Gluten free has been all the rage for the past decade as it has been touted as a healthier way to eat. While there is literature to support this, there is also plenty of research still praising the amazing fibrous benefits of whole grains such as barley, which is rich in fiber, selenium, B vitamins, and other beneficial nutrients.
I am not here to root for-or-against gluten. The reality is that we are all different and many will benefit from a gluten free diet while others will do better with the integration of whole grains.
Those who NEED to follow a gluten free diet are those with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains like wheat, barley, or rye. May is celiac disease awareness month so it seemed fitting to speak for those who are living this lifestyle.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is diagnosed through diagnostic tests such as blood, genetic, and/or biopsies. It can trigger a person to get very sick when gluten is consumed because of the damage it causes to the intestinal lining. Common symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, weight loss, and fatigue. It can lead to anemia, acid reflux, and mouth sores. People with celiac disease have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food properly due to the damage in the intestines. Many people who have celiac disease also have lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities as well. Because celiac disease is an inflammatory auto-immune condition, people with any auto-immune disease should follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, in more ways than just food intake.
Many people will identify that consuming gluten doesn’t make them feel well and this can be attributed to a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is not the same as celiac disease. A person with food sensitivities may experience delayed, mild reactions to certain foods and therefore may choose to avoid those foods for gut health integrity. However, a person with celiac disease will experience much more severe symptoms and even cross contamination can cause a person to get sick. Regarding non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is some conflicting evidence to the accuracy of food sensitivity testing. If a person is suspicious that gluten is triggering inflammation and other symptoms, the best test is to do a trial elimination, and a slow reintroduction to assess.
For a person with true celiac disease, there are more options than ever before in terms of food choice due to the growing amount of people being diagnosed. It is not hard to see that gluten free products are everywhere these days. Even restaurants are providing separate gluten free menus to meet the need. While this is wonderful, it is also important to recognize that products labeled ‘gluten free,’ does not necessarily mean healthy. Gluten free products may still be processed foods, loaded with sugar, salt, and fat which can lead to other health complications. It is best to lean towards whole naturally gluten free foods most of the time. This means choosing lean proteins, healthy omega 3 fats, and a balance of non-starchy and starchy fibrous vegetables. This is an ideal way to eat whether a person has a celiac diagnosis or not. Whole foods are always the way to go. See below for a delicious naturally gluten free, nutrient dense recipe to be enjoyed by people with celiac disease, and without.
Cleaned Up Chicken Salad
10 ingredients | 30 minutes | 4 servings
- 2 Chicken Breast (baked)
- 2 stalks Celery (diced)
- 1/2 cup Grapes (halved)
- 4 cups Kale Leaves (finely sliced into ribbons)
- 1/3 cup Slivered Almonds
- 1 tbsp Hemp Seeds
- 2 tbsps Tahini
- 2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 Lemon (juiced)
- Pinch of Sea Salt & Black Pepper (to taste)
- Shred your oven-baked chicken breasts using a cheese grater and place in bowl.
- Add celery, grapes, hemp seeds, slivered almonds, and kale to bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine lemon juice, tahini, and olive oil. Stir well.
- Add dressing to the bowl with chicken and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!