Go gluten-free to stay fit

Go gluten-free to stay fit

Going gluten free is the latest trend among fitness fanatics and health conscious people. Is this trend just another food fad? Definitely not, if you have gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease. However, for others who wish to cut gluten out of their diet, it is important to understand the subject.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder, in which the consumption of gluten can damage the small intestine. People who suffer from coeliac disease must avoid having gluten, as the attack within the small intestine can restrict the absorption of nutrients in the body, causing a decline in health.

Unlike those suffering from coeliac disease, people with gluten sensitivity do not undergo damage to small intestine, but they do suffer from headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, dizziness and bloating after consuming products containing gluten. To maintain good health they should remove gluten from their diet.

However, you need to take special care to meet all nutritional parameters when on a gluten-free diet.

A gluten-free diet is completely devoid of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals like wheat, barley, rye and oats. A gluten-free diet is also free of foods with lactose including milk and milk products, apart from curds and buttermilk, as it is associated with gluten sensitivity.

Here are some of the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet:

Pros

Cutting gluten out of the diet can lead to a healthier life for people with coeliac disease.
A gluten-free diet is good for those who experience chronic stomach aches after consuming foods that contain gluten.

Eliminating gluten from your diet will also lessen the intake of high-calorie carbs, which make people feel inactive and lazy.

Replacing breads and pastas with foods likefruits and vegetables, which are gluten-free, will lead to weight loss.

Going gluten-free also means eating fewer packed and processed foods.

Cons

For runners, pre-race meals generally comprise gluten-rich foods. Gluten-free foods do not provide the same performance results for many athletes.

Most of the foods that contain gluten are also a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin B. Ensure that you include natural foods as opposed to substitute food options.

Cutting down on a particular type of food or reducing carbs suddenly, can pose a negative effect on the body and may lead to an imbalance in nutrient intake.

Gluten-free food substitutes are typically not iron fortified, so there is a risk of suffering from anaemia. It is essential to find ways to replace the lost iron.

Here are some easy ways to maintain a gluten-free diet:

Develop a positive attitude and think of all the foods that you can eat, instead of dwelling on those which are no longer suitable.

Include pulses, lentils, nuts and green vegetables in your diet to ensure a good supply of iron in the body.

Avoid having tea during meals. Replace tea with fruit juices that are rich in vitamin C to facilitate the absorption of nutrients. Orange or lemon juice are good options.

While buying a food product, check the ingredient list for hidden forms of gluten. Simple words like malted barley and wheat solids are clues to avoid the product.

If you are thinking of switching to a gluten-free diet, read on to know the complete list of foods that you can consume...

Cereals: You can include arrowroot, corn, rice, soya, cornflakes, tapioca, sago and millets like ragi, jowar and maize.

Milk products: Include curds, yogurt and buttermilk in your diet, and avoid consuming milk and milk products like cheese, cream, butter, paneer and ice cream.

Meat & eggs: It is best to avoid any preparation cooked in batter, bread crumbs, flour or sauce. Stay away from sausages, burgers, and fish fingers, tinned and frozen meat.

Vegetables & fruits: Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Tinned fruit in natural juices or syrups can also be consumed as these are gluten-free. However, make sure to avoid tinned vegetables in sauce or mayonnaise.

Desserts & confectionery: What’s a meal without a dessert? Going gluten-free doesn’t mean cutting down on all things sweet. You can include homemade pudding with permitted ingredients made of custard, rice kheer or jelly. But avoid having bread pudding, pancakes, pies, soufflés, tarts and chocolates.

Beverages: People on a gluten-free diet can consume black coffee, black tea or green tea, but avoid malted drinks and drinking chocolate.

(The author is an executive dietician at Columbia Asia Referral Hospital.)

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