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Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

  By posted May 19th 2012
Weight Loss
Gluten-Free Diet: Healthy or Otherwise?

People with celiac disease are advised to follow a certain diet plan in order to improve their condition. This diet relies on the principle that you don’t have to eat gluten, a protein which is found in many types of grain such as wheat, rye and barley. But the recent buzz is that many dietitians have been advising this diet to their overweight clients. Today we take you through this diet plan in detail and understand whether it is okay to call gluten-free diet an effective weight-loss diet or not. Read on…

Understanding the concept of gluten intolerance
First of all, you must separate gluten intolerance into three distinct categories: Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and a Wheat Allergy. (Technically, a wheat allergy is not gluten intolerance). Gluten sensitivity in terms of Celiac Disease as the most common form of Gluten intolerance is a condition that damages the lining (villi) of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing specific nutrients in food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to an inflammatory reaction to eating gluten. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and oats. When people with gluten intolerance eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi. 

Components and foods suggested in a gluten free diet
Several grains and starch sources are key components of a gluten-free diet. The list includes corn, potatoes and rice, amaranth, arrowroot, millet and sorghum (jowar). Types of flours recommended are gram flour, buckwheat flour derived from chickpeas basically and various types of beans - soybean.

Who are gluten-intolerant and what dietary fibre or cereal options can they eat?
People who have a genetic history that is an existing family member with gluten intolereance are at greater risk for developing the disease. The disorder is most common in Caucasians and Europeans, now becoming quite widespread in Asians. It is generally seen that women are more affected by it than men. In terms of dietary fibre, one may enjoy fruits and vegetables and even fruit juices. Among cereal options it is advisable to go for cornmeal. 

Foods to avoid in a gluten-free diet plan

  • Wheat flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheatgrass
  • Barley, barley malt, barley flour
  • Rye, rye flour
  • Oats, oatmeal, oat flour
  • Flour, including instant, bread, cake, all-purpose flours. Flours made from safe grains (such as corn flour, millet flour, and rice flour) are safe.
  • Triticale
  • Semolina

 


Avoid foods containing the following unless the label indicates they are from a non-gluten source:

  • Modified food starch
  • Vegetable starch or vegetable protein
  • Gelatinized starch 
  • Natural flavorings
  • Soy sauce 
  • Snack foods, especially if seasoned or highly processed.
  • Soups, gravies, and thickened sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Pasta unless from gluten free source
  • Beer unless from gluten free source

 


Delicious foods to eat if you need a gluten-free diet plan

  • Delicious cereals based on rice, corn, cinnamon, honey nut flavors, chocolate flavors of cereals are available from gluten free sources
  • Egg dishes such as scrambled, fried, poached, omelette with veggies
  • Fresh fruit salads
  • Corn salads
  • Simple meat meals (seasoned with salt, pepper, and/or other herbs)
  • Fresh and cooked vegetables with potatoes
  • Rice dishes


Dietitian’s take on gluten-free diet

Basically a gluten free diet limits our choices to a great extent as per variety of food intake. If not careful, it leaves a person suffering from many nutritional deficiencies. Thus it is important to plan a gluten free diet in such a way that the maximum number of variety enters one's menu keeping in mind to stick to gluten free options only. One must make sure to have a lot of fruits and salads as these keep the intestines healthy and functioning. And do remember that even after following such a diet one can live a healthy and carefree life and enjoy it to the fullest.

With expert inputs from Dr. Simran Saini, Weight Loss Consultant at Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images  

 

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