What is Gluten and Why Do People Worry About it?
While you might think that gluten is associated with carbohydrates because it is found in many carbohydrate-rich foods, gluten is actually a protein. It is typically found in foods that have ingredients such as wheat, rye, durum, semolina, barley, and more. It is a source of concern for people who experience gluten intolerance or have Celiac disease, which simply means they cannot process the gluten in their bodies. It can make people very sick and it can cause a range of health problems for people that can take months to regulate.
In order to know what foods to avoid when you have a gluten intolerance it helps to begin with asking “what is gluten free” to work out what is safe to include in your diet. Put simply you should avoid eating foods with gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, these ingredients aren’t always easy to spot.
Going Gluten Free
A gluten free diet is the only known way to really combat a gluten intolerance. It can be a big pill to swallow for some, but for others, adopting a gluten free diet means they’ll start to feel better almost immediately. If you’re brand new to the gluten free world, you can work with a naturopathic healthcare team, and can begin to identify why kinds of foods you can eat, and what kinds of foods you should avoid. But be warned: some foods contain gluten and you might not realize it until it’s too late.
I find that gluten intolerance is fairly easy to handle when I cook food myself. I’ve got into the habit of checking food labels and am pretty much confident that everything in my kitchen is safe for me to eat on a gluten free diet. The problems start when I’m invited out to dinner, or to pop over to a friend’s house. Gluten intolerance shouldn’t stop my social life so of course I still spend time eating with family and friends, but I often pay the price (and not just the price of the bar tab).
Here are six foods to avoid when you have been diagnosed as being gluten intolerant.
You’ll have to watch your intake of condiments when you are learning to love your gluten free diet, especially if you decide to eat outside the home. It can be difficult to learn which foods you can and can’t eat, but be weary of condiments on certain foods such as ketchup, mustard, salad dressing and mayonnaise. Ask your server if eating out – though they may not know – or if you have the bottles in front of you, look for warnings of containing wheat, barley or malt (as in malt vinegar – see below). For better health, try to limit the amount of sauce you put on any meal you enjoy, whether at home or at a restaurant.
Similar to condiments, gravy contains a certain level of gluten that can irritate or upset someone’s condition quite easily. Gravy is normally thickened with a flour-based slurry. If you are not sure of what kind of gravy is being offered, or if you have not made it yourself, avoid eating it so your gluten intolerance doesn’t become triggered. And also note that flour isn’t the only enemy to your gluten free diet, barley is also used frequently as a flavouring ingredient.
Full of spice and life, soy sauce can also do a number on someone who has a gluten intolerance. Some soy sauces don’t contain gluten, but it’s always best to check before you ingest anything while being cautious. Consider this when eating as restaurants as well. Try to stick to lean meats and grilled or steamed vegetables with no sauces. When going to restaurants where you want soy sauce (like a sushi restaurant), I normally bring my own small bottle of soy sauce that I know is gluten free. You can also try alternatives like Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is also a good substitute that doesn’t contain wheat.
Many people think that gluten intolerance impacts your ability to eat bread products and noodles, so you’re probably thinking the noodles are the culprit here; it’s actually the chicken broth used in the soups that can irritate someone’s gluten symptoms. Even a simple tomato soup may have ‘wheat flour’ listed as an ingredient. Gluten-containing ingredients are mostly used as a thickening agent in soup, but also watch out for soups with added pasta, or croutons. So be weary of eating soups that are made with chicken broth that isn’t labelled ‘gluten free’.
Veggie burgers can be tricky because you assume they are made of just vegetables. Obviously, upon closer inspection, you’ll find there are many veggie burgers that contain filler products that contain gluten, like simple bread crumbs that hold the burger together. However, there are a number of veggie burgers on the market that are labelled as gluten free, so watch for those the next time you are heading out for some groceries.
You can’t have fish and chips without vinegar, it’s basically the law. But unfortunately the ‘malt’ in malt vinegar contains barley, and isn’t suitable for a gluten-free diet. Most other types of vinegar are completely fine though, so Friday nights haven’t been ruined.
Overall, eating gluten free is a risk when eating out. Unless you know the restaurant and how it prepares food, always ask which meals are gluten free/friendly and get your server to label your order as having a gluten allergy so that the kitchen staff know as well!
When eating in, always check the labels on your food and confirm none of the hidden sources of gluten (ie: malt) are in it. Go with the labelled ‘gluten free’ products when you need something that could contain gluten and stay safe in your eating!
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