Gluten free diets are all the rage, and as a result the gluten free food business has become a billion dollar industry. Millions around the world have begun to put down their gluten-containing cookies for gluten-free one’s.
So, the big question remains, do you really get more nutritional benefit, and will it save you calories?
The simple answer is no to both questions – there are often fewer nutrients in gluten free processed foods and in most cases, many more calories. Additionally, many people rely on gluten-containing processed foods for certain nutrients that are not added to gluten free foods– so when switching over to a gluten free diet it’s key to pay attention to where you’re getting your nutrients from.
So hold up,, before you hang up your gluten-containing diet (especially one with a good amount of processed foods) you might want to read further…
A few key nutrients that you may be missing:
Thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) in addition to folate are often found in gluten-containing breads, cereals and flowers. B vitamins play an important role in energy metabolism, nerve conduction, red blood cell production, and in the case of folate, helps with neural tube formation in a young fetus.
Iron, also fortified into many gluten-containing foods plays an important role in our bodies as it helps in the production of red blood cells and also functions to help bring oxygen to our tissues. Often, those with newly diagnosed celiac disease may have anemia due to the high rate of inflammation in their small intestine and the malabsorption that results; therefore it’s extra important to identify iron-rich foods.
Where Else Can You Find B Vitamins & Iron?
Given that gluten free products are still lacking when it comes to iron and B vitamins, it’s important that you look for other ways get these important nutrients.
Thiamine (B1): Mainly only found in pork; however a B-complex vitamin will contain thiamine and a few gluten-free brands like Glutino’s line of products will also contain B1.
Riboflavin (B2): Can be found in milk products such as yogurt and cheese; a B-complex will also contain Riboflavin or Glutino’s line of GF products as well.
Niacin (B3): Found in more naturally-occurring foods than B1 and B2, such as beef, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and peanuts; a B-complex will also contain B3 and additionally Glutino’s line of GF products is also fortified with this vitamin.
Folate: Can be found in green leafy vegetables, beans & legumes, and fortified orange juice; a B-complex will also contain folate and so will a prenatal vitamin.
Iron: Can be found in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme-iron is more readily available to your body and can be found in animal-products like fish, chicken, and beef. Non-heme iron should be consumed with vitamin C (think lemon and spinach) to boost absorption and can be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and beans/legumes. Cooking your food in a cast-iron pan may also help to add more iron to your meals.
The Take-Home Message:
Overall, the best way to ensure that you’re getting all of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs, is to make sure you’re eating a variety of mostly plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds with additional plant or animal-based lean protein.
Instead of choosing processed foods like bread and cereal, it’s important to choose naturally GF grains like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, GF oats, teff, and kaniwa. These grains are not only GF but loaded with nutrients that your body needs, and in addition they tend to be lower in calories and higher in fiber.