Celiac disease is the official name an autoimmune disease that damages the villi in the small intestine, which the body senses as an allergen and throws up an immune response, known as a gluten allergy. This interferes the the proper absorption of nutrients from food and causes severe reactions within the body for those that have a true gluten allergy. It can also lead to many serious health issues, such as cancer, neurological disorders, bone density problems, and more when left untreated or undiagnosed.
The Gist on Gluten
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and even some forms of oats because oats are grown within such close proximity to wheat fields, or even in the same fields directly depending on the producer. Some people tolerate gluten-free forms of oats, while others have a similar allergenic reaction to oats as they do wheat, barley, and rye. Though some people may not have a true, diagnosed allergy to gluten, (celiac disease), they may still show signs of intolerance to gluten-containing grains because glutinous grains are such allergenic foods. In fact, only one in 133 Americans actually have a diagnosed gluten allergy, which accounts for about one percent of the U.S. population.
Gluten-free diets have become a common trend these days, however you shouldn’t avoid glutinous grains if you don’t have any signs of intolerance. Many of these grains, no matter how allergenic they may be, do have a variety of vitamins and minerals when consumed in their true, whole form. Processed and refined forms of these grains, however, such as enriched wheat flour, highly processed breads, crackers, pizza crusts, and cookies, are not what true grains start out as, or what anyone should be consuming to take in necessary nutrients found in grains like B vitamins, magnesium, protein, zinc, potassium, and fiber.
These hybridized foods are also likely the reason so many people find they have a negative reaction to foods with gluten if they don’t have a diagnosed allergy. The processed forms of these grains can also cause potential allergenic responses within the body, even if there is no allery present. Sprouted grain bread is one great example of a form of gluten-containing grains that come with a host of health benefits. Flour-free, and additive-free, sprouted grains are a better example of a whole food, aside from eating the live, sprouted grains themselves. They’re nothing like the processed forms of grains we see on the market today in junk foods and high-carb, low-fiber foods.
Why Consuming Certain Nutrients is Important to Those on a Gluten-Free Diet
However, sometimes, even the most healthful sources of grains don’t agree with everyone, whether they have a gluten allergen or are just looking to eat a gluten-free diet. This makes consuming certain vitamins and minerals found in whole grains can be a bit daunting at first, but not impossible once you know what foods offer the best health benefits to help you reach your health goals efficiently.
When approaching a gluten-free diet, for whatever reasons, be careful not to fall prey to the many processed gluten-free foods at the store, such as cookies, breads, crackers, etc. While those foods may be a great option and replacement for comfort foods in a pinch, they’re not true, whole foods with real vitamins and minerals that your body can use effectively to provide you with optimal health. Nor are they any less refined that many of their gluten-containing counterparts.
Whether eating gluten or not, it’s best to eat real, whole, plant-based foods. Take a look at some of the foods below that offer the best vitamin and mineral content to supplement your diet with without the need for gluten containing grains.
1. Ancient Seed-Like Grains
Quinoa, millet, teff, chia, and amaranth are all tiny seeds that can be prepared just like grains can, whether raw, cooked, or sprouted. Many people enjoy chia pudding for breakfast, while others enjoy a hot bowl of quinoa in replacement to their morning oats or use it in a soup, such as this Toasted Quinoa Mexican Soup. These seeds are often referred to as ancient grains for their similar health benefits and their ability to be used in various culinary dishes anywhere grains are. They are all fantastic sources of fiber, all containing just as much or more than a cup of oats, along with plenty of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and all offer a complete amino acid profile, meaning they’re one of the best sources of protein you can consume.
2. Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are another incredible food to replace gluten grains, and even all grains in your diet if you choose to. Beets and sweet potatoes are especially helpful since they have high levels of nutrients that are very similar to those found in grains, yet the offer even more anti-inflammatory benefits. Lowering inflammation on a gluten-free diet is key, because this will reduce the pain associated with gluten allergens and make eating a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Root vegetables are also more hydrating than glutinous grains or even ancient grains are, not to mention a better source of Vitamins A and C that boost immune health.
3. Green Leafy Vegetables
Kale, spinach, chard, collard, mustard, and turnip greens all offer a large amount of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, protein, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. This is especially important since many of these nutrients are often depleted in those who have a gluten allergen. Vitamin A and C are also helpful for boosting immune health, which can promote healing to those with a gluten allergen or who have an intolerance to gluten where the immune system has been compromised.
Leafy greens are also especially anti-inflammatory, so give them a try in a filling green smoothie, a delicious, hearty salad or saute them to make a warming, hearty dinner. Craving comfort food? This Moroccan Potato Salad with Corn and Kale is sure to hit the spot! You can even use kale to make kale chips and use romaine lettuce and collard green leaves in place of bread for raw food sandwiches and wraps.
4. Super Seeds
Seeds like pumpkin, flax, hemp, chia, sunflower, and sesame seeds are all amazing sources of zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, and some of them even offer omega 3’s, such as hemp, flax, and chia. Omega 3’s help lower inflammation in the body and also ensure good heart health. All seeds are an excellent source of magnesium and fiber, with many of them containing more than grains that are often thought of as the top sources of fiber. You don’t need crackers, breads, and any other processed food that claims to be a healthy source of fiber, thanks to whole foods like ancient grains, root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, and seeds. Pumpkin and hemp seeds also come with an extra benefit since they boost high levels of chlorophyll, which helps to lower inflammation even further. Check out The Ultimate Seed Guide for even more information on seeds for your health.
5. All Fruits and Veggies
All fruits and veggies, aside from those mentioned here are excellent foods to consume on a gluten-free diet. Don’t reach for processed, dry crackers when you can enjoy some sweet, crunchy carrots or a ripe, juicy apple! Eating at least 5-6 servings of vegetables a day is a great way to provide your body with a constant source of anti-inflammatory power, just what you need on a gluten-free or even a regular diet. Aim to eat superfood fruits and veggies, which are those with the highest levels of antioxidants and fiber such as broccoli, avocados, asparagus, onions, garlic, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, red peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, pears, carrots, winter squash, cucumbers, and zucchini.
Asparagus and Carrot Indian Style Stir-Fry is an amazing grain-free, nutrient-filled recipe that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner and will satisfy you without the need for one bit of gluten at all! Or, for breakfast, how about enjoying some fruits and vegetables in The Best Green Smoothie EVER?
6. Beans and Legumes
Some people with compromised digestion might find beans and legumes hard to tolerate, however for those that can tolerate their high fiber and starch content, they are excellent sources of nutrients such as protein, potassium, fiber, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Some of the best include: black beans, adzuki beans, white beans, lentils, soybeans (edamame), green peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and kidney beans. Aim to get a variety of these into your diet however possible, and learn How to Deal with Digestive Issues on a Plant-Based Diet so you can slowly add these nutritious foods to your diet over time.
7. Whole Grain Rice Varieties
Brown rice, black rice, and wild rice are excellent sources of nutrients and offer anti-inflammatory benefits, along with a host of antioxidants. Wild rice especially helpful since it’s actually a grass, not a grain, and is one of the easiest types of rice to digest, which makes it pretty awesome for those with digestive struggles. Though people with a gluten allergy can consume white rice and other rices that aren’t a whole grain, consuming those that are whole grains will bring more nutritional benefits since they’re less refined foods. Learn How to Cook the Perfect Brown Rice and give this Scented and Crunchy Asian Black Rice Salad a try for something new and tasty!
Pack your grocery carts with these delicious foods and you’ll also save money in comparison to processed foods that don’t fill you up or nourish your body. This will also help prevent cross contamination which can occur in a variety of processed foods that may trigger a gluten allergen if foods are produced in the same facility as wheat and other glutinous grains.
You Won’t Miss Gluten If You Follow These Simple Rules, and if you’re looking for gluten-free recipes? Check out our delicious assortment in our OMGluten! section.
Image Source: Quinoa Salad with Creamy Balsamic Dressing