m awesome sauce you will also find a side-by-side comparison chart after that.
The following grains and their derivatives are sources of gluten: Avoid like the plague.
- farro or emmer
- KAMUT® khorasan wheat
- einkorn wheatVarieties and derivatives of wheat such as:
- Malt in various forms including: malted barley flour, malted milk or milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Wheat Starch that has not been processed to remove the presence of gluten to below 20ppm and adhere to the FDA Labeling Law.
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Wheat Germ, wheat bran
- (not grain related, but also beware of supplements, skin products, sauces, seasonings with anti-caking agents, and toys like play-doh)
Okay, so now we know the grains in which gluten resides. Let’s take a moment to look over the comparison chart below. The column on the left lists foods where you can be sure to find a gut-wrenching dose of gluten. The column on our right shows as many gluten free products I could think of. Most of these I use on a weekly basis, some better than others of course. I created this to show you that even though you have to say goodbye to gluten so many gluten free alternatives are at your disposal. No promises on how good they are. Good taste is in the mouth of the beholder…or something like that. Please feel free to ask questions or leave suggestions on other brands that didn’t make it on the list. I will continue to add new finds to the bottom of this post. Always check each product before buying to make sure it is really gluten free. I have noticed that sometimes a box will say gluten free on the front, but on the back it says that it is still produced in the same facility as their wheat based products. Cross contamination can be a serious issue for most people with gluten intolerance.
comparison chart .pdf download for better viewing
Many grocery store chains are becoming more accommodating by offering more and more gluten free alternatives. Walmart now offers their own line of gluten free products. Most Walmarts have the gluten free food in it’s own section which is nice, but take your time to look around other aisles. Barilla and Harvestland gluten free pasta is usually found right next to all the other regular pasta. Also, I have found really awesome gluten free seasoned bread crumbs by 4C in the baking section of Walmart. Take some time to look at every grocery store chain in your area to really compare prices before going to the internet. You might be surprised what you find. For example, Schnucks, a grocery chain in the Midwest has it’s own line of gluten free baking mixes. Their cornbread is flipping amazing. Also check out places you can get products in bulk like Sam’s Club or cheaper stores like Aldi. Neighborhood coops and health food stores may also carry some unique food items you can’t find at the chains. You get my drift. It’s going to take some time and research. Print out that chart and take it to the stores with you.
If you can’t find stuff in stores search online. Amazon has an awesome selection of gluten free baked goods, grains, cereal, crackers, oatmeal, etc. I buy My Grandpa’s Farm, King Arthur, and Moon Rabbit Foods gluten free flours and baking mixes off Amazon. Their baking mixes have very convincing textures and flavors which leave you saying, “woah, this is gluten free?”
-In the last year Cherrios released 5 different flavors of gluten free cereal
–Freedom Foods, an Australian, health conscious food company that’s been in business since 1990 just started importing gluten free, nut free, dairy free cereals and granola bars to US stores over the last 2 years. I’ve only tried Tropicos cereal, which tastes like a mild version of fruit loops. Very good.
Cranney A, Zarkadas M, Graham I, Butzner D, Rashid M, Warren R, Molloy M, Case S, Burrows V, Switzer C., Canadian Celiac Health Survey. Digestive Diseases & Sciences April 2007;52(4):1087-1095