Dietitian Fast Facts: Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-free diets have become much more common in recent years, in part because of awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. It’s estimated that 1 in 100 persons in the U.S. is affected by celiac disease. So, what is gluten? It’s a set of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats (which don’t contain gluten themselves but are often processed in facilities that process other grains, too).

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten can’t be digested properly, leading to damage of the small intestine and other long-term health effects. The solution is straightforward (though not always easy): a gluten-free diet. Some people who follow a gluten-free diet do so in the hopes of losing weight, relieving headaches or even eradicating acne. However, there is no reliably shown link between these conditions and gluten.

Removing gluten from your diet can be straightforward, with one watch-out - fiber and B-vitamins are two nutrients that often accompany gluten in foods, and you should take care to get them in your diet or supplement as necessary.

Fortunately for those seeking a gluten-free diet, more and more gluten-free options are easy to find in-store. Here are just a few naturally gluten-free foods to look for:

  • Produce - Potatoes, corn, and fresh fruits and vegetables of all varieties.
  • Beans - Kidney, navy, black or red…beans are naturally gluten-free! Lentils and chickpeas are also gluten-free, as is most packaged hummus (though you should always check the label).
  • Dairy - Most dairy items are gluten-free, including milk, eggs and most cheeses. For items like ice cream and dairy desserts, always check the label – gluten-free options should be pretty easy to find.
  • Meat and Seafood - Beef, fish and poultry are all naturally gluten-free. Keep an eye out for anything that’s breaded or seasoned, since those additions might contain gluten.

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