Gluten-free diets are on the rise. It's not just a trendy way to lose weight, although many assume it is. To those suffering from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it is crucial part of life.
Recently, our family had the opportunity to change our eating habits. My daughter could easily say yes to most of the symptoms on the celiac disease checklist. In many ways for a child or teen, getting rid of gluten seems like the end of the world. No more bread, noodles or cupcakes!
What has really happened is that we get to experience an entirely new world of cooking. For my daughter, it's become a way to make her school lunch an adventure, filling newly-acquired bento boxes with rice crackers, cheese, fresh veggies and fruit.
What could have been "the end of the world" became something positive and healthy.
But, just what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This basically means if you are unable to eat gluten, you'll have to dump most bread, pasta and even beer.
For those sensitive to gluten, eating can cause havoc on your digestive system. When gluten enters your body, your immune system decides it just doesn't belong - so antibodies attack. This unfortunately is also an attack on your body, destroying the villi in your small intestine.
Villi in the small intestine are what help your body absorb nutrients. If they are damaged, your body loses nutrients; the gluten as well as the toxins in your system can pass through the walls of your intestine and into your bloodstream.
For more information, and definitely more science, check out the National Foundation for Celiac Disease website.
What can you eat if you can't eat gluten?
Well, you can't eat bread, cookies, biscuits or pasta made from wheat anymore, but there are plenty replacements for these foods.
Many food manufacturers have begun labeling whether their products are gluten free. Some even say if they have been produced in a facility where they might have come in contact with wheat or other allergens.
But those of you who still doubt, the list of what you CAN eat is pretty dynamic.
• Fruits and Vegetables
• Meats and Fish
• Milk and Dairy Products
• Breads, Snacks, Cereals and Pastas: Need to be specifically labeled "gluten-free."
• Prepared Foods
• Baking Mixes and Supplies: Need to be specifically labeled "gluten-free."
• Condiments, Sauces and Spices: Need to be specifically labeled "gluten-free."
• Coffee, Tea, Soda, Fruit Drinks
• Alcohol: You'll need to buy gluten-free beer, but wine is gluten-free in most cases
For a longer list, replacements and more visit the USDA website for celiac disease.
It's good to remember in all these cases, however, to be aware, read labels and if you are unsure, do more research before purchasing. Many prepared foods and sauces can sometimes hide gluten in some way, so look for gluten-free labeling.
So don't get down about what you are having to give up. Becoming gluten-free is a perfect reason to get more vegetables in your life, try out new flavors and exotic cuisines.
Also, I'll be featuring weekly recipes as I travel into this new territory in Twinkle's Kitchen, so make sure to check back for more.
So instead of looking on the downside and what you are loosing, think of it as a challenge and an opportunity for an exciting food adventure.
More sites to find good, gluten-free recipes, experiences and information:
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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